Safety, emergency response training centre continues to grow

Frank Gale
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Craig Harnum, manager and program co-ordinator of the Safety and Emergency Response Training Centre in Stephenville, addressed the Stephenville Rotary Club on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013.

STEPHENVILLE — The Safety and Emergency Response Training Centre in Stephenville continues to grow.

Craig Harnum, manager and program co-ordinator, told members of the Stephenville Rotary Club at recent luncheon that the centre developed like a “fire out of control” and he sees more positive things coming for the operation in the future.

A few years ago, the centre envisioned that a large number of emergency responders will need to be trained, and is now in the process of having a mobile training unit built and purchased.

Harnum said this 54-foot training trailer would be environmentally friendly. Within 20 minutes of rolling into a community, it becomes the equivalent to a two-storey house in which first responders can train.

“It will have every aspect of a modern day fire that you can dream of and fire in the unit burns that clean that artificial smoke has to be pumped in to obscure the vision of trainees,” Harnum said. “This propane-based unit has safety to the max.”

In addition to the training done on site at Stephenville airport, a lot of training is also carried with three mobile units and they have been in real demand.

“Our flashover simulator has taken off and has been in far more demand than we thought it would be,” he said.

Harnum said staff at the centre figured in the first year they would put 250 to 300 people through the simulator and they have actually hit 1,500 trainees. Last year alone more than 6,000 students registered for training with the centre, including the mobile units and at the Stephenville facility.

Part of the growth the centre is experiencing is due to a contract to train staff members in basic industry firefighting for the Long Harbour development facility. That training is starting in January and Harnum said it will be a busy time for the centre.

The centre will also be training 64 students out of Iqaluit in the next few months. These students will be coming in groups of 12, with each doing a 15-day course.

The Safety and Emergency Response Training Centre is actually rooted back to 2001 when the Marine Centre in St. John’s was approached by the Canadian Aviation Industry and asked to develop a large aircraft operational training field.

Harnum said personnel with the Marine Centre met with Willie MacNeil, the airport manager in Stephenville at the time, and they ended up discussing the potential of firefighting training and he suggested, “Why not at the airport in Stephenville?”

Marine Institute personnel met with Stephenville airport and agreed the location would work and the idea of the centre was born.

Harnum said in the short amount of years since, the centre has been developed to the point where we are recognized both nationally and internationally. The centre now has 82 different emergency response courses on the books.

Currently, the centre employs up to 26 full and part-time people and most of the time maintains 21 full time people in the area with generous salaries, so the spinoff back into the community is great.

Harnum said there are lots of local purchases as a result of the centre being in the town and he believes the spinoffs are phenomenal.

Another big advantage of having the response training school in the town is the dramatic enhancement of emergency responses. The centre has been able to assist in emergency situations throughout the Bay St. George area.

“We are not what you consider a ‘first-call-to-respond organization,’ but we will assist if we get a call from the mayor, a fire chief or from the RCMP,” Harnum said.

He said actually the centre’s employees and their equipment have been able to enhance emergency response in the Bay St. George area to levels comparable to what’s available per capita in the City of St. John’s.

Organizations: Stephenville Rotary Club, Marine Centre, Canadian Aviation Industry RCMP

Geographic location: STEPHENVILLE, Long Harbour, Iqaluit St. George

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