December 22, 2009:
Up again at 3:00 AM this morning to go into my office. I had to pack and move the final couple of boxes from our old headquarters building to our new headquarters. I finished up about 6:00, and drove to the Training Facility for an hour of studying while parked under the street light near the drill tower. It was a cold, dark morning, and I enjoyed the solitude of a quiet study hour and the satisfaction of a (moving) finally completed. I also was eagerly anticipating today's class - I had been looking forward to it for over a week.
The syllabus listed today’s topic as “Firefighter Survival,” and our guest instructor was well known around the department and the region as a talented trainer and a very experienced firefighter: Ken Gilliam, from St. Paul Rescue Squad 1. Ken was also the chief author on a number of Department grant applications, including grants that provided the Holmatro hydraulic powered extrication equipment, the SCBAs and bunker gear we are wearing (in the field and in training), and the SAFER grant (which provided jobs for 18 members of this rookie class!).
Ken’s lecture covered a wide spectrum of firefighter safety, survival, rescue, and rapid intervention history, tools and techniques. Ken used a wide variety of videos, case studies, and after action reports from various Line of Duty Deaths and “near miss” incidents to introduce us to the history of firefighter safety and survival, individual and team survival techniques, and Rapid Intervention Teams (RIT – a specially trained and equipped team of firefighters assigned at each structure fire, and dedicated solely for rescuing lost, trapped, or injured firefighters). Ken challenges convention and pulls no punches, aiming keen, insightful, and critical comments at fire chiefs, firefighters, and fire culture to make his point and drive home the lessons that have been so painfully taught by the deaths and injuries of our fellow brothers and sisters in the fire service.
Ken’s presentation covered both the morning and afternoon classroom sessions - plus the PT hour – as he compressed several days of training into 7 short hours. We will get to practice some techniques for firefighter survival and rescue tomorrow. I cannot wait!