Local fire departments team up for unique lifesaving training

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio -- Firefighters from several cities gathered in Shaker Heights Thursday for a unique simulation and training on how to handle a mayday, a call used when needing assistance or rescue.

"Some of the hardest decisions are made during a mayday event, emotions are high," explained University Heights Fire Chief Robert Perko. "This training is extremely unique. It helps our commanding officers manage the fire ground."

When seconds count, what firefighters are learning from Blue Card, an incident command certification program based out of Arizona, can mean the difference between life and death.

"Not one fire department can really handle dealing with a large scale emergency by themselves," said Fire Chief Patrick Sweeney of Shaker Heights.

It's something Shaker Heights firefighters experienced first hand while responding to a massive fire at Fernway Elementary School last year.

"The biggest fire in our communities history and it required us to pull in resources from 20 fire departments to help us manage that. Unfortunately we did have a couple of firefighters injured," said Sweeney.

The course simulated a real life emergency where firefighters responded in real time via an iPad and radio transmission.

Fire Chief Perko said the course provides an environment to learn how to succeed.

"In July of 2011 we had a residential house fire. We had a report of five people trapped," said Chief Perko. "That resulted in a mayday event where three firefighters were injured, one critically that went to the burn unit for weeks."

The goal of the training is to make sure the incident commander understands what is happening in the midst of potential chaos.

"Nine years ago there were very few departments that even trained their incident commanders and then there was no standardization anywhere across the country," explained Greg Timinsky of Blue Card.

The plan is now in place thanks to proactive local departments working to keep everyone safe.

"Will ultimately reduce the likelihood of any firefighter getting injured," said Chief Sweeney.

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