Firefighters hone skills to save themselves

By Christopher Burnett
Fort Leavenworth Lamp – June 29, 2017

Photo by Prudence Siebert

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Fort Leavenworth Fire and Emergency Services participated in Firefighter Safety Stand Down week June 18-24 to focus on the on-the-job safety of individual firefighters.

Capt. Trent Strayer said the fire department developed specific training resources to address mayday, self-rescue and rapid intervention situations.

“We call in a mayday when a firefighter is in serious distress,” Strayer said. “He or she is trapped somewhere, lost or in a situation that is potentially life-threatening to self or another crew member.”

Strayer said the department uses standard procedures to summon a rapid intervention team to save firefighters in situations where self-rescue is not possible.

The entanglement training device simulated the space between the walls of a building, with electrical wiring and wooden studs. Another allowed firefighters to break through sheet rock to simulate finding an alternative escape route. Strayer said another was a fabricated high wall with a window to practice ladder evacuation.

“We constructed new props for use during the training this year because they wear out over time,” Strayer said. “A few of our firefighters built these items at home for us to use to simulate some of the physical conditions we are likely to encounter on the job.”

Firefighter Jeffrey Foster navigated the interior wall obstacle in full tactical uniform with mask and helmet. His air tank became entangled in the crossing electrical wires and then became stuck again at one of the joist openings. Upon getting himself free, he said it was important to remain calm and focused under those conditions.

“It’s 90 degrees today and we are inside this building. Wearing all of our gear during the training is important because it prepares you for the real thing,” Foster said. “You’re going to get stuck, but you have to keep your wits by thinking your way through the process of navigating free or calling in a mayday.”

Foster said the controlled environment of the training was also useful because it afforded individual practice, group peer evaluation and mentoring from more experienced firefighters. He said firefighters deploy in pairs and work together to overcome issues.

“Having the verbal reinforcement of when to use a particular technique is important, too,” Foster said. “It helps you know that your choice of using a ‘swim’ or ‘arm-over’ was best for getting by a particular obstacle.”

Strayer said the trainer designed to represent confined spaces was intended to put realistic stress on firefighters. He said knowing what to do in a given situation and when to ask for intervention were critical skills for each member of the department to possess.

“Knowing when to call in a mayday is crucial. This obstacle assists our training by putting each of us in a position to use standardized techniques. It presses our physical limitations at times,” Strayer said.

Firefighter Bryant Hall, who has been with the department for two years, said safety training is necessary because it teaches them what to do in situations where their physical well-being is in jeopardy. He was the second to go through the confined space obstacle and said it was challenging.

“You are going to have limited visibility most of the time in a real situation like that, too, so it’s all about working the problem out in your head and keeping focused. Rely on the training,” Hall said. “We train regularly covering various emergency scenarios, but this week of training is unique because it is devoted to a firefighter’s safety while responding to emergencies.”

Firefighter Caleb Cribb said his goal was to navigate the obstacle by staying with basic techniques taught during the training. He said his goal was to look for ways to navigate the wires and find the best way through the joist opening.

“Situational awareness and understanding our options are two things I have learned from this. I also learned by watching the other firefighters stay focused while going through a training simulation,” Cribb said. “In an actual situation, there would be many distractions like smoke, fire and extreme heat. We would usually have tools that we’d use to cut any wires.”

Capt. Rob Dokos said the overall objective for the week was for the department to train personnel in firefighter rescue procedures and firefighter survival tactics. He said the four areas covered during the week showed everyone how to call in a mayday, how to disentangle themselves from obstacles, how to breach a wall, and how to move on stairs most safely.

“The whole fire department came together and we built these training props to simulate four common situations,” Dokos said. “This particular training builds confidence by equipping firefighters with tools to deal with personnel safety-related situations.”


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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