2019 Youth Fire Academy Finishes Week Two
By Firefighter Mark Robertson Sr.
August 17, 2019

The department's Youth Fire Academy finished another busy week that included many new learning opportunities. New topics for this year included speakers who talked about physical and mental health for first responders. These topics are at the forefront of all branches of emergency services. The cadets also performed new training on ropes and knots, along with Rapid Intervention Crew (RIC) scenarios. The trip for the week was to Joint Base McGuire -Dix-Lakehurst for a visit with the team from Task Force 1.

Monday morning started off with a briefing and search training. The cadets used full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) to search several rooms for a training mannequin. The cadets SCBA masks were covered during the evolutions. Prior to lunch the cadets heard from Michael Robertson of the Mercury Critical Incident Response Team. He spoke about how the team helps provide mental and emotional support to emergency responders before and after high profile incidents. After lunch the cadets were visited by Ben Brick from the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, and then finished the day with ropes and knots training.

Tuesday was the academy's trip for the week. The cadets visited Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, along with cadets from the Wildwood Fire Department's youth academy, to see the operations of New Jersey Task Force 1. NJ Task Force 1 is a group of emergency responders from throughout the state who provide advanced technical search and rescue capabilities to victims trapped or entombed in structurally collapsed buildings. These personnel typically respond natural or manmade disaster, hurricanes, floods, conflagrations, explosions, earthquakes, or weapons of mass destruction incidents that are beyond the capability of local emergency services. Their services have been used throughout the state and country, especially during incidents such as floods, hurricanes, and tornados.

On Wednesday the cadets conducted Rapid Intervention Crew (RIC) training. The RIC is called to a fire and has a sole purpose of being prepared in the event a firefighter should be come lost or trapped. The crew uses special equipment and training techniques during their operation. During the day's training sessions the cadets had wax paper placed on the inside of their SCBA masks. The wax paper takes away all vision which forced the cadets to rely on their sense of touch and verbal communication with other crew members. The academy also heard from a certified personal trainer before their afternoon RIC training. James Manson, who is also an office with the Willingboro Police Department, spoke to the cadets about how proper nutrition and exercise benefits all emergency responders.

Thursday was the final day for the week, but it was also the longest day of the entire camp. The day was designated as the "Extended Training Day". The cadets reported for the academy at 8am and would be "on shift" until 10pm. During the day the crews conducted their normal training and meal schedules, and then responded to simulated emergency incidents. This is very similar to a shift that the department's full-time staff have everyday. The cadets never knew when they would have to respond to an incident, and they were given little information when they were "dispatched" to the incident. The crews would have to rely on their academy training in fire extinguishment, water supply, hose movement, search and rescue, PPE, SCBA, and RIC during their incidents.

The final week for the cadets starts on Monday morning. This week will receive training in more topics that are new to the academy which include marine (boat) operations and active shooter. During the week they will visit the county's fire training grounds for simulated incidents which will allow them to build on teamwork and use all of the knowledge gained during previous training sessions. The academy's trip for the week will be to New York City to visit the Fire Department of New York's Marine Firefighting Boat and Fire Museum. Graduation is set for Thursday at the JFK Center. Stay tuned for more information on graduation and the hard work of the 2019 Youth Fire Academy.