RCFD training exercise emphasizes situational awareness using makeshift Meth lab

A training exercise for the Rapid City Fire Department started out as a routine training, but took a twist when firefighters discovered a mysterious chemical reaction that forced them to take preventative measures.

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Firefighters are among the few that are first to arrive on the scene of an incident.

Whether it’s a crash or fire, they’re asked to risk their lives for the general public.

On Thursday, firefighters practiced that humbled but cherished bravery in a Situational Awareness training exercise. In the training, firefighters assessed the scene like they normally do on any other call.

But there was a twist.

Firefighter training experts put together a scenario where firefighters were called for a report of a one-vehicle crash where the driver fled the scene. There also happened to be a victim in the passenger seat.

In this particular simulation, a fake makeshift meth lab was placed in the back of a Rapid City Fire Department Suburban, along with dry ice combined with hot water to simulate a working lab.

Firefighters acted swiftly, first by identifying the potential threat and responded by getting in full gear, including their oxygen tanks. They removed the victim, brought them to safety and reviewed the scene before going over their performance with an instructor.

Those training experts, like Captain Mike Bartling, emphasized that this particular exercise was used to keep firefighters ready for anything they may face in the field.

“They had to recognize, ‘Hey, I have something more. I have also a fire hazard and a hazmat hazard’, so they had to switch gears put on Personal Protective Equipment quickly and able to go rescue that victim,” Captain Bartling said.

Rcfd Hazmat Awareness Training 17

According to Capt. Bartling, RCFD responds to thousands of car crashes per year. However, this training scenario was used to drive home the importance of awareness of a scene.

Captain Bartling also highlighted that the fire department holds special training sessions every month, that holds a specific purpose. This month’s training emphasis was Hazardous Materials or HAZMAT Awareness.

Jordan Johnson, a Journeyman and Firefighter with RCFD says that this message resonates with firefighters, but reminded that their number one mission is life safety, meaning they’ll go the extra mile to sacrifice themselves in some instances for the subject in need.

“There will be some risk involved because you got, we always say, ‘Risk a little to save a little risk a lot to save a lot.’ We’ve got a patient in there,” Johnson said. “We’re going to risk quite a bit to get him out.”

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