Campus & Community

PBSC Invitational scores big with first responders

The inaugural Palm Beach State College Invitational, held May 1-6 at the College’s Lake Worth campus, saw over 250 professional firefighters, paramedics and police officers, from Tallahassee to Miami, as well as Canada, compete to see who could most skillfully and quickly solve complex rescue challenges.

The event featured four types of public safety challenges: vehicle extrication, rapid intervention rescue, an EMS challenge, and motorcycle riding. Each competition consisted of preliminary and final rounds, with trophies awarded to the winners. The challenges took place daily at the campus’s Public Safety Training Center, except for one competition held in the City of Lake Worth Beach, which partnered with PBSC to host the event.

RIT competition winners: The Boca Raton Fire Rescue team with David Hamel, PBSC Fire Academy director (far right).

They came to win, but mostly they came to become better at saving lives.

“The first day we had all these sponsors out here with new tools, which they taught us how to use correctly, so we can get the patients out faster,” said Joel Obregon, a firefighter with Coral Gables Fire Department who participated in the vehicle extrication challenge. “We also learned from other teams that do things differently, because every team operates differently, which helps us in real-life situations. We all learn from each other, and we have some of the best teams out here. So, it’s been good.”

The competitions simulated real-world emergency incidents, and along with mannequins, many PBSC Public Safety students portrayed victims.

Students and recent graduates volunteered as victims in many of the PBSC Invitational challenges, including (from left) Cheyenne LaMour, graduate of Miami Dade College Fire Academy; Sawyer Losey and Adrian Gonzalez, both PBSC Fire Academy students enrolled in the Firefighter certificate program; and Rebecca Daniel, a dual-enrolled senior at the Wellington High School Fire Academy, who will be attending PBSC’s Fire Academy this fall.

“This experience has been very eye-opening for me,” said Adrian Gonzalez, who will graduate from PBSC’s Firefighter certificate program in June. “I got to see both perspectives of what it’s like, not just to see someone work on extrication, but to be the victim inside. Heading into my career as a firefighter, I’m definitely going to remember this experience when I’m dealing with victims and remember what it’s like to be in their shoes.”

For PBSC, the invitational was an opportunity to showcase the resources and facilities of its 143,000-square-foot Public Safety Training Center and to reinforce its strong relationships with public safety agencies, which employ PBSC graduates.

“We are so overwhelmed by the appreciation and thanks we’ve received,” said David Hamel, PBSC’s Fire Academy director. “The positive energy and camaraderie, the wonderful work of our student volunteers, our amazing sponsors, as well as the nonstop Florida sunshine made this a week we will always remember…and try to top next year!”

The Vehicle Extrication Challenge was sponsored by the the North American Vehicle Rescue Association. As NAVRA’s National Rescue Challenge 2023, it was the qualifying event for its World Rescue Challenge 2023. Click image to access links to the Day 2 and Day 3 Flickr albums.

And the winners are:

Vehicle Extrication Challenge:
The PBSC Invitational hosted the North American Vehicle Rescue Association National Rescue Challenge 2023 on May 2-3. NAVRA is a nonprofit organization that prepares firefighters and road rescuers for extrication challenges through training and competition. NAVRA’s approach focuses on how to work with patients as well as command and medical personnel, not just the tools. Twelve teams competed, each completing two challenges involving the rescue of victims from mangled vehicles: a complex challenge that required the use of hydraulic tools and a limited challenge that did not.

“The feedback has been tremendous, and the support has been amazing,” said Stephen Martell, NAVRA president and CEO. “The teams performed well and were definitely challenged. They all learned something, and even those who didn’t do as well as others walked away saying they learned a lot and were happy to be here, and they look forward to future events.”

Vehicle Extrication Winners: Palm Beach County won first place, followed by Miami-Dade in second place, and Coral Gables in third. The top two teams qualified to go to the NAVRA World Rescue Challenge 2023 this October in Lanzarote, Spain.

The Rapid Intervention Team Challenge (RIT) was sponsored by the Florida RIT Operations Group, the nation’s only RIT competition organizer. Click image to access links to the Day 3 and Day 4 Flickr albums.

Rapid Intervention Team Challenge (RIT)
Florida RIT Operations Group sponsored the competition May 3-4 in front of the Lake Worth Beach Casino Building. Also known as Rapid Intervention Crew (RIC), these teams/crews of firefighters are designated to be rapidly deployed to rescue lost or trapped firefighters. Twenty-one teams competed blind in an outdoor maze made to simulate a realistic and challenging environment in which the teams had to find and rescue downed firefighter(s).

RIT Winners: Boca Raton won first place, followed by Boynton Beach-A in second place, and Boynton Beach-B in third place.

EMS Club Panther Challenge
On May 5, the EMS Club Panther Challenge brought together 16 professional teams from around the state, as well as two student teams representing Braxton College in Ft. Myers and the Emergency Education Institute in Coral Springs. As hosts, PBSC’s student team did not compete but did so well in the practice run, they would have beat several professional teams.

A mock production of “The Phantom of the Opera” at Stage West on the Lake Worth campus was one of the EMS Club Panther Challenge scenarios at the PBSC Invitational. Click image to view the Day 5 Flickr album.

All teams competed in three emergency scenarios, including a mock production of “The Phantom of the Opera” at Stage West, an “Animal House”-style toga party at the EMS lab in the Public Safety Training Center, and a structure fire on the Fire Academy grounds with several victims.

EMS Challenge Winners: Tamarac won first place, followed by Davie in second place, and West Palm Beach in third place.

Motorcycle Rodeo Challenge
Held May 5-6, this 16-hour event was open to any licensed motorcycle operator, including civilians and police officers. Courses were set up on the 4.5-acre skidpad at PBSC’s Public Safety Training Center and were designed to mimic everyday hazards and roadway conditions. Ten individuals competed in three runs, as well as “Slow Cone” and “Fun” runs.

The Motorcycle Rodeo Challenge took place on the 4.5-acre skidpad at the Public Safety Training Center on the Lake Worth campus. These riders are practicing the “Slow Cone” run. Click image to view the Day 5 Flickr album.

Motorcycle Rodeo Winners: Michael Daly, a police officer with the City of Boca Raton, won first place, followed by civilians Jim Viviani in second place, and Jay Cusimano in third place.

For links to daily photo albums and more information about the competitions, visit

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