Local Officials Get Taste of Firefighter Work

Local Officials Get Taste of Firefighter Work

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Oct. 7, 2019)

Auburn Hills, MI- Local officials from Farmington Hills, Madison Heights, Ferndale, Waterford, Keego Harbor, West Bloomfield, and Rochester Hills spent a day literally walking in their firefighters’ boots as part of Fire Ops 101 Training at Combined Regional Emergency Services Training (CREST) at Oakland Community College in Auburn Hills.

Here they suited up and went through a series of introductory training exercises to learn about some of the situations firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) face.  They donned HAZMAT suits and used a rubber seal to fill a leaky industrial barrel.  They wielded tools of many types to tear open an actual vehicle as professionals on the scene of an accident might. They took a hose to a simulated car fire, as well as into a building full of smoke with a barrel of wood on fire. And they also assisted on a medical run, learning about vital signs, CPR, and transport.

Ferndale Mayor Pro Tem Greg Pawlica and Councilperson Raylon Leaks-May were among the 17 participants.  “I’ve always had great respect for our fire officials,” Pawlica said.  “Now I have an even greater respect for the intensity of their job.”

Like most of the officials, they were surprised by the heaviness of the fire-resistant suits and the 40lb oxygen tanks.  “You have to be really strong to pull this off,” Leaks-May said.

In addition to the risks of burns, smoke inhalation, and building collapse, there are other dangers that were surprising to some of the officials.

For example, in car fires there is danger from fuel combustion, from battery and tire explosion, items like aerosol cans and batteries turning into projectiles, and even the risk of spring-loaded bumpers flying off and breaking or severing legs.

Also during the vehicle fire training, Madison Heights Councilperson Rosyln Grafstein learned that “Even though it is outside, firefighters need to wear full gear with oxygen when fighting a car fire because of all the chemicals they may breathe in.”

West Bloomfield Fire Chief Gregory Flynn is an instructor at CREST and one of the coordinators of OAKWAY, which is a collaboration between several fire departments in Oakland County that helps with training and cost-savings/cost-sharing on supplies and equipment.  Flynn said trainings like this are important because “the officials are the decision-makers, and we want them to make informed decisions.  It’s a lot easier to understand the difference between tools and what kinds of equipment there is available if they’ve actually touched them and used them.”

One item that struck Pawlica was the Lucas, a chest compression device. “You put this around the person and it automatically does the chest compressions like when you’re moving someone,” Pawlica said.  “Like if someone is upstairs and has a heart attack, this goes on and does the chest compressions while you’re moving them down the stairs. It may only be a few minutes, but that few minutes can save that person’s life.”  He said Ferndale currently does not have a Lucas device.  “It’s about $12,000,” he said. “But if that saves even one life, what is the cost of a person’s life?”

Leaks-May also came away with an interest in the Lucas, as well as increased appreciation for the work of emergency response personnel.  “It is very difficult to perform for in a moving ambulance,” she said.

Madison Heights Councilperson Bob Corbett learned two main things.  “First, I think the scenarios brought home the idea that there is no typical run for fire Personnel. First Responders never know exactly what they’re going to be confronting when arriving at a scene and the level of preparation for a variety of issues they may confront when they actually arrive is impressive,” he said. “Second I think the level of cooperation and teamwork among responding personnel is crucial to the success of their intervention.”

Councilperson Susan Boyer of Rochester Hills was also impressed by the teamwork.  “How well they need to work as a team to ensure each other’s safety. Their lives literally depend on each other,” she said.

“I enjoyed the experience and hope that other city personnel will want to participate in this training next year,” said Leaks-May.

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