When people think of firefighters the first thing that comes to mind is saving lives and not needing to be saved. Fire departments across Bay County, Naval Support Activity Panama City and Tyndall Air Force Base came together to train on doing exactly that; saving firefighters
The 325th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department coordinated training with US Navy counterparts and local fire to familiarize themselves with new procedures being validated by Bay County during a training event in Panama City, June 16, 2022. These new tactics would be implemented in Rapid Intervention Teams and executed when a “mayday” call goes out over the radio that signals a firefighter down or in distress.
“The majority of mayday calls are a result from firefighters getting lost, air problems or a floor collapse,” said Michael Fowler, 325th CES fire protection specialist. “The MAYDAY project, which is an organization of doctors and veteran firefighters, performed studies across 12,851 fire departments across the United States and the results show that maydays will not end well in most cases.”
The scenario placed the firefighters inside a dark building with heavy smoke from several machines placed throughout. Instructors watched the teams entering the building and selected random firefighters to become simulated consequence that their team had to find and extract in a certain amount of time.
“This is the first time in over 30 years that we’ve been able to do this kind of training with Tyndall’s participation,” said Jacob Gorman, Panama City Beach battalion chief. “The main objective is to find the firefighter in danger and get them to safety as quickly as possible. The team that came out from Tyndall did exceptionally well and set the bar for our departments.”
While the 325th Fighter Wing is not directly associated with Bay County’s fire departments, the training could prove to be a valuable addition to the current procedures that the 325th CES fire department follows.
“We’re always looking to give back to our civilian brothers and sisters and always eager to learn whatever we can from them,” said Master Sgt. Nathan Aguilera, 325th CES fire and emergency services superintendent. “These new techniques could easily be incorporated into Air Force fire protection doctrine if it works and helps save the lives of our Airmen.”
Thanks to the exchange of experiences and best practices they share with each other, integrated training between the civilian side of the profession and the military benefits the community and the installation.
“We have learned a lot from just the first day of training,” said Fowler. “The new protocols look very promising and I think they will help save the lives of firefighters around the country.”
While military installations conduct their own training regularly, it’s not often they can integrate with an entire county’s emergency services to learn cutting edge processes and new training fresh from the civilian world.
“I’m extremely proud of what we were able to accomplish here,” said Gorman. “We’ve had such effective and meaningful training here, and the fact that we were able to include Tyndall makes it that much more special. Everyone walked away in high spirits after making new friends and learning so much, and that’s all you can really ask for.”