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Innovation funds help Nebraska National Guard firefighters

Firefighters Michael Budke and Craig Behrens, 155th Civil Engineering Squadron, run through a realistic fire scenario on a pump operations simulator Oct. 15, 2020, at Nebraska National Guard airbase in Lincoln, Nebraska. The squadron bought the simulator with the aid of U.S. Air Force innovation funds.

Firefighters Michael Budke and Craig Behrens, 155th Civil Engineering Squadron, run through a realistic fire scenario on a pump operations simulator Oct. 15, 2020, at Nebraska National Guard airbase in Lincoln, Nebraska. The squadron bought the simulator with the aid of U.S. Air Force innovation funds.

LINCOLN, Neb. – Improving readiness just got a whole lot easier for the Nebraska Air National Guard Fire Department.

Using U.S. Air Force innovation funds, the department recently bought a new pump operation simulator that allows firefighters to better prepare for emergencies while saving water.

Senior Master Sgt. Rene Arriola, Nebraska Air National Guard fire chief, said the pump operation simulator generates problems firefighters may encounter – such as hose ruptures, hose kinks and loss of water pressure – when attempting to put out a fire using a fire engine’s water tank system. The simulator uses water circulated between a fire engine and simulator, allowing firefighters to rapidly identify problems and make split-second corrections in a safe, non-emergency training environment. And the training can be conducted without using a lot of water.

Arriola said the simulator is extremely useful because firefighters typically cannot duplicate emergency scenarios unless they are actively fighting fires.

“This particular piece of equipment allows us to simulate realistic failures on the fire ground,” said Arriola, whose firefighters completed a three-day training session on the new simulator at the Nebraska National Guard airbase Oct. 13-15.

The training consisted of one instructor communicating with the pump simulator through a computer pad with built-in realistic scenarios for firefighters on the engine. The simulator has up to four attack lines, which act as four hoses coming from the fire engine during a fire. From the pad, the instructor can change the water pressure for different training scenarios with just the push of a button.

Arriola said having a simulator to troubleshoot problems that arise on a fire scene is valuable.

Unlike training on a fire engine pump unit that requires thousands of gallons of water, the simulator holds up to 250,000 gallons that circulate throughout the fire engine during the training scenario.

“Imagine being able to do all of this and not waste any water,” Arriola said. “This is extremely important to be able to complete our training during times when the vicinity is in water restrictions or heavy drought. We can save up to 1 million gallons of water in one month.

“Realism can help training stick, and when you’re in a decision process with someone’s life, you don’t have time to troubleshoot,” Arriola said. “Giving them this tool to train makes brain and muscle memory, which in turn can save not only our firefighters, but the people they are saving.”

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