Jonesboro firefighters spend day at Craighead County Jail

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Jonesboro firefighters spent all day Monday at the Craighead County Detention Center.

But they weren't fighting a fire.

They were training jail personnel on how to use a self-contained breathing apparatus, or "air pack," like firefighters use.

Deputy Randy Sharp, a training officer with Craighead County Sheriff's Department, said it's important that the detention staff receive this training.

"In an emergency situation, especially in the detention center, they have up to 300 inmates that they're responsible for," said Sharp. "So, they have to maintain control of that whole scenario even though it's an emergency and is very dynamic and stressful. They have to remain calm and then move those people. Cause they can't just evacuate the facility and move everybody out at once. So, they have to move people to safe areas of the jail and then take people outside that they need to. Doing that in a smoke-filled environment and also make sure everybody got out of their cells and help the fire department get into the structure. So, this allows them to use the apparatus and to train with the fire department. Because they only have one bottle in there and so if it's a situation that takes a long time, they may have to pull bottles off the fire truck and have help."

Jason Wills, the Jonesboro Fire Department's fire marshal, said it's important to practice with this type of equipment before you use it.

"If you're not used to it, or you don't do this all the time, then getting it on can be a little bit of a challenge," Wills said. "It's just familiarization and learning the equipment and how to use it. It's very important for the jail staff to know how to use the air packs so that they are comfortable with it. So, in the event of an emergency, they've done it before, and they know how the equipment works and they know what to expect once they put that device on and have the mask on their face. Sometimes there is a chance of claustrophobia. So, being able to overcome those things is pretty important."

Sharp said Monday's exercise was an opportunity for both jail staff and members of the Jonesboro Fire Department to learn from each other.

Sharp said should an emergency happen at the jail, members from both departments will be working together to get everyone out safely.

"They can't just evacuate the jail," Sharp said. "So, they have to move people. If there's a certain area of the unit they would move those people to a safer area and as they've got to keep security, they'll move people out to get fresh air while the jail staff has to clear those areas. And then also, once the fire department gets there they have to have help getting in because the doors just don't open. It's a very difficult place to get into and get out of."

Wills said they were thrilled with the opportunity to get to work with them.

"It's outstanding," Wills said. "We need to know. There's a lot of things in the jail that we're not going to come across in other facilities in the city. So, it's really important for our personnel to know what to expect. Who to contact and how to coordinate being able to get in the jail and those types of things is very important."

Sharp said it's about all of them being prepared.

"We hope it never happens," Sharp said. "But you've got to be ready for it. With this training, they'll be able to do it."

Copyright 2017 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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