On Thursday, I will have the pleasure of assisting in one of the greatest and most beneficial classes I have taken or will ever take. As a firefighter, I have taken multiple classes, seminars, and participated in many roundtable discussions with many so called experts on everything fire department. One area that I have always made sure I stayed up on is the area of self survival. I have always figured that who better to get me out of trouble than me. Of course, I realize that there may be situations where I need help from someone else, but why not prepare myself ? Alot of my thinking goes back to me post a little while back which can be found here:
It talks about controlling variables, and that what I feel some of the self survival classes are always about. However, one class that stands out head and shoulders above all classes on the subject that I have taken is NC Breathing Equipment School, held at Gaston College. One of my fellow bloggers, Jason Jefferies has mentioned it on his blog "Working the Job" (Link on the right side). This class is a must take for any firefighter, and while I say that, I understand that many people who call themselves firefighters who really don't have what it takes wouldn't make it through this class. The "Firefighters" (Notice the quotes) who wear their pagers all around, have a 72" light bar on their '86 Chevy s-10 and can tell everyone how to fight fires aren't the kind of folks who have the courage or the drive to take this class.
This class is filled consistently with the best firefighters in the State of North Carolina and throughout the country. This class isn't your standard, "here's the UAC connect this with a blackout mask and oh your pack just failed so buddy breath and get out" type of class. The instructors tell you on day 1, "We will not make up problems for you, you will create enough of your own". That statement was consistently true the entire week. It never fails we as firefighters get ourselves into more problems than we get out of. This class is not for the faint of heart or pretender within the fire service. During this class, you will run out of air, you will have to buddy breath, you will have to make connections in real heat and smoke, you will breath real nasty smoke, you will realize that you aren't superman, but most importantly you will learn things that may save your life or life of someone on your crew.
Some departments in the state require this class as a condition of employment, other firefighters throughout the state take it to become better and safer firefighters. The point is this class took me completely out of my comfort zone, there were times I wondered if I would get out without having to call a real mayday. How many classes have you ever taken that may take you out of your comfort zone? If you haven't you should, because you don't want to be out of your comfort zone for the first time when someones life, including your own may be hanging in the balance. This class also taught me that I could control many of the variables that directly effect me on the fire ground. I can control how well I know my equipment, how to call a mayday, and how to help others that may be trapped that I go to help.
So my advice is go take a class that gets you outside of your comfort zone, challenge yourself with a class like breathing equipment school, that truly teaches recognition primed decision making. Don't let yourself and other brother firefighters down by wasting away on the couch at the station. Get up and take control of your destiny on the fire ground.
Until the next time,
Stay Safe and Stay Trained