Alumni Plaza the center of the Dowagiac campus


Nothing like a roaring fire on a hot summer day while wearing turnout gear

Nothing like a roaring fire on a hot summer day while wearing turnout gear

Sister Lakes' Travis True brings the blaze under control

Sister Lakes’ Travis True helps bring the intense blaze under control

Amy Duckworth and Taylor Gableman with Sister Lakes' Chris Schultz, Assistant Chief Justin Jones

Amy Duckworth of Niles and Taylor Gableman of Cassopolis with Sister Lakes' Chris Schultz and Assistant Chief Justin Jones

Chelsea Etling, Niles

Chelsea Etling, Niles

Mya Vazquez, Dowagiac

Mya Vasquez, Dowagiac

Ossian Duckworth, Niles

Ossian Duckworth, Niles

Six Students Complete SMC ETS Public Safety Camp

Published on August 1, 2023 - 11 a.m.

Southwestern Michigan College Educational Talent Search’s Public Safety Camp July 24-28 exposed six high school students to a variety of careers, including, for the first time, the Coast Guard.

Participants included Mya Vazquez of Dowagiac, Chelsea Etling, Amy Duckworth and Ossian Duckworth of Niles and Meagan Conrad and Taylor Gableman of Cassopolis.

In addition to experiencing firefighting and vehicle extrication, students learned about backboarding and loading patients into a Pride Care ambulance on Wednesday and quizzed the crew of a Memorial MedFlight helicopter that landed Friday afternoon beside the fire station.

Police activities took place at the fire station Monday and Tuesday, including crime scenes, takedowns and holds, police cars and equipment, a canine demonstration and mock traffic stops.

They played “Jeopardy” using an online template, with students working in teams to explore EMT, fire and police games during lunch.

Because of the rain, they incorporated bleed control and tourniquet training, with students learning how to use them and then practicing on each other.

Wednesday’s itinerary included a Lego exercise to practice communication. One player assembles plastic bricks guided by their partner reading instructions by radio from another room. To layer realism on a stressful scenario, disorienting sirens wail.

Thursday’s field trip to the Coast Guard station in St. Joseph on a Dowagiac school bus, followed by lunch at Silver Beach Pizza, “was great,” according to ETS Director Bethani Eichel. “The students asked great career questions and were able to participate in one of their rescue trainings by throwing a line out to save a pretend victim whose boat was taking on water.

“Of course,” she added, “there was not an actual boat in the water, but we practiced on the lawn.”

Friday morning’s activities included an “entanglement trailer,” a small box meant to simulate being trapped in an attic with wires everywhere.

“The students had their turnout gear on and were blindfolded as they had to feel around to make it out of the box,” Eichel said.

Dowagiac Fire Department, established in 1854, was assisted by Sister Lakes and Wayne Township so campers could carve hardtops into convertibles then douse flames roaring from three vehicles set ablaze.

For extrication, DFD uses Hurst Jaws of Life, a powerful, yet portable, tool that can cut, lift, spread and breach doors. Where power washers pack 1,500-3,000 pounds per square inch (PSI), Dowagiac’s equipment operates at 10,500 PSI.

Though for a time stormy weather threatened to prevent MedFlight’s annual visit, skies cleared and the chopper made it.

“We were able to get a tour of the helicopter and the students were able to go inside,” Eichel said. “The crew commented on how great the students’ questions were, as they were all about their careers and less about the actual helicopter.”