The Panama City Fire Department takes pride in the fact that they are known as one of the best trained Fire Departments in the State of Florida. The Training Division's goal is to insure that all Panama City Firefighters are prepared to respond to an emergency, while keeping up with current code requirements and the latest fire service technology, to provide consistent and effective emergency service to the citizens of Panama City. Training is overseen by the Division Chief of Training.
In contrasting today's Fire Service with what it was 10 to 15 years ago, Firefighters are constantly being called upon to take on an ever expanding role in providing for the safety of the community. As a result of this expanding role, the educational and training level of today's Firefighters has become much more demanding. In order to keep abreast of this ever changing environment, the hours between 1 to 4 p.m. are primarily dedicated to training activities designed to hone current skills and/or develop new ones. The Panama City Fire Department feels that dedicating this significant portion of the day to training helps keep our Firefighters knowledgeable in the methods and techniques required to keep themselves as well as their community safe. Training activities, which may be either classroom or practical application, include, but are not limited to:
- Reviewing procedures for the safe use and operation of all firefighting equipment, personal protective clothing, and breathing equipment.
- Rescue Operations for fires, water rescue, vehicle extrication, rescue from elevated locations, building collapse rescue, and firefighter survival, to name a few.
- Study of street and fire hydrant locations within the City of Panama City. This segment also includes the study of locations and operation of Fire Sprinkler and other Fire Protection Systems within the city.
- Review of and/or site visits to special hazards such as oil terminals and hazardous materials storage.
- Preparation for hurricanes, tornado's and other natural disasters, as well as terrorist type incidents.
During training activities, as also noted during a Firefighter's meal time, these activities are accomplished in addition to responding to emergencies. If an alarm comes in while Firefighters are training, they will halt the training operations and immediately respond to the alarm.
Firefighters train approximately 12,000 hours each year, covering such topics as: Search and Rescue, First Responder, Tools and Equipment, which includes Extrication Training, Self Rescue, Technical Rescue, Driver Training, Ropes and Knots, Policies and Guidelines, Water Rescue, etc., only to name a few. Because there is approximately 70 miles of coastline, Water Rescue Training is imperative for our department. We own, maintain, and operate a 21 ft. Fireboat which provides Marine Emergency Support in our area. Training from outside agencies, such as Gulf Power, Sheriff's Department, Florida Rock and Tank, and other businesses who can provide specialized training, is periodically scheduled throughout the year.
The Panama City Fire Department has a number of Specialized Teams, such as Urban Search and Rescue (USAR), Dive Team, and Rapid Intervention Team (RIT), all of which require many additional hours of training. Other Firefighters are trained to work on specialized equipment, such as our Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA's), equipment that is critical to a Firefighter's safety. Tactical Surveys of local commercial businesses, both new and existing, are conducted to keep Firefighters abreast of some of the dangers they may encounter at an incident.
When Officer's Choice is scheduled on the Training Calendar, Company Officers can decide which training their crew needs to work on. This flexibility enables individual crews to train in specific skills they may need to strengthen. If training is somehow missed, due to personnel being called out to a structure fire or some other incident, the crews will make up the scheduled training. Night Drills are also conducted where crews are observed during live burns. This type of training is conducted in our Burn Building at the Training Academy, which was built in 2002. These drills are critiqued during classroom training and are essential to insure proficiency during an actual emergency.
Physical fitness plays an important role in the fire service. Because of the importance of physical fitness, the City of Panama City Fire Department implemented a Wellness Program. This program is designed to provide a complete physical evaluation of each member on a yearly basis. The physical evaluates each member's medical condition and physical fitness level. The purpose of the program is intended to reduce injuries, provide early detection of serious medical conditions, and promote better overall health and fitness.
Fire Training Academy
In 2009, the City of Panama City constructed a new Fire Training Academy. This building replaced the older training building that was over 40 years old. This new Training Academy contains state of the art audio visual equipment and provides much more space to accommodate classroom training. The building also contains a commercial grade kitchen which is used to feed city workers during natural disasters, such as hurricanes and can provide approximately 500 meals daily.