About a dozen students, mostly high school juniors and seniors, are learning hands-on skills that could lead to a career in emergency or fire service.
Since January, the high schoolers have been crossing Bloomfield's First Avenue, emergency medical responder textbooks in hand, to visit the fire station for a dual-credit course called "EMSP-111: First Responder." San Juan College's Fire Science Department offers the class, which meets four times a week. It is open to both Bloomfield high students and students of the college.
The three-credit class gives students preparation and practice in "airway management, semiautomatic defibrillation, patient packaging, trauma management, and patient assessment skills," according to the college's course catalog.
Because of new state graduation requirements, Bloomfield High School students have to complete an Advanced Placement, online or dual-credit course.
"We talked with the fire department and coordinated with the college to make this first responder course a reality," said Bloomfield High assistant principal Chad Burkholder.
This week, students learned CPR - or cardiopulmonary resuscitation - and practiced chest compressions, splinting techniques, recognizing problems and safe methods of lifting and moving a choking patient.
Instructor Travis Olbert, who has been a firefighter for 20 years, led the class through a lecture and demonstration, and then students put what they learned into practice with a series of drills and exercises.
"I'm encouraged by what I've seen so far," Olbert said. "We do a lot of skills practice, so the students have to demonstrate what they've been taught."
Bloomfield Fire Chief George Duncan said he is pleased with the collaboration and is considering adding another course in fire science in the future.
"These students are getting direct experience in EMS services that can lead to a career in the emergency or fire, but their work applies to situations in their lives, too," he said.
The course lasts until the end of the spring semester in May. As long as enrollment numbers remain strong, Burkholder said he expects the program to continue.
"I meet with students in my mentoring group each week, and some of them are taking the first responder class," Burkholder said. "What I've heard so far shows they really love it."