5 Steps to Optimize Your Fire Training Program

ESO Staff

Training in a fire department is imperative to form an efficient, safe, and well-prepared force. A well-trained team saves lives, whether the lives belong to members of the community or to the firefighters themselves.  

This heavy responsibility may fall on the shoulders of a company officer or a senior member of the team but establishing and running an effective training program is key to the success of a station. Below are 5 steps for optimizing your fire training program within your department. 

  1. Find the gaps.Whether you are talking at the kitchen table with your crew, observing the scene at an incident, or simply looking over your training schedule for topics you haven’t covered recently, the first step of a good training program is a thorough needs assessment. This might be easier for your newbies who have just completed their Firefighter 1, but don’t discount the need for your veterans to have refresher courses on situations they might not encounter on a regular basis. Remember, also, that training allows your newer members to learn from your veterans, in an environment where mistakes can be safely identified and corrected.
  1. Activate and Motivate Your Team. Get more buy-in from your team by sharing the planning responsibilities and giving them more say in how they would like to be trained. While you will most likely always have some trainings that must be covered the old-fashioned way, offer your team the opportunity to suggest and even plan newer ideas. You may identify some crew members that really enjoy training and want to take the lead. Or you may pair up team members and rotate the responsibility of planning a monthly drill. Set actual goals for each drill and figure out what motivates your team. Sharing the ownership may very well improve the motivation and participation of the team.
  1. Keep it interesting. Add some creativity into your training schedule and see the difference it makes. It takes more preplanning and organization, but it’s likely that your team will respond to more interesting training situations rather than a boring talk in the firehouse, or even a regular drill at the tower. Consider your community and the most likely incidents your team may encounter. Scout out locations for special training and create a scenario complete with victims and impacting factors like weather, terrain, and building structure. Taking the time to find real-world training scenarios may bring to light gaps in training or knowledge that could very well save a life.
  1. Ensure that you are cover the basics. After you’ve gathered input and brainstormed some creative locations, ensure that you are touching on key points in training. According to Fire Engineering, these include:  
  • Response area. Base your training on the terrain and types of structures you are most likely to encounter in your community. 
  • Ability to respond.  Again, be practical and realistic in training for practical response plans based on your staffing level and team. 
  • Apparatus and equipment. Train with all the equipment needed in each scenario; if you have to carry a flashlight at an incident, carry it in training. If you have limited water on a certain truck, train accordingly. 
  • Members’ abilities. Consider the experience and skill set of your team and look for ways to cross train and leverage those with more experience. 
  • Standard operating procedures (SOPs) best practices, policies. Follow the rulebook when training. Make sure everyone knows all requirements and, if they have problems with them, address them as you can. But make sure they are understood and followed in the meantime, in training and on the fireground. 
  • Seat assignments and arrival order. Train on the role each firefighter will take when exiting the vehicle and establish seat assignments. 
  1. Leverage technology to make it easier and more efficient. Thanks to emerging technology, there are numerous tools that can help make training less painful and more efficient. For example, new pre-planning and inspection software tools make fire inspections easier to complete, whether you are sending a seasoned veteran or a newbie. By leveraging these records in easy-to-review database, you can form training plans built off realistic scenarios in your community. Additionally, easy-to-use Emergency Personnel Management Software makes it simple to track and analyze training records for each individual on your team. This not only makes your next ISO review simpler but allows you to spend less time behind a desk pushing paper and more time interacting with your team and creating more engaging training plans. 

Training is essential to ensuring that your fire department is the safest, most efficient version of itself. By following these five steps, you’ll be well on your way to improving the way your crew is prepared for – and responds to – any emergency that comes its way. 

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