Kansas Fire & Rescue Training Institute Receives $475,000 Grant for Confined Space Training

The Kansas Fire & Rescue Training Institute's new grant will help train firefighters for confined space emergencies.

Firefighter training

The Kansas Fire & Rescue Training Institute (KFRTI), part of KU Professional & Continuing Education, recently received a competitive Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) from the Department of Homeland Security. The $475,000 grant will go toward a new Confined Space Rescue Prop (a semi-trailer designed to train firefighters in confined spaces).

Firefighter training
The Confined Space Rescue simulator (prop) will be built in a 53’ semi-trailer and include many of the typical hazards found in confined spaces. Photo courtesy of KFTRI.

Confined spaces include tunnels, sewer systems (sanitary and storm water), industrial equipment rooms, manholes, etc. Maintenance issues and accidents may result in people getting stuck in these spaces, fraught with hazards such as toxic gases or vapors and oxygen deficiency. The new prop at KFTRI will train firefighters in the challenging horizontal and vertical rescue operations, which include protective breathing equipment, rope rescue work, and removing the victim who may be unconscious or injured.

"The most pressing issue is having to do training in real confined spaces with real hazards, and the last thing we want to do is hurt someone in a training exercise,” said Glenn Pribbenow, KFTRI director. “This is where they are supposed to make mistakes. They're new and learning; they should be able to make a mistake without so much risk."

In addition to the risk of injury, training exercises can cause major wear and tear to training firefighters’ protective outfits, which cost up to $5,000, and expose them to extreme temperatures and dangerous gases. The new prop, which will include an HVAC system to keep the temperatures inside the trailer at reasonable levels, will provide safer training without the environmental and financial implications.

“The real challenge to us is to make that environment realistic,” Pribbenow said. “As we eliminate hazards, we concentrate on required knowledge and skills for successful rescues. The challenges they face in training need to be just as difficult, or more so, as a real confined space.”

Training is expected to begin in late 2019. This comes at a time when more and more fire departments are asked to create rescue teams. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires any facility with a confined space have a rescue team or contract with one. The new trailer will feature a manhole, small tunnels (as small as 16” in diameter), inclined floors, a simulated tank (similar to a tank trailer for hauling gasoline) and have a number of different types and sized hatches typically found on tanks, trucks and other confined spaces.

KFRTI already has eight props onsite, offering innovative training. The team at KFTRI Institute has applied for and received Assistance to Firefighters Grant funds every year since State Fire Training (SFT) programs, such as KFRTI, became eligible in 2013. Totaling more than $1.5 million, these efforts have supported efforts such as:  

  • Refurbishing the Live Interior Firefighting Prop (semi-trailer)
  • Purchasing a Driving Simulator 
  • Purchasing a Semi-Tractor and a Mobile Training Tower
  • Refurbishing the Flammable Liquids & Gases Simulator (semi-trailer)
  • Purchasing a Confined Space Rescue prop (semi-trailer)

Learn more about the Kansas Fire & Rescue Training Institute (KFRTI).

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