Mike Simmons, Assistant Chief at Kilgore Fire Department, joined his father and a Tyler-area fire-fighter for a two-week visit to Saudi Arabia last December in order to bring about two-dozen emergency responders up-to-speed on ropes rescue and hazardous materials procedures.
“They normally work as operators at a petrochemical plant,” Simmons explained. Including members of Tasnee Petrochemical’s Emergency Response Team, “Their fulltime gig is operating the plant, and when emergencies happen they turn into fire-fighters. Of course, the American standard is very different from what they’re used to.”
It was Simmons’ second trip after an initial excursion in October 2011. His father, also Michael Simmons, is the owner of the North Texas Fire Academy in Rockwall and has welcomed numerous Saudi Arabian trainees during the past several years.
The three men travelled to Jubail on the Persian Gulf coast – often called ‘Industrial City,’ – where the chemical operators-turned-firefighters were eager students.
“The training went well,” Simmons said. In addition to ropes rescue and Haz-Mat training aligned with National Fire Protection Association standards, the Texans also helped the trainee groups set up their bunker gear bags and helped establish a colour-coding system for equipment. “They successfully completed the tasks and were very excited about what they were able to do.”
The various crews of emergency responders were also keen to learn the particulars of the mutual aid agreements, common in America, that ensure neigbouring departments can call on outside help if needed. The Jubail Area Mutual Aid Association (JAMA’A) is still developing.
“They’re wanting help to build that thing and get that thing up-and-running,” Simmons said. “It’s starting to catch on and starting to build over there.”