Volunteering to save lives

Published 9:17 am Monday, September 21, 2009

SOUTH POINT — This time it was just pretend. But should the unthinkable happen, county firefighters were put through their paces this weekend so they will know how to respond during certain crisis situations.

It was all a part of the Lawrence County Firefighters Association’s annual fire school.

Classroom study and in-the-field practice drills were conducted at South Point High School and at the South Point Fire Station.

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Curriculum ranged from Health Net landing zones to propane emergencies to farm rescue to hazardous material awareness.

The state of Ohio requires firefighters, whether volunteer, level 1 or level 2, to have 54 hours of continuing education training every three years to maintain their level of certification.

That requirement may be met from schools like the one this weekend or from monthly training at individual fire stations, according to Debbie Stevens, secretary of the firefighters association and a member of the South Point department.

Among those conducting the training were Tony Johnson of Dill’s Fire and Safety Equipment Co., who put firefighters through their paces when it came to making different kinds of rescues from a school bus.

“We’re showing different techniques to dismantle a school bus,” Johnson said.

First, they were taught the structure of the bus, then how to use a variety of hydraulic rescue tools such as cutters, spreaders and rams, used to create an opening or make an opening larger.

“It’s to open with the least amount of work, to get kids out without further injury,” Johnson said.

Also firefighters need to be aware of new metals and such items as airbags when they work to extricate someone from a vehicle.

“If you cut into the cylinder (of an airbag) you could make a small explosion,” he said.

Saturday afternoon the firefighters used a variety of tools to tear apart an abandoned bus, learning which methods would be the most effective.

“I want them to have a better comfort level, that they’d have from having done it before,” Johnson said. “The big thing is you don’t want to cut a bus with a kid inside and find out we don’t have the right tools.”