Peters Township and North Strabane fire departments are teaming up to educate the public about their operations, and how to best handle an emergency before first responders arrive.
Throughout October the two departments will host the Citizens’ Fire Academy – a series of classes that aim to help residents better understand how local emergency services work.
Peters Township and North Strabane work together on most emergency calls, which North Strabane Capt. Tim Liedl has led to questions from local residents.
“Since we do a lot of operations together, we’re in each other’s townships all the time. We will explain to residents why we do what we do,” Liedl said.
The sessions begin Oct. 9 at the Peters Township Fire Department, and continue every Wednesday until Nov. 13. The sessions run from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., and the location alternates each week between Peters Township and North Strabane fire departments.
The academy ends with a graduation at Peters Township on Nov. 20. Fourteen spots are available, and those interested can apply online at peters-northstrabanecfa.com. The deadline for applications is Oct. 1.
Liedl said they are keeping the class size small, “so everyone can do something hands on,” and several spots are available.
The sessions will cover four main categories: services provided by local fire departments; how to handle fire and medical emergencies while waiting for crews to arrive; the 911 system, from initial call to arrival of emergency crews, and the demands of firefighters.
With this program, the departments hope they can raise awareness about all the work firefighters do beyond responding to fire calls.
“We do a lot more than just respond to fires. A very small percentage are structure fires,” said Peters Township Lt. Jordan Cramer. “We do a lot in terms of rescues and emergency services. To have our residents fully grasp all the services we offer, this gives us a great opportunity to get that out to them.”
Cramer also hopes the fire academy will shed some light on nonemergency services they provide, such as home inspections and fire alarm installation.
Each week participants will begin at one of the two departments, but the class will go out for hands-on training.
“Each night we’re going to begin with a lecture,” Liedl said. “Then, we’re going to go out and practice.”
That “practice” will include fire extinguisher training, as well as learning CPR and first aid. Participants will receive American Heart Association certification in CPR upon graduation.
The timing of the fire academy coincides with October being Fire Prevention Month, and the first class will take place in the middle of Fire Prevention Week. Part of the sessions will be learning the best practices to prevent fires.
“The biggest thing for firefighting is fire prevention,” Liedl said.
The last time the program was held was in 2012, when it was originally hosted by the Peters Township department.
“It was really well-received by the attendees. It resulted in at least one volunteer firefighter,” Cramer said.
Peters Township did not continue with the program due to the resources it requires. With North Strabane as a partner, the departments hope it can become an annual event.
“It can be pretty taxing as far as the resources needed to adequately teach everyone, as well as provide fire gear for them. I decided it would be great if we were able to partner with North Strabane Fire Department ... and showcase our working relationship together, because that’s important to our operations,” Cramer said.
According to Cramer, the original fire academy drew participants ranging in 16 to 65. The wide ager range allowed different attendees to draw something different from the experience.
“Middle-aged and older were able to see exactly what their tax dollars go to,” Cramer said.
Both fire departments operate with a combination of paid staff and volunteers.
“Our volunteers are one of the biggest assets to our organization,” Cramer said. “We’re hoping we might be able to get one or two people out of this.”