Taking action to save lives
by Meredith Kenny
What should have been a relaxing Sunday evening drive in May turned into a lifesaving event, thanks to the emergency response training Daren Beals has received over the last 11 years at Alpine on Alaska’s North Slope. In addition to his position as facilitator of the behavior-based safety process WINGS, Daren serves as an incident safety officer and EMS captain.
Beals and his girlfriend Irene decided to take a leisurely drive one evening along the scenic, rambling Old Glenn Highway. As they made their way down the winding country road, Daren noticed smoke coming from a wooded area ahead. Seeing smoke is not uncommon in Alaska, where many people live outside city limits and use specially permitted burn barrels to dispose of their trash.
But Daren, a trained firefighter, knew that this was not burn barrel smoke, and he pulled over to take a closer look.
“The amount of smoke that was visible was more than just a trash bin fire, and the color of the smoke was different than just wood being burned,” Daren said. “There was dark black smoke mixed with the regular grey smoke.”
As an Incident-Free Culture instructor, Daren is also trained in risk assessment and intervention. As he made his way up a long driveway and toward the home, he noticed the garage was completely engulfed in flames. While Irene called the fire department, Daren ran to the front door and started pounding on it. When no one answered and following a quick personal risk assessment, Daren charged inside the house, grabbing the attention of the homeowner, who gathered his wife and four children and fled.
Fortunately the homeowner’s address was clearly marked, making it easy for Irene to provide the location to the fire department and for responders to easily find the home. As firefighters worked to put out the flames, Daren stood with the family and explained what was happening. As crews got the fire under control, Daren and Irene returned to their car and continued their journey, realizing they had just helped save the lives of six people.
Daren, who has always had the drive to help others, is no stranger to emergency situations. In 2016, he helped evacuate a nine-week-old baby in critical condition from the village of Nuiqsut. For this, the Alpine team was honored at the 2017 Red Cross Real Heroes Breakfast.
“The baby was in respiratory distress, and weather conditions made it impossible for the medical evacuation (medevac) plane to land in the village,” Daren said. “We had to transport the child to Alpine by ambulance and fly our company plane to Deadhorse, Alaska to meet the medevac plane. It was a great team effort.”
Daren’s passion lies in emergency response and helping people, and he felt full of gratitude at being able to help these families. He would like to take this opportunity to emphasize these important fire safety tips: check smoke detectors once a month and replace batteries every six months; make sure your address is clearly marked on the street in front of your home; and once you step outside a structure on fire, never go back inside.
Safety is the cornerstone of ConocoPhillips’ operations. Daren truly exemplifies this, both at work and in his personal life.