By Paula Cronic: PNT Staff Writer
Sirens blared and lights flashed Wednesday as Portales Fire Department firefighters jumped from their trucks and rushed into an Eastern New Mexico University dorm Wednesday as part of a training exercise.
In the scenario, two firefighters were lifted to the seventh-story window of Lincoln Hall at Eastern New Mexico University’s Lincoln Hall to rescue victims from a fire in the seven-story building.
Not only was the drill a requirement but it also gave the firefighters an idea of what to expect, should a fire happen to occur in one of the taller dorms.
“We’re mandated to have a (certain) amount of hours of training,” said Fire Chief Raul Muniz. “A lot of that training is mandated to be multi-unit training with many vehicles and different firefighters.”
According to EMS Division Chief John Bridges, the fire department is required to complete training in multiple categories by the Insurance Service Organization. The ISO grades the department from one to 10. That number reflects and affects commercial insurance rates.
“The lower the number we have the better our commercial insurance rates are,” said Bridges.
The training was held at Lincoln Hall because it is one of the taller buildings and also because ENMU students occupy the dorm during the fall and spring semesters.
“We have an extreme responsibility to ENMU and to the students to make sure that we are fully prepared in the event of any emergency to the dorm buildings,” Muniz said.
Sergio Maul, who has been a firefighter for four years, believed the training gave the firefighters a little more insight on how they would handle this type of call.
“I’ve always wondered what we would do in a situation like this and it has helped to clear up a lot of stuff, as far as communication and how everything works,” Maul said.
The drill also involved forcible entry and search and rescue teams on the floor where the fire was to have been on, which Maul took part in.
“We made entry into the rooms or whatever area they needed us to. We pretty much take down the door or whatever it is, and then we become a search and rescue,” Maul said. “We searched for occupants; mostly people who are trapped and scared and don’t want to come out.”
Several of the officers observed the training and will make an evaluation based off of each of their reports.
“I think once everybody got the hang of it, I think it went great and it was awesome training,” Maul said.
Ginger Creighton, safety director at ENMU. said she was pleased that the university was able to let firefighters use Lincoln Hall.
“I think it went very well and it was good that they did it,” Creighton said. “Now they’ll know where to go and what to do if something does happen in Lincoln.”
Muniz said a drill like this will probably occur at least once a year at each dorm building.