Something as simple as a short length of rope is enough to save a life, Jason Everitt says as a department member dangles suspended in the air as part of a training exercise.
The deputy chief in charge of training and operations says this while tugging on a prusick -- a special knot that tightens when pulled.
A few months into his position at the Prince Albert Fire Department, Everitt has revamped the organization’s training efforts, filling in gaps in hopes of getting the department as close as possible to National Fire Protection Association standards as possible.
“They’re standards that are adapted by all of the great minds in fire service coming together and saying, ‘this is the best way to do business,’” Everitt explained.
“I’m developing a comprehensive training program for this year, and that’s something that will be put in place for every year moving forward.”
Although the department wasn’t technically behind on training, in the ever-changing world of fire protection, there’s always something new to learn, and old things to re-learn.
“The skillset is so finite, that if you don’t use them on a regular basis, you tend to lose it very quickly,” Everitt said. “We can’t afford to do that, so therefore we train continually. When we’re not responding or doing other assigned duties, then training kicks in.”
Whereas larger departments have specialized teams who focus on specific areas of safety and rescue, the local department doesn’t have that luxury, Everitt noted.
“All of the firefighters, all of the members of the department, need to be up to speed in all the disciplines,” he said.
Ongoing areas of re-training include things like water rescue and vehicle extrication, which are both utilized every year.
But, Everitt notes, it’s not just the mainstays that members have to keep up to date on.
Although he doesn’t believe any industrial vehicle rescues have taken place in Prince Albert, the department plans on training in this area at some point this year.
“As we move into the harvest time, the potential for that is definitely there,” he noted.
Although they’re training to be at the ready in expecting the unexpected, they do tailor a significant portion of training toward meeting the established needs of the community, he said.
I’m developing a comprehensive training program for this year, and that’s something that will be put in place for every year moving forward. - Prince Albert Fire Department deputy chief Jason Everitt
“The training is not a rigid beast, it’s a very fluid and flexible program to meet the needs of the organization … and the community, which is where we need to be,” he explained.
Call volumes are monitored to determine where the greatest needs in Prince Albert are, with the department adjusting training efforts accordingly.
When possible, Everitt heads training efforts himself, either in the classroom or in the field, but every once and a while, an outside educator is hired.
This year, an outside party will teach local firefighters the ins and outs of confined space rescue.
“There’s more than one way to do the job, so what I’m doing, someone else from a different perspective has a different idea, so it’s very beneficial to bring these people in and have that different perspective with regard to training,” Everitt explained.
“The more perspectives they have on the training, the more well-rounded they will be.”
Trench rescue will be another area of training. Although similar to confined space rescues, trench rescues come with their own unique challenges.
Trench rescues are just that -- rescues out of trenches, typically dug while excavating.
“You can’t lock out all of the hazards, because the ground itself is the hazard,” Everitt noted.
“Not one set of tools does everything. The scene of the incident dictates the tools to be used, so that’s why we want the crews to have a very well-rounded approach when it comes to their response.”
All these and more forms of training are now being participated in every afternoon, whenever teams aren’t on a call or taking part in other work obligations.
In the past, crews trained in the evening. This new daytime training schedule will allow Everitt to be more hands on with training, as well as ensure they can make use of more daylight hours while training outdoors, he explained.
“The teams are being trained on the same material at the same time, so there’s more consistency,” he said.
“Everybody’s at the same level, and that’s something that’s very important.”