Propane Training at the Fair

Hello from the desk of the Missouri State Fair Fire Department Chairman. I hope that everyone is doing well. As I’m writing this article it is the last day of the propane emergency conference. I have the coffee made and am enjoying a cup. For the ones that signed up, we had approximately 37 departments and 76 students plus instructors. And for students who didn’t attend, you missed out on an excellent class. The practical exercise was held on the midway. When the instructors lit the bobtail and residential tank, the ones who had never seen or felt the heat like that had priceless expressions followed by high fives and fist bumps after mitigating the situation. It was an awesome experience. 

I would like to thank Missouri State Fair Director Jason Moore for the use of the midway, sponsor MOPERC Steve Ahrens, Chief Larry Eggen for taking the reins and getting an awesome conference for the Missouri Fire Service, and thanks to Gail Hagans Reynolds, and MU FRTI for the props and the field instructors. Also thanks to the local emergency services for providing their equipment and manpower to make sure we were good to go before the burns. Pettis County Ambulance District Chief Roy Pennington for the crew doing our vitals before and after the burns and having an ambulance on the scene. Pettis County Fire Protection District Chief Mike Harding for the use of their engine and air truck, and Sedalia Fire Department Chief Matthew Irwin for the use of their engine and ladder. This shows that mutual aid works and works very well.

Mutual aid is an agreement between fire departments to help each other across jurisdictional boundaries. It could occur only when local emergencies exceed local resources, or there may be a more formal agreement to send the resources automatically. The more formal agreement would be known as “Automatic Aid.” You might be thinking this would be an obvious and easy thing to do. The truth is that there are still many areas across America where mutual aid agreements do not exist. 

Politics, liability, and cost concerns may be in play. For example, there are areas where communities have decided not to respond to emergencies outside their boundaries. Historically this was usually due to concern about who was paying to fund the fire department, and who was not. Mutual aid companies should train together and not wait until an incident occurs to attempt to integrate the participating departments into a functional team. There will also be some differences in equipment and procedures which are best identified in meetings and solutions identified to overcome these differences. Then conduct a multi-company training, where additional differences in equipment and procedures will further be discovered.

However, discovering these challenges during meetings, and while conducting practical drills is where the problems should be discovered, not in an emergency incident when human life and property are at risk! We all have mutual aid companies, both in the career and volunteer service and that mutual aid comes from our neighbors. Now rivalries aside, there usually is a little bit of bravado about which company’s tactics are better, who is more effective, or who gets more firefighters at a scene. 

Instead of just running calls with your mutual aid companies, or being at their hall for one drill, put aside the feelings and invite them over the border to train with your department. We spend large volumes of time training our firefighters to become efficient at the tasks we need to be done on the fireground. Why not spend time with our mutual aid companies so we can become familiar with their operations, and them with ours? For many volunteer fire departments, mutual aid assistance is very important, especially with the dwindling number of volunteers available to answer the call today. Most departments are relying on mutual aid more than ever before.

When this article is published the convention will be in the history books. Now that the convention is over the next big event is the Missouri State Fair so if you want to make history get your applications in and be part of the best team and family in the state. But before we can make history the applications have to be in before June 1. The fire station needs some T.L.C. and to make that care happen we have some work details to get it looking as good as we can and do some repairs. For the new people, it will be a great time to meet the family, get some orientation, and have some fun. The scheduled work details are June 21-23, July 26-28, and August 2-4. Also, keep an eye on our Facebook page for more information. Without you, there would not be a Missouri State Fair Volunteer Fire Department, the only 11-day fire department in the nation. Also, follow the Missouri State Fair Facebook page for more information on concert listings and events. I know Chief Wilson is having meetings with his chief staff and command staff and the equipment is ready for our 62 years of service.

So, I hope to see you at the work details because the more we work together as a team the faster we can get the firehouse looking as good as we can then get other things covered that have to be done. Hopefully shortly. We all need to keep a positive attitude and think that we will have a better-looking or new firehouse. Take care and be safe until then.