By Shannon Vicic
Some firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians in Illinois will be better prepared to save lives if they are called to the scene of an airplane crash, thanks to a new UI program funded with a Partnership Illinois seed grant.
William Geibel, a specialist in aircraft structures, systems and maintenance at the UI Institute of Aviation, has been awarded $15,000 by the UI Partnership Illinois Council to launch a program that will provide emergency personnel in the state with education and training for responding to aircraft accidents.
Two UI units, the Institute of Aviation and the Fire Service Institute, will work together to present the Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Awareness and Certification Program, which is designed to teach participants about the unique conditions and hazards associated with aircraft crashes.
The program will be taught by four UI experts: Jim Dotson, a staff member at the Fire Service Institute and a firefighter for the Urbana Fire Department; Tom Reese, a firefighter for the Willard Airport Fire Department; John Smith, fire marshal for the Willard Airport Fire Department; and Geibel. Together, they have more than 100 years of experience in the field of aviation.
Along with the UI instructors, the program will feature guest lecturers, including representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and the Air Force. The first session will be held during spring break 1998.
The 40-hour program, to be held at the Institute of Aviation's crash-rescue facility at Willard Airport, will consist of both classroom and field training.
During field training, participants will learn about common types of airplanes and operating systems, and will practice such techniques as cutting into a fuselage.
In the classroom, Geibel and his instructional team will present trainees with basic information about aircraft construction, systems, engineering, maintenance and personnel safety protocol. In addition, information will be presented on aircraft accident command and control systems, airport operations, and military aircraft equipment.
The Institute of Aviation has been conducting aircraft rescue and firefighting training since 1990 for communities surrounding Urbana-Champaign. The institute offers 12 hours of aircraft rescue training to firefighters attending the UI Fire Service Institute's annual Fire College, a four-day training program for firefighters across the state.
The new program broadens the scope of earlier offerings to include several agencies, rather than fire departments alone. Although the program is aimed primarily at emergency rescue personnel, others who respond to aircraft accidents, such as journalists and representatives from the coroner's office, also will be invited to attend.
The first year's program will be limited to 30 students. Participants will be selected by lottery to attend the program at no charge. In the future, the organizers plan to charge tuition to participants, so that the program can be financially self-supporting.
To supplement the Partnership Illinois grant, program organizers hope to recruit corporate sponsors who can provide additional financial support and help organizers gain access to airplanes for use in the field-training segment of the program.
For more information about the program, contact Geibel at 244-8602.
Partnership Illinois, a UI initiative announced in August 1996, was created to help coordinate public service and outreach efforts at the university, increase the impact of the university's outreach programs and create opportunities to serve the state.
The seed-grant program, part of the Partnership Illinois initiative, was established to encourage UI faculty members to develop outreach programs that address current and developing needs in the state.
Comments to: Inside Illinois Editor Doris Dahl, (217) 333-2895, firstname.lastname@example.org
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