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fire extingusihers are fun

Last Saturday we had our final day of CERT training where we actually put out a small controlled fire, lifted a 600 pound concrete slab disguised as a 2x4 off a body, and conducted a search & rescue.

It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. The fire extinguisher part was really cool and I did okay with that. I feel pretty comfortable about the prospect of doing that again on a small fire. (Though I hope I never have to do so.) The rest of the training; however, was a bit intimidating.

Cribbing is using a lever and wood or whatever's handy to build a structure underneath the object and raise it off the person trapped underneath. Standing there in the bay of the firestation looking at the "body" I realized I was terrified and decided I was going hang back and be the person responsible for handing over blocks of wood. I did not want to mess up in front of everyone. It seemed like I was not the only one with this idea. The fire cheif stepped in to assign roles and made us rotate through them a few times so that no one was safe. I got to start out as the person to hand wood to the worker lifting the "concrete slab". Unfortunately, next I was the medic responsible for the body (eeeeeks!!!!). My final job was stacking the wood. Had we done it again I would have been the leader and part of me was incredibly relieved they stopped us while part of me was disappointed they didn't push me because I needed it. We all needed it. None of us volunteered for any position; we all hung back. We also all seemed a bit lost as to what to do which does not bode well in the case of a real emergency. I think in my case I didn't want to order anyone around because I didn't want to seem bossy. I think in a real situation without firemen around to tell us what to do we will rise to the occasion because we'd have no choice but to do so. Also, I think there were too many people. We really only had six tasks but there were ten people so it left some confusion as to what each of us was responsible for doing. In the real world, four of us could have been exploring the building or doing other tasks. I definately learned a lot from our failures. I saw a person using a lever improperly and learned what not to do and to speak out. I learned not to hang back and to move faster. I learned to think 3-2-1: If respiration is above 30 breaths per minute and capilary refill is above 2 seconds there is no 1 to save. That person is gone and move on to the next. How scary is that?

The Search and Rescue was the hardest part. He wouldn't let us use our flash lights at first so we were searching in the darkness. Of course my team found the body. It was on the toilet. Pitch black; I was stunned how different the room looked with one's eyes as opposed to one's fingers. My partner and I forgot to prop open the door and to teach us a lesson the fireman shut it without us realizing. I was trying to get to the door so that the other team members could get to us by following the sound of my voice and I missed the door because it was open the last time I felt it. So they were delayed getting to us. I felt really bad but we were all screwing up. It's training, we're not meant to be perfect. When they joined us he let us get our flashlights to remove the body. I was holding the flash light on my partner so that she could do a check for respiration before we bothered lifting. We should have claimed he was dead; that would have saved us some trouble. When we were ready to carry the body I got frustrated because I was the only one holding a light on the stall and no one else made a move to go in to lift. So I asked for someone else to lift up a light so that I could help lift but no one did. Finally I had to shove my light into someone's hands - the body would be dead by now!! To delay things even further, for some reason my partner handed me her flashlight so I had to pass that on as well. Finally the other three team members were holding up lights so I was free to lift the legs while my partner took the torso. In doing so, I dumped my CERT backpack on the floor behind me. It then became a hazard because someone could trip over it. Darn. On the bright side, it became a training element. We finally got the body out of the stall but the fireman said I should have lifted facing out instead of in because it would be too dangerous to back out of the house. We had to put the body down and relift it. My fingers got pinched in the "knees" and I kept trying to tell them but again no one would listen so I ended up dropping him from the pain but I picked him up again and got him outside. My fingers were numb for a hour afterwards. Anyway, despite doing three wrong things (door, backpack, and dropping the body!!) I was proud that I at least carried the body. Plus, I got some praise for announcing things to look out for on the floor as we were exploring in the dark, for remembering how to do the head to toe body check for damage, for asking the appropriate questions when he regained conciousness, for thinking about looking for splinting/getting the first aid kits ready while another person was working instead of just standing around and watching like everyone else, and for answering some of their questions correctly. I have to tell myself that to make myself feel better and believe I wasn't a complete screw-up. There is so much to remember, so many little things to think of in the middle of all that choas. But I do feel better prepared and know that next time I would do much better. I sure will never forget to prop a door open again (In my defense, I wasn't the last one through the door!! It was the firemen who came in last so that was a trap!!!!) and to make sure my bag is out of the way and to make sure my hand is not going to be pinched when I lift! And I am very proud of me that I seemed pretty clearheaded, I spoke out a lot, and despite my desire to be one of the watchers I ended up being one of the doers.

In the end I left kind of sad and kind of happy. I know I shouldn't have expected to be perfect; we are just learning. God help who we help!!! The firemen were really nice, though, and assured us we actually did well. I asked him if he thought I would do more good than harm (my biggest concern) and he said absolutely. They also said to come back and visit any time, which was sweet.

Oh, and I have a cool hard hat and glow vest and will get a name badge from Emergency Services! Whoot!



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 4th, 2008 11:38 am (UTC)
OK, that is one of the coolest things to learn ever. And they didn't spoon feed you, and let you make mistakes -- better mistakes in training than in a real situation.
Feb. 5th, 2008 04:31 am (UTC)
it is such a good program! and it's free and they give you a backpack with supplies when you are done. it's so worth doing.

but it really scares me to think about how bad it will be in real life if the scenerio was that challenging. but they do updates and stuff so i'm hoping to get more practice in.

they were really good about letting us learn from mistakes, i know you can learn a lot more from mistakes. but i hate making them! LOL!
Feb. 4th, 2008 05:58 pm (UTC)
glowy vest sounds cool.

what color is it?
Feb. 5th, 2008 04:27 am (UTC)
insanely bright yellow and they added reflective tape on top of the BRIGHTNESS
Feb. 5th, 2008 03:52 am (UTC)
You know, if you were there to help someone in need when there was no one else.... god would be helping them. One hand is better than none. That's awesome!
Feb. 5th, 2008 04:32 am (UTC)
i love you :)
Feb. 6th, 2008 10:40 pm (UTC)
It's so totally cool you did this.
Feb. 7th, 2008 02:43 am (UTC)
i highly recommend it! i'll show you my CERT backback if you are able to come up on Saturday night.

i did not feel at all cool, though. still, i am definately glad i did it and am going to keep in touch for refresher courses. :)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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