Editor's Note: This is part of a series of stories highlighting the Elmore County Technical Center and its programs.
Retired firefighter Donnie Adams has found his calling at Elmore County Technical Center.
His 20 years of experience in public safety as a captain at Montgomery Fire Department offers public safety and law students a veteran approach when it comes to learning what it takes to be successful as a first responder.
“I do express to my kids that if they go out there and work hard, they can make a great living,” Adams said. “The whole public safety world is just a self-rewarding job. Whether you delivered a baby, saved someone from a burning structure or did CPR — it’s an awesome career.”
The tech center exists to prepare students to enter the workforce after high school or continue on with advanced studies.
Adams’ public safety and law program is no different.
According to the course outline, students have the ability to earn a Career Readiness Indicator (CRI) for Firefighter 1 which is a designation through the National Fire Protection Agency.
“It’s a public safety and law class,” Adams said. “We touch some on law enforcement, but about 95% of it is based on fire department subjects.”
According to Adams, the first semester covers emergency care provider subjects which is sanctioned through the Alabama Fire College.
“After completing the course and passing a test through the Alabama Fire College, students get to start the 160 program,” Adams said. “They get their CPR certification and they get the knowledge of basic life saving techniques.”
The 160 program, according to Adams, is where the firefighter courses begin.
“Students will learn how to don and doff fire gear,” he said. “My class is very competitive and the kids feed off that. Almost everything we do is very competitive.
“My kids learn all kinds of knots and webbing. They learn how to set up a 3-to-1 and 4-to-1 mechanical advantage, a z-rig. We will repel. We will put kids in a rescue basket and test the kids’ knowledge for rescue.”
Holtville senior Katie Reeves is a public safety and law student who went into the program with a specific goal in mind but she changed her outlook.
“Originally I wanted to be a paramedic,” she said. “I took the class my junior year and realized I was good at picking up the firefighter information. My uncle is a firefighter so I talked to him about what we were doing and I realized I could make a good career out of this.”
Reeves is a second-year student of Adams and is looking at getting a job with the Hoover Fire Department after graduation.
Students also get to develop firefighting skills through real-world simulations such as extinguishing fires in Wetumpka Fire Department’s burn trailer; crawling through a search and rescue exercise in a confined, two-story space; extracting crash test dummies in crashed vehicles with the use of mechanical tools; and climbing a 110-foot ladder.
“Once these kids are setting out to be firefighters they will stick out in a good way,” Adams said. “My students who are in their second and third years are really benefitting from this course.
“I depend on them to help lead. Once you put them in a leadership spot it is amazing how they just blossom. I have kids in fire departments, one at Trenholm State, one at Southern Union. They get in my class and just blossom.”
One student who is looking at college after graduating is Stanhope Elmore senior Kyle Murray.
“I am going to AUM to get a nursing degree,” Murray said. “Then I plan on getting a nurse anesthetist degree from Samford University and eventually joining the Air Force. I just think helping people is amazing.”