On a hot Wednesday afternoon, students wearing bulky turnout coats weighed down with a self-contained breathing apparatus attempted to stack baby toys while wearing heavy gloves and a cloth covering their eyes.
It’s all in a day’s training for the nine students in the Carlisle Regional Emergency Services Program.
Program coordinator Mike Snyder said the program was developed after Tracy Stritch, cooperative education director for Carlisle Area School District, expressed a need for an educational program in the fall for students who anticipated taking EMT certification classes at HACC in the spring. The program was developed to give the students a taste of the variety of emergency services specialties that were available so the students could start to think about where they wanted to serve.
The program is organized by the Carlisle Fire Department with instructors coming from Carlisle Fire and Rescue Services, Union Fire Department and other emergency services like the Carlisle Police Department and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The program is open to students in other area districts. Six of the students come from Carlisle Area School District, two are from Cumberland Valley and one is from South Middleton School District.
“One of the things that we’re really happy about is that there are six females and three males, so we’re getting some diversity we might not normally see,” Mike Snyder said.
To cover liability issues, the students joined Carlisle Fire and Rescue Services even though some of them may not live in the station’s service area and could ultimately take their skills to their own home stations.
“We’re looking at this basically as a community service and to help build them up,” Mike Snyder said.
“It’s a big plus if we can get any of these young people to stay interested in the fire services,” said Carlisle Borough Fire Chief Jeff Snyder said, adding that fire companies across the state have been dealing with a loss of volunteers.
Elijah Newhouse, a senior at Carlisle who already volunteers at Union, may do just that. He said that while he may not go into emergency services as a career, he may continue serving as a volunteer with the fire company.
The 17-week program features a different aspect of emergency services each week, giving the students the opportunity to learn about fire suppression techniques including working with hoses, ladders, hand tools, lighting and self-contained breathing apparatus. They also learn about types of rescues, buildings and codes, wild-land firefighting, hazardous materials, school and hospital safety, special teams, community education and emergency management as well as aspects of law enforcement including patrols, forensics, investigations and special operations.
“It’s a broad brush for all the students, so I think it will help them make a better decision,” Jeff Snyder said.
Four of the 17 weekly online courses students will take through the FEMA website are required for EMT certification, giving them a head start on their course work for the spring. Seven of the courses are part of the FEMA professional development series, which teaches fundamentals to build a foundation for a career in emergency management. Students will receive a certificate for successfully completing those courses.
Belle Taylor, a student at Carlisle, said what she is learning from the program will be a help as she has been studying nursing in her vo-tech classes, though the exercise she had just finished using the gloves was a challenge.
“I could barely even tell if I was holding anything” she said.
During the program, the students also have the opportunity to do several ride-alongs with Cumberland Goodwill EMS and Holy Spirit EMS. They also will spend time at the Cumberland County 911 center.
“They are also allowed to ride the apparatus if a call comes in,” Mike Snyder said.
They did just that on a recent Friday afternoon when a call came in for a forklift fire at an area business. The students were permitted to ride along on the call, and were taken into the scene of the fire once it was deemed safe.
All the activity is fine with Carlisle senior Kendall Brenizer.
“It was more hands on training than sitting in a classroom with textbooks,” she said.