Twenty-two Coast firefighters are better prepared to rescue people from collapsed buildings thanks to a special course designed by the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) team.
The two-and-a-half-day course took place at the Sechelt volunteer fire department’s training yard on Mason Road Oct. 18 to 20.
Sunshine Coast emergency preparedness coordinator Bill Elsner organized the training with HUSAR and opened it up to all the fire departments on the Coast.
Elsner said it’s important to have local first responders trained to safely extricate people from collapsed buildings in the event of an earthquake, severe storm or other natural disaster.
“In the event that something occurs here on the Coast, if it’s a regional event, we’re not going to be getting any help very quickly to us, so to make us more resilient, I thought this training was very important. And so did the four fire departments that participated, obviously,” Elsner said, noting Egmont, Roberts Creek, Gibsons and Sechelt all had some members attend.
Sechelt had 13 members take part, firefighter Dwight Davison said.
“They showed us some new techniques using wood shoring for shoring up buildings that may be leaning or walls that have collapsed when we have to go in to search the building,” Davison said, adding the two days of hands-on training was valuable for members.
He also said the bigger-picture thinking that the HUSAR team and Elsner brought to the classroom training was important for firefighters.
“So we can just have that awareness of what to expect and what our capabilities are until some of the bigger, more specialized teams arrive,” Davison said.
Throughout the weekend the Salvation Army provided food for the volunteers taking part, and special tools and services were donated by Rent-It Canada and Gibsons Building Supply.
It was the first time structural collapse training had been offered by HUSAR, but it likely won’t be the last.
“Other jurisdictions have asked us about this so we’re definitely interested in training more. It’s a matter of people just getting hold of us,” said HUSAR member Kirk Heaven.
Elsner said HUSAR provided the training at cost and that the emergency program picked up the majority of the bill while local fire departments were asked to pay a “moderate cost” to take part.