The fourth class in the Orleans Citizens Fire Academy focused on firefighter turnout gear, search methods used in a burning building and various modes of escape if a firefighter is trapped.
Deputy Chief Geof Deering, Captain Pete Vogt, Firefighter Tom Pelligrino and Firefighter Kevin Delude walked the group through every piece of a firefighter's turnout gear, explaining the role of each piece in the protection of the firefighter.
In addition to protecting the occupant from heat, fire and water today's turnout gear also must provide maximum protection from carcinogens present inside a burning building. Modern turnout gear is designed to prevent those airborne chemicals from entering the firefighter's body not only by inhalation but from entering through open pores or through general contact with skin.
The presentation included the "Scott Pack", which is the self-contained breathing apparatus Orleans firefighters wear when responding to a fire. It contains breathable air to last 15 to 20 minutes per tank. Firefighters breath regular air through their mask, not oxygen.
A full set of turnout gear with air tank weighs about 70 pounds.
The instructors then took the class through the methodology they use to search a burning building that is believed to be occupied.
In today's residential home, you have around three minutes to escape once a fire starts. The chemicals in our furnishings, flooring materials and other household items create deadly fumes that can make it impossible for you to breathe. If you find yourself trapped in a burning building with no means of escape, the academy instructions said first to close the door or doors between you and the fire. Then get right down to the floor and stay as low as you can until help arrives.
Following the presentation on the turnout gear, the class adjourned to the lower equipment bay where firefighters had set up some training exercises to show the class how they train firefighters to escape if trapped during a fire.
Firefighter Delude donned a full set of turnout gear and demonstrated several different escape drills. He pulled himself through several openings of different size to illustrate various means of escape.
He also crawled through an entanglement drill where he proceeded through a box of tangled wires, un-snaring himself as he proceeded through the drill. The entanglement drill was designed to simulate a basement where a drop ceiling had collapsed in a tangle of wires.
Throughout all the drills and demonstrations, the instructions emphasized that firefighters practice these tasks over and over again. When an actual call comes in, a proficient firefighter should be functioning largely on muscle memory for many tasks.
Academy instructors reminded the group once again, if you think you need 911 you should call 911. Whether its a medical emergency or a possible fire in your home, the faster you call for help the faster your fire department can assist you.