September 3, 2007

Howard Lake Fire Department trains for injuries

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

Entering a large horse barn full of smoke and kids acting injured on a warm and humid evening Monday was just the beginning of an intense training scenario for the Howard Lake Fire Department.

The drill took place in the 4-H horse barn at the Wright County Fairgrounds in Howard Lake, and was led by Denny Nothnagel of Medics Training Inc.

A smoke machine was used to mimic a fire in the barn and reduce visibility for the firefighters. Mock victims were stationed in various stalls throughout the barn with debris staged around them. Blankets were provided so the victims didn’t have to directly lay on the ground in the stalls.

The firefighters were instructed to crawl on the ground upon entering the barn, while dragging a hose line, and search each box stall for mock victims.

“They (the firefighters) are wearing full turn out gear with SCBAs (self contained breathing apparatus), which adds an additional 80 pounds, plus they’re dragging a heavy hose line – it’s a lot of work,” Nothnagel said.

Eleven area school students volunteered to act as victims. Those volunteers were Nic Drusch, Jeff Schmieg, Justin Crowley, Alan Stoll, Tyler Drusch, Kaitlyn Peterson, Jake Peterson, Stephanie Drusch, Tristan Drusch, Jake Drusch, and Ben Kittock.

A triage area was set up a safe distance from the barn, and the Howard Lake Ambulance transported “victims” to the mock “Howard Lake Hospital,” a.k.a. the Howard Lake Fire Station.

In a real situation, the fire department would have requested assistance from surrounding fire departments.

After all the “victims” were found and treated, clean up of the scene commenced, and all firefighters gathered at the fire station to conclude the training with a debriefing session.

“It was an extremely difficult search and rescue because of all the stalls and compartments that needed to be checked, plus the smoke they had to deal with,” Nothnagel said.

“They got a lot accomplished in a short amount of time. They only had 22 firefighters (at the training session), and they effectively evacuated the victims,” Nothnagel explained.

“Patients were triaged very efficiently and the run reports were written very well. Overall, they did a great job, and did the right things in the right order,” he added.

Many firefighters told Nothnagel that they learned from the experience. “It’s always a success if they walk away saying that,” Nothnagel said.

Nothnagel acknowledged the volunteers for their assistance in the training and said to them, “you did a really good job and we really appreciate your participation.”

Nothnagel’s company, Medics Training Inc. provides professional CPR and emergency care training to several area fire departments, as well as non-local fire departments.

Nothnagel spent 17 years working as a paramedic, and then 15 years working as a full-time firefighter at the Coon Rapids Fire Department, in addition to running his Medics Training Inc. company for the last 25 years.

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