Saturday, August 18, 2012

Training For the Fight

As firefighters, we all know the common apprehensions associated with in house or even academy sponsored training. Many firefighters fear they will fail, feel that they will learn nothing, or that it is only for people who haven't been there and done that. One problem I see is that many departments or companies decide to train only to "check the box". We all know ISO, NFPA or the CFAI require a certain commitment to company level or department sanctioned training in order to remain compliant, but many of us lose the opportunity to make these sessions meaningful.

Take for example SCBA proficiency drills. Most of us do them annually and generally we fail ourselves by making the evolution the same thing it has always been. So we crawl around make some EBSS and UAC connections and we get credit and head back to the station. We rarely realize that we could use some realism, some real fire ground functions to the training to reinforce other basic skills. Why not throw a radio in and call a mayday or four? Why not have a firefighter simulate a medical issue while wearing SCBA to practice quick doffing of gear? Why not practice masking up in a rapid manner as though we have encountered smoke during a fire alarm activation? These are just a few things I have seen practiced to help with SCBA and fire ground efficiency.

Another tried and true characteristic of firefighters is we like to have fun. However, this fun can spiral out of control during training creating an unproductive evolution. Idle firefighters are trouble as we all know. Therefore when designing or leading training we need to ensure that there is minimal downtime in between runs or stations. However, we also must ensure to properly allow participants to rest in order to remain functional and ready for the next part.

If you lead or design training for your department, ensure that you train for the fight and not to entertain your members. If you are just a firefighter that ones to up the training in your department, be the change, and start fixing it yourself. Training is used to increase ones proficiency in a given subject. Sure we must jump through a few hoops each year, but why not use them as opportunities to challenge our members to be their best. As one of my instructors at FDIC last year said: "Minimum is only one step above unacceptable". So how do you want your department/station/crew to be viewed? Do you want a a group who meets minimum standards or one who is proficient at the given skill?
An additional benefit of training for the fight is that firefighters will be much more receptive to training that they can relate to the real world. We all agree that things that can't be replicated in the field have no place in our trade or in the training we create. Therefore, I ask how come we continually place our people in positions where there only have fun training and gain nothing from it because of our fear of challenging our people to venture out of their comfort zone.
Training can be fun, but it should never be the central tenet of any evolution. The central part of the training should be to ensure each participant benefits from it by gaining knowledge, efficiency, and skill in the trade we all know and love.


  1. Great point on the SCBA drills! Some are so set on that 60 second drill, but things are different, as always, in a real situation. This is a job where we have to improvise, overcome, and adapt at a moment's notice-drill shouldn't be any different.