Firefighters train on variety of real-life situations
The Captiva Island Fire Control District’s crews recently had a rare opportunity to take part in some hands-on real-life scenario training thanks to an invitation from one of their fire commissioners.
Commissioner Jeffrey Brown offered up a house on a residential property that he had purchased to serve as a training ground for the island’s firefighters since he had no plans to preserve the structure. On March 16-20, all three shifts took turns training at the Captiva Drive home from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“It was hands on the whole time,” Deputy Fire Chief Paul DeArmond said of the training. “The guys were out there and just worked hard all day long. We don’t hardily get this type of training, ever.”
He explained that a couple of months ago, one shift stumbled upon an island house undergoing some demolition and got permission to train at it. The last time a full home was available was years ago.
“They don’t come along very often – we don’t get to do it very often,” DeArmond said of setting up scenarios in a real-life environment. “But when we do, we take every advantage of the training.”
He explained that the Captiva Drive home was built, then expanded on over time.
“So it basically had four different buildings together,” DeArmond said of the design and layout.
It allowed for the planning and staging of four different training exercises, with the first one being a “vent, enter, isolate and search” scenario. In this situation, one occupant knows where a person was last scene in the structure, like a bedroom, relays the information to the crew and they enter the building.
“We used a smoke machine and we smoked up the room, and we had a mannequin in the room,” he said, adding that the team had to enter the room, isolate the area by say shutting the door, and then do a search. “So, the room is going to be closed off from more hazardous smoke or anything coming in.”
The second exercise consisted of first due drill training.
“On the second, we staged it like there was a fire in the back apartment,” DeArmond said.
He explained that they had to arrive and size up the situation, obtain their needed tools and hose, then pump water and extinguish the fire. Once out, the crew did a “primary search” to look for victims.
“When we don’t know if there’s a victim in there, we do that,” he said.
DeArmond noted that for this scenario, the firefighters had the opportunity to switch roles.
“Different people did different tasks that they might not normally do,” he said.
For the third exercise, the crews headed into the main structure of the residence – again with no knowledge of what to expect – and had to conduct primary and secondary searches blindfolded. They worked on righthand and lefthand search patterns in full gear with equipment, air pack and mask.
“When we search in a real structure, we’re basically going in blind,” DeArmond said.
He noted that the crews typically practice this exercise in the bay at the fire station, but the layout becomes familiar as they learn it. This time, they had to use their sense of direction and touch more.
“They went into five different rooms they didn’t know,” DeArmond said.
The final exercise focused on hurricane windows, which the structure was filled with.
“Most windows on Captiva are hurricane glass. You just don’t go up and pop those windows off,” he said, explaining that a saw is the preferred tool. “You really have to work at getting the glass off.”
The crews tested out gaining entry using hand tools versus a saw.
“We did a lot of forcible entry,” DeArmond added. “Forcing windows, doors, walls, roof.”
He noted that a key point to the saw training was how to properly use it.
“We have diamond bits on our circular saw,” DeArmond said. “They’re meant to cut through anything, from sheet pile to wood to hurricane glass, so they’re very expensive tools that we have.”
As for the real-life training, he extended his thanks to Brown on behalf of the district.
“We just really appreciate the opportunity,” he said.
Anyone interested in donating an island structure for use for training can contact the Captiva fire station at 239-472-9494. There is some paperwork involved, but the district takes care of it.