I had the unique chance to participate a real firefighting training with the officers and cadre from firefighters Volketswil. But how did that happen?
Last November l was invited to share my working life with the firefighters officers. The topic «expect the unexpected» is as well the daily business of these men and women.
I took them on a journey to the flight deck. As a gesture of gratitude and appreciation they invited me to participate to their real fire fighting training, which they are having twice a year. How exciting🤩.
Make a Flight Plan – Make a Plan how to fight the fire
To be honest, l was a bit nervous when l was approaching the training area. Marco, the chief training officer and the crew gave me a warm welcome.We were getting the gear (fire prove pents and jacket, gloves, helmet and the equipment) and l got a detailed briefing about the handling of the oxygen mask, which had similarities to the one from the airbus. Loading the 25 kg backpack with the oxygen bottles reminded me going on a diving trip. With the heavy equipment on my back, we went into the house where it was already burning on all the 3 floors🔥….
Expect the unexpected
We entered the dark house and had to find the steps and stairs with our feet – the walls and handrail with our hands. Some collegues were already placing the heavy fire hose to all the floors which is a safe emergency exit indicator for the fire fighters. For the airliners: «follow the illuminated exit signs which will guide you to the emergency exit») of course the fire hose is not illuminated 😉 the darkness and the heat impressed me. We were watching some collegues from the first team how they were extinguishing the first fire in a room. We had to be bended on our knees, it was «cooler» on the floor.
With extinguishing an open fire it is like with the fuel order for pilots: as much fuel as required, as little as possible. Use the amount of water needed to extinguish the fire but don‘t use to much water since we don‘t want further damage.
Focus on the horizon – Focus on the fire how to extinguish it
Then it was my turn: l enterd the room still under the mask getting oxygen from my heavy backpack tanks and holding the heavy fire hose and walking in bended down position. I was positioning me to open the ventil and extinguish the fire in the base. As soon as the strong water shot was extinguishing the fire, sparks were flying around and an unbelievable heat 🔥🔥🔥came over me!
I had to bend down immediately, the heat was less on the floor and l walked slowly out of the room, still watching the fire to be really out. Going to the sauna is a very light simulation on how l felt! I was wet to the underwear. I got the chance to extinguish another fire on a higher floor with another technic. Then l needed a break. Outside all the firefighters were drinking a lot of water in order to stay hydrated. And they reminded me to drink a lot of water as they are used to care for each other.
I managed to empty 2 water bottles between 2 exercises.
After the second exercise l started to feel exhausted, having been twice for about 25 minutes under the mask loaded with the heavy equipment on the back in the dark and heat showed me my limit. Imagine this in real life where you must on top rescue humans and animals.
Make a decision
This is 100% the same for the work as a fire fighter and as a cockpit crew member.
Throwing yourself into situations like walking into a burning house prepares you to become familiar with the heat and to learn technics. But each fire fighter is aware, that the reality will look different and they have to expect the unexpected in their daily business.
All the fire fighters were very happy about their successful training. They are thankful that they are given the chance to train and to stay proficient. They were by the way, all very fit and quite strong and told me that they individually have to keep their fitness level throughout the year.
All my respect and recognition for these brave women and men doing this job für die public in their spare time. Thank you guys for doing that great job for 365 days for us🙏⭐️💐🔥.
Many thanks to the firefighterofficers and cadre Volketswil for having me and the great exchange🙏. You are a unique team with a great spirit.
This was an unforgettable adventure and experience for me🔥🔥🔥 where l learned a lot.
Esther Zwygart is a pilot by passion and already looks back on a career of more than 25 years as airline pilot with over 13’000 flying hours. She is flying the longhaul aircrafts airbus 340-300 and a340-600 and the a330.
She is an expert in topics such as leadership, change management, dealing with the unexpected, communication and decision-making – in line with the #clearedtoland success principle.
Esther is available as a speaker, sharing her experience how tools from the airline cockpit help to be prepared for the unexpected, practice an agile mindset and make better decisions!
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