Columbus Elected Leaders Get Fire Safety Training.

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Columbus City Council Safety Chair, Michelle Mills, participates in fire safety training(Photo: Tom Borgerding/WOSU News)
Columbus City Council Safety Chair, Michelle Mills, participates in fire safety training(Photo: Tom Borgerding/WOSU News)

A group of city and county elected officials turned out recently for fire safety training. The training is a  bid by the firefighter’s union to build key relationships.

“Already now I hear sirens differently”

Columbus city council safety chair Michelle Mills donned firefighter clothing and gear as she performed a mock rescue exercise.

“I learned a lot”

Mills was among a group of elected officials invited to the Columbus Fire Academy for training sessions in building search and rescue, and pulling victims from auto accidents.  International Association of Firefighters Local 67 president , Jack Reall, represents the city’s 1,600 firefighters. He says the training is valuable in building relationships between union leaders and  elected officials.

“We can show them pictures and we can read things off to them and have them read things but when it comes down to it them actually getting their hands on things helps them understand a lot more.” Reall says.
Q: How does this effect contract negotiations?
“Actually it hasn’t effected it at all because we haven’t been in contract negotiations. You know what, I think the one big thing is when we work together on a regular basis we build trust, we build faith and we build honesty and that always going  to help during contract negotiations.” Reall adds.

Council president Andrew Ginther took part in his second fire training session.  He saw first hand ways to extricate a  victim from a wrecked car. He also says the training sessions  have little effect on contract talks between the city and the union.

“I’m not sure it necessarily impacts  contract talks at all but what it does give is policy makers and staff and other interested parties in public service have a better understanding of what our firefighters face everyday and why the equipment that we invest in can make a difference certainly in their safety and their ability to protect life and property.” Ginther says.

Both Ginther and Reall say new equipment is part of that mission to protect lives and property. In recent years Columbus has purchased thermal imaging equipment  to help firefighters search burning or smoky buildings. Reall says the division has also had to upgrade some equipment because of the prevalence of obesity in the city.

“I mean we’ve had to change our equipment a number of times to accommodate larger  patients and it effects logistically how we move people around and we’ve had to accommodate that.”

During the training, Council safety chair, Mills, was outfitted with a fire-resistant suit, a mask and helmet and sent into a mock burning building.  She says the training is better than any video .

“The first time we went in, you have no idea what your going into and just that anxiety, you have to manage that and try to do the best you can make sure you and the victim and your partner come out safely. very real, very real.” Says Mills.

The city spends 72 percent of its operating budget on public safety.  Mills says after the training she can better defend purchases and spending to the city’s taxpayers.

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