EASTOVER, S.C. - The South Carolina National Guard's 218th Regional Training Institute conducted a fire emergency evacuation drill on June 8 at 1:30 a.m. to test the response of Soldiers staying in billeting while attending training at McCrady Training Center.

According to U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Robert Osteen, the 218th Regional Training Institute's appointed fire marshal, the event was scheduled to coincide while the officer candidate school was in session, which had 85 candidates in billeting, bringing the total impacted by the drill to more than 140 Soldiers.

"Humans are most vulnerable when they are unaware of situations," said Osteen. "When is a more vulnerable time than when you are asleep?"

The drill included a smoke simulator and assisted the McCrady Training Center fire department in exercising their life-saving skills for 360 evaluations, hose operations, and multi-story structure response with ladders and stairwells.

"My Captain, Andrew Bookmark, Jr., was thrilled with the realism of the fire-evacuation exercise and he congratulated the shift on their outstanding response," said McCrady Fire Chief Andrew James.

James added that while the fire department is on duty 24 hours a day throughout the year, having a full-scale training event in the middle of the night was ideal to enable them to test their response times and get a realistic assessment of the Soldiers' reactions in a safe and responsible way as they followed instructions from their leaders.

"The officer candidate class had everyone evacuated and accounted for in 4 minutes and 47 seconds," said Osteen.

In 2018, the South Carolina Fire Marshal's office reported 97 fire-related fatalities in South Carolina. To date in 2019, there have been 27 fire-related fatalities, primarily from fires in homes. The reports state that these fatal fire incidents generally occurred during the overnight hours, from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

"With the success of this very beneficial response exercise, we look forward to conducting more training events like this in the future at McCrady," said James.