In April 2013, ERDI was invited to conduct ERD I and ERD II training at the National Fire Agency Training Center in Nantou County, Taiwan. Administered under the Ministry of Interior, the training center campus encompasses over 7 km²/2.7 sq miles and offers nearly any conceivable training environment that a firefighter would encounter. Many of the programs, facilities and training regimen are inspired by facilities in North America and are compliant with NFPA guidelines. To say it was impressive is certainly an understatement.
During a short tour of the facilities, I had the opportunity to see training simulations ranging from shipboard evacuations by helicopter to swift water training to urban SAR in collapsed buildings. If you can imagine ordering up a current up to 14 knots, ending in a low-head dam, that is the environment that is used for swift water training which is a requirement for all new firefighters in training at this academy. Director of training, Mr. Hsiao, Huan Chang explained that before any new firefighter starts on the job, successful completion of basic training must occur. That training lasts 18 months and includes FF1, FF2, Swift Water, EMT, and Rescue Swimmer among other areas. Other training situations include structure fire in residential/manufacturing/retail settings, subway fires/evacuations, highway tunnels and train stations to name a few. It’s important to keep in mind that Taiwan is very prone to earthquakes and as such it deserves the high focus it receives at this facility.
Conducting ERD I and ERD II at the National Fire Agency Training Center was an amazing teaching experience. From the classroom setting with AV equipment to the pool where cylinders and weights were available to the open water training site on campus, anything needed was at hand. The open water training site was a perfect environment for training – - -zero visibility; mud bottom; both easy and difficult access and during the training dives an accidental oil discharge resulted in real world training.
The class roster consisted of 10 experienced firefighters and dive team members from all over Taiwan, the most junior of them having been on the job for nine years. Joining this course to audit the ERDI curriculum were representatives of the Korean Coast Guard and Korean Fire Service, as well as ERD Instructor Travis Jung from Korea. In talking with the candidates, I found a common theme often heard among dive teams and that was the need for structured training.
Starting in the classroom, ERD I academics were covered and then it was time for blacked out mask drills on land to practice tender skills, line signals and search patterns. Followed by more classroom time on drysuit and full face mask use.
This is important given that this is a region with warm water and warm air temperatures where drysuits are rarely, if ever, used. For some, this would be the first time in a drysuit.
After completing watermanship skills, drysuit, and FFM, training in confined water was next followed by ERD skills. Then it was off to open water dives, a lot of them. A small man-made pond on the campus provided a perfect location to complete the dives.
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