If you are seeking to improve the safety of your personnel or the capabilities of your department, the quickest, most effective and least-expensive process is improving your training program. This will improve all aspects of your department, including your image, your capabilities and the safety...
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If you are seeking to improve the safety of your personnel or the capabilities of your department, the quickest, most effective and least-expensive process is improving your training program. This will improve all aspects of your department, including your image, your capabilities and the safety of your personnel.
The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) has embarked on an initiative to improve the health and safety of our nation's firefighters through the Volunteer Firefighter Health and Safety Priorities. These priorities are set forth in a series of "B.E.S.T. Practices," which are divided into four focus areas of behavior, equipment, standards and training. To view the complete list of "B.E.S.T. Practices," please visit the NVFC website at www.nvfc.org/health_safety.
Within the training category is the priority of "utilizing fire training programs that conform to the highest professional standards." Consider whether your training operations they conform or are in line with the highest professional standards. I have been fortunate to witness the benefits of quality training programs as a volunteer firefighter, an officer of regional and state firefighter organizations, and as a member of the staff of Kentucky's Fire Rescue Training Program.
As we review the "B.E.S.T. Practice" of using training programs that conform to