GREAT FALLS — Great Falls Fire Rescue is always making sure they are staffed and prepared for some of the worst situations. GFFR Personnel spends nearly 16 days a month training for emergency medical responses. While training tends to take place at their own training facility, they decided to hit the streets of downtown Great Falls and train at the Baatz Building, located at 400 2nd Avenue South.
"We're doing it at the Baatz building because we try to utilize buildings like this in the community for a little sense of variety and being generally unfamiliar with the layout," said GFFR Deputy Chief of Training Nolan Eggen. "We do have a training facility where we train frequently. however, it's kind of the same thing over and over again when you know the building and the layout. When we have the opportunity to use a vacant or newly constructed building, it just adds a different element to the training."
Simulating a multi-family residential home, the training consists of various objectives ranging from pulling hose lines to performing victim rescue operations. Inside, the Baatz building was filled with stage smoke, challenging the firefighters' ability to see while they perform rescue tasks along with the ability to communicate with one another.
Eggen explained the experiences that one can gain from this type of training.
"There's a significant rescue profile to something like this. We have a lot of people living in relatively small space. It's not just fire tacks and pulling hose lines. We also have searches, unconscious victim rescues and conscious victim rescues. Some of it is via ground latter from the street as well as our latter truck to access the upper floors.
Another unique side to the training is the collaboration with Malmstrom Air Force Base.
Technical Sergeant Jordan Herrick serves as Assistant Chief of Operations for the Malmstrom Fire Department. He noted the importance this training serves for his team.
"Some of the buildings that we're using downtown here, we don't even have this type of construction. It's not commonly found in military bases, but it still has a similar layout to some of our dormitories and larger facilities, so the training is very valuable, especially building that mutual aid partnership. We're learning their language, they're learning our language, and we're integrating our training together."
GFFR and MAFB said they rarely have the opportunity to collaborate. Herrick noted that the four-day training between GFFR and MAFB was important in building camaraderie.
"It's been extremely valuable. We're able to learn the way we do things. We all do the same job, but there are multiple ways to take care of the problems and calls we respond to. It's really cool for our guys to see different techniques as well as sharing our experiences and techniques with them.
Eggen said, "In any kind of training, it's an opportunity to build relationships among our guys and keep everyone's skills sharp. Everyone works at different stations, so it's an opportunity to get everyone to work together. We also invite our mutual aid partners such as Malmstrom to build those relationships as well."
The Baatz Building will soon be transformed into apartments for people coming out of homelessness. NeighborWorks Great Falls will redevelop the building to feature 25 apartments targeted toward people who have previously experienced homelessness.
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