RFD plans community programs

The Russellville Fire Department has a lot of free events in the works to helping educate the community about how to be safer.

For one, anyone in the city who doesn’t have a working smoke detector is encouraged to call the department, as the RFD is installing free smoke detectors as often as they can.

CPR

Among the upcoming opportunities are RFD-taught non-certified CPR classes.

The RFD wants community members to understand the importance of doing CPR promptly. Fire Chief Joe Mansell said the key thing to understand is the importance of starting CPR in time – of at least trying and without delay

“Whether it’s right or wrong, the person has no chance if you don’t do anything, and they do have some sort of chance if you try,” Mansell said.

RFD Sgt. Chris Watkins said the department’s been wanting to do a community CPR class for a while.

“We had a call at one of our industrial plants, and one person in that plant knew how to do CPR, so they did that,” he said, “then we got there and took over, did advanced treatment, and the person’s supposed to be making a full recovery from what we can tell.”

Watkins said 70 percent of cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital, usually in the home, workplace or somewhere else without someone who’s trained in CPR.

“Once you go into cardiac arrest, without CPR, brain death starts to occur within 4-6 minutes,” he added. “For someone to call 911, explain, wait for us to be dispatched and get us on the scene in 4-6 minutes is probably not going to happen.”

Watkins said while responders still do everything they can, they are “already working against the clock.”

“When you get a heartbeat back on that patient, there’s probably not going to be a viable brain function at that point,” he added. “That’s why, if we can train the community to start CPR immediately, that revives heart and lung function by keeping the brain alive until we get there, and we have a lot better outcome of getting on the scene and actually being able to save someone.

“So we want to give the community the basic skills to be able to do that.”

The RFD is looking at holding the class each quarter. A date for the first class has not been set yet; however, the classes will be free, held at the fire department and take around one or two hours.

“Whether you’re doing it right or not, somebody’s got to do it, and we would rather see you attempting CPR than not,” Mansell said.

PROPER FIRE EXTINGUISHER USAGE

Mansell said other plans include offering a fire protection class to businesses to make sure everybody knows how to operate a fire extinguisher correctly.

“In our class, we’ll light some fires and actually get to use some fire extinguishers,” explained Russellville Fire Marshal Justin Green.

HIGH SCHOOL FIREFIGHTING CLASS

Another big project will be teaching a firefighting class through the tech school at Russellville High School, as part of the regular available courses, this fall. The course will be open to juniors and seniors.

“If we can’t get the younger people to come to us, we’ll go to them,” Mansell said, “try to get them more encouraged into the fire service.”

RFD Deputy Chief Randy Seal said one block has been set up for this class, and it will run Monday through Friday, just as regular tech classes do. Seal said the department is hoping to have at least 8-14 students.

He explained the move is a proactive measure; while the RFD is doing fine in terms of personnel right now, as with other departments, there are struggles to fill vacancies.

“Probably for the first time in our career, people are leaving for higher pay they can get at other jobs, as well as jobs with lower risk factors,” Seal explained, adding 55 percent of the department is eligible, or will be eligible in three years, for retirement.

Seal said they hope the class will encourage local young people to apply for the jobs, noting seeing familiar faces often helps people feel calmer during an emergency.

“We are very excited about our partnership with the Russellville Fire Department,” said Shelley Montgomery, RHS director of career and technical education. “The addition of this program will allow our students to learn more about careers in fire science, earn industry-recognized credentials and get a jumpstart on their future careers.”

Montgomery said it will allow Russellville City Schools to create a much-needed workforce pipeline to the Russellville Fire Department.

“The goal of career tech is always to provide students with career opportunities that are in demand in our area,” she added.

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