State Fire Academy trains Oktibbeha firefighters

Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

The Mississippi State Fire Academy held a week-long automobile extrication course for the Oktibbeha County Fire Department’s volunteer firefighters last week. OCH Regional Medical Center also led training in patient care.

The hands-on extrication training led the firefighters through the methods and tools used to safely remove a victim from within or beneath a variety of automobiles in the case of an accident.

“We do training all year round, but in the state of Mississippi, the (State) Fire Academy pays for an instructor for two of these courses a year,” Oktibbeha County Fire Department Training Officer Austin Check said. “We try to do really challenging courses for the two State Fire Academy (courses).”

The state training for Oktibbeha firefighters takes place in the spring and fall. For example, in spring 2018 they were trained to navigate hazardous materials incidents. Mississippi State Fire Academy Adjunct Instructor Charles Yarbrough led the course on automobile extrication this week, while members of OCh Regional Medical Center focused on teaching the firefighters proper patient care.

“We talked about the history of vehicles. We talked about different types of vehicles, like the new hybrid and electric vehicles that we’re dealing with now,” Yarbrough said. “We talk- ed about how to— if somebody has a wreck— how do we go about getting them out of the vehicle, the safest and quickest way.”

Check thinks the automobile course was important due to ever-changing technology.

“Newer cars are built in different ways. They’re using different materials and so if we don’t constantly train them on these kinds of things, we get stale,” Check said. “Ten years ago no one would ever think about an electric vehicle or a hybrid vehicle. Now, they’re everywhere and they present their own set of challenges and those are things we have to constantly evolve with.”

Check also thinks the hands-on aspect of the training is important.

“We have new tools, new equipment and you have to learn how that works, (for example), battery-powered tools versus gasoline-powered tools,” Check said. “You can teach it all day long but until you’ve had it in your hands it’s a whole different ballgame.”
Yarbrough said the training taught the firefighters three main aspects for approaching the scene of an automobile accident.

“First of all, developing a plan when you get onscene— not to rush, but the best plan prior to doing anything,” Yarbrough said. “(Next), being safe, that’s the big thing. Safety is the main importance. And then after that, doing everything quickly and efficiently.”

Check said it’s important for the firefighters to think critically about the training.

“As problems occur, you’re not (only) learning how to do it but why to do it, so you can adapt and overcome,” Check said.

OCh Regional Medical Center Ambulance Services Assistant Manager Shedrick Hogan was one of several OCH staff members teaching the firefighters proper patient care during a variety of scenarios.

“We’re out here in conjunction with the volunteer fire department just trying to help (the firefighters) learn (how to better) treat and stabilize the patients,” Hogan said. “To make sure we don’t do anymore damage as we try to get them out of the car or truck that’s been involved in an accident.”

Hogan said the medical training also teaches the firefighters how to treat the patients until the ambulance services arrive.

“They’ll know how to treat the patient while we’re coming to the scene,” Hogan said. “They can start the basic treatment— first aid, controlling bleeding, direct pressure— they can do that on-scene.”

“Our biggest thing is, of course, first and foremost, patient care and we always err on the side of the patient,” Hogan added. “Our biggest thing is we want to make sure we get the patient (to the operating room) in the best possible condition we can without doing any more harm to the patient.”

Check says, overall, the department-wide training nurtures trust among several districts of firefighters.

“There’s such a different representation by all the districts. They’re learning to work with folks they may not work with on other days and that’s invaluable in itself when they have to go to a situation where there are multiple departments involved because that builds trust,” Check said. “We see each other, but until you’ve worked side-by-side with a person, you don’t necessarily have that trust when somebody’s holding a tool over your head or something like that.”

Yarbrough said he thinks the training went well this week.

“We had close to 30 people show up for the class. That’s a big class,” Yarbrough said. “It turned out really well. I really enjoyed the class.”

Yarbrough also thanked the Oktibbeha Fire Department and OCh for their participation. Hogan praised the volunteer firefighters.

“I am proud to work for the Oktibbeha County hospital because the volunteers out here are second to none,” Hogan said. “Any time we come in the county, we’re going to have at least three or four volunteers getting out of their bed, coming in the rain, coming in the snow, coming in the cold to help us. So this is what we live for, to help give back because they’re helping us help the patients.”