Firefighters Find Training Treasure

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Where most saw an abandoned building awaiting demolition, PSE&G employee Tony Maalouf saw a rare opportunity. Maalouf, a 29-year volunteer firefighter in Hillsdale, N.J., proposed the building, which sits on PSE&G property at its Hillsdale substation, be used to train his fellow firefighters in a realistic, commercial setting.

Maalouf explained most of their exercises are conducted at the fire house or academy. “It is rare that we get to use a real structure,” said Maalouf. “We are lucky if we’re able to drill once a year in a residential home slated for demolition. Training in a commercial building almost never happens.”

Practicing in a commercial building gives firefighters the chance to hone different skills. For example, the building has multiple floors and a flat roof. This gave the firefighters and cadets, including Maalouf’s son, a chance to practice cutting holes in the roof for ventilation, and conducting a large-area search using ropes.

“During the drill, our younger guys got a chance to operate in poor visibility, in an unknown and challenging environment,” said Maalouf. “They practiced entering through a window, conducting a search and finding a way out in thick smoke. They learned a lot. It was a really positive experience.”

Maalouf is an electrical supervisor for construction at the Hillsdale substation, which serves 18,000 customers in Bergen County. As part of PSE&G’s $1.2 billion Energy Strong program to protect and strengthen equipment against severe weather, the utility is elevating the substation. The business building on the property is being demolished to make room for a new building and equipment.

“The Mayor and Council are so proud of the great job our Hillsdale Fire Department does in the community, and how proactive they are to seek out opportunities like this one,” said Hillsdale Councilman and Fire Liaison Scott Karcich, who observed the drill. “The Borough of Hillsdale is thankful for this unique opportunity PSE&G has afforded our first responders.”

Brooke Houston – Lead Writer, PSE&G

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