A group of Fire Safety Engineering students recently accompanied local fire experts on a trip to Zimbabwe as part of an annual charity visit to train local fire fighters. They helped to train six local fire services on key areas such as major incident management, advanced community safety, ambulance training, advanced investigations and technical safety.
The trip was organised by charity Operation Florian, a fire service humanitarian charity providing equipment and training to improve fire fighting and rescue capabilities around the world.
One of the students, Liam Lockyer, gave his account of the experience.
“Although I was nervous about the trip, I was looking forward to learning new skills and excited to learn how the Bulawayo fire service carried out their day-to-day activities.
It was a long journey and I’d hardly had any sleep and was exhausted from sitting four exams earlier that week. But as soon as we arrived we met many people who were all lovely and very helpful as we were in a new country and always offered to help with everything.
Our first call out was to an incident in the city centre which involved a garage fire and we observed how the fire service responded to the incident. This was a massive shock as their fire fighters were not wearing the correct PPE and they were not wearing breathing apparatus. Another concern was that the local community were not cordoned off and were across the road just watching as the fire was in full flow, which would not happen in the UK.
The next day we visited the Bulawayo main HQ. We then had an introduction with the chief officer and the Zimbabwean fire service. To prepare for the week ahead we provided kits and breathing apparatus to the fire fighters and demonstrated how to use the apparatus correctly.
We carried out several exercises with the breathing apparatus which included door sweeping, stairs procedures and casualty carrying. We also showed the fire fighters how to enter a property correctly by doing the BA shuffle, which is when you enter a building and stay on which ever wall the incident commander or entry controller operator gives, such as right hand wall entering the first door.
On the Friday and the last day of training on breathing apparatus, the fire trainers recapped on what they were teaching during the week whilst carrying out a couple of practice runs for the exercise.
Earlier that morning myself, Nathan, Francis, Joe and Paul, the officer in charge of community fire safety, went to a primary school with his students (fire safety officers) to deliver a presentation. All the children and teachers were extremely warming to our presence and all the children listened and took part in the lesson.
We then had the chance to have a weekend break which allowed us relax on the Saturday but we were still up early to explore the country. We started in the morning hiking around a national park taking in great views and we saw hundreds of lizards with all different colours and patterns. Later on that day we went to an animal orphanage which was amazing, although a bit strange, as their animals were kept behind thin metal wired fences which could quite easily be knocked over if any of the animals wanted out. This was also one of my favourite experiences.
Later on that week we did another scenario which involved a road traffic collision but this time with a train involved too which we defiantly not done back in the UK due to health and safety reasons. This exercise also proved successful, although there were a few hiccups with communications with the train service not reporting the incident straight away to the fire service, ambulance and police.
Later that day we made our way to Victoria Falls and the next morning we went on a safari drive were we got to see the wildlife - it was amazing seeing the animals in their natural homes. This was my favourite thing of the trip seeing how elephants destroyed 100s of trees just to get food, showing the strength of them.
he final day in Zimbabwe consisted of handing out the remainder of equipment the UK fire service had provided to the Zimbabwean fire service and we then had a last talk and thanks from everyone who attended the course. After that it was home time from a long trip which everyone loved. I have taken a lot of positives from this trip and am thankful to have been able to take part in this experience of a lifetime.”