RCCC, South Rowan partner on fire protection classes

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 23, 2014

CHINA GROVE — Fire safety and protection are critical components of keeping the public safe. A new collegiate program at South Rowan High School prepares students for careers in fire protection.
Rowan-Cabarrus Community College partnered with South Rowan to begin the college education of seven juniors and seniors this past fall. They will take college-level fire protection technology classes without leaving the high school.
“The classes employ what we called applied learning — it’s a mix of both the theory and practical, hands-on training,” said instructor Ben Lunsford.
During two instructional blocks a day, the students earned six college credits. Juniors who began this program will ultimately complete 18 credits and earn a certificate in basic fire operations.
“The idea is that after graduating from high school, the student would continue on in the fire protection technology program at Rowan-Cabarrus to maximize their career success,” said instructor Todd Overcash. “Students would then have approximately a year and half of college courses left in order to complete their degree.”
Students learn everything from the history of the field, the many aspects of fire prevention education and how to train people in fire prevention. Additional course topics include fire codes, hose handling and search and rescue.
“If we know how buildings go up, we can know how they come down,” said Dr. Joe Woodall, chair of the Rowan-Cabarrus fire protection technology program. “Students aren’t learning how to build the building, but knowing the method in which a building was constructed is important. They’ll then know how the elements of the building react to heat and flame and what kinds of smoke they’ll be dealing with in a fire emergency.”
Students seeking a four-year degree can also find their way through this program. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte works closely with Rowan-Cabarrus on transferring students to complete their remaining two years toward a fire protection engineering or a fire safety engineering technology degree.
“The fire protection technology program is about more than just becoming a firefighter. I used my training at Rowan-Cabarrus to look at the fire prevention system as a whole,” said Nelson Barbee, owner of Salisbury Fire Appliance Co.
In addition to more advanced fire protection methods and strategies, students who opt to continue at Rowan-Cabarrus will complete coursework in emergency medical services, physical fitness and stress management.
The South Rowan initiative is part of the college’s Career & College Promise program which allows high school juniors and seniors to take college classes with no tuition. The program, revamped at the state level last year, provides a means for students to begin completion of college transfer credits or career training before their high school graduation.
There are two tracks for the Career & College Promise program. One allows students to specialize in a career or technical pathway, while the other allows students to prepare for general transfer onto a four-year college or university.
Students have the opportunity to earn up to 36 hours of college and high school credit simultaneously.
“The other perk of this opportunity is getting to experience real college classes — students ultimately feel better prepared when they head off to a four-year college or university because they’re already confident in their ability to do college work,” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus.
Students may also earn college credits toward a credential, certificate or diploma in a technical career.
Key partners in bringing the fire protection technology program to South Rowan include Roger Withers, director of Career and Technical Education for Rowan-Salisbury School System, and the staff and teachers at South Rowan High School. Beginning 2014-15, any student from Rowan County can participate in the fire protection technology program at South Rowan.
“We have also received a lot of support from the local fire departments in the form of donated equipment and providing fire equipment and vehicles for practical demonstrations,” said Overcash. “They are always helpful with initiatives designed to train more fire protectors.”
The fire departments of Landis, China Grove, Kannapolis, Locke, Rockwell Rural and Bostian Heights have all been particularly supportive of the new program at South Rowan.
For more information about the fire protection technology program, contact Dr. Joe Woodall, 704-216-7259, joe.woodall@rccc.edu. For more information about the Career & College Promise program, visit www.rccc.edu/ccp or call 704-216-RCCC (7222).