ALBANY. Ga. -- There is only one way to keep the body and mind alert and trained, firefighters said on Wednesday.
"Practice, practice, practice," said Ken Gallagher, search and rescue task force leader. "That is what we do."
Gallagher, from the Valdosta Fire Department, joined with 17 other firefighters in exercises at the Albany Fire Department's training site off Honeysuckle Drive.
Known as Task Force 2, the group included firefighters from Albany, Lee County, Cordele, Camilla, Valdosta and six other fire departments in Southwest Georgia.
"These firefighters come out on their own time to improve their skills in rescue," said Rubin Jordan, the Albany Fire Department's chief of training. "The recertification class is held annually."
To become recertified the firefighters will practice four types of rescue operations this week, including rope rescue, confined space rescue, structure collapse rescue and trench rescue, Jordan said.
The class in rope rescue started at 8 a.m. Wednesday with classroom instruction. Hands-on training began at 1:30 p.m. when a rope rescue drop was undertaken by the group from the third floor of the four- story practice building.
Firefighters assembled a pulley and rope rigging that allowed them to swing an Albany firefighter out of the window down to safety.
"It is training in a rescue from a building, a water tower or any tall structure. They will be tested on the rope rescue and the other training," Jordan said. "All the rescues will be graded pass or fail."
The classes are part of the continuing heavy search and rescue training that Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue announced in 2004.
The idea is for the state's firefighters to be able to respond to "incidents involving collapsed structures, such as on Sept. 11, 2001," a press release from 2004 stated.
"Heavy search and rescue involves the location, rescue (extraction) and initial medical stabilization of victims trapped in confined spaces," the release stated. "Structural collapse is the most often cause of victims being trapped, but victims may also be trapped in transportation accidents, mines and collapsed trenches."