On Tuesday morning I got to experience what it was like to be one of Bay County's finest at a mandatory firefighter training course down at the old EOC Building on Mulberry.
The goal of the course was to put firefighters through a series of tests... some of which they were guaranteed to fail! The hope was that firefighters would not be 'afraid' to call a Mayday for help. It has been found that too often firefighters wait until it is too late to ask for help!
After watching an hour worth of videos and PowerPoint instructions showing how other departments succeeded and failed in rescuing their own we were sent outside to wait our turn to go through a series of obstacles inside the old EOC. In full disclosure I was allowed to watch other firefighters go through the obstacles so I had an idea to what to expect. In all truth it probably semi-leveled the playing field since I was going in zero firefighter knowledge. :-)
Anyway, in full gear and BLINDFOLDED each firefighter was expected to crawl through small space in which they would have to clear out debris. During this exercise they would be closed in with no way out. It was at this point they would have to call Mayday and be rescued.
The second phase was the most interesting to me because I did not know how dangerous wires were to firefighters. Apparently they are a real hazard to entrapping firefighters. Again, with full gear and blindfolded we had to go through a room full of dangling and looping wires. Imagine trying to avoid getting yourself and all your gear through a plate of spaghetti without getting any on you!! Yes, it was that difficult. I had an epic fail in this task again had to call a Mayday.
The third task called for us to use an axe to break through a drywall opening. This opening was so small we had to remove our gear and put it through first before pulling our body through. In this room we were again blindfolded and had smoke pumped inside.
During the final task we followed a hose down a hallway and up some stairs... after crawling across the floor upstairs we were dumped down to the 1st floor. Although we landed on a mattress the obstacle was meant to simulate falling from the 2nd floor to the 1st floor and sustaining severe enough injuries that we had to call for back-up.
In the 7 minutes in the simulator I used 40 minutes worth of oxygen and came out of it pretty sweaty... despite the fact that it was a 'steamy' 72 inside the building. Needless to say I came away with a real appreciation as to the risks and challenges firefighters face on a daily basis. Thanks again to Lt. Matthew Lopez for inviting me to be a part of the training. it was certainly not something I will soon forget.
Chief Meteorologist, WJHG-TV