Firefighters from the Lake Harmony and Albrightsville Volunteer Fire Companies and the Lake Harmony Ambulance had the opportunity to experience a simulated building collapse that is as real as it gets while still in the safe environment of a training session.
This was made possible by a mobile building collapse simulator which was manufactured by Personal Protection Equipment Specialists (PPES) which was brought to the convention center at the Galeria at Split Rock Resort in Lake Harmony.
The simulator is designed to increase the skill of first responders and the rescue team's ability to work as a unit during such situations.
It simulates a three story building with the third floor collapsing down onto the second floor and in the training drills, when the firefighters go in to do the rescue, they do so in total darkness with only their own lights which work minimally as the interior is painted with black light-absorbing paint.
Just as could be expected in a real-life collapse, they encounter collapsed ceilings, piles of debris, fallen wiring, plumbing fixtures, etc. before they can even find the victims.
The simulator was the idea of co-owners and inventors Thomas Quinn and Kerry Oswald who saw a need for it as a result of 9-11.
Both Tom and Kerry had volunteered at the 9-11 site in New York where they found that a lot of the volunteers there did not really know what they were doing.
So they decided to come up with a way to bring the needed training to the volunteers by putting it on wheels and bringing the training to them at their own firehouses.
After time spent on design, development, and construction, the simulator has been on the road now for over four years.
They've had over 9,000 firefighters go through the unit and they have stated that it is very challenging and it builds up their confidence.
The Mobile Building Collapse Simulator is housed in either a 24' or 30', easily transported trailer that simulates a three story building with the third floor collapsed.
The larger model is capable of simulating 152 rescue scenarios and the smaller one that was brought to Lake Harmony has about 14 scenarios that it can do.
Among just some of the scenarios possible to simulate is confined spaces rescue training which can include sewer line rescues.
PPES which either sells or leases simulators is always working on adding new scenarios to the units and they can be custom built to a customer's specifications .
In areas that have no permanent training facilities, multiple fire companies can get together and between them they could buy their own building collapse simulator to train on.
The actual rescue simulations can take hours to do, with one session involving 75 firefighters taking over five hours just to find the first victim.
To help cover the expense of bringing the simulator to Lake Harmony, the Firemen's Association State of Pennsylvania (FASP) presented a check to help pay for the visit with additional funding coming from the fire companies themselves with monies raised at their yearly Fire and EMS Banquet which is also held at the Galeria.
Next year in 2011 the Pennsylvania State Firemen's Convention will be held right here our area in Lake Harmony with a parade there on the 24th of September with Steve Lilick and Lake Harmony Fire Chief Ralph Lennon serving as the chairpersons.
It is hoped that the Mobile Building Collapse Simulator will be part of the convention.