Firefighters use soon-to-be-demolished building for training
Members of the Provo City Fire Department's stations 23 and 24 debrief after conducting a building search and victim rescue drill inside the now abandoned building at 150 West Center Street in Provo Wednesday, March 9, 2011. MARK JOHNSTON/Daily Herald
PROVO -- A long-shuttered downtown Provo dance hall is offering authorities an unusual chance to practice putting fires out.
The former Club Omni -- which also served as a blood plasma donation center in recent years -- is scheduled to be demolished to make way for Nu Skin's upcoming Center Street expansion in the 100 West block. However, before it comes down, fire personnel are using it as a training site. Provo Fire Battalion Chief Gary Jolley said that because the building is vacant and set to be torn down, crews have a chance to hone skills they might need in an emergency, but which can't frequently be practiced.
"It's not every day you can break a wall down and bust a door in," he said.
One of the scenarios crews have been training for in the old building, Jolley said, is that of a lost or trapped firefighter.
"This gives us an opportunity to set up a search-and-rescue center," he said. "What we're trying to do is learn organization."
Jolley explained that during the training, one firefighter will be sent into the building, then other members of the platoon have to go in and rescue that team member. The exercise helps firefighters better understand how to safely navigate a large commercial building, and gives them a chance to use situation-specific equipment like thermal imaging cameras. It also gives crews an opportunity to practice the kind of teamwork they would rely on during an actual disaster.
"They get to learn each other's strengths and weaknesses," said Battalion Chief Jeremy Craft. "It's a teamwork thing. Firefighting is very team oriented."
Jolley said the Club Omni training is especially valuable because firefighters don't have to worry about preserving the building. Though they aren't looking for ways to cause destruction, he explained that in an actual fire crews might have to cause some damage to save lives.
"We always consider that a building on fire has less value than a firefighter's life," Jolley said.
And during this week's training, firefighters can focus on life-saving practices without worrying about who will be using the site next. Craft -- who is one of the organizers of the training exercises -- said that kind of practice is valuable, but that breaking through walls and doors can also pose risks to rescue personnel.
"It's what we call low-frequency, high-risk training," he said. "When we do it, the risks for our firefighters [are] huge."
That risk, however, is useful, Craft said. He said that firefighters need to understand how to maneuver through buildings like Club Omni when they show up at real fires. In addition to search and rescue, Craft said the building has given teams a chance to practice corridor searches and other techniques that might be used in large buildings such as hotels.
Craft said that after each exercise, the firefighters discuss what happened, critiquing their own performance and looking for ways to improve. The result is a fire department that is better prepared to serve the community and ensure public safety, Craft said. And as an added bonus, the firefighters get to practice something they love in a whole new environment.
"The men just eat it up," Craft said. "They love it."
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03-13-2011, 12:26 AM #1
Provo trains on soon to be demoed building
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