I have been asked on more than one occasion how firefighters stay prepared for the wide variety of emergencies we respond to each year? I do my best to explain that training is an everyday event in our fire department. It takes that commitment to accomplish all that’s mandated these days by a variety of entities.
The primary organizations that stipulate the type and frequency of training are the Texas Commission on Fire Protection, Texas Department of Health, Department of Homeland Security and the Insurance Services Organization.
In addition to required training, we prioritize additional training based on the level of risk and the frequency of incident types. Our Professional Development Division provides the framework and support for the majority of training conducted within the Sugar Land Fire Department. The division is lead by Battalion Chief Roy Mercer, with training conducted by Capt. Trent Herrod and Capt. Tom Anderson. The division is supervised by Asst. Chief Clay Fenwick.
Our training is conducted 24/7 regardless of weather conditions. Company officers – who hold the rank of lieutenant – provide station-level training under the oversight of shift commanders who are battalion chiefs.
The logistics can be daunting with emergency calls coming at anytime and the fact that we have 84 firefighters’ across three shifts. The Sugar Land Fire Department responded to more than 6,000 emergency calls last year. Our most recent trainings conducted in November and December 2009 was as follows:
• Vehicle Rescue: Utilizing hydraulic rescue tools, firefighters pry, cut and otherwise manipulate salvaged vehicles in an effort to practice techniques used to disentangle a trapped occupant.
• Mayday Drills: This hands-on training covers what you “can do” to save yourself if you become trapped and or separated from your fire crew while conducting a search in a structure fire.
• Search Line & Tag Line: The Professional Development Division partnered with a local company that provided building space to conduct this training. This is a systematic search used for large building spaces utilizing ropes and taglines to make sure that firefighters cover all areas. This also ensures that firefighters have less of a chance of becoming disoriented and separated from other firefighters.
In January 2010, all firefighters will complete protocol testing with our medical director. In March, firefighters will complete our annual physical performance testing. This ensures that all shift firefighters meet the physical standards required of the job.
While on the subject of training and being prepared, knowing how to safely escape a fire and practicing it can save your life!
• Develop a fire escape plan, and practice it with your whole family. Real fires are hot, smoky and dark. During a fire, there isn’t time to think. Not being properly prepared to immediately exit your home may cost you your life.
• If caught in a fire, don’t spend time getting dressed or trying to gather valuables.
• Everyone should know two ways out of each room and where to meet outside
• Family members should understand that getting out of the house is their first priority.
• And remember, once you are outside, stay out.
• Smoke or flames often block primary exits, so planning a second way out of each room is vital. It’s also important to ensure young children awaken to traditional sounding smoke alarms. Many children who don’t wake up to traditional smoke alarms will awaken to voice recorded alarms that can be purchased online or at local home centers.
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