All in a Day’s Work: Firefighters Use Giant Vacuums and Rescue Bears

Fire Rescue Training Keeps Teams on Top of the Most Bizarre Calls

Most fire rescue officials advocate for continued fire rescue training to prepare for all kinds of emergencies.

Firefighters must be prepared for practically any rescue scenario, requiring an expanse of firefighter survival training and all the necessary tools. There’s no disputing it: departments that stay on top of new information and new techniques are better equipped to save lives. For instance, every three months the Sioux Falls Fire Rescue in South Dakota holds urban search and fire rescue training.

In fact, the department just added a somewhat odd rescue tool for rare but dangerous situations. You might identify the new piece of equipment as a dirt devil—yes, similar to the one sitting in your closet. Sioux Falls firefighters know it as the giant vacuum that helps with water and trench rescues.

Fire Apparatus operator Clint Deboer lobbied for the tool to improve efficiency and put rescue personnel and victims in less danger. By not having to use picks and shovels to remove dirt, thus spending less time immersed in the trench, people can be saved sooner. The Sioux Falls department joined forces with the Water Reclamation team to acquire the tool, and get regular rescue specialist training for events like trench cases.

In honor of last week’s National EMS Week, Eastside Fire and Rescue’s EMS training coordinator, Elenjo Schaff, offered heavy praise for another essential kind of training—firefighter safety training and new EMS life-saving techniques. As training coordinator and member of the King County Fire Training Officers Association in Washington State, she is adamant that firefighters must constantly maintain EMS skills, firefighter forcible entry training, and other specialized education. Schaff says it’s “just part of the mission that firefighters in our department agreed to perform when they chose this profession.” That’s not the only presumed aspect of the firefighter profession.

Fire rescue teams get odd calls. Continued training and giant vacuums may not be part of the job description, but it’s implied. The Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue team in Colorado had to rescue an unusual troublemaker, a young black bear. After romping through a trashcan and leisurely climbing a tree to hang out, locals became increasingly worried about a nearby school that was about to let out. Neighbors called the police department, wildlife experts tranquilized the bear, and the rascal still didn’t fall from the tree.

In comes Steamboat firefighters, who tied a rope to the bear’s leg, lowered it, and then caught the bear with a tarp before he hit the ground. Did they train for that? Probably not. But they handled it. From saving bears to rescuing people from trapped caves, ravines, and buildings, firefighters need constant training to respond to most unusual calls.

Who else are you going to call?


Factories Scour for Skilled Workers to Sustain Production

Expanding Manufacturing Must Train Workers to Meet Demand

As factory orders rise, the manufacturing industry has jobs to fill and a lack of skilled workers. Despite the potential for high-paying salaries, manufacturing positions don’t have the allure they used to.

Manufacturers are both elated and scared. The economy is stirring, manufacturing is gearing up and yet, owners are getting worried. Orders are coming in and production is increasing, all according to plan—but the workforce isn’t catching up.

Director of the New Jersey Advanced Manufacturing Talent Network, Meredith Aronson, reports that manufacturers “are coming back,” except there aren’t enough qualified workers to keep up the pace. Nostalgia aside, the manufacturing sector has the potential to curb unemployment if—and only if—unemployed workers get the manufacturing training they so desperately need. And boy, do they need it.

Throughout plants across the Southeast, Advanced Technology Services (ATS) hired more than 1,000 workers that required manufacturing plant training to maintain computer-controlled equipment. The South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance is pleased to see a comeback. From 2011 to 2012, South Carolina alone added 9,500 manufacturing jobs, and many of them need technical skills and safety training.

Although ATS staffs factories throughout the U.S., the company sees the highest demand for skilled workers in the Southeast, from Illinois down to Mississippi and Georgia. Georgia’s manufacturing industry saw real growth in 2010, but Republican Gov. Nathan Deal recognizes the necessity to educate the workforce with maintenance and industrial safety training to sustain recovery.

Gov. Deal responded with a marketing partnership promoting careers in manufacturing among Georgia youth called Go Build Georgia. The stigma working against the manufacturing trade tends to make young people and their parents shy away from factory jobs and plant work, but these jobs can be lucrative. Technical colleges with two-year degrees and multi-craft maintenance training can yield $55,000 a year salaries right out of the gate. Of course there are some discrepancies.

