New Technology aids firefighters
By Melissa Sukiennik
A fire erupts downtown, the bell rings through the entire station, and men and woman jump into action. The life of the firefighter is about fighting fires, and so much more. Rebecca Wood started as an on-call firefighter for two years, and has now been full time for three years. She says she remembers the first fire she ever fought. “I remember how hot it was, and not being able to see anything. The initial feeling was I wanna get out of here, then a few seconds later your training starts to kick in and it’s fine,” Wood said.
While staying at the Kentwood Fire Station for their 24 hour shifts they become like a close knit family. It is very rare to find a job where everyone loves what they are doing, and that’s what Woods has found. When waiting for a call, she hangs out at the station. They have time for working out which is strongly recommended, getting food, sleeping, joking around with their station family. To keep their living area clean they have these exhaust hoses that connect to the engines till they leave the station so the exhaust doesn’t end up in their living space.
They have these new dispatch laptops that go in the engines and offices. They are very helpful to them because it shows where units are so they can pick the closest unit for the job. These laptops also give them the ability to see what the call is, and any information that would cause harm to them at the scene such as chemicals, or behavior problems. When they get the call they go to their engine and put on all their equipment. This makes it easier and faster for them by putting the oxygen packs in their seats almost as if they are putting on a seat belt.
When they get to the fire and go in to find people stuck in the building, they use a creative tool that they call the tick. It’s a scanner that views thermal energy, so you can find people in a smoke filled room. To keep them safe they have a mask hooked up to an oxygen tank. In the mask they see three lights which tell you how much oxygen you have, and it will vibrate when you are very low and need to get out immediately. Not only does it warn you if your oxygen is getting low, it sets off an alarm for your partners to help you. Wood’s partner Steve Cashion said, “the alarm goes off on your tank if you are inactive for about 40 seconds.” This is so your team can find you if you have fallen and can’t get up, or if you are injured and need help.
They don’t just go on calls for fires, a lot of their calls are for medical reasons. Deputy Chief Greg Ginebaugh says, “Rebecca just has a way of dealing with patients, and their families.” After getting information and making sure the families are okay, they have reports to fill out. They used to have to write out their reports after every call, now it is all electronic. That makes it easier for them, and helps the going green aspect as well.
Other ways they get involved with the community are by going to local elementary schools, making appearances at block parties, parades, and they even have a camp for burn victims. It’s a camp for children ages 5-19 who have been burned from fires. It takes place near the Portage area, and is one week during the summer. “It’s initially shocking, but we call them survivors at camp,” Woods said. They have a chance to be themselves and not worry what other kids think about them, while having fun and meeting new friends.