The Winter Garden Fire Rescue Department and the Ocoee Fire Rescue Department recently came together for a week of collaborative training at the south campus of Orange Technical College, also known as Mid Florida Tech, which also houses the Central Florida Fire Academy.
Firefighters engaged in a multitude of drills and evolutions with the help of the school’s practice buildings and the department’s equipment.
According to the WGFRD training overview, the actions of the first arriving units to a structure fire play a crucial role in the overall success of the incident.
The department’s leaders said they are committed to placing the preservation of life as their top priority.
Primary searches were conducted as early into the fire ground operation as possible and accomplished by search techniques that were appropriate to the situation. These techniques included oriented search; split search; and Vent, Enter and Search. While the primary search was being conducted, other critical operations that support the search took place. These operations included forcible entry, placing a line in-service for fire attack and extinguishment, second line in operation to protect a stairwell, and ventilation.
According to the department, time is the enemy of victim survivability. Firefighters must turn out quickly and respond to the correct location by the fastest route, make entry into a structure and occupy the space where victims will likely be, aggressively attack the seat of the fire and provide ventilation of toxic gasses and heat, remove victims using effective techniques, and provide EMS treatment and transport to an appropriate receiving facility.
Tom Smothers, acting fire chief at the Ocoee Fire Department, said both departments are small and the training allows more people to be involved in the same amount of time. In addition, the two often run calls together. If one department gets a house fire call at night, chances are the neighboring city is going to be involved and help out, Smothers explained.
“It helps us both understand what the other department is going to do,” he said. “We all pretty much work under the same general protocols and under the same Incident Command System under Orange County, but it’s great for us to get together when it’s a lower stress environment and work together, work out any kinks that we may have in communication or teamwork, or what have you and we can work it out on the fire ground in a training scenario. Therefore, when we get into a real-life scenario we will be much more efficient and work together as a single unit instead of two departments. We don’t want to practice until we get it right, we want to practice until we can’t get it wrong because we have lives at stake.”
Smothers said the department follows a certain amount of training hours per year based on the Insurance Services Office. The score reflects how prepared a community and area is for fires, and Ocoee is rated as an ISO 1.
The basic firefighting training for this ISO is 192 hours per year, with an additional six hours of HAZMAT training and an additional 18 hours at a facility. Lieutenants and higher are considered officers, meaning they must also engage in 12 hours of officer training and operators or drivers must do 12 hours of driver engineer training.
The rescue teams try to complete their facility hours during the cooler months of the year with training assignments and video training online throughout the summer months. In addition, Smothers said he is planning to include mental health training for the firefighters in August. He said he also encourages his team to train during their shift.
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