August 04, 2016

Firefighters plan training exercise on campus

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Firefighters from communities in the area will train next week on removing victims who may be trapped in small, confined spaces at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. 

Firefighters from the area-wide technical rescue team will use SIU’s labyrinth of steam tunnels underneath the campus to work on the skills needed to rescue victims located in such areas. The exercise is scheduled to begin about 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 9, and likely will involve dozens of firefighters from departments throughout the area. The exercise is scheduled to conclude about noon. 

Capt. Jay Crippen with the Carbondale Fire Department, said participating firefighters are part of MABAS Division 45, an organization that provides cross-training and mutual aid response throughout the state. MABAS stands for Mutual Aid Box Alarm System. 

Crippen said firefighters must train monthly on the specialized skills required for rescuing people from situations involving heights, collapsed trenches, structural collapses and, in this case, confined spaces. 

“We’ll be working it like it’s a regular incident and it’s about maintaining our proficiency,” Crippen said. “If you don’t use the skills you lose them.” 

Brad Dillard, associate director of physical plant service at SIU, said the four miles of steam tunnels will provide firefighters with a difficult and unique confined space training situation. 

“The university has maintenance staff in the tunnels on a regular basis so there is a significant likelihood we might have to utilize the service ourselves at some point.” 

Firefighters will gather at the SIU Arena parking lot prior to being “dispatched” to the “incident,” Crippen said. Once on the scene, they will carry out a scenario involving several “victims” represented by training mannequins that firefighters must locate, package and safely remove from the tunnels. 

Dillard said during the exercise the university will block off the entire south end of Lot 47, located on the west side of the Neckers Building, and people should expect to see a large number of emergency services vehicles and workers around the area. Dillard and a few university pipefitters also will be on hand to provide any technical assistance if needed.