MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Week two of the Mobile Fire Department Citizens Academy started with a friendly competition between two firefighters. Learning how to put turnout gear on and a self contained breathing apparatus, or SCBA, is no easy task. These firefighters can do it in one minute and ten seconds.
FOX10 News Reporter Michael Brannon and Digital Executive Producer Liz Nelson suited up. After five minutes of receiving help putting on the gear, they were ready to go.
An extra 50 pounds takes a toll if you're not used to it, make that 70 soaking wet.
What adds all the weight? Captain Jeremy Lami said mainly the SCBA. With 2000 psi of normal room air, the average time of use is 30 minutes. After that, it's time for the firefighters to refill their tank.
Chief Ken Keller of the Mobile Fire Rescue Department is in charge of training. Over 500 employees on the department go through fire safety training. It all starts at the Training Center on Owens St. downtown.
Firefighters must have 240 hours of training each year to remain certified. For Chief Keller and his crew at the Training Center, it is their job to ensure it happens safely.
After participants experienced what it's like to suit up, Alabama Task Force 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team, or USAR, showed the class special tools used for rescue situations including the "Jaws of Life." When the rescue starts, set all the tools aside. No one can do it better than 3-year-old Labrador Retrievers Big Chance and Bella.
When it comes to search and rescue, the K9s don't mess around. In a matter of minutes, finding victims is just another day on the job.
FOX10 News Photographer Andy Vo and Brannon put the K9s to the test.
Vo was "victim one." After a few minutes, Bella spotted Vo and barked excitedly to alert her trainer he was found.
Brannon was victim number two.
He was secured in a cement pipe. In training situations, officials said it is important to remain quiet so the dogs will pick up on a send and not respond to sound.
For these dogs, their trainers, and all those associated with the USAR Team, being the only certified search and rescue team in the state, and along the Gulf Coast, every second counts when the rescue begins.
The USAR team is made up of roughly 260 members from doctors to nurses, engineers to retired firefighters and everyone in between. At this time, it is funded through the city and state. Chief Doug Cooper and Captain Sheri Crush said they hope to attain federal funding. They said this would increase their yearly budget to $1.2 million.
If you would like to sign up for the next Citizen's Academy, click here .
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