PCB Fire Rescue adopts 'rookie school' to further recruits' training
The Panama City Beach Fire Rescue Department has established a first of its kind “rookie school” to help supplement firefighter training for new recruits and ensure they are mentally and physically up for the job.
“We have so many new people and are continuing to grow with the addition of a third fire station, that we thought this would be beneficial,” said Capt. Jacob Gorman. “There are a lot of unique aspects to the job on the beach and we wanted to be sure these new recruits have the foundation they need to be successful.”
The probationary firefighters are following a 7 a.m.-5 p.m. training schedule this week that includes an hour of physical training each morning. They are being instructed on several different disciplines to ensure proficiency. The skills they are honing follow 10 disciplines and include:
- Self-contained breathing apparatus confidence
- Hose deployment and advancement
- Ground ladder operations
- Search and rescue
- Rapid intervention
- Vertical ventilation
- High-rise operations
“The training they receive as part of their education, while it does have hands-on training, this is a more thorough look and feel for the day-to-day,” said Capt. Tim Smith. “Nowhere else in the county has the number of condos we do, so high-rise operations is a unique skill our firefighters need.”
The National Fire Protection Association defines a high rise as being higher than 75 feet, or about seven stories.
Capt. Smith said one of the adjustments for new firefighters is getting into a rhythm.
“It’s about learning the pace of the day, the pace of the job,” he said. “School is a controlled environment but, on the job, we do things quicker. We’re aggressive. It ties into the individual’s fitness level and the value of hard work.”
This additional training includes scenarios such as search and rescue inside a structure, with low visibility. Firefighters must be able to locate a victim inside and pull the 185-pound dummy outside to safety. Another drill involves self-survival with entanglements in a smoky building.
Capt. Gorman said to do their jobs effectively, all firefighters have to be up to the rigors of the job, which are both physical and mental. “You can’t hit the pause button. It’s not class where you can take a step back. We don’t want them to be in a smoked-out fire and fail.”
Capt. Smith said this additional training provides a higher standard of protection for the citizens of Panama City Beach. “Our department has a higher expectation of what we want to be able to provide,” he said.
This philosophy among the firefighters has always been there, but this is the first time the department is making the effort to actually teach it. It’s because firefighters must have each other’s back, and they must be capable of doing the job and contributing to the team.
This rookie school also allows some PCB firefighters and officers to share their knowledge and training. Many attend training conferences over the course of the year and are instructors at Gulf Coast State College in the minimum standards fire program.
Public Information Officer Debbie Ingram Ward can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 233-5100, Ext. 2261.