Mansfield Fire Department and the Massachusetts State Police Team up for Joint Exercise
The Mansfield Fire Department and the Massachusetts State Police recently participated in a joint exercise at a residential structure scheduled for demolition
The following was submitted to Mansfield Patch by Shaun Debold.
There’s a reason why the Red Sox and Patriots play pre-season games. Hitting in a batting cage or practicing field goals does not provide the same learning experience as performing these same tasks when it counts. Sports are one thing, but how do Emergency Services professionals prepare themselves? Where do they play their pre-season games?
The week of January 7 provided a unique opportunity for the Mansfield Fire Department and the Massachusetts State Police Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) teams to sharpen their skills during a joint exercise at a residential structure scheduled for demolition. The fire department first received consent for the drill from Mansfield building inspector Nick Riccio. The house, located off a side street in downtown Mansfield, provided a perfect opportunity for the fire department to train in search and rescue techniques, horizontal and vertical ventilation practices, building construction and fire ground strategy and tactics. Fire Lieutenant William Burgess led several Mansfield firefighters through these drills.
The Mansfield Fire Department recently acquired state-of-the-art breathing apparatus that includes an enhanced air filtration system and buddy breathing connections. In addition, the new apparatus are equipped with a Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) device, as well as Pack Tracker technology. If the PASS device senses that a firefighter has ceased movement for a certain period of time, the device immediately issues a loud, piercing alarm along with a flashing strobe, and a homing beacon begins to transmit. Using hand held signal detectors, fellow firefighters are able to locate and rescue their fallen comrade, even in zero visibility conditions.
To train firefighters in the use of the Pack Tracker, Mansfield Fire Lieutenant Richard Fiske placed a PASS-equipped breathing apparatus somewhere in the abandoned structure, its location unknown to his fellow firefighters. Waiting outside and out of sight, the firefighters were alerted by the alarm on the hand held locating device. Using visual and audio feedback from the device, firefighters entered the structure and were able to locate the hidden breathing apparatus within minutes. In real life, mere seconds can make the life or death difference in locating a fallen firefighter.
Mansfield Deputy Fire Chief Jim Puleo recognizes a unique opportunity when he sees one. An instructor at the Massachusetts Firefighter Academy and a member of the state Hazardous Materials Response Team, Deputy Puleo realized Mansfield firefighters were presented with a rare opportunity to cross train with the state EOD team. “The EOD team does a lot more than just defuse bombs,” said Puleo. “In a hostage rescue situation, for example, the EOD may be called upon to use explosives to open doors or breach walls. In Mansfield, our paramedics would be on scene to provide emergency medical service if needed, not only to potential hostage victims but to EOD and SWAT personnel as well”.
EOD and SWAT teams are experts, highly trained in what they do, and it’s important for medical personnel to understand how they’re dressed and how they’re equipped. For a suspected injury to the torso of an EOD member, for example, paramedics need to know how to safely remove tactical vests and body armor. EOD personnel wear a tactical vest over their body armor. This vest contains a wide variety of sophisticated tools and often has pockets or enclosures where an EOD bomb tech carries explosives. The location of these pockets is standardized across the entire EOD department; every EOD member will carry his explosives in the same pocket as every other EOD member. This way, if an EOD tech is injured and requires medical attention, field medical personnel know “what not to touch” and are aware that a tactical vest should not be removed and simply cast aside.
During their drill in Mansfield, state EOD techs briefed Mansfield firefighters and rescue teams on their methodology for entering locked rooms and buildings, and shared a list of do’s and don’ts for the removal of their tactical gear in case medical attention should be required. Using shaped explosive charges; the EOD team proceeded to breach a number of doors in the abandoned structure, with Mansfield emergency teams standing by.
“A training opportunity like this doesn’t come along very often,” says Mansfield Fire Chief Neal Boldrighini, “and when it does we utilize it to its fullest potential. Training now saves lives later. It’s as simple as that.” Added Deputy Puleo, “You just can’t get this kind of experience in a classroom.”