Battling blazes in city of skyscrapers
By Joan Gralla
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Just weeks before the 10th anniversary of the air attacks on the World Trade Center, New York firefighters gave politicians and journalists a glimpse into what it is like to battle blazes in the skyscraper city.
It involves crawling around in the smoke and dark on a wet cement floor, drenched in sweat and clad in a bunker suit, mask and helmet and with an oxygen tank strapped to your back.
The smoke in the drills is white, or "Hollywood" smoke, nothing like the black, chemically-laced cloud of a real fire.
"If you don't have your wits about you, you can see how easy it is to get lost. Most of our training is about developing a kinetic sense of where you are," said Lieutenant Mike Cacciola, director of physical training.
The scenarios are varied and sometimes deadly and brutal.
On a bombed-out bus, there are dummies of adults and children, bleeding or without limbs. Captain Paul Nugent explained that setting priorities for victims is vital.
"Tilt his head. If he takes a breath, we take him out," he explained.
Victims of bio- or chemical attacks are referred to as "sludgems," according to Lieutenant Anna Schermerhorn-Collins, adding that firefighters are trained to spot the symptoms -- salivation, tears, urination, defecation, gastrointestinal upset, vomiting and constriction of the pupil of the eye. Continued...