Suwannee Democrat

Local News

March 12, 2013

SCFR: Building a team

Live Oak — Suwannee County Fire/Rescue held a mini series of fire drills throughout several days. Since James Sommers took over as public safety director, it was his mission to increase training and to develop team building exercises. For this month, the department did a series of trainings using a tractor trailer.

The inside of the tractor trailer is set up like a single wide trailer. It includes a kitchen, bedrooms, hallways, and includes a second floor with obstacles in the hallway. The floor and walls are painted black and the trailer is filled with complete darkness. To increase the level of difficulty and to simulate a real fire, the team uses fog machines to create a smoke filled environment. Instructors place a human-like object inside the trailer that the firemen use their skills and techniques to find.

“What we learn using this trailer is invaluable,” Sommers said. “The drills that we have incorporated have helped us to step up the skills of our employees, and it helps us to be more prepared for whatever situation we may face.”

Sommers said that the department is currently looking to purchase a trailer for SCFR to use year-round.

“We borrowed the trailer from Dixie County, and they were nice enough to allow us to use it for at least five weeks,” said Captain Eddie Hand. “It has been a great tool for us to use during this training session.”

To make sure that all stations are manned in the case of an emergency, fire and rescue staff participate in training during their hours off.

“This exercise helps us in so many ways,” said Sommers. “It basically challenges you mentally. It also helps us with air consumption. Our goal is to use the least amount of air as possible. And it’s a team building exercise.”

During the first set of drills, the firefighters use just the first floor and they complete the exercise alone. The team then moves to teaching skills using the second floor. The group will then do team exercises, teaching them to always stay with their partner.

“Again, the training that we get from using this trailer is invaluable. We’re hoping to have a trailer that we could move to all of our fire stations for training and for education purposes when we visit the schools,” said Sommers.

Sommers said that he is looking for a trailer that someone could possibly donate or they could purchase at a discounted rate. Suwannee and Lafayette county Correctional Institutions have agreed to help with the labor work and Lowe’s has said they would offer materials at a discounted price.

While many fire and rescue teams have experienced cuts in their budget, the SCFR team has continued to spread its wings. Over the past two years, SCFR has added two stations, one in Wellborn and one in Dowling Park, in an effort to increase response time.

In addition to increasing training, the goal is to have each of its employees to be certified as a firefighter/paramedic. Currently, there are only three employees who lack paramedic certifications. Two of those employees are in paramedic school and one will start the class in January of 2014.

“We’re building a team here,” Sommers said. “We’re excited about what’s happening and we invite everyone to come by and see what we’re doing.”


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