Local firefighters use abandoned hall as site for fire training, preparation

Jennifer Mussig

A room fills with thick, black smoke. Flames lick at the door. The only way out is through a third-floor window.

Firefighters from the Kent Fire Department envisioned this scenario as they used Terrace Hall to practice ladder rescues last week.

Chuck Palmer, Kent Fire Department captain, said the firefighters practiced talking victims out of the window. Palmer stood on a third-floor window ledge and practiced pulling other firefighters out of a window. They also varied the different heights of the bucket at the end of the ladder -ÿfrom stepping straight across, to stepping down – and determined which felt more comfortable.

Fire departments have been using Terrace Hall to practice search and rescue as well as ladder rescues since March, said Ed Moisio, university fire prevention and safety coordinator. Local fire departments don’t often get the chance to use a big building.

“The university afforded us a good opportunity,” said Jeff Coffee, Kent firefighter and paramedic. “We can do things in a commercial setting that we can’t do in a residential setting.”

For house fires, firefighters use ground ladders to rescue people from windows, Coffee said. Using a big building presents a great opportunity to practice bringing someone out of a window and putting them into the bucket.

When practicing search and rescue, firefighters simulated having a person “down,” or trapped. The first priority is conducting a primary search, Coffee said. This means firefighters search the rooms closest to the fire and spread out. People in those rooms need to be rescued first because of their close proximity to the fire.

The next step is a secondary search in which firefighters start at the end of a hallway and work their way down, he said. Basically, firefighters sweep the building looking for victims.

Firefighters also practice rescuing each other. It’s called fast training or firefighter assistance training, Coffee said.

These practice sessions aren’t limited to the Kent Fire Department. Departments from Rootstown, Brimfield and Ravenna also used Terrace Hall to practice training. All of these departments would respond to a fire at the university, Coffee said.

“We have mutual aid where we rely on other departments,” Coffee said. “We’re trying to build a working relationship. That’s why we’re training together.”

In June a live, controlled fire will be set in one room, Moisio said. It will simulate the residence hall that caught fire in Allyn Hall in September. It will be a big, all-day event for each department, he added.

Contact buildings and grounds reporter Jennifer Mussig at [email protected].