“Okay stop! You’re all dead!”: Search And Rescue Training

On Wednesday, September 20th, the Barre City Fire Department brought its cadets to the Barre Auditorium for a search and rescue fire training. There were four cadets, five members of the department, and eight firefighters who served as instructors.  

Once the group gathered, they went into the basement of the Aud., where there are no windows. The lights were off, and the cadets were blindfolded.   

The training started with everyone crawling on the floor in the basement following a hose line, looking for a “downed” firefighter, listening for the PASS device, which is a small box on every firefighter that has siren alarm for when a firefighter has stopped moving. They crawled through what they thought was a big open space, the basement.

The siren became louder as they crawled through the pitch black, searching, and once they found the downed firefighter in a smaller room, they turned around back into the basement to make their way out.

Captain Howarth shouted, “Okay stop! You’re all dead.”

He explained that when they crawled through the basement the first time they didn’t see the “fire” in the corner due to “tunnel vision,” a condition where you only see what’s directly in front of you. The “fire” built up heat while they were searching. The heat built up to the point where all the oxygen in the room ignited all at once, “killing everyone”.

“Tunnel vision will kill you. You need to see all of your surroundings,” Howarth said.  “Even if you can’t see your own hand in front of your face in the dark, always check for fire.”

Trainings like this happen every other week for future firefighters with the Barre City Cadet program.  Cadets are high school age kids interested in careers that revolve around Emergency Medical Services (EMS), which can be First Responders, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s), Advanced Emergency Medical Technicians (AEMT’s), Paramedics, Firefighters, etc. The trainings are taken very seriously, preparing students to handle themselves in dangerous situations trying to save lives.  

“The Cadets program’s purpose is to train high school students to be firefighters and prepare them for the state firefighter 1 course test,”  Captain Howarth said.

Cadets can be given pagers that alert them when there is a fire during a certain time of the day. They report to the fire station and ride out with the next truck that has space for them. When they arrive to the fire they must report to the officer in charge and given a job to do with a team of actual fire fighters.  But they will never be allowed to enter an IDLH (Immediately Dangerous To Life And Health) situation.

“I don’t know what I would be doing if I hadn’t joined the Cadets. It’s where I actually learned how to be and EMT. Reading the books and studying is great but it’s not how I learn,” said Olivia Couture, a former Cadet. “Riding in the trucks with paramedics to train me and patients to work with is how I passed the test”

Olivia, who graduated high school last year, is now a member of the call force as an EMT working toward her firefighter 1, which qualifies her work on any EMT or fire call.