Search and Simulate
Fire science student JoAnna Hernandez from Wheeling, Ill, runs through a search and rescue exercise at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Hernandez, left, and partner Ben Zoppa must crawl blind through a pitch-dark obstacle course that simulates a smoke-filled house complete with a victim. Students work together to avoid getting lost and ensure their own safety. The exercise is part of a fire attack and strategy course that all fire science students must take before moving on to more ambitious live-fire drills.
Sam Cummings and Michael Sova work to resuscitate a choking "infant" during paramedic skills and simulation lab at Lake Superior State University. LSSU fire science and criminal justice students take the lab to gain certification as a paramedic. LSSU Fire Science Instructor Dave Duncan teaches the class along with paramedics from the Sault, Mich., fire department. Sova is a senior in fire science from Cheboygan, Mich. Cummings is a senior in fire science from Flat Rock, Mich. (By LSSU Student Photographer Geoff Girolamo)
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"Fire science is probably the only baccalaureate degree where life and death hangs on college preparation. Anyone who is strong and brave can throw himself or herself into a fire, but it takes discipline and preparation to survive a fire and save others.
Here is what it takes to be a firefighter today. Chemistry and physics reveal how fires burn. Psychology and management courses show how organizations fight fires. Certification choices round out the preparation – from hazardous material to basic paramedic training – because we never know how we may be asked to respond.
I push our students intellectually. Our program offers a degree option integrated with engineering technology, with such coursework as calculus, fluid dynamics, and the physics of heat transfer. A hazardous materials track stresses chemistry and environmental sciences, even climatology and geology.
Fire Board certification means practice, practice, practice. I am a PhD, tenured professor who has never put down the tools of my trade. Many of my labs are outside in a two-story, steel Fire Exercise Structure, where I guide students through countless smoke and fire drills. We often get city and county fire crews involved so they can sharpen their skills as well as share tips with our students. It keeps me sharp and helps our students pass state or provincial (for Canada) certification exams, usually the first time.
Pushing my students pushes me. My job is to create opportunity for students. My department has made thousands of firefighters during the 20-plus years I have taught here at Lake Superior State University."