Missouri Summer Fire School educates firefighters in water rescue scenarios
Water is the firefighter’s traditional weapon of choice, but it can also be a deadly enemy.
Missouri’s plentiful rivers, streams and lakes are a treasured asset for fishing, boating and other activities. But accidents on the water can and do happen, as well as flooding emergencies, and many communities rely on firefighting personnel to undertake rescue operations.
“In today’s fire service, we are multitasking like you wouldn’t believe,” said Todd Ackerson, chief of the Kansas City Fire Department’s rescue division. He’s also an instructor for the University of Missouri Extension Fire and Rescue Training Institute’s (FRTI) Summer Fire School.
Despite the name, MU FRTI’s Summer Fire School covers more than just fire. Ackerson teaches courses on boat rescue. “Fire departments all across the state are used for water rescue and boat rescue,” Ackerson said.
Participants in boat rescue training spend one day in the classroom followed by three days of hands-on learning on the Missouri River, including an evening drill.
Students in MU Extension’s Fire and Rescue Training Institute’s (FRTI) Summer Fire School practice water rescue operations on the Missouri River at Jefferson City.
“Emergencies don’t wait for good weather and daylight,” said Corey Sapp of the Jefferson City Fire Department. “This is a very busy river, commercially and recreationally, so folks are on it all the time. The Jefferson City Fire Department responds to the river regularly, so we have to be prepared to respond effectively and safely.”
In addition to specific rescue techniques, water rescue classes cover topics such as boat maintenance, trailering and launching procedures, and equipment placement.
“And you have to have total boat control,” Ackerson said. “Anybody can hammer the throttle and hang on. That’s not what this course is about. It’s about teaching individuals how to operate those boats with finesse.”
Ron Lowry of the Lake Ozark Fire District appreciates the challenges that the boat rescue training presents. “It’s vitally important for us to get high-quality training with the conditions we’ll be experiencing out in the field,” he said. “Debris in the water, going out at night — that’s when calls happen. So when you get into a high-risk situation where everybody’s stressed out, you have that comfort of knowing you’ve done that, you’ve been there, and your training will not fail you.”
The Summer Fire School also covers topics such as mass-casualty incidents, aircraft rescue firefighting and confined-space rescue. FRTI holds regional fire schools, seminars and specialized training on a range of subjects and scenarios, including counterterrorism, hazardous materials, industrial safety training and emergency medical services.
Continuing Medical Education programs provide learning opportunities for health care practitioners that incorporate the most up-to-date research and clinical guidelines available. In FY 2014, more than 1,800 programs reached 27,322 health care professionals across the state and around the world.
The Fire and Rescue Training Institute (FRTI) conducted 674 classes with a total enrollment of 13,958 students this year. The training received by these students equates to 169,243 instructional hours. For every dollar FRTI receives from MU Extension, the institute generated $5.11 in funding to support training. Through FRTI’s field extension program, the institute reached students in 113 of Missouri’s 114 counties, along with enrollments from 31 other states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico.