MISSOULA – In the fire service, the focus is on fire prevention and then suppression, simply because it’s more effective to stop fires before they happen instead of stopping them afterward.
And to some extent that’s true in dealing with other emergencies. Training becomes the centerpiece of preventing accidents, and then dealing effectively to help victims.
With millions of pounds of freight rolling through Missoula every month, safety is a constant theme at Montana Rail Link. And the same is true at the Missoula Fire Department, which may be called to respond to a variety of mishaps which could develop. That means regular training is a joint effort between Missoula Fire, MRL and the other Washington Company Divisions such as Envirocon. It help builds a familiarity and working relationship that can be critical in an emergency.
"And it’s good for us to know. I mean they have three different companies here, so if we have to respond to here, and there have been accidents on occasion that we’ve had to come be involved with," said MFD Training Officer Terran Lohman. "And so it’s important for their folks to see us and what kind of expectations we have when we get there and kind of the information that they can give us."
"They’re good partners to the fire department. We have done some training over here with them just to understand their facilities and their operation. And off course there’s all kinds of different that could happen either here or on the rail."
On this training exercise, two MFD rookies are going through their training for the first time. But even the veterans continue to learn. Scenarios, such as how to safely lift thousands of pounds off a victim, provide the background which can help solve unexpected problems with a rescue.
"These guys today will probably go through 20-to-24 different scenarios that range anywhere from writing exercises to, as you can see here, patients that are trapped in industrial or heavy equipment," Lohman said.
Beyond the technical aspects of the training, working together helps build trust between the firefighters and the Washington Company’s employees for handling a crisis.
"It helps if we recognize a face. It helps if we recognize and understand their buildings and their processing, anything from a simple fire alarm to, heaven forbid, an industrial accident."
Missoula Fire’s training with Montana Rail Link and The Washington Companies is just one in a series of on-going exercises that take place throughout the year.