Firefighters Get Simulated Hands-On Training

Several kinds of buildings make up a tabletop simulator that resembles a city. When one of the buildings is set ablaze, firefighters respond as if it's the real thing. The whole objective of the training lesson is to follow the incident management system, a concept that stresses better use of resources, manpower and communication while fighting a fire. In this scenario, a warehouse is burning with 30 people inside.

"They have to be able to come in, manage, set up with the resources that are available and be able to rescue, extinguish and manage the people without hopefully losing indiviuduals," says Hank Levins of the Gulfport Fire Department.

Firefighter Dean Morrow says, "Communication is the biggest problem. We have too many people tryin' to talk and actually don't have enough resources to allow everybody to say what they have to say so sometimes something important doesn't get said to get passed onto communications and it just makes the incident worse."

Along with confusion and various conversations taking place at the same time, the crews have to deal with bystanders too.  That's where the man who's putting on this demonstration gets to role play.

"I can be anyone from a mother to a concerned citizen to the gas company to the manager of a building and it kinda helps add on to a little bit of the stress that we can't put on the table here and they have to deal with 'em on a day to day call," says Hans Wagner.

Wagner and Levins say this hands-on training enhances the firefighters capability to bring a disaster under control quickly, with clear communication and with no injuries to themselves or citizens.