News | Aug. 10, 2020

Hurricane Ready: firefighters provide chainsaw training

By Staff Sgt. Kaylee Dubois 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

As peak hurricane season approaches in Hampton Roads, late August through late October, firefighters assigned to the 733rd Civil Engineer Division Fire and Emergency Services provided chainsaw training to active duty U.S. Army Soldiers at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, August 6, 2020.

Due to their wide use in removing fallen trees and tree branches after hurricanes, the fire department teaches chainsaw safety each year to help increase the station’s readiness and response after the natural disaster.

“We rely on active duty members who are assigned to a response team to clean up fallen trees to allow for emergency and non-emergency vehicle passage,” said Stephen DuChemin, 733rd CED Fire Department station chief. “They are paramount in providing manpower to allow us to free up resources to actually respond to emergencies. The removal of a tree that has fallen in the road wouldn't constitute a real emergency, but it does inhibit us from responding to an emergency.”

DuChemin noted the department has significantly fewer trained supplemental responders this year than last due to the delay in training. Typically, the fire department provides the training before hurricane season begins, however due to the coronavirus, the classes were on hold in order to keep all members healthy. Now that classes can be held, the firefighters are training with conscious safety measures for both the coronavirus and chainsaws in place.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, chainsaw use accounts for approximately 36,000 injuries treated in emergency departments each year, which increases after hurricanes and other natural disasters.

“There is an over-emphasis on safety,” said DuChemin. “We emphasize mostly how to prevent yourself from being injured and from anyone else being injured. I think most people have a working knowledge of a chainsaw. But without that proper training, they could put themselves into harm's way.”

Tim Scott, 733rd CED Fire Department lieutenant, stated preparation and prevention are the keys to successfully keeping their community safe.

“It’s important for the whole Fort Eustis community to ensure a quick response in case of any kind of emergency,” said Scott. “With our chainsaw response team, we are preventing an even worse emergency from happening by being prepared.”

Although providing passage for emergency vehicles is incredibly important, DuChemin added the debris removal delivers a wide range of benefits for the base.

“All the debris impedes the flow of storm water, so then flooding issues can back up into residences,” said DuChemin. “It can cause road washout and erosion underneath the road. It's pretty important and it’s vital to the recovery of the installation.”

Along with the recovery of the base, DuChemin noted the trained service members help to save money, as well.

“After Hurricane Isabel, there were a ton of trees that fell and we ended up having to call in contractors to help clear them out, which cost the government money,” said DuChemin. “Having our response team allows us to be financially responsible in using an available workforce.”

For members of the JBLE community, DuChemin and Scott agreed their team is always available for assistance.

“We will always close by saying when you think you might need some help, just call us and we will be there,” said DuChemin.

For more information about the supplemental responder program, call the Fort Eustis Fire and Emergency Services office at (757) 878-4281.

For more information specific to hurricanes in the Hampton Roads area go to https://www.vaemergency.gov/threats/hurricanes/

To see if your home is in an evacuation zone go to https://www.vaemergency.gov/hurricane-evacuation-zone-lookup/ 

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