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Ag students learn survival, response skills

The Opp Fire Department and the Emergency Management Agency have teamed up with Opp High School’s agriculture department to educate students on fire prevention and other necessary survival basics.

Frank Shaffer from the EMA has been implementing the Community Emergency Response Team program at the high school.

The CERT program educates students about disaster preparedness for the hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

CERT offers a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization that professional responders can rely on during disaster situations, which allows them to focus on more complex tasks. Through CERT, the capabilities to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters are built and enhanced.

“I want to help these students,” Shaffer said. “One thing I’ve been saying a lot lately at the EMA is, it’s not how you act, but more about how you think.”

Frank Shaffer and Mike Barnes teach Bryan Matthews and Montana Brundage how to operate the fire extinguisher.

The agriculture department has spent the last two weeks going through the course and has nine more weeks to go in the class.

Yesterday, students participated in fire suppression, where they learned about fire chemistry, hazardous materials, fire hazards and fire suppression strategies.

The students had the chance to get hands on experience in putting out fires and using the fire extinguisher.

“It was a really good experience,” Bryan Matthews, a student at Opp High School, said. “We learned the P.A.S.S. acronym to help us use the fire extinguisher.”

The P.A.S.S. acronym stands for pulling the fire extinguisher pin, aiming at the fire, squeezing the handle, and making a sweeping motion at the base of the fire.

“It was good to learn these basics just in case I am ever put in a situation where I need it,” Matthews said.

Lt. Mike Barnes was the lead firefighter giving the lessons to the students.

“I want to see a day where firefighters are no longer needed,” Barnes said. “If we do our jobs in educating the public on fire prevention then I honestly believe the fire disasters will diminish.”

Barnes spent all of Tuesday teaching the students about fire prevention, showing photos and videos, and distinguishing the differences between the different types of fires and how to put them out.

“I believe educating the public about fire prevention is key to less house fires,” Barnes said.

In the next couple of months, the students will go through different courses such as medical operations, light search and rescue operations, psychology and team organization and will go through a disaster simulation.