Palmer station, being the least populated of the three year-round U.S. research stations, requires all personnel here to fill several roles. Palmer is simply too small to support a dedicated fire department, full-time dishwasher (or D.A. – dining attendant at the other stations) or dedicated laborer (G.A. at the other stations), janitor, equipment operator and many other jobs. Despite the fact we haven’t got all of those people, we must still be ready to respond to emergencies, or wash dishes, or shovel snow or take care of any of a hundred other tasks.
You may remember from an earlier post that I went to Denver, CO for fire school with nine of my fellow winterovers. The training that I received there was all in preparation for becoming a part of the fire team here at Palmer station.
Because I’m the power plant guy my role is actually pretty dull when it comes to responding to a fire type emergency. I report directly to my work center and stand by in case power needs to be cut to another building.
In this photo, you see three members of the SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) team practicing with fire hoses charged from two fire pumps in series.
To give you some idea as to how all this breaks down and the impact that a fire emergency or drill has on the population here – think about the numbers involved. When the boat leaves in late June and the population settles for the winter, there will be 19 people on station. Of these 19, one person has to be in charge – an incident commander. One person has to be coordinating communications, one person has to be accounting for everyone. We have two designated first responders and six designated SCBA people, one designated fire marshall, a doctor to deal with any medical emergencies, two people in utilities to deal with turning off power (one of those people is me – another goes to the emergency power plant) and people to run both fire pumps – this means that everyone has a direct role in responding to a fire. Pretty heavy stuff and speaks volumes as to why prevention of fires and accountability of people must be very strictly maintained.