Salute the Badge: Online educator uses experience, electronics to save lives

By Chris Fisher
WIBW – August 7, 2018

WIBW Video

In the past 20 years, technology has significantly reduced the number of calls firefighters respond to each day.

That’s great news, however, there is one significant drawback.

The brave men and women we rely on when a fire erupts do not get the on-the-job training that they once use to.

Former first responder and Topeka Firefighter Rusty Greene is using his experience, and technology to fill in the training gaps, and most of the time he does it from the comfort of his own home.

“I’m able to work out of my living room, and I keep one set of computers for state training and everything else is for higher education,” said Greene.

When you combine all that technology, and Rusty’s four decades of experience, the concepts that come from this career paramedic and former Topeka firefighter’s virtual classroom far outreach what you can get from a textbook alone.

“One of the classes we teach is called ‘Instant Safety Officer,’ and I have no doubt that at some point that training kept someone from getting hurt or killed on a fire scene,” said Greene.

While talk like that can certainly come cheap, Rusty’s long list of credentials speaks for itself.

“Training, education and experience and I’ve done quite a bit of all of them. I’ve got almost 40 years as a public servant, and I have a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Administration and a number of training certifications,” he said.

Rusty has also served as an instructor, program manager and program coordinator with the Kansas Fire and Rescue Training Institute since 2004, he’s sat on the Kansas State Board of Emergency Services for 16 years, and is the State of Kansas’ point of contact for the National Fire Academy.

It’s a very long list, but what is not included is all the life lessons he’s completed over the years, including a big one back in October of 1988.

“At the Seymore fire I was brand new. When we pulled up, I didn’t even realize there was a fire there. The smoke was banking down over North Topeka and we didn’t realize anything was going on until we were several minutes into the fire,” said Greene.

Greene says it’s the combination between his real-life firefighting experiences and the time in the classroom that makes what he has to offer so unique.

“Back in those days, we just went to work… there were several times I wandered off on stairwells, and got deep into the fire and wound up being by myself and was able to get out okay…”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case for those he was trying to help. Early in his career, Greene would keep newspaper clippings from all of the major calls he would work.

“These things are just full of sad stories. I try to put them behind me. I actually haven’t opened those books in a long time. Sometimes it’s hard to focus on the help that you gave people instead of the loss that they suffered,” explained Greene.

Greene hopes sharing his perspective with students will keep them from having to experience the same amount of tragedy.

It’s valuable knowledge from a man who may or may not still be in his pajamas or dressed informally.

“Yeah, that’s one of the big advantages of teaching online. There’s not much a dress code, sometimes when we have online meetings or record lessons, we’ll put on a nice shirt, but it’s pretty casual when you’re at home.”

In addition to all the online courses Rusty teaches to first responders, he’s also a dive instructor, an “English as a second language” teacher, and he’s a certified massage therapist.


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