Panama 2015

Panama Summary 2015

FRITA Team: Chad Buch, Jorgen Ponsien, Doran Boudrot, Abraham Monte de Ramos

One World Scholarship Team: Kim Saulnier (Facilitator), Nolan Pick, Conrad Gallagher, Steve Oishi, Ben Gutowski

Submitted by Team Lead Chad Buch:

On Friday Feb 20th, the FRITA team met up with Kim Saulnier and the 4 One World Scholarship students, who had been travelling from upcountry Panama touring different fire stations along the way. You could tell by the looks on their faces that they were happy to be back in the city, exhausted from their busy schedule over the last few weeks. Welcomed was a few days of rest and relaxation. The following few days consisted of a team building bike excursion, a hosted dinner and dancing and a guided VIP tour of the Panama Canal. We soon brought the One World students up to speed with the goals and objectives of the FRITA training week and managed to sneak in a few team meetings to help prepare and assign tasks to everyone for the coming week of activity and training.

Monday morning came quick it seemed. The day began with a group breakfast at the hotel and then off to the Academy for a formal introduction of all participants involved in the weeks training program. A special appearance from the Director of the BCBRP and a representative from the Canadian ambassador to Panama’s office was a nice surprise. This gave an opportunity for the team to explain FRITA’s mission statement and lay the foundation to include the involvement of the Canadian Ambassadors office in future FRITA training programs .The program was well respected and received and seemed to sparked some curiosity. After the brief introduction ceremony we were off to the races. Of course, despite the best of intentions, it took a while to get organized on the training ground, but we finally got rolling with the first operations starting around noon.

The student enrolment consisted of 48 students, which we broke up into two groups. The first group was made up of 12 Fire Officers who were stationed throughout Panama City and the rural countryside .The second group of students consisted of 36 paid firefighters stationed throughout Panama City, all with approx. 5 years’ experience or less. . The request was made to instruct the officer group in ICS, fire ground accountability, and high rise operations and procedures. The Fire Fighter group of students were instructed in basic firefighting skills as well as being introduced to passport accountability. The goal of the week of training was to become proficient in basic firefighting skills Monday thru Wednesday, with the emphasis placed on fire ground safety and accountability. On Thursday and Friday the climax of the training week was to join together the two groups of students, Fire Officers and Fire Fighters, to conduct two days of live fire at the Panama Canal burn building incorporating ICS, Fire ground accountability and Safety. We were very happy throughout the week with both groups to see how open minded they were to receive new information and how hungry they were to learn new skills. They bought right into the passport accountability system. By the end of the week the IC was utilizing the status board, Officers were handing over and receiving back passport accountability tags from the IC and Fire Fighters were wearing helmet patches identifying which unit they belong to. It was a nice sight to see!

The week ended with two great days of live fire scenarios. It was now Friday and time to wrap the week up with the closing ceremonies back at the main fire hall. Certificates and gifts were handed out by both FRITA and the BCBRP. By observing the smiles on everyone’s faces, fun was had by all. It was sad to have to say goodbye and many inquiries were made as to when we would return next year. The highlight of the trip had to be when someone noticed that the fire hall seemed to clear out quite quickly shortly after the certificate ceremony. We soon realized though that nobody had left the premises, they just found their way through an unmarked door which led to a small room at the back of the hall, where the sound of clanging cold beer bottles rang out. This was the old Fire hall bar with a bar keep and a deep freeze full of cervecas. It was cold Balboa’s all around for the next few hours followed by a few push up competitions between the Bomberos and the One World Students. There were belt exchanges, photo opportunities and some spilled beer, but when it was all over, both countries went home with great memories and were able to build lasting friendships between international brothers and sisters. I want to personally thank all of the FRITA team members , Kim Saulnier and all of the One World Scholarship students for their hard work, on and off the training ground, and for making this year’s Panama deployment a success. Thank you for contributing in keeping the relationship strong between the BCBRP and FRITA. Without anyone of these individuals none of this would have been possible.