Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a firefighter. You’re responding to a structure fire call at a local business. There’s a victim suffering from smoke inhalation. You can’t see because the smoke is as thick as London fog; in essence, you’re working “blind.” You rely on your senses, your gear and your fellow firefighters to locate the victim. You drag the 180-pound victim as you use a hose line and the firefighters with you to find your way back to daylight.
For many firefighters, this scenario is no stretch of the imagination. On Wednesday, Edmond Fire Department recruits got to experience it on the University of Central Oklahoma campus.
Wearing fire service self-contained breathing apparatuses, they worked in the basement of Murdaugh Hall, a traditional-style men’s residence hall. The recruits were split into teams and searched for two “victims.” Their eyes were shielded to simulate a zero visibility, unfamiliar environment.
As they worked, they found their way by following a hose line in, by holding on to each other and by radio communication. After securing the victims, they made their way out using the same techniques.
Edmond Fire Battalion Chief Keith Randolph said this type of work is broken down into three aspects — physical ability, mental ability and working in the time restraint of air consumption. The recruits have come a long way since their first go at SCBA training, Randolph said.
“Controlling their breathing, slowing their mind down and working hard at the same time is a skill that has to be perfected, he said. “These guys are working hard. They’re trying to be servants and learn their job and do the best they can for when they come on shift.”
Chief Training Officer Jon Neely said UCO letting the agency use Murdaugh Hall for the training is invaluable because the nature of the exercise limits options for sites. The agency has residential setups at its training site, but not commercial ones, Neely said.
At the end of the exercises, due to the physical exertion, the recruits were physically spent and the mental stress was also intense, Neely said.
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