Last month, Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI) conducted the first-of-its-kind training exercise with the help of not one, but three retired shuttle buses donated by Carle. This was the first donation to IFSI – the statutory Illinois State Fire Academy – that helps firefighters and other emergency responders do their work through training, education, information and research.
Donating to IFSI would have never crossed Tammy Howard’s mind. However, Howard, manager of Security and Guest Services, was talking with Carle shuttle bus driver Brad Bone when he proposed the idea. Bone, a retired firefighter and retired Firefighting Program director at IFSI, mentioned how the buses could benefit IFSI.
“We have donated buses in the past, in running condition, to service organizations in Champaign County,” Howard said. “When Brad brought up the idea, I thought it was great; otherwise we would have just hauled the buses, ones not in running condition, off for scraps or to be disposed of properly.”
To make the donation possible, a handful of Carle employees united and conquered, including Director of Supply Chain Services Debbie Schmidt.
“We are always looking to repurpose equipment and realize what a benefit it can be to other organizations,” Schmidt said. “I think a donation like this improves the readiness of our local firefighters, who were able to use these buses in real-life situations and gain invaluable experience.”
With an elite team of key stakeholders – from local, regional, state and federal levels – at locations in Champaign and downtown Chicago, IFSI put the Carle shuttle buses to work in a disaster-response drill.
The retired shuttle buses from Carle, along with two buses from the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, allowed IFSI to create scenarios with more mock victims and provided a greater complexity to the exercise for teams to respond to and mitigate.
“The primary exercise was a mock earthquake on the New Madrid Fault Line, which impacts Champaign-Urbana. We were able to use the commercial vehicles, instead of just passenger vehicles, allowing us to show a broader range of how this sort of disaster could impact the community,” said Brian Brauer, IFSI associate director.
While IFSI executed exercises with some of these components before, Brauer said, “This was the first time we had participants from the USMC Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF), the Illinois Urban Search and Rescue Team, multiple regional rescue, hazardous materials, incident management teams and local fire and EMS agencies.”
But how does IFSI measure the success of a training exercise of this size with so many moving parts and groups participating?
“We compare the outcome of the drill to the goals of the exercise. This is done in collaboration with the folks from each agency and considering the capabilities of each team,” Brauer said.
And those teams vary incident by incident, need by need.
“Preparation, of course, is key. Any time different emergency-response teams work together on hypotheticals, we’re more prepared for the incidents that really do come our way,” said Brad Weir, MD, Carle Regional Emergency Medical Services (CREMS) medical director.