High-tech manufacturing positions—aka computers, electronics, pharmaceuticals, aerospace products—pay more than low-tech manufacturing jobs. In fact, a geographic layout of manufacturing salaries done by MSNBC said the rate of pay is determined by the kinds of factories operating in the region.

The top 6 areas that report the highest-paying manufacturing gigs are as follows:

1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. (Silicon Valley)

Average manufacturing wage: $144,899

Industry focus: computers and electronics

2. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn.

Average manufacturing wage: $95,507

Industry focus: aerospace, machinery, computers and electronics

3. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif.

Average manufacturing wage: $91,761

Industry focus: computers, electronics, food and pharmaceuticals

4. Austin-Round Rock, Texas

Average manufacturing wage: $88,026

Industry focus: computers and electronics

5. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif.

Average manufacturing wage: $87,502

Industry focus: computers, electronics and pharmaceuticals

6. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass.-N.H.

Average manufacturing wage: $82,415

Industry focus: computers, electronics, fabricated metals and food

Although this data might be somewhat skewed by a few top-level employees, and the cost of living has an impact, these salaries show the room for growth among high-tech manufacturing. We’ll bet some if not all of these regions have invested in factory education and plant maintenance training.

Vision 20/20 Program Says Fire Chiefs Need Risk Management Training

Redefined Fire Chief Position May Require More Training

The American branch of the Institution of Fire Engineers found a nationwide need for more risk management training among fire chiefs. Some departments rewrote fire chief job descriptions as a result.

The expected requirements of fire chiefs have changed over the past several years as layoffs, budget cuts, new technology, and social issues make a heavy impact. Chiefs from Nebraska to California are adjusting to redefined job descriptions with more emphasis on integrated risk management, exploring and investing in useful technology, and paying attention to ethical and cultural concerns. Potential hires may face additional fire chief training on top of years of experience to meet the new requirements.

In some cities, other aspects of the job position have been cut for practical reasons, such as holding an EMT certification. Although emergency response for medical calls is in high demand among fire departments nationwide, fire chiefs are rarely the ones administering literal hands-on care. These pragmatic decisions make sense, but fire chiefs looking for new job opportunities may be at a disadvantage with accreditations that are no longer relevant and new theories to learn.

The national Vision 20/20 Program, created by the American branch of the Institution of Fire Engineers, recommends that new chiefs are equipped with advanced fire command training. The program hits on points like reducing fire loss, increasing prevention programs, and conducting better risk management, including a community risk analysis. Based on the new public safety suggestions, chiefs would evaluate a city’s hazards and use that assessment to determine department staffing, equipment, and budget needs.

Considering the national scope of understaffed crews, firefighter training that includes extensive risk analyses may help commanders perform thorough situation awareness checks. According to blogger, published author, and former fire chief, Richard Gasaway, failing to consider all aspects of situation awareness—especially a personnel size-up—has led to many firefighter injuries and line-of-duty deaths. But knowing the potential risks of a community, structure, construction materials, and crew may reduce such accidents.

Chiefs must be able to set and maintain realistic expectations of firefighter performance in a variety of emergency situations. Basic firefighter training must run the gamut of preparedness: homeland security threats, wildfires, drug labs, public transit disasters, aviation incidents, and more. As the chief position evolves, commanders must build on former knowledge and utilize fire chief training to do personnel size-ups for each of those unique situations. As Gasaway emphasizes, having a firm grasp of situational awareness is one of the only ways to predict rapid developments and keep people safe.

That level of foresight (and leadership) saves lives, property, and resources. While some cities and departments are implementing new roles and responsibilities, other fire departments have yet to fully adapt. Although they likely dealt with changes in funding and staffing, official regulations are slow to catch up.

What do you think: are the duties of fire chief changing per the natural order of things, or are they evolving too slowly? What kinds of additional training would you equip fire departments with?

“Re-shoring” Efforts Yield Job Growth in Manufacturing

U.S. Manufacturing Reclaims Some Outsourced Jobs

The manufacturing sector continues to provide some significant job growth, but will it be enough when the workforce lacks basic industrial training?

The Obama administration is still hopeful that the manufacturing push will yield jobs and more American-made goods. Well, it looks like some of these efforts are paying off. Gradual improvements in the manufacturing industry made some changes appear insignificant, but economists argue the manufacturing sector has been a major and reliable source of growth in the economy since the Great Recession.

