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NEWS | Jan. 26, 2022

Connecticut Air Guard fire department trains with partners

By Master Sgt. Tamara Dabney, 103rd Airlift Wing

EAST GRANBY, Conn. – The Connecticut Air National Guard Fire Department is collaborating with mutual aid partners to conduct familiarization training exercises at Bradley Air National Guard Base.

The goal is to incorporate resources from various fire departments into the Connecticut Air Guard’s incident command system, speeding response times and improving collaboration between area fire departments in light of staff shortages.

The training focuses on using aerial ladder devices, which maximize vertical reach during rapid response, ventilation, extinguishment and rescue operations. In some cases, the devices have elevated waterways used to apply water to high areas.

“This [training] familiarizes our mutual aid partners with the base layout and gives their [fire truck] drivers a chance to survey the areas so that, if they do come out to the base for an incident, they’d be better prepared to set up the aerial devices,” said Chief Master Sgt. Robert Cross, Connecticut Air National Guard installation fire chief. “For the past year, we’ve been working with mutual aid partners to determine what mutual aid resources are actually coming in to assist, should an incident occur here.”

If an emergency were to occur at Bradley, dispatch centers would alert fire departments using run cards, which are listings that prioritize the closest and most practical fire department resources. The computer-automated dispatch [CAD] system has streamlined the dispatch process and enhanced mutual aid capabilities for the CTANG Fire Department.

“Once we switched dispatch centers in July 2021, we were able to switch to a newer CAD-based run card system,” said Cross. “If a 911 caller calls into a dispatch center and says it’s smoking in the facility, [the CAD system] starts that run card for the resources that are required for that type of incident. They automatically would be dispatching these units without us having to call four or five different departments in order to meet the levels of service that’s required by the Department of Defense and the Air Force.”

Steve Bianchi, assistant chief of the Windsor Volunteer Fire Department, said region-wide training and cooperation between departments is necessary for effective mutual aid operations.

“This is the beginning of a regionalization of the fire departments,” said Bianchi. “For me, it’s all about working with our neighbors and getting to know our neighbors, so when we have mutual aid, everybody is familiar with the operation. We’re breaking down the barriers. It’s the common sense approach to getting the water on the fire and saving lives.”

With regionalization, proximity to an emergency incident and available resources will take precedence over jurisdiction when determining which fire departments to dispatch.

“The old philosophy was, it’s our jurisdiction, we’ll take care of it,” said Jim Griskewicz, deputy chief of the Windsor Fire Department. “Nowadays, we’re so short on staffing, we can’t do it by ourselves anymore. Why wouldn’t we call [another fire department] if they’re closer, or have them on the run card?”

Bianchi agreed.

“The volunteerism throughout the country is at an all-time low,” said Bianchi. “So for us, it’s all about getting the regionalization up and running. It doesn’t matter which fire department from which town goes into someone else’s town. The end goal is that they all work fluidly. It’s for people’s safety and for the good of the departments. I’m excited to be here and be a part of this.”