Rockford Fire Department hosts second training for Rosecrance staff

Rosecrance staff with local Rockford firefighters.
Rosecrance staff with local Rockford firefighters.

A second group of Rosecrance staff members participated in a half-day training session May 19 with the Rockford Fire Department that featured education and physical exercises that simulated basic firefighter duties.

The activities took place at the Rockford Fire Department Training Academy on West State Street. Nine employees suited up for the exercises, which the fire service refers to as “evolutions.” A group of nine different staff members completed similar training back in October.

Rosecrance staff perform a mock search and rescue with the Rockford Fire Department May 19, 2015.
Rosecrance staff perform a mock search and rescue with the Rockford Fire Department May 19, 2015.

The group took turns climbing a 105-foot-tall fire engine ladder, navigating tight spaces inside a pitch-black room and crawling through a dark room filled with fire and smoke.
A few different evolutions were featured in this session. One involved a Keiser Force Machine, which simulates forcible entries and rooftop ventilation. Participants swung a 9-pound sledgehammer to strike a weighted beam. The beam glides along a track, and it takes an average of 20 to 25 strikes to move the beam 5 feet, according to Keiser’s website.

A second evolution simulated a fire scene that required forcing entry to a door, conducting search and rescue, and victim removal. The pretend victim remained limp and didn’t assist with the recovery, which magnified the difficulty of rescuing a person while wearing nearly 75 pounds of fire protection gear (including an air tank).

Greg Mularz scales the 105-foot-tall ladder.
Greg Mularz scales the 105-foot-tall ladder.

The training aims to give Rosecrance staff a better understanding of the experiences and daily stresses of firefighters. Rosecrance specializes in treating firefighters and paramedics for co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders as part of its Florian Program, which launched in 2014.

Florian is housed at the Rosecrance Harrison Campus and has eight inpatient beds available for men and women.

Here’s some feedback about the training experience from Rosecrance employees who participated:

“The training helped to remind me that we need to always approach clients with a trauma-informed stance, help guide them and allow them to feel safe and supported. I felt that with the firefighters who trained us that day. They were supportive, encouraging and emphasized trust. They met us where we were at (physically and emotionally) and only pushed us to do what we were ready to do. … It was helpful to get a taste for the demands of our Florian clients’ experience, and I am grateful to have gotten a chance to gain an understanding of their lifestyles, in order to better help them in the future.” Jada Miller, art therapist and counselor

Pat Spangler, unit coordinator gives an interview with a local television station.
Pat Spangler, unit coordinator gives an interview with a local television station.

“I found it very informative to put on all of the gear and go through the training. With that, it was great to talk to the firefighters and have them tell us about all of the things they need to be aware of when they go into a fire. The possible victims, sounds, building structure, air flow for where the fire may be and, of course, the position and safety of their peers. The training was priceless.” – Tonya Cassata-Rink, unit technician

“I have always respected the work that our firefighters and paramedics do, but doing some of the preliminary training exercises raised that respect to a much higher level (if that was even possible). I view them as our real-life heroes and protectors. I did surprise myself that I was able to climb the 100 feet of the firetruck ladder without stopping. … It was amazing to me in the dark room how short the little obstacle course was because when I was crawling around the corners and then belly crawling through a cylinder with the air pack on my back, it seemed like it was a lot longer. … What an experience that I had the honor to participate in.” Kelly Cairns, access liaison

“What an adventure! It was great having firsthand experience on the day-to-day work of firemen/firewomen. I definitely have a greater respect for those who serve in this capacity and put their lives on the line to save others without a second thought. It was great hearing from the firemen/firewomen how much they appreciate the Florian Program and its mission to serve their colleagues in need.” – Meridith Graham, chaplain

“What stands out to me is the element of surprise or the ‘unknown’ on the job. With common sense, I would assume going to fight a fire – it’s going to be hot, hard to breathe – but I never thought about the total lack of visibility and having to feel around for your surroundings. I have a new appreciation for the talent it must take to maneuver a large building, quickly, with little-to-no visibility. And to think of not only trying to stay safe yourself, but to also make sure you are not missing anyone that may still be in there.” – Greg Mularez, primary counselor

“In working with these men and women, I have learned they are very reluctant to call themselves heroes or even acknowledge the danger they put themselves in while in the line of duty. It is one thing to hear their stories and quite another to experience a very light version of the level of physical and mental duress they endure while serving our communities. It was a pleasure to learn some of the basics of firefighting with these professional, brave firefighters.” Angie Potts, unit specialist