Data from the Department of Labor seems to agree.

Plant work and manufacturers created 120,000 jobs in the first three months of the year. Ford Motor is doing their part; the car company added 5,500 jobs this year that were previously outsourced. Ford reacquired the production of certain high-tech components used to assemble hybrid cars—like battery packs and transmissions—from Japan and Mexico. But automakers aren’t the only ones bringing jobs back to the states; mega corporations and small private companies alike are reclaiming jobs.

Chesapeake Bay Candles will now actually be from the Chesapeake Bay-area. GE is continuing its reign of expansion to appliances, aviation and locomotives. Last year alone, GE added 10,000 jobs. The multi-industry giant is projecting at least another 900 factory jobs by 2013. So, maybe the recent jobs report wasn’t a clear indication of the whole economic recovery picture. But if plants and factories are to make the most of new hires—and sustain ramped-up production—they need to invest in manufacturing plant training.

The second part of creating manufacturing jobs is enabling the workforce through education and industrial safety training. Not enough businesses see the value of in-sourcing because a large segment of the unemployed doesn’t have the necessary skill sets. Last year reported a record-breaking number of U.S. exports of nearly $20 billion, part of which is thanks to the construction/mining equipment maker Caterpillar (CAT). Since their heavy-duty construction equipment, especially mining machinery, has global appeal, they increased production efforts in the U.S. and put more money in the national pocket. But, increased production doesn’t mean much if workers don’t have manufacturing training.

According to CNN Money, the American workforce is at its smallest size since the 1980s. Although there has been some significant job growth, many have just stopped “engaging” with the job market—aka “job market dropouts.” It appears some adults have temporarily conceded to unemployment and returned to the drawing board for community college classes and technical skills, like manufacturing plant training. Job skills depreciate the longer someone is out of work and vocational education seems to be the only option left.

To offset the economic imbalance caused by discouraged “dropouts,” various sectors (especially the reliable manufacturing industry) must invest in the unofficially unemployed through industrial safety training, electrical training, operations training and more. Long-term investments yield more jobs, national revenue and exports, and America desperately needs all three.

School Shootings Show Renewed Demand for Campus Security Training

The Virginia Tech rampage left schools with no choice but to enhance safety protocol, yet more recent shootings show campus security is a never-ending endeavor.

Campus security professionals argue most college campuses and universities are better equipped to respond to active shooters and other threats in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre. Although many improvements were made to establish safer schools, two more shootings show the demand for better security campus training and foolproof mass notification systems still exists.

The shootings at an Ohio high school and Oakland’s Oikos University killed a total of ten students collectively. Each loss of life is a harsh reminder that there are still many strides to take. Among the tragic lessons learned in Blacksburg, VA five years ago, we saw that universities can and will be held accountable for their inaction and ill-prepared responses. Two separate families who lost loved ones during the VT attack accused the university of negligence and received $4 million each in the lawsuit that was finalized last month.

School security experts like Kenneth Trump, president of consulting firm National School Safety and Security Services in Ohio, cites numerous impacts April 16, 2007 had on campus security. While more schools are participating in lockdown drills, active shooter exercises and mandating that students sign up for safety alerts, Trump also notes that ‘more’ isn’t everyone. And he says the majority of preK-12 schools have not made these necessary steps. But, schools armed with security guard training are much closer to creating secure campuses and responding quickly and confidently when needed.

University and school administrators cannot ignore the dire need for security guards to go through college security training on a regular basis. In the aftermath of Virginia Tech’s darkest day, curriculums for advanced university security training were offered online to encourage widespread use. Besides implementing disaster plans and violence prevention, security officers must be able to identify risk situations involving alcohol, drugs, etc. Minor problems in dorms and student centers can escalate quickly without a skilled security team to control the situation.

Not to mention, having a safer campus means happier parents and higher enrollment. College Parents of America—a parent resource to help with preparation and transitions—advises parents to ask about campus security and safety protocols right off the bat. If a college can’t provide a thorough, satisfying answer, you better believe Mom and Dad won’t support that choice.

Before you can shape the leaders of tomorrow and enlighten them with higher education, you must be able to protect them. How would you better protect college campuses?

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