The Ottumwa Courier

March 10, 2014

Preparing for the worst

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — A quick glance at the scene at Indian Hills North Campus this weekend may have looked like a horrible traffic accident. A bus was turned on its side and cars were crushed under semi trucks. But the sounds of laughter and instruction soon calmed the mind and brought forth the realization that this is just a training exercise.

Indian Hills Fire School kicked off Saturday with 25 participants from 18 different fire departments gathering at the Rural Emergency Services Training Center to participate in specialized rescue classes.

“The Indian Hills Fire School has a long-standing tradition of bringing good training to the local responders around here,” said Mitch Nordmeyer, Butler County Emergency Management director and Professional Rescue Innovations instructor.

The firefighters participated in school bus rescue, big rig stabilization and RIT, or rapid intervention team, classes. The classes are aimed at training the firefighters in situations that they may not have access to otherwise. As can be imagined, it would not be cheap to get a school bus or a semi truck for training. But in this case, the vehicles are donated specifically for the weekend training. The school bus was donated by the Eddyville-Blacksburg-Fremont School District, and it was used to its fullest potential.

“A lot of the time we don’t have the opportunity to work with truck trailers and tractor trailers; this gives us an opportunity to work with some equipment that we have never got to work with before,” Chief Steve Gerard said.

The school bus was tipped on its side, and the firefighters went to work doing everything they would do in a real-life accident situation to rescue the victims of the crash. They stabilized the bus, took out the windows, cut a hole in the roof and took out seats in preparation for removing the people trapped in the bus. The big rig exercise was aimed at securing the scene and lifting the trailer off of the car in order to recuse anyone trapped inside. These classes focused on helping victims at the scene of an accident, but in some situations the firefighters end up needing some rescue. This is were the RIT class came into play.

“Inside our fire building we have RIT classes that help the firefighters practice maneuvering in a smoke-filled environment and through obstacles that they might encounter in an attic space or a crawl space,” said Lori Reeves, department chair of the Health Occupations Division at Indian Hills.

Rapid Intervention Team classes involve teaching the firefighters how to rescue a fellow firefighter in distress. The participants had wax paper lining their masks to simulate what a smoke-filled room would look like. They then had to make their way through the house and various obstacles to rescue a fellow firefighter that may have been injured or trapped.

“This is just a fantastic weekend to prepare these firefighters for what’s out there,” Nordmeyer said. “Every emergency call is different, and we want to make sure they know what to do to save lives.”