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IFRM aids firefighters in the Republic of Georgia

Published on 16 November 2010
IFRM team distributes Personnel Protective Equipment.
IFRM delivered a 40-foot sea container packed full of firefighting and EMS equipment

International Fire Relief Mission (IFRM) team members completed equipment distribution and training in the Republic of Georgia.

International Fire Relief Mission (IFRM) team members completed equipment distribution and training in the Republic of Georgia. IFRM delivered a 40-foot sea container packed full of firefighting and EMS equipment, all donated by U.S. fire departments, to several Republic of Georgia fire departments.

“Thanks to the generosity of American fire departments, hundreds of Georgian firefighters will for the first time in their careers have the safety afforded by full turnout gear and SCBA,” says IFRM President Ron Gruening, who led IFRM’s team in Georgia. “Although this gear no longer meets U.S. standards, it has years of useful life left in it. It seems unthinkable that these firefighters have never had items as simple as boots and gloves, let alone full PPE. Now, each firefighter has a full ensemble. Because of this recycling effort, these firefighter have a much greater chance of avoiding life-threatening injuries.”

Mtskheta is about 12 miles north of the country’s capital Tblisi. It has 10,000 residents protected by the city’s one fire station. That fire station was partially destroyed, as was much of its equipment, in 2008 during a conflict with Russia over disputed territories. The conflict also added thousands of refugees to the Mtskheta fire department’s area of coverage and responsibility. Although the fire station was rebuilt, what equipment there was was not replenished—until now.

IFRM also held train-the-trainer sessions with the department’s officers

In addition to the gear, IFRM team members spent days training the Mtskheta firefighters on such things as how the PPE works, how to correctly wear it, and how to care for it. They received similarly detailed instruction on the SCBA.

“Despite these firefighters’ obvious intelligence and years of service, running them through the training was like having a class of new recruits,” says Gruening, who is a retired paramedic and fire captain with more than 20 years of experience. “This was apparent watching how uncomfortable they were donning their masks and going on air for the first time. But they were so grateful for the equipment and eager to learn, I’m confident that this equipment and training will have a terrific impact on their safety.”

In addition to teaching the firefighters about their new gear, IFRM also held train-the-trainer sessions with the department’s officers. They were instructed on how to conduct 'go drills' to teach the firefighters to quickly and properly don their PPE, how to turn the sea container into a live-burn room, and how to build mazes to teach firefighters to work in their PPE.

“When traveling to these countries, we have to assess where the firefighters are in their level of training and adjust our work accordingly,” Gruening says. “Here, we had to start from scratch because of their lack of exposure to PPE.”

While in Georgia, Gruening met with representatives from Counterpart International, a private, nonprofit development organization. Counterpart assisted IFRM in moving the donation from the United States to Georgia. Its employees in Georgia will monitor the donated equipment to see that it is being used as intended and submit regular reports to IFRM.

With this mission completed, IFRM is focused on collecting more donated equipment for other fire departments in need of help. The group will also look for financial backers to help defray the cost of collecting the gear, shipping it to the recipients and training those firefighters on its safe and proper use. Those interested in contributing equipment, services or capital can visit their website or contact Ron Gruening through email.

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