Company training sessions rarely give me an adrenaline rush. Then again, they typically don't call for the use of respirators, exposure to smoke and fire and checking my vital signs. But this was no ordinary company training.
Working for the Houston High-Rise Triad and a commercial property management company, I recognize the danger of fire and the significance of fire safety.
Each year, a projected 15,500 high-rise structures cause around 60 civilian deaths, 930 injuries and $252 million in damages, according to a U.S. Fire Administration report on high-rise fires based on numbers from the National Fire Protection Association and National Fire Incident Reporting System. In 2004, 107 firefighters died in the line of duty in the United States, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
For a reality check and to realize first-hand the dangers firefighters and occupants of burning buildings experience, I spent a half day going through training with the Houston Fire Academy in the burn building--a building devoted to firefighter training and actually set on fire.
When the smoke cleared, I not only understood the fear and danger fires present, I could truly recognize the importance of keeping our properties safe from fire. I hope my account of the experience will bring to light the seriousness and very real possibility of fire, so property owners and managers will take appropriate measures to protect properties and more importantly, lives.
A circle of extremely young, fit and excited firefighters greeted me on the morning of my training. With firefighter guides, two emergency medical technicians and a crew from fire station 55 acting as the rapid intervention team for the exercise, I was in good hands.
Before long we were put to work: A …