Station 201 sign
BRAD FUQUA, PHILOMATH EXPRESS

Firefighters are human. They get into the heat of the battle against a raging house fire or in the high-stress environment of trying to help a person with a severe medical need. That's why training exercises are so important. With repetition and practice, it may help emergency responders think better on their feet during a real-world incident.

Capt. Rich Saalsaa of Philomath Fire & Rescue said the district uses checklists that help staff and volunteers make sure they're on top of everything. Saalsaa admitted that things can become overwhelming, especially in mass-casualty situations.

Before this week's drill involving a school bus vs. vehicle, personnel had gone through training the previous night on properly using the triage system and its colored tagging.

"We developed this system that we can actually employ," Saalsaa said while showing me a checklist. "So if it's been a year since you've done something like this, you don't have to reach into the black hole of space that we call our minds and try to remember something.

"With this, it's check, check, check, particularly for the volunteers that aren't doing this all the time."

Saalsaa paused and then added, "None of this works without our volunteers."

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