Monday, August 18, 2008

R.A. Fire Academy

Nothing was on fire today on the Gordon campus, although the presence of a fire truck and its hoses snaking onto the quad might have suggested otherwise.
According to yearly requirement, the R.A.s for the upcoming academic year assembled for a three- to four-hour basic training course on fire safety. The 60 R.A.s, divided up into groups led by John Soucy of Physical Plant and the Wenham Fire Department, rotated through a variety of training exercises.
Nothing was on fire today on the Gordon campus although the presence of a fire truck and its hoses snaking onto the quad might have suggested otherwise.
According to yearly requirement, the R.A.s for the upcoming academic year assembled for a three to four hour basic training course on fire safety. The 60 R.A.s, divided up into groups led by John Soucy of Physical Plant and the Wenham Fire Department, rotated through a variety of training exercises.

One of the more fun, although less relevant, exercises included students racing against each other on the quad, donning firefighter equipment—trousers, coats and helmets—as quickly as possible. Students in this group also worked with the hoses, turning them on and aiming at objects farther down the field.

In the parking lot outside Drew, another gathering got a how-to on fire extinguishers. After a short verbal tutorial, the students practiced using the extinguishers on a flaming newspaper-stuffed trash can and a stovetop oven-cooking pan.

Inside Drew things got a bit more intense. Firefighters sealed the small dorm and filled it with "smoke" in order to create an experience similar to a smoke-filled burning building. In groups of three to five, the students were instructed to crawl through the hallway of the dorm until they reached the door at the opposite end. Relatively easy, it seemed. However, students watching on a monitor outside the building saw their fellow R.A.s struggle to make their way blindly through the dorm. One disoriented group of students actually veered off into one of the dorm rooms. "It's usually the smoke, not the fire, that kills people," Soucy said. "They get disoriented and then get lost or lose consciousness."

Soucy takes this aspect of his job very seriously, although the teaching methods he uses to train R.A.s are definitely creative.!

2 comments:

John Soucy said...

Thanks for "blogging" this important event in the life of RAs, but the wider Gordon Community as well. To clarify, since most people think that the flames and heat are the biggest cause of deaths in dwelling fires, we try to make staff aware of the real culprit. It is the toxicity of the smoke, and the lack of oxygen created by the combustion process that is the real culprit. Comparatively few people burn to death. Hence the need to get out of a building as soon as you hear the alarm or are made aware of fire.

Patricia Hanlon said...

Thanks for your comment, John. We're grateful for the important work you and your department do for the Gordon community.