Heights High students train as first responders

Mike Sieman of Cleveland Heights High School runs a hazmat exercise at the Tri-C Summer Public Safety Academy. He said the program inspired him to consider a career as a firefighter.

Two Cleveland Heights High School students, along with a few dozen students from other districts, learned how to fight fires and respond to emergencies at the Cuyahoga County Community College Public Safety Training Center during a two-week program in June. Students learned how to hose down a controlled car fire, conduct a search and rescue operation and respond to a hazmat incident.  

During a hazmat exercise, Mike Sieman, who will be a Heights High sophomore in the fall, played the role of scene commander. Wearing full fire gear, he relayed information to a dispatcher on a radio handset as a hazmat team surrounded a car at the far end of a parking lot. “We have a hazmat team entering the hot zone,” he told the dispatcher.

“The hands-on fire training is interesting,” Sieman said. “We’re all engaged. They are giving us different real-life scenarios.”

Located on the Tri-C Western Campus in Parma, the training center was dedicated in 2016 to address a critical need for public safety training in Northeast Ohio. A Key Bank Foundation grant of $1.4 million supports the center and includes a campaign to recruit minority and female candidates for first-responder jobs. The grant also supports the summer academy, which is tuition-free. 

“There is a need to get more women and minorities involved in public safety and give them opportunities to be in leadership roles,” said Terry Muff, project manager for public safety education at Tri-C. “This program gives them hands-on experience. We gear them up 100 percent, so they understand what it’s like.”

James Copeland, a director of the Tri-C training center, said many students in high school public safety programs return to Tri-C and become first responders. “This is where the career path starts,” he said. “It all starts with the career programs in the schools.”

Sieman said he is considering the Tri-Heights Fire Tech program, based at Warrensville Heights High School. Open to juniors and seniors, the Tri-Heights Fire Tech program started in 2016 and serves students from Warrensville Heights, Maple Heights, Bedford Heights, Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights. The program provides students 60 credit hours toward an associate’s degree, emergency medical training and a firefighter’s license, with certification.

Kÿler Harris, who will be a Heights High senior, also participated in the program. You can see a Spectrum News 1 story that includes Sieman here: https://bit.ly/30OfZ8l.

Harlan Spector

Harlan Spector is a Cleveland-area writer and a communications consultant for Warrensville Heights City Schools.

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Volume 12, Issue 8, Posted 1:04 PM, 08.01.2019