Naperville’s Citizen Fire Academy

My grandsons like to play Wiffle ball in their back yard with their dad and I join in for a few innings. Often the ball gets hit over the fence into an adjoining yard and my son with no effort grabs onto the top of the 6-foot fence and jumps over to get the ball. His strength and endurance amaze me, since even at the peak of my physical shape 50 years ago, I couldn’t do what he does. He’s in top physical condition; he’s a part-time fire fighter (FF) in Barrington and has been for years.

Wanting to learn more about being a FF I decided to participate in Naperville’s Citizen Fire Academy. It’s 12-hours of ‘hands-on’ training over four nights (3 hours per night). It consists of one hour of listening and 11 hours of doing. The first night we had Naperville Fire Department orientation, a tour of the main station (#7) on Aurora Avenue next to the police department, and we were issued our gear (coat, pants, hood, gloves, helmet, and boots) which was worn all during our training and turned in during the last class. Just carrying the gear in a bag to my car was exhausting. Wearing it was just as exhausting. It took me ten minutes just to put my boots on. I suppose it would have been easier if the boots were one or two sizes larger, then I could have done it in eight minutes.

This is a good time to mention that being a FF is not hard work, it’s really, really, really hard work!

Topics we covered included:

  • Hose and ladders (the hose is heavy and the ladders are tall)
  • Search and rescue (walking through a ‘smoke’ filled building in complete darkness)
  • EMS (saving lives without losing your own)
  • Auto Extrication (tearing apart a car, to save someone)
  • Water rescue (throwing out life preservers and remembering to hold on to the other end of the rope)
  • Air pack training (heavy, cumbersome, and challenging to breathe)

Absolutely everything a FF does has a purpose and a ‘best practice’ for doing it. Nothing is left to chance.

Naperville’s Fire Department is one of the Top-3 in the country and one of the best in the world! The NFD is a Legacy Agency, having been accredited every five years since 1997 (1997, 2002, 2007, 2012, and 2017).

Some interesting facts about the NFD include:

  • Naperville firefighters train 6,000 hours per month!
  • The response time from getting the call to being at the event is 6 minutes. It takes 1.5 minutes from the time of the call to getting the vehicle out the door, and 4.5 minutes to get to the event. (It took me 10 minutes to get my boots on).
  • Less than 1% of calls are fire related
  • The highest percentage of calls in 2018 were EMS (Emergency medical service)
  • In March of this year, the NFD had a 75% ROSC (Return of Spontaneous Circulation) – meaning they started breathing again, and a 50% survivability rate – meaning they walked out of the hospital. The National average is 20% ROSC and 12% survivability
  • They get about 16,000 calls per year
  • Average about 2 vehicle-injury accidents per day
  • Naperville has 10 fire districts (stations)
  • It is a 202 person department including 10 Captains, 24 Lieutenants, and 152 firefighters, and 16 support staff.
  • FF’s work a cycle of 24-hour shifts with two days off.
  • In 2018 the Top 3 EMS calls by type were falls/traumatic injury, behavioral/psych/overdose, and respiratory distress.
  • The training facility is located on Brookdale Road near Rt. 59 (live fire facility) Station 4.

The FF’s doing our training were doing it on their own time. They could not have been more patient, informative, friendly, committed and knowledgeable. When asked what their most difficult call to go out for is, they all said “anything involving kids”.

If you want to learn so much more about the NFD, I encourage you to attend Citizen Fire Academy training. You can also get a 2018 Naperville Fire Department Annual Report at the NFD headquarters Station 7 on Aurora Avenue. It is filled with a wealth of information about everything the NFD does.

If you are in a grocery store and you happen to see a NFD fire truck, engine, or ambulance parked outside with a few fire fighters inside the store shopping for groceries, know that everything they purchase is on “their own dime”; they pay for and prepare their own meals. A ‘thank you for your service’ would definitely be appreciated by the fine men and women of the Naperville Fire Department. They work hard and smart and they deserve our appreciation.

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