Simulator gives firefighters chance to practice driving

By Elly Grim
Liberal First – September 19, 2018

Photo by Elly Grim

“Come on now, what are you DOING?!”

“Be sure to pay attention in each direction, you don’t know what could be coming up behind you or on the side.”

“Oh come on, this guy hit me AGAIN!”

These were some of the many reactions from students and instructor alike during the Liberal Fire Department’s Emergency Driving Simulator training Saturday morning. Liberal firefighters took part in the training Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the mobile trainer, which is built with two driver stations similar to the cab and seats of a fire engine, allowed the firefighters the opportunity to operate in multiple scenarios day and night, fog, rain, snow and ice and other emergency and non-emergency scenario simulations.

“I had a great time, watching Joe’s reactions was probably the best part,” Liberal firefighter Jared Fox said with a chuckle after a training session Saturday morning.

“It was hard but it was a great experience for all of us,” fellow Liberal firefighter Joe Dinh added. “We put ourselves in the worst conditions so we can test ourselves. Then with the simulation itself it’s great to be able to do that stuff and test everything out before it all actually happens.”

The simulator is owned and operated by the University of Kansas Fire & Rescue Training Institute, according to additional information from Liberal Fire Chief Kelly Kirk, and was funded via an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) in 2015 and valued at approximately $450,000. Instructors for the Saturday morning training were Mike Cook and Greg Standard. Those in attendance Saturday morning gave their praises for the program.

“Honestly, the best thing was how realistic it was. People actually pull stuff like what we had to deal with in the simulation, like people will u-turn right in front of you and turn out in front of you,” Fox said. “It just shows a lot of the stuff in this actually happens to us.”

“We were out here last year with our basic program and we’re here again now for our intermediate program and adding weather to the simulation,” Cook said. “It’s very informative to them and us how they react to the weather and other unfavorable conditions because it’s not always sunny and daytime out there for a call. It’s very helpful for us to gain that feedback from them and watch their reactions and be able to react. It reinforces positive habits and they get to make mistakes they know they won’t make in the future since they’ve seen how that could potentially play out. It’s a great learning experience and a lot of people who drive don’t fully look around at their surroundings and they need to learn about that too.”

The firefighters participating in Saturday morning’s training session said it is important for training similar to what they experienced to take place.

“We pretty much become a rolling projectile. Our job is to protect the public and in some situations, that means also protecting them from us when we have to go full lights and sirens,” Liberal firefighter Franklin Guillen said.

“Exactly, it helps out with our daily truck checks and driving so we don’t become complacent and not fully paying attention,” Dinh added. “Sometimes we don’t fully keep in mind we’re driving such a huge piece of equipment, so this helps keep us on our toes.”

“What we do is provide training so we can simulate actual driving events and if they do have a mishap of some type, it’s better it happens on the simulator instead of a multi-thousand pound expensive piece of equipment,” Cook added. “It helps reinforce good habits and hopefully we can also help correct some habits that need work. In the basic program, it was all dry pavement and there weren’t really any obstacles, so they were basically just learning how to react to traffic and drive accordingly. With this part of the program, they’re not only reinforcing the basic program stuff but also taking into account the changing weather conditions like snow and rain and being in the dark.”

All three firefighters also agreed it provides some insight into helping train new firefighters.

“It’s really a great thing this came around when it did because Joe’s only been with us for a couple months now and this is great for him to do,” Fox said. “There’s a reason this is the second time they’ve been out here and hopefully they’ll be back again.”

“Yeah, it’s definitely beneficial for new people to get an idea of what hazards can be out there,” Dinh added. “There’s not a single thing in this simulation we haven’t seen before.”

Cook also said it was a great experience working with the Liberal Fire Department.

“We’re happy for the opportunity to come back out here and train these guys, not everyone welcomes extra training as much as Liberal does,” Cook said. “We thank the department for the opportunity to come out here and work with them.“

 

Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
http://www.ksffa.com
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