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Hospital staff, fire department flex emergency muscles

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High-rise fires pose unique challenge

By ANDRE BUTLER

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Ireland Army Community Hospital Public Affairs Officer

Ireland Army Community Hospital staff and the Fort Knox Fire Department conducted a fire response exercise Aug. 21 at the hospital.

The overall goal for the exercise was to ensure hospital employees knew how to react to a fire as firefighters performed scenarios they would likely encounter during a real-world firefighting incident.

“This exercise was held in order to test our response time to a high-rise fire emergency while the hospital staff executed their evacuation plan,” said John McDonald, the assistant fire chief for the Fort Knox Fire Department.

McDonald went on to explain that these exercises as well as actual emergencies require a lot of commitment from those involved.

“It is important that everybody know their roles when responding to fires,” McDonald said, “especially when you are fighting fires that are more than one story high.”

For this reason, the department deployed several pieces of equipment, some unique, in order to get the job done.

“Today we had two fire engines, a ladder truck and a rescue truck,” McDonald said. “Since the fire was on the eighth floor we needed this truck to successfully preform our mission.”

And even though the simulated fire was on the eighth floor, the ladder truck is equipped to handle fires on any floor in the hospital, he said.

Safety first is a common theme when dealing with life and property during events like this exercise.

“Knowing what to do during these types of situations could mean the difference between life and death,” said John Cecil, IRACH safety manager and the medical treatment facility fire marshal. These are value-added exercises because employees need to understand the dangers and how to react accordingly. And that’s exactly what they did today.”

The exercise also allowed the hospital and fire department to be in compliance with mandated training requirements.

“We conduct training weekly,” McDonald said. “But not on this scale. So it is a benefit to us whenever we can participate in an event such as this one.”

Ireland completed its fourth quarter training requirement as a result of the exercise.

“We have to conduct fire drills for all shifts each quarter because we are a health care facility,” Cecil said.

Cecil and McDonald agreed that the training went well.

“We exceeded the standards in some areas,” McDonald said. “And we met them in others. But in the end everything went as planned.”

Cecil said although everyone pulled together to make it a success, there are things that should always be a priority when responding or reacting to fires—human safety is most important.

And three main procedures will ensure you are prepared when the time comes, he said.

“R.A.C.E. (Remove all personnel in immediate danger—Alarm, pull the nearest fire alarm box and dial 911 and identify your location—Confine, close doors and windows to keep fire and smoke isolated—Evacuate, use section fire response procedures), R.E.A.C. (Restrict, access to the affected compartment by posting a guard— Ensure, staff assure patients everything is ok and close nonessential doors—Assign staff to prepare patients for evacuation in case your section must evacuate—and Continue, critical operations while preparing for possible evacuation) and P.A.S.S. (Pull the pin on the fire extinguisher—Aim the nozzle of the fire extinguisher at the base of the fire—Squeeze the handle of the extinguisher—and Sweep the nozzle of the fire extinguisher left to right to cover the base of the fire),” he said.

“Always remember to train as you fight. Don’t just check the block. Lives are at stake.”