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Rescue Mannequin

Rescue mannequin

Rescue this mannequin! A Topeka area civil defense program used it to train personnel in emergency response during the Cold War era.

Many communities around the United States established civil defense programs at the height of the Cold War. During this time, the federal government provided monies for cities and towns to protect their citizens, as well as train emergency personnel in disaster response.

Modified Light Rescue

The city of Topeka and Shawnee County collaborated on a civil defense program during the mid- to late-1960s. Although the program focused on nuclear attack (like many of its kind around the country), the training for emergency response personnel proved to be useful in more common situations. For example, the program included a course called "Modified Light Rescue" in which the mannequin pictured here was used for rescue training. The course typically was taken by firefighters, volunteer corps, and county and city public works staff. Instructors used mock collapsed buildings in which life-sized mannequins awaited rescue. Since the mannequins were the same size and weight of an adult male, and were constructed so that trainees could practice medical procedures on them, they were excellent training tools.

This particular rescue mannequin was manufactured by the Chase Company. The first Chase mannequin was produced in 1911 for the Hartford Hospital Training School of Nurses in Connecticut. Its creator, Martha Chase, had been successfully making cloth dolls for over two decades when, in 1910, she received a request for a gender-neutral mannequin to train nurses in basic medical skills. Fortunately for Martha, her husband was a physician and advised her in the development of what become known as the Chase Hospital Doll.

The mannequin's design continued to be altered and improved, and was adopted both nationally and internationally by the nursing profession. Starting in the 1940s, the U.S. Army commissioned the Chase Company to make male mannequins for training medical corpsmen in hospital techniques. These mannequins eventually found their way to surplus stores and were acquired by civil defense programs, such as the one located in Topeka/Shawnee County.

Today, the Shawnee County Emergency Management Department (formerly known as Civil Defense) coordinates emergency preparedness efforts and provides around-the-clock response and recovery efforts during disasters. Making way for more modern equipment in its storerooms, the department donated the mannequin plus hardhats, cots, respirators, flags, a telephone and other items to the Society's Kansas Museum of History in 2008.

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Entry: Rescue Mannequin

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2010

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.