Firefighters practice drills at Kent State’s Heer Hall



Drew Parker

Lifeless bodies littered the debris-covered floors of Heer Hall. The walls of adjoining rooms displayed large holes just big enough to crawl through. The hallways of the building were pitch-black and silent.

Fortunately, the bodies were lifeless because they were dummies, and Heer Hall was simply the future setting for a disaster drill. During the summer months, local firefighters are taking advantage of the now-vacant residence hall to improve their emergency rescue and survival skills.

Trainees will complete drills using dummies, a smoke machine, several lighting settings and various “traps” in Heer Hall to simulate a fire and building collapse from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays continuing into early July.

“We don’t typically have a building given to us for training. Skills practiced at the firehouse are difficult to reproduce in a real disaster,” said Kent fireman Gary Lane. “The unfamiliar environments help the men reorient themselves, and the skills they learn will work in a house or a dorm. They will be better trained, quicker and smarter.”

Lane said the drills performed are designed to heighten their civilian rescue and self-survival skills, as well as improve proper hose line and ladder techniques. The setting will help firefighters prepare not only for community house calls, but also for campus emergencies involving high occupancy buildings like residence halls, Lane added.

Firefighters from Kent and the surrounding cities of Rootstown, Randolph, Brimfield, Ravenna, Streetsboro, Aurora, Mantua, Tallmadge, Akron and Garfield Heights, will participate in the activities.

Heer Hall, which is scheduled for future renovation, is an ideal building for the training exercises because of its multiple levels, windows and ability to endure minor damages. Lane said he believes the partnership will benefit the university and the fire departments by providing more knowledge of emergencies for the trainees and safer housing conditions for students.

“This (partnership) shows that the community and the university can really work together in Kent,” Lane said.

Contact Summer Kent Stater reporter Drew Parker at [email protected].