Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) - Last week, the Fire & Rescue 2018 conference was held at locations across the Midlands. This conference, headquartered at the Columbia Convention Center downtown, was a prime opportunity for emergency responders to get advanced training in a number of skills and techniques that can be used when they respond to all types of emergencies on Lexington County’s streets. For years, it had been held in Myrtle Beach, SC. Over the past few years, its sponsoring organization, the SC Firefighters Association, had been thinking of moving it to the center of the state. This would make it more accessible to everyone who wanted to participate. In the Midlands, it would be no more than a few hours drive from anywhere. 2018 was the first year they pulled the trigger and the conference was moved.
This conference is an opportunity for responders to learn from the best on an advanced level. Although our firefighters and first responders are already well trained, this is an opportunity to see and learn the latest techniques and be taught by some of the most knowledgeable experts; sort of an advanced degree over the basic skills developed in our normal fire training system.
There were classes offered to boat operators that head out into the swiftest water when someone is in trouble. However, the specialty course at this year’s conference gave those same operators the opportunity to learn how to operate their boats correctly when there is a flood. According to the conference’s website, participants learned to handle motorized boats during flood operations, including boat handling on still or slowly-moving water, crew roles, boat safety and problem solving.
There were also courses that taught attendees everything there is to know about how a fire engine and how its crew operates as one unit. The courses’ descriptions said that students could expect to learn everything from the rig’s grill to the door, to the fire room, and all that falls in between. Likewise, others also participated in courses on how to be better crew team members when operating our ladder trucks that respond during fires and other emergencies.
Most of the registrations for these conferences were free because our responders are members of the SC Fire Fighters Association. The move to the Midlands made it more convenient for Lexington County personnel to attend and certainly saved us money for travel and their expenses of being away from home. That, and the fact that the classes were offered repetitively, allowed our men and women more opportunities to participate when they weren’t on their shifts in Lexington County.
Lexington County got further involved by loaning the conference the use of our new, state-of-the-art training facility for one of the sessions. This center, located on Ballpark Road in Lexington, was the perfect place to take some of those in attendance for the arduous practical portions of their courses. In this case, we hosted the course called Rapid Intervention Team Operations. This course is described as a session where students rotate through a series of six skill stations, practicing firefighter rescue techniques such as lowering systems, drags and pulls, assessment/changeovers, deployment procedures, and roof rescues.
Another benefit of Lexington County responders attending the conference was seeing and interacting with the exhibitors that attended. Many companies that cater to the needs of the emergency services industry were there showing their wares. This allows the people who use these products to see, touch, and even try some of the latest technology. One Lexington County fire officer who attended said that this type of interaction with factory reps was invaluable, allowing the end user to learn the ins and outs of a new product before our county considers investing in something that can be very expensive. They also have the opportunity to provide feedback to the manufacturer at the same time. The people from the factories, the experts on how a product is made and used properly, were right there to answer questions, give demonstrations, and allow the end-users to touch and feel the latest tools of the trade. Representatives could also take the feedback they received to their development teams.
Responding to emergencies is a hard, often thankless job. It can also be dangerous. The Fire-Rescue 2018 conference being moved to Columbia made it much easier for us to send more people, receive more training hours, and have them hone their skills in case of that house fire, that car wreck, that train derailment. It made them better educated, and in the end, much safer.
Plans are for the conference to be held in Columbia for any more years. You can learn more about Fire-Rescue 2018 by looking at their website at firerescuesc.org.