Even the most complete training cannot protect first responders unilaterally from the tremendous risks they face every day. This tragic fact was driven home last week when Philadelphia had to come to grips with the death of two firefighters. After a long battle throughout the evening of Monday April 9, the fire was declared out. A small team went to an adjacent store to check and ensure that the fire was out. Suddenly a wall collapsed, trapping four firefighters under tons of debris. Though the rescue teams did everything they were trained to do in extracting the victims, only two of the four survived. Clearly the training received by the rescue team prevented the loss of life from being even greater.
The unfortunate issue is the fact that most fire companies simply do not have the budget or capability to offer this important life-saving training to the entire department due to the high costs of fire academies. Plus the fact that there is a need for continuous training to keep rescue procedures fresh in the minds of first responders, once a year is clearly not enough.
“If there was one thing I realized during my time at ground zero, it’s the absolute need to train all first responders, not just some, under the same conditions they will encounter during a building collapse. In other words it’s all theory until it happens,” says Tom Quinn, President of PPES (Personal Protection Equipment Specialists). It is Quinn who designed and developed the Guardian, a self-contained collapsed-building simulator that recreates hundreds of confined-space rescue scenarios that have been referred to as being “as real as it gets” by firefighters and fire chiefs alike. And since the simulator is mobile, it can be easily transported from one fire company to the next for the necessary on-going training. “First responders must stay sharp; that’s why they need to train three or four times a year,” commented Quinn, “and with the Guardian they’ll never run out of things to learn.”
This patented one-of-a-kind simulator will be at this year’s Fire Expo 2012 at the Pennsylvania State Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA on May 18 through 20, 2012, where attendees will be able to witness a rescue operation designed to mimic the same conditions encountered by first responders during the tragedy of 9/11. Utilizing a series of cameras positioned throughout the Guardian, attendees will be able to watch the race against time to rescue a fallen firefighter trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building live on the big screen, as it happens. The action takes place every day starting at 11:00 a.m.
The Guardian Mobile Collapsed Building Survival Simulator will be situated at the West End of the Old Main Hall in the Pennsylvania State Farm Show Complex, 2301 North Cameron Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110.