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GRFD seeking volunteers for high-rise fire drill

WOOD Grand Rapids logo WOOD Grand Rapids 5/19/2022 Joe LaFurgey
GRFD seeking volunteers for high-rise fire drill © Provided by WOOD Grand Rapids GRFD seeking volunteers for high-rise fire drill

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The city of Grand Rapids is looking for some victims.

On June 25, the Grand Rapids Fire Department will host a high-rise fire training exercise and needs volunteers to play the parts of victims in the mock disaster.

The nine-story Grand Rapids City Hall will be the site of the exercise. The city is looking for about 35 volunteers ages 16 and over.

GRFD High Rise full-scale Volunteer Registration

If you volunteer, you may get to try out your acting skills.

"One of these volunteers may be a person that has been knocked out, unconscious and is not able to exit the building and need to be actually rescued,” said Grand Rapids Emergency Management Director Allison Farole.

She adds that a makeup artist will make those injuries look as real as possible.

"Impalements, bruising, blood. And then we give them a victim card that tells them a little bit more about their injury and then they can act it out of they feel comfortable doing that,” Farole said.

It's one thing to go into a burning house and rescue a victim. It is quite another if that victim is several stories up in the air.

The June 25 exercise will test local firefighters’ skills on how to fight a fire and rescue victims who may not be able to escape on their own. 

Grand Rapids Fire Department is hosting, but first responders from throughout the county will also take part.

"It's a real fun, interactive event for community members, being able to get them engaged. It's helps them see kinda of what happens as well,” said Farole. "We're basically doing everything that would happen in a real-life incident, but without the fire."

There are about a dozen high rises, defined as 13 stories or taller, in downtown Grand Rapids. You may live, work in or occasionally visit one. Just like the fire department is preparing for a high-rise emergency, you should too.

The first step is making sure you have an exit plan before you need it.

"What are the exit points in your building? Understanding where the evacuation maps are posted,” said Farole of the signs that are usually located next to stairwells and elevators on every floor. 

The exit plan will take you down a stairwell, which are generally pressurized when the fire alarm goes off.

"What that does, it puts positive pressure, so if any smoke were to get in there from people exiting the fire floor, that would immediately get pushed out the HVAC system,” said Grand Rapids Fire Department Deputy Chief Jack Johnson.

Of course, the elevator would be faster. But that faster ride could get you into a whole lot of trouble.

"We call it a chimney in a high rise. Because it's an open shaft that goes all the way from the grounds floor to the roof,” said Johnson.

And the first place smoke wants to go is up.

"So the first place it will want to go is up that elevator shaft. Fill that elevator shaft and that elevator. If heat gets in there, it can ruin the controls and you could get stuck in the elevator,” said Johnson.

If the fire started in the room you're in, make sure you shut the door behind you when you escape. That will keep the fire inside the room, slowing down the spread.

Volunteers need to set aside about six and a half hours from 6am through 12:30pm for the June 25 event. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.

Sign up to volunteer here.

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