By Rick Dayton

PITTSBURGH (KDKA)– There is an old adage that says to truly understand another person you need to walk a mile in their shoes.

A company in Cranberry Township decided it would be better for them to walk a mile in their boots — and their firefighting gear — and to do the same workouts their customers do.

MSA Safety Incorporated makes more than just equipment worn by firefighters. They also make gear for the Gas and Oil Service sector and safety equipment for construction and the trades. Yet a very large part of their bottom line comes from making bunker gear and breathing apparatus for fire departments across the country and around the world. On Thursday morning, 100 employees of MSA signed up to train like a firefighter.

“This is a really nice opportunity to engage with people that are active firefighters that train firefighters that work out with them every day,” says Jason Traynor of MSA Safety. ” Sort of a day in the life of our customers.”

MSA partnered with 5-5-5 Fitness — a not-for-profit based on the east coast. They brought in five professional trainers from New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia, Texas, and Colorado to teach MSA employees how they physically train pro firefighters.

There were five one-hour sessions designed for MSA employees. Some were beginner classes — others were far more advanced.

Samantha D-Uva of MSA helped put the day together. “Giving our employees the chance to see what it’s like to train like a firefighter helps us do our job better in making that equipment to keep them safe.’

It was a little different for the trainers from 5-5-5 Fitness — who are all professional firefighters and flight medics in addition to being personal trainers. Rob Piparo flew in from New Jersey to help teach the classes.

“This is the first time we have ever worked directly with a company doing fitness for their employees and I think it speaks volumes about what 5-5-5 does as a not-for-profit can really do.”

An untrained eye could quickly see the difference in fitness between the pro trainers and the members of the class. However, for the MSA employees, it gave them a great opportunity to see and feel exactly what their customers are going through every day.

The Chief Financial Officer of MSA Safety was one of the students in the 9:00 a.m. session. “What a workout and to see them and the commitment they have and the passion they bring. They are firefighters — they are all emergency personnel and firefighters and flight nurses and to be able to see not only the passion they bring daily but the passion they bring to what they are doing here with helping firefighters and emergency responders do their job even more effectively.”

D-Uva wiped the sweat from her forehead during a break and observed how impressed she is with the firefighters’ level of conditioning and strength. “When they run into a burning building and everyone else is running out. That’s what the importance of today is. It brings that mindset home and it brings to life what really goes into doing such a dangerous job.

MSA hopes the lessons taught by “doing” will last its employees a lifetime.