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Students get more room to learn emergency courses

September 19, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

erinc@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - A fire station is one of the last places a student should be. Loud sirens and constant radio chatter make it an excellent place for emergency personnel, but a lousy place for studying.

Until recently, those enrolled in emergency response courses met at a local fire station to learn.

"It's not an environment conducive for learning, and it's created some problems in the past," said Chief William Ball of the Williamsport Volunteer Fire Co. "In fire stations, there are always distractions ... people coming in and out and alarms."

Now, students are filling two rooms in the Washington County Department of Water Quality Administration office at 16232 Elliott Parkway in Williamsport.

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"These are extremely difficult and complicated processes they are learning, so they need a good environment for that," Ball said.

A group of about 10 students is using two rooms in an empty portion of the building that still houses some administrative offices, he said. The Washington County Technical High School students are enrolled in a fire and rescue curriculum there.

The building's offices were transformed into classrooms, and the rooms were outfitted with tables, chairs and audiovisual equipment.

"If you are in a fire station, you constantly have the radio in the background and activity that distracts students," said Joe Kroboth, director of Washington County Emergency Services. "We are trying to pull the students out of the fire station and into classrooms so they can focus on learning."

Ball said he hopes to start emergency medical technician and paramedic courses soon. The paramedic course is offered annually, and he said without a dedicated classroom, firefighters in the past have met at local churches to learn.

While firefighters now have classrooms, they lack a hands-on training center with a burn building and a tower. For that training, firefighters typically have to travel out of Washington County, Ball said.

"Our goal is to have a physical training center, where they can go into a classroom and within a short distance go to the practical site," he said. "But we're taking baby steps. We have a classroom building."

Kroboth said the county's 911 center is expected to move to the Department of Water Quality building in 2007 when the county updates its radio system. He said classes will still take place there after the move.

The building has had vacant offices off and on for five years. Some of the space has been rented to businesses in the past, Kroboth said.

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