October 6, 2022

West Hartford Fire Department Leads ‘Adulting 101’ and Career Day at Conard – We-Ha

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Conard students were able to experience some of the activities involved with becoming a firefighter and also received advice about fire safety in dorms and apartments during a program hosted by the West Hartford Fire Department.

Bella Sardilli (left), Lila Pierce, and Uzo Nwachuku check out the West Hartford Fire Department apparatus. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

A program organized by the West Hartford Fire Department, the Community Emergency Response Team, and the West Hartford Public Schools School-to-Career Program coordinator held last week gave Conard students a crash course in “Adulting 101” as well as an overview of careers in fire service.

“Maryanne Taft I wanted to put together an ‘Adulting 101’ – how to live safely in a college campus dorm or apartment,” said Firefighter/Paramedic Matt Traber, the West Hartford Fire Department’s community outreach and planning and recovery officer. Taft, who leads the district’s School-to-Career Partnership Program, had also been in conversations with Traber about sharing information about careers in the fire service.

From left: Interim Conard Principal Jamahl Hines, CERT director Bob McCue, CERT Officer Mike Perruccio, Firefighter/Paramedic Mike Traber, Assistant Fire Chief Hugh O’Callaghan at Adulting 101 and a firefighter career day at Conard. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Many students have an interest in forensics, likely spurred by TV programs, and Traber said initial discussions centered around inviting the fire marshal to speak to students about investigations, but the program grew from there.

Firefighter/Paramedic Andrew Slicer instructs student on the safe operation of a hose line used in a structure fire. Courtesy of Matt Traber

On June 1, members of the West Hartford Fire Department and CERT set up several displays in the courtyard and parking area outside Conard’s cafeteria and during all of the lunch periods that day students had the opportunity to learn how to use fire extinguishers to put out an actual fire (controlled by a firefighter), to sit inside and learn about the equipment on fire department apparatus, to spray a fire hose, and to obtain information about careers in emergency medical service such as EMT and paramedic. They also were given details about fire hazards in dorm rooms and apartments.

“When you think about fire prevention in October, it’s all about the younger kids,” Traber said, but the department doesn’t really have a program for older students. “Giving these kids the opportunity to operate a live extinguisher has been phenomenal.”

Apparatus Operator/Paramedic Bill Schappert explains to students the means of extinguishing a small fire with an extinguisher. PASS is the acronym. Pull pin, Aim, Squeeze handle, Sweep the water upon the fire. Courtesy of Matt Traber

There were also tables with information distributed by the fire marshal regarding fire investigations, safe living – promoting the use of batter-operated candles, diffusers rather than incense, and the use of UL-listed surge protectors and safe ceramic space heaters – and information regarding careers as a paramedic.

Apparatus Operator and Paramedic Sean Howard explains the roles of a Paramedic and an EMT as he describes the various Advanced Life Support equipment Paramedics at the West Hartford Fire Department carry. Courtesy of Matt Traber

Traber said to be hired by the West Hartford Fire Department individuals need at least a high school diploma or GED, as well as medical certification, preferably as a paramedic. “The department will send you to the fire academy for recruit training,” he said.

This was the first year that the Adulting 101 and career overview event was held, and it was deemed a resounding success.

“This kind of opened the doors,” Taft said. “We’re pretty pleased. This was the prototype and we will do it at Hall in the fall.”

“We’re always looking to do things that we may not have thought of,” Taft said. “Combining careers with Adulting 101 is information, and at the same time explores career opportunities.”

Emergency Management Officer Michael Perrccio and Firefighter/Paramedic Luis Enriquez discuss products that provide safe living in dormitories and apartments including battery operate candles, aroma diffusers and fire extinguishers. Courtesy of Matt Traber

Both Hall and Conard already have Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) programs for a few years, and Traber said the fire department is considering including ride-alongs as part of that program.

Taft said there are discussions about utilizing the ERM programs as part of the mastery experience that is now required for graduation.

Assistant Fire Chief/Fire Marshal Robert Grimaldi talks with students about the roles and responsibilities of the Fire Marshal’s Office including code enforcement and arson investigation. Courtesy of Matt Traber

Apparatus Operator/Paramedic Bill Schappert assisting a student in the evolution. Courtesy of Matt Traber

Conard students learn how to safely operate a hose line. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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