Exercise Lets Colorado Springs-Area Emergency Responders Practice High-Rise Skills

The firefighter spotted the two lost boys and told one of them to hold his hand.

“I’ll keep you safe,” the firefighter said.

He led the boys down a few flights of stairs and to an ambulance waiting outside of St. Francis Medical Center.

No one was in any danger – it was an exercise for fighting a blaze in a high-rise building for about 40 firefighters and first responders from the Colorado Springs, Black Forest and Falcon fire departments and other agencies.

But if it was the real thing, Sunday’s training was intended to prepare them for rescuing those trapped on upper floors and extinguishing a blaze and coordinating with other emergency responders.

The scenario required firefighters to put out a fire on the fourth floor and rooftop of the hospital, find two lost children and treat an injured firefighter. Though there was no actual fire or smoke, firefighters in full gear had to carry a hose up several flights of stairs.

The drill also tested the readiness and communication skills of the first responders, firefighters and hospital staff as a dispatcher radioed in the fire scenario.

Medical Lt. Kevin Ducy of the Colorado Springs Fire Department said the exercise – which is in its second year – gives firefighters a good idea of what to expect when a fire erupts in a high-rise hotel, apartment or hospital. They got real-time coaching from supervisors on a situation that doesn’t happen often in Colorado Springs because there are not many tall buildings.

“That’s why they train for it,” Ducy said, “because it’s a big deal but it very seldom happens.”

St. Francis Medical Center was an ideal place to hold the exercise, said hospital spokesman Chris Valentine, because it’s between Colorado Springs, Black Forest and Falcon. It was also an opportunity for the firefighters to get familiar with the building if they have to respond there in the future.

“They learn our system,” Valentine said. “They actually practice here. They know how our smoke system works, how to get in the building, how to access the stairwells, how to hook up water if there is a real fire here. All these guys are familiar with the building and know what to look for and that’s the benefit for us.”

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