Do you want to be a Brandman?

If you are wondering what is a Brandman, it is actually Swedish for fireman. As a sequel to Gerard’s post on our visit to Södra Älvsborg’s Rescue Service Federation and RISE, I shall now feature our next BRIGHT and HOT visit (it was literally a bright and hot day since Spring has officially started and we are closing in on Summer) to MSB College Revinge!!!

MSB stands for Myndigheten för samhällsskydd och beredskap (try pronouncing that correctly…) which means the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency. It is steered by the Swedish Government and is responsible for issues concerning civil protection, public safety, emergency management and civil defence. Their college in Revinge is one of the MSB facilities that provide education and training to budding brandmän and brandingenjörer (firemen and fire engineers) before they enter the field of duty. This provided all firefighters with the same qualifications and common ground before they join the fire stations which are developed according to the community it serves. To provide you with a better understanding on the training that goes on in MSB Revinge, here’s a little clip that showcases some of the training facilities available in Revinge:

During our visit, we were able to witness the exercises for station officers. Our first stop was a simulation of a fire in an industrial area. The exercise was particularly interesting as the trainers went to much length to ensure the exercise was as close to reality as possible. This included a back story that was just enough for the trainees to understand the context but not too detailed in order to leave room for the trainees to discover upon reaching the scene on the course of action. From arriving on scene, questioning the survivors (who were trainers acting as workers from the factory) to obtain more information on the situation, exploring possible points of entry for rescue and strategising rescue operation … the trainees were basically left on their own to manoeuvre the operation. The sense of ownership and responsibility placed on these trainees even during training is important for them to develop situational awareness and independence when approached with real life scenarios in the future. By the way, if you are expecting firemen to act like those in the movies with a flurry of dramatic action and people running here and there shouting orders, you will be amazed at how professionally firemen conducted themselves in real life. There was a methodological way in which firemen approached situations from studying the building and its surroundings and weighing their course of action. One wrong move could prove deadly both to the victims and the firemen themselves. The way the trainees conducted themselves with a sense of calm yet maintaining a sense of urgency gives us a sense of assurance of their reliability when they are fully qualified and enter the field.

We then made a slight detour where we witness trainee rescuers attend to a railway incident which involves survivors trapped in a flipped over, derailed train. Our hearts when to the trainees as they had to work within a confined space (inside the train compartment) in sweltering heat wearing thick insulating uniform. At the same time they were carefully stretchering people (and here I mean REAL life humans… acting as the injured passengers of the train) out of the train through small openings on the train and had to use heavy machinery too. We tried out handling some of these equipment and it was no easy feat… Hats off to them and other rescuers all over the world. We salute your hard work and sacrifice…

After a short break and a tour around the station, its time for the next fire scenario: a fire in a hotel. As the trainees arrived on scene and worked their way through the obstacle, we were reunited with an old friend whom has guided us through our lab sessions back in Lund University. Remember Kate’s blog post where she introduced Prof. Stefan Svensson, our lab mentor? Well, he is now in MSB training the future of Sweden’s fire fighting squad. Although he was acting as the police in the scenario (the trainees should identify when scenarios would require police involvement… its not always just about fighting fire), Professor Stefan took some time to explained to us how we should internalize witnessing these exercises into our future work as fire safety engineers. We are often pre-occupied on how to design a building resistant to fire but do we put enough consideration on the impact of our design to the operational needs of the fire fighters when a fire actually occur?

The visit proved to be an eye-opening experience as we are able to witness first hand what fire fighters go through in their call of duty. We have a greater appreciation for the sacrifices that fire fighter go through in their operation and how fire engineers should take into account their needs to facilitate their work towards the same goal… saving lives. Much thanks to MSB Revinge for providing us with the rare but valuable opportunity to visit their facility and witness their exercises. Thank you for the kind hospitality and we will  definitely carry the lessons learnt through to our future careers. Tack så mycket!!! 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Do you want to be a Brandman?

  1. Pingback: DBI visit | IMFSE

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