Manufacturers Roundtable: Firefighter Training Facilities

Firehouse Magazine recently asked a sampling of manufacturers of firefighter training facilities to participate in a roundtable discussion focused on issues such as ways in which their facilities help firefighters meet their training goals, after-the-sale...

Harris & Schaer: Incorporating training into the actual fire station facilities is only limited by one's imagination from simple second floor hatches to complex- multi functional, multi-jurisdictional training structures. The best lesson we have learned over the many years is listening to the firefighters themselves. What works and what does not work. We work very closely with the users to get the training props so they simulate real life scenarios wherever possible.

To integrate training into the actual buildings, we first understand what the rescuers need to train for and duplicate the scenarios that will allow them to practice for that. As an example, it is simple to add repelling anchors to support beams located just above second floor hatches. We have designed these into facilities so the firefighters can repel down through the floor into a closet that represents a confined space similar to what they may have to do in a real life rescue scenario. We have incorporated durable concrete training walls with support anchors and rappelling access window openings as part of the first stations structural support system. We are finding that as more demands are being placed on firefighters, our fire service clients need their training features to become more integrated and complex. Allowing training props to be re-configurable and facilities to evolve over time so they do not become stale is key.

Integrating larger training towers into a project's site is becoming more and more common.

Towers can easily be designed to emulate an office tower, residence, warehouse etc. giving the rescuers and their departments a more diverse experience. We have incorporated multi-story multi-scenario training towers that mimic the firefighter's likely building type they will have to respond to. One side might be residential, the other industrial, the next an outdoor stair tower and the next used for high angle rescue, smoke training or movable partitions and confined space rescue. Through adjustable structural systems, floors can be removed to redefine a flat into an atrium or garden apartment. We have even converted mock crawl spaces into the hull of a ship and incorporated river rescue capabilities and simulated collapsed building walls and bridges within the fire station campus.

We are also seeing the integration of more urban search and rescue props, site rehabilitation areas, outdoor "dirty" classrooms, and shared use facilities such as water utility props, drainage systems, vaults and spill props. These can all be used by other agencies as well for occupational training.

What's paramount is to understand your local and regional hazards and find creative ways to emulate these conditions into the props. Does a community have bridges? Perhaps consider if there could be one integrated into your facility. If so, can you use it for shoring, load transfers, lowering, creating mock catastrophic failures. Can mock utilities be installed under the bridge, can the bridge be used by other agencies. Working with other agencies is an ideal way to understand their operational risks as well. The possibilities are only limited by ones imagination of real life training scenarios.

Temperly: At Training Structures Group (TSG) we've seen a growing demand for multiple live fire burn rooms within a structure which can provide both flexibility in the training scenarios and an increase in realism of the mission. We have also seen an increase need in the number of facilities for a burn room for class "A" fire and another for class "B". We can add either class "A" or "B" burn rooms to an existing facility or design them into a new facility to accommodate this need.

Confined space rescue training requirements have also increased and we have developed a number of methods for providing confined space props within our structures at reasonable cost and without permanently dedicating a lot of floor space.

Over the years our firefighters have been called on to respond to an ever increasing array of emergency situations. It's no longer enough to only train for live fire scenarios. The publics' expectations are that when an emergency situation arises their firefighters will be prepared to handle it safely and expeditiously.

The tragedy of 9/11 has taught us the importance of collapse structure rescue. We learned a lot of very important lessons that day and in the days following. These lessons are being played out in other disasters such as the devastation caused by the tornados and floods that have occurred recently.