SAYREVILLE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — When the pandemic hit, Port Authority tunnel and bridge agent candidates had to stop training, but now they’re back at it.
CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis got an exclusive hands-on look at what it takes to be ready for an emergency.
At Middlesex County Fire Academy, trainees put what they learned in the classroom to the test.
The trainees battle a car fire, imagining it’s taking place in the Holland or Lincoln Tunnel with Port Authority of New York and New Jersey tunnel and bridge agents (TBAs) responding.
Thirteen trainees, including Army veteran Anna Masuk, are gearing up to join the 170 TBAs who are ready to help drivers in danger at a major crossing.
“Whatever can happen on the road, we are able to get there first,” Masuk said.
Training started in February but was stopped for several months due to the pandemic. Now, it’s reignited with a focus on preparing to take on an emergency during a public health crisis.
“There’s a balance or happy medium that we have to meet between dealing with COVID and actually physically getting the job done safely,” said technical training manager John Baum.
Baum is now incorporating special disinfectant.
“We use it on everything that we have here,” he said.
They also have self-contained breathing apparatus masks often worn by agents.
“That is air supplied, so when you have on that mask, that’s protecting you and our customers,” Baum said.
Along with vehicle fire fighting, the TBAs get trained in emergency medical response, towing and vehicle extrication.
To suit up, they have about two minutes.
Trainers explained why in tasks that require goggles, a face mask would do more harm than good.
“Every time you exhale with a mask on, it’s gonna fog your glasses,” the trainer said.
DeAngelis got a chance to experience what it’s like responding to a car crash, helping the team of trainees rescue the driver — in this case, a mannequin.
Daniel Guerriero, a volunteer firefighter who is training for this gig, says he’s glad to be doing the rescuing.
“There’s been a time, some time in your life when you’ve been helped by other people, and it just seems to make sense to pay that back,” he said.
Walking away from training among those here ready to walk toward emergencies.
“God forbid something does happen, they’re there to help comfort you and make sure you get the attention you need,” Baum said.
The entire training to become a tunnel and bridge agent takes about four and a half months. They have to pass tests, then they officially have the job.
The next step for the trainees is to apply what they’ve been practicing at the training center in overnight live fire drills at the Lincoln Tunnel next week.
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