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.
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.
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.
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.”
Students lined up, eager for a chance to don a turnout coat and use an extinguisher to put out a fire that Apparatus Operator and Paramedic Bill Schappert created in a metal trough filled with water that contained a propane gas line. Schappert turned on the gas, the flames erupted, and students successfully extinguished throughout the day.
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.
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.”
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.
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