Monday, October 18, 2010

Survival Skills

Firefighter training is about halfway through.  I'm amazed at what I know now that I didn't know a few short weeks ago.

File it under How to Get Out of a Burning Building:  (Picture this. You can't see.  It's smoky and dark, and besides, you're wearing full turnout gear, an SCBA and a face shield.)  And oh yeah - it's hot. You find a fire hose, but don't know which way to follow it.  Follow it (on your hands and knees, bro) until you find a connector.  Feel (with your gloves on), and you'll notice that one side of the connector is bigger and has bigger nuts.  Yep, uh huh.  That's the male side.  Follow the male side to water and outside, and safety.

I don't think I've ever in my entire life been challenged the way this training is challenging me.  The other week we got suited up, on air, and did a maze in the dark, one at a time (similar to the pic below, but our maze was narrower, and had a trap door, a wall joists like this, and some other stuff). The firefighter below will probably have to take off their air tank to get through this wall.  I was terrified. I can't specifically say what frightened me so much, but I was definitely terrified.  I've seen live-your-life-better things say to, "do one thing that scares you every day."  Do I get two or three days' worth if I'm three times more frightened?

The maze was for Mask Confidence, and the instructor made it only as hard as we could stand.  For me, he shone a flashlight on every obstacle before I did it, so that I could see what I had to do.  Others did it completely in the dark by feeling their way through.  One person got turned around in a dead end, and we could all hear his harsh breath faster, and faster as he figured his way out.  Sounded like Darth Vader, if he were breathing fast.

I'm the oldest person in the class, and I struggle with exercises like Saturday's, where we climb on the truck, pack the hose, then jump down and practice different ways to carry the hose off the truck.  Or the one where we connect and disconnect hose lines from the truck, or roll and unroll hose lines.  At the end of the class, most of us struggled to lift the hoses to put them away, we were so tired.

Tonight we get suited up, go up a ladder to a 'roof simulator' and learn how to break through a roof.  Betcha class goes to 10 and I get home about 10:30 - again.  Exhausted.  Then it's up at 5:30 to start again tomorrow.  I suppose it could be worse.  My crew chief is a nursing student and she has 4 midterm tests this week!  All I have to do is work.


  1. Holy Hannah! You get a LOT of credit in my book for going through this. ESPECIALLY knowing that responding to a fire could actually be putting your own life on the line.

    All we have in our county are volunteer fire departments also. The guys and gals do a fantastic job. However, be so careful and take care of yourself.

  2. Most impressive. I panicked just reading the description.

  3. I doubt if I could go through it - more than a touch of claustrophobia. You must be exhausted when you get home! I think that fire fighters have the toughest jobs around. I also hope that you never need to use the training!