Berkeley Fire Department, campus Facilities Services collaborate for drill

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Firetrucks, paramedic vehicles and fully equipped firefighters crowded the area outside California Hall on Monday, alarming passers-by — an entire ordeal that was merely a collaborative drill involving the Berkeley Fire Department and campus Facilities Services.

The simulation-based exercise involved opening up a manhole, setting up a tripod and rig over it and lowering firemen into the hole. The goal of the drill, according to Jon Fischer, BFD training captain, was to refresh the fire department’s rescue skills, familiarize the firefighters with campus facilities and improve partnerships with UC personnel.

A mixed group of orange-vested Facilities Services employees and fire department staff convened within a perimeter of caution tape for a short meeting before beginning the drill.

“It’s a practice with the UC staff on confined space rescue,” Fischer said. “Confined space is any space that’s big enough for human beings to get into but has limited entry and exit.”

Facilities Services insulation lead worker Stan Richardson said he frequently works in tunnels. These confined spaces can reach up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit and pose many risks, including chemical leaks and oxygen displacement, Richardson said. The fire department was chosen specifically for its equipment and ability to conduct rescues of this kind.

There will be two additional drill dates — March 28 and 29 — to ensure everybody in the fire department undergoes the training. California Hall was designated as the location for these drills because it is not hazardous, making it a safe location to practice.

Roy Berke, health and safety assistant manager in the UC Berkeley Office of Environment, Health and Safety, said the campus had been planning the drill for months. These collaborative training exercises have also occurred in the past, according to Berke, who added that the campus Residential and Student Services Programs also participate in confined space training.

“We’re trying to get a game plan and want to be safe down there,” Richardson said. “The Berkeley Fire Department has been very helpful.”

Contact Andreana Chou at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AndreanaChou.