The pressure is high, the heat extreme and the visibility low. Together, a team of Sandow Power Plant emergency responders must weigh each of these factors and determine how best to tackle the fire before them – not at the plant, but at Brayton Fire Training Field in College Station.
"This is hands down the best kind of training because it's not only hands-on, it's incredibly realistic,” explains Michelle McDonald, Sandow safety specialist. "We're assessing the fire, the best way to fight it and going through our procedures to ensure electricity is cut, just like we would in a real situation.”
And while this emergency isn't real, it does involve an actual fire courtesy of the largest live-fueled firefighter training facility in the world. On this particular day, 17 members of the Sandow team are putting out three fires – each one designed to simulate a situation they could potentially encounter at the plant, each one designed to test team members' focus on safety.
"Safety is paramount,” affirms Jesse Smith, safety specialist at Sandow. "It is critical that we train regularly to ensure the safety of our fire brigade, our personnel, the public and our facility, so that we can continue providing our customers with much-needed, reliable electricity.”
The training, which took place throughout the month of October to allow each of the response team's 65 members an opportunity to train, is just one of four major sessions held each year.
"In addition to training on fire response, we also participate in HAZMAT training, medical training and high-angle rope and confined rescue training,” explains McDonald. "Safety is number one in our books and this kind of regular, intense training helps keep our team sharp and ready to respond safely and effectively.”