Ever wonder who a doctor calls when he or she is sick, or who a police officer calls when he or she is the victim of a crime? What does a firefighter do when trapped in a burning building? The firefighter may not be able to call on anyone because there is a good likelihood that he or she may not be conscious in such a desperate situation, which is why firefighters are increasingly training as part of a “Rapid Intervention Team,” or RIT. Firefighters by description are trained to rescue people from dangerous situations, but rapid intervention training specifically targets firefighters rescuing other firefighters from dangerous situations.
To aid in that training is Robeson Community College’s Emergency Services Training Center, which houses a piece of equipment known throughout the state as the “Beasley Beast.” Named in memory of Connie Beasley, a Benson area engineer and firefighter who began the project several years ago, the Beasley Beast was adopted and completed by firefighters from East Howellsville Fire Department.
Made from several shipping containers and piped with gas burners, the Beasley Beast allows firefighters to simulate battles with fires in close quarters, including the extrication of trapped individuals. Trained personnel inside a control room can control the intensity of the blaze to allow firefighters to get realistic, hands-on training in the safety of a controlled environment.
Recently, fire departments from Fuquay-Varina, Lumberton, East Howellsville, Julian, Durham Highway, Dunn, Fort Bragg, Benson, Mt. Gilead, Buies Creek, North Raeford, and West Area visited Robeson County for RIT training. Photos of this training can be found on Robeson Community College’s Facebook page.
According to Johnny Baker, director of Robeson Community College’s Emergency Services Training Center, RIT is a stand-alone certification granted by the North Carolina Department of Insurance’s Fire Rescue Commission, but is deemed important enough that it will be incorporated into regular firefighter certification in January, so that anyone seeking firefighter certification will be required to attend about 40 hours of training.
“I welcome the fact that they are going to put it in the firefighter certification,” Baker said. “It’s needed.”
Joshua Sorrell from Buies Creek recently assisted Will Gregory of Fuquay-Varina in conducting the training at Robeson Community College. Sorrell agrees with Baker on the need for the training.
“We’re trying to break 30 years’ habit of doing it one way by teaching new concepts using limited manpower,” he said. “Today we had nine people in the class. We really need 12 people for one hour to extract an unconscious firefighter. We have to do a lot with a little. Staffing is down nationwide.”
Sorrell attributed the decline in firefighting personnel to budget cuts for paid firefighters and lack of interest for volunteer departments.
Most departments now have a Rapid Intervention Team, though the different teams may vary in size and depth of training. Ideally, according to Baker, every firefighter in each department would have the training. In Robeson County, approximately half of the fire departments have certified teams.
Beasley’s wife and family turned his work over to East Howellsville Fire Department with the agreement that they finish what he had started and that funds earned from its use be split between the fire department and a scholarship fund set up in memory of Beasley to support firefighter training.
Beasley was an engineer with CP&L and the owner of Triple C Fire & Rescue in Benson. He was also a fire instructor and retired firefighter with 27 years of service at the Benson and Elevation Fire Departments. He served as chief of the Elevation Department.
For information about Robeson Community College’s Emergency Services Training, call Johnny Baker at 910-738-7128, or email Tammy Bozeman at email@example.com.
Dennis Watts is the public information officer at Robeson Community College. If you have questions about RCC or suggestions for future articles, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.