Way back in August, I attended fire school at Rocky Mountain Fire Academy and trauma training with the Wilderness Medicine Institute. Part of wintering over at the South Pole is being a volunteer for the Emergency Response Team (ERT). The folks who winter over at the South Pole give up a lot in order to live this experience: not being able to leave the station (or the continent) between February and November, not receiving any snail mail, and no WATSU sessions followed by a sea salt scrub. And they take on many responsibilities that would not be in an ordinary job description. Such as, the safety tasking for the entire station, and all the inhabitants. There is a station doctor and physician assistant here at all times, but all emergency responses are the responsibility of volunteers. Ultimately, we will need to depend on ourselves, and each other for our safety.
In an effort of full disclosure, I hate fire. Oh I know, no one exactly likes fire- unless you’re an arsonist, but I am a highly functioning fire avoider. I do random things like unplug the toaster at night just in case it ‘remembers’ and burns the kitchen down. I actually had a fire alarm above my dogs bed- just in case. I also am not content with self-contained breathing devices. I was a certified scuba diver and was never to keen about the mouthpiece. I could see myself being someone who might want to take it out against my better judgment, so the whole SCBA (fire mask) is no a favorite of mine either.
My Uncle Larry was a firefighter. He retired as a Fire Chief. I have always adored him for being so amazing and calm. He is just the kind of guy you want around when bad things are happening quickly. The trainers who taught us at the Rocky Mountain Fire Academy reminded me a lot of my Uncle Larry. The training was laid back, but intense. The training was so focused that by the time I was standing in a building while a huge fire was burning next to me it felt ok. Not great. Not normal, but ok, and I had no urge to tug off my SCBA or unplug anything.
The fire training was modified for the South Pole. We don’t have a large amount of water. That is a bit of an understatement, we don’t really have water. Not enough to drag fire hoses, or even to take a shower every day. In fact, water is so precious that we are allowed two-two minute showers a week. You read that right: two showers a week that last two minutes each, so four minutes of showering a week. Our fire training consisted mostly of fire extinguishers and rescue situations. Which is good, because we have a ton of fire extinguishers and about a million places where people could get into trouble and need pulled out of
The trauma training was super fun too. Not to be all infomercial like here, but the Wilderness Medicine Institute training is awesome. The instructors were informative, approachable, and funny. We would do a few hours of classroom training and then immediately do a scenario and practice the skills we just learned. I have been to so many work trainings where some monotonous bore would read right from the power point slide and then give seizures with the obnoxious use of a red laser pointer, that an actual educational workshop stands out.