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Training and Education Command

United States Marine Corps
Depot firefighters prepare for high-level emergencies

By Lance Cpl. Justin J. Shemanski | | May 21, 2004

MCRD/ERR PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- Hooked up, latched on and ready to go, firefighters from the Parris Island Fire Department went through their annual Height and Confined Spaces Training aboard the Depot May 10-15.Gregory Scott Millsap Training Associates, a group comprised of fire service professionals from the Atlanta area, packed up their gear and headed for Parris Island to hold a 24-hour refresher course for the two shifts of firefighters stationed here."We're here because firefighters are required to learn certain types of techniques in order to do their job in a safe and efficient manner," said Firefighter Barry Hopper, co-owner of GSM Training. "If someone's on top of a burning building you must know a way to get them down and that's one of the scenarios we are going through in this course. They don't do these types of things on a day-to-day basis, so it's nice for them to have these classes so they have these methods fresh in their minds should the need arise."Each shift goes through 24 hours worth of training, in which GSM instructors explain all the necessary methods used to perform a rescue in anything but ideal situations. "One of the main things we go through is how to work a rope ... how to gain a mechanical advantage off a rope based system, which will make their job a lot easier," explains Hopper, a 15-year veteran of the business. "Out on a scene, they aren't going to have this many folks. They have to be able to work efficiently with limited equipment and limited manpower, so that's our goal. To make sure that they know how to do it safely in the time we give to them during the exercises."As Hopper noted, ropes and knots are of big importance when conducting certain types of rescues. In a situation where going out a barrack's window may be the only way out, a rope system may be the only option. Many knots and rigs will be utilized in order to make an operation like this possible. According to GSM's Training Manual, it encourages a firefighter to master a few knots capable of addressing most situations he or she may encounter, rather than learning too many knots that all serve the same purpose. This will allow a firefighter to perform a rescue faster, rather than thinking about which knot or system will be best for the situation at hand."A situation on base where we would use this kind of knowledge could be when a [recruit] gets stuck or hung up on the rappel tower," said Lt. Joey Ramsey, driver operator with the PIFD. "The easiest way to get them down is not to take them down the steps, but to send one of us up there to get them back down the side. It's good to know this kind of thing ... as far as I know we are the only ones on this base that are trained to handle a situation like that."Hopper also feels very strongly about going through this yearly training with the PIFD, stating, "it only seems right.""Who else on the base is going to be able to do this type of thing," he said. "The fire department is an obvious choice because they already have the paramedics, who would be on the scene anyway, so why not train them to perform the rescue as well."As for having to go through the training every year, Ramsey said it is great because they learn something new every time."There's always different rigs and different set ups ... easier and faster ways to get the job done safely, and that's what we're all about," he said.

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