DAY 47 - ICE WATER RESCUE

January 20, 2010: 

Today’s class started off with a “post incident review” of the live burn evolutions held yesterday. These reviews are standard practice for fire departments, and are used following actual incidents or training evolutions. The reviews allow participants to review their actions, reinforce positive actions and ideas, and provide a non-punitive forum for discussing areas for improvement. The reviews offer a great opportunity to capture “lessons learned.” Our review of the fire training from yesterday highlighted safety practices on the fireground and ways we could improve our communication of dangerous conditions. We also were reminded by Chief Morehead of how “far” we’ve come in our training, and how well we have bonded into a tight-knit team. He concluded: “You’re a family!” 
 
Following the post incident review, we discussed a number of Department SOPs – this week’s written exam will test our knowledge of over a dozen of them. These quick SOP lessons cover about 15-30 minutes several times a week, and by the end of the academy we’ve covered the most important SOPs regarding fireground operations, equipment testing and maintenance, personal administration, uniforms and grooming, and a host of other areas that must be understood before we “hit the streets.”
 
Firefighter Ken Gilliam returned today to present the centerpiece of today’s training (for both the morning classroom and the afternoon practical session): Ice Water Rescue. The initial half of the lecture covered the dangers of ice water rescue situations, hypothermia, and cold-water drowning. Ken had some excellent videos made by a Canadian researcher who voluntarily jumps into ice water for research purposes and to identify the best ways to rescue oneself or someone else from ice water. The second part of the lecture covered rescue equipment and techniques. Unfortunately, I had to miss the second part of the lecture AND the afternoon practical sessions because of some important meetings at the State Capitol regarding regional training facilities, emergency operations centers, and grant funding for the Department’s Special Operations teams.
 
The afternoon practical session consisted of donning “Mustang” ice water rescue suits and entering the partially-frozen Mississippi River in downtown Saint Paul! From the stories my classmates told me the following day, the class was very educational and extremely “fun” (unless you got the inevitable water in the face – the only part of the body not covered by the suit)! One of the recruits told me it was the most fun he’s had in a long, long time. Imagine 20 young men cavorting around on ice flows, hopping from frozen island to frozen island, and showing off their best “cannonball” jumps into the icy water – and getting paid to do it! I sure hated to miss that training session!!  
 
Ken assured me I’d get a chance to practice in the suits in icy water, but I’m quite sure he cannot promise a session packed with the energy and enthusiasm that my classmates apparently showed on the river today!
 
To get an idea of what the training was like, check out a media report done by the Saint Paul Pioneer Press about the ice water rescue training conducted with front line firefighters last week in Saint Paul: http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_14196100
 
Thanks for joining me on the journey towards graduation, and for your ongoing interest in the Saint Paul Fire Department! 
 
Tim

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