A number of Cleveland Fire Department firefighters were recently honored for life-saving efforts during flooding earlier this year.
CFD officials maintain a rigorous training schedule for specialized services, which may be needed in the event of certain situations or even disasters, which may affect the community.
Recently, six CFD firefighters expanded their knowledge in search and rescue. They are a team within themselves as well as having support from other specialized firefighters as a resource.
Urban Search and Rescue technicians, or USAR, can take on a number of jobs in the event of natural disaster or man-made incidents such as trench or building collapse.
According to Chief Steve Haun, USAR was put into place during the past tornadoes.
“During these storms, engineer Jasen Parks and firefighter Josh Woods, two of Cleveland’s USAR Technicians, were able to quickly rescue a patient trapped under concrete debris. They credit their training in these fields as being instrumental in the save. We constantly strive to improve our services and provide our citizens with the highest level of care and professionalism,” Haun said.
Parks and Woods, Zach Jaggers, Kevin Hair, Jason Pennell and Chris Light were the most recent to advance their training adding to seven other CFD firefighters who are certified in USAR.
“Many other individuals have advanced training in other Special Operations disciplines including but not limited to hazardous materials response, advanced vehicle extrication, and swiftwater rescue,” Haun said.
“Every day we are training to respond to major events that might only happen a few times over the course of a career. The infrequency with which these disasters occur means that we have to really bring our ‘A-game’ when training so that we can maintain a state of readiness at all times,” said Jaggers, who is not only a firefighter and USAR technician, but also holds first-response medical certification as an emergency medical technician, or EMT/IV.
A number of years ago, CFD and Bradley County Rescue personnel responded to a trench collapse at a South Lee Highway property.
The area has been known to have large sinkholes develop.
Trench collapse, building collapse (such as what occurred during tornadoes) and confined space was what CFD’s USAR technicians trained. But it doesn’t stop at initial training and certification.
USAR technicians are required to continue their education to “maintain and enhance” their skills.
According to Haun, the 13 Cleveland firefighters will have the backup of other specially-trained firefighters in the area who make up the Tennessee Task Force 4.
“It’s a regional special operations response team based in Chattanooga. TN-TF4 falls under the umbrella of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), but is also recognized as a federal asset (Homeland Security). Formed in 2007, TN-TF4 has trained approximately 180 firefighters to the technician level in Urban Search and Rescue,” Haun said.
“We are thankful to the Cleveland Fire Department for allowing us this opportunity, and we are thankful to the Chattanooga Fire Department and their instructors for taking on the task of hosting this invaluable training,” adds Firefighter/USAR Technician Jason Pennell.
According to Haun, this was the first training of its kind to be offered in nearly four years by the USAR school.
“We train for the worst, but hope for the best,” said firefighter/USAR tech Chris Light.
“We were very fortunate to be able to take this course,” said firefighter/EMT-IV Hair, another of Cleveland’s USAR Technicians. “This course was very hands-on, which is critical to training in these disciplines. There is only so much that can be learned in a classroom setting with regard to saving lives.”
The training consisted of a five-week course, ending with three, full-scale rescue situations, requiring those in the class to use skill sets learned in the class and on-the-ground to mitigate each particular disaster, according to Haun.
One of Haun’s favored quotes is, “Call the fire department. They can do anything.”
“The evolution of public safety has continued and it’s our job as a fire department to expand service and continue education in all facets, not only fire prevention and safety, but many other areas where we can help,” Haun said.