More training coming for Dothan firefighters

Dothan Firefighters participate in Special Training

DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) - More training is coming to firefighters with the Dothan Fire Department.

Eleven firefighters participated in the confined space rescue technician training, which is the highest level of rescue training. Firefighters learn the skills needed to save a person who might be trapped in a smaller space like an elevator shaft or sewer.

The most famous confined space rescue in Dothan was back in the 90's.

"The water tower on Westgate, we had a gentleman fall and break his leg inside it and we had to bring him out a small manway, almost like a manhole, but sideways, and it's 100 feet off the ground," said Captain Stephen Messer, Dothan Fire.

Friday, firefighters went through a scenario where they had to make a decision on how to respond to a confined space emergency and were evaluated on their response to the incident.

911 calls about confined space rescues aren't typical for dispatch operators, "It's one of those things you have to practice because it's not a common occurrence," said Ted Krayer, Hazmat Program Manager.

When they do come in, Dothan fire officials say having this training will ensure they have the firefighters ready to respond.

"If there's a person in one of the industries here or works one of the water lines and they go down in a sewer," said Messer, "It may not be a problem with the environment. They may have a medical emergency. That's not the time for us to say, 'okay we need to train people so they can go in and do this."

This training is not just important to respond to local emergencies, but Dothan Fire also assists with regional aid, sending specialty teams when disaster strikes. Teams have responded locally, like with the Enterprise tornado. They also responded to state emergencies.

"That has happened with the April 2011 tornadoes that went through Tuscaloosa and Birmingham," said Messer. The department also assisted with response in other states, like Mississippi and Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina, where skills learned in confined space training may be put to use.

In addition to confined space training, teams deployed to regional emergencies must also have rope, trench, collapsed structure, machinery extrication, and swift water rescue training.

In the event that an emergency outside Dothan/Houston County pulls firefighters out of the area, Dothan Fire says the training ensures there are enough trained people left locally

"Any time we're going to have a deployment when it's outside Dothan or outside our jurisdiction, the chief always makes sure we also keep enough rescue technicians here to handle any emergencies in our cities," said Messer.

The training was provided by gr ant money through Work Place Safety Training, which is a division of the Alabama Fire College.

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