“It was a simple response to a warehouse facility holding various assets, which evaluated our response and command structure, and contingency environments,” said Master Sgt. Aaron Culwell, 386th ECES fire station one station captain, who is deployed from the 507th Civil Engineer Squadron out of Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma. “We really wanted to highlight and showcase some of our more difficult pre-fire scenarios, and that is just a good location for a difficult response.”
Several challenges were considered in this scenario, including water availability, communications and equipment placement.
“Because of the location of that facility, there is a lack of water supply, so that’s why we brought the big tanker,” said Culwell. “There is an emergency water supply fairly close, so if we had to use that it would be a long stretch of large diameter hose to supply our attack lines.”
On the communications side of things, the exercise identified a dead zone in the structure, where the firefighters discovered their radios wouldn’t transmit and receive properly. Training and adaptability prevailed however, and the firefighters found a work-around.
“In this response we discovered a communication breakdown in one area of the building where our radios didn’t work for whatever reason, so we implemented a runner system for contingency communications, as well as hand signals,” said Culwell.
As it does in many jobs in the region, weather was a major consideration in this exercise. With only a few weeks on station, the response was also an indicator for how extreme heat could affect a responding fire crew, in the event that they weren’t properly acclimated to the environment.
“Due to the fact that it was hot, we simulated our sense of urgency, we told them not to run, and drink plenty of water. Part of why we did this exercise was to get our eyes on what it’s going to take from us physically to deal with a true emergency like that,” said Culwell. “This had no fire, no heat, no smoke, and no adrenaline. We are slowly getting acclimated here, and realizing what we have to do maintain ourselves physically, between diet, hydration, and exercise.”
It was an important exercise not only in pre-planning responses, given that the crew just got here, another goal was trying to make sure the team was working together well on a fundamental level, as well as finding any shortfalls in their response.
“It was very helpful. We haven’t been here but two and a half weeks, so any kind of familiarization we can get is good…it helps us come together,” said Senior Airman Hunter Blackmon, 386th ECES firefighter, deployed from the 315th Civil Engineer Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. “Obviously, we critique every little thing, and there is stuff we want to do better, but for the most part it went really well,” Blackmon said. “And if that’s a precursor to this deployment, it going to be a really good deployment.”