Trainer Brent Rose, left, stands ready to assist firefighter John Miguez as he learns to bail out a window correctly during firefighter survival training in a hangar at Port Alberni Port Authority on March 15. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Port Alberni’s firefighters learn to save themselves in ground survival training

Specialized training equipment brought in for Ground Survival Program

Firefighters are used to saving others’ lives. But what happens when they get into a situation where they have to save themselves?

Instructors Brent Rose and André Guerin, firefighters with Port Alberni Fire Dept., walked 18 of the department’s 21 firefighters through specialized training with the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Ground Survival Program last week. Special equipment on loan from the IAFF was set up in an enclosed space at Port Alberni Port Authority for the training.

Each of the five scenarios were based on real-life emergencies where firefighters lost their lives. Those going through the five stations first learned of the real-life situation, then practiced how to get out of that particular situation. Scenarios ranged from bailing out of one- and two-storey windows to entanglement training, a wall breach, low and reduced wall breach and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) equipment awareness.

“This training was life safety training,” Rose explained. “These evolutions were designed through NIOSH reports (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) and were based on line of duty deaths.

“We feel this training can save firefighters’ lives.”

The training was also to teach firefighters best practices on calling a mayday or emergency; that it isn’t just a last resort.

“It’s now as soon as you get entangled or reach an entanglement for example, you call a mayday right away so command knows and resources start heading in your direction,” said Jason Roberts, a PAFD firefighter and spokesperson for IAFF Local 1667 firefighters’ union.

At the end of their orientation, firefighters went through an obstacle course blindfolded and in the dark, to simulate scenarios in a smoke-filled building.

The PAFD also extended an invitation to the three regional volunteer fire departments to an evening’s training on the apparatus.

Two members from each department will join PAFD’s master trainers on March 19 to run the five scenarios and qualify as field trainers so they can bring the skills back to their stations.

“Fire conditions don’t discriminate if you are a career or a volunteer firefighter,” PAFD chief Mike Owens said.

“We hope that this training will be taken back to the three volunteer departments so that if one of their members finds themselves in a mayday situation they will be able to employ these tactics to save their life.”

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Port Alberni firefighter Randy Thoen ‘swims’ through exposed wiring during a firefighter survival training drill on Friday at the Port Alberni Port Authority. Firefighters went through a number of skill stations with their masks blacked out. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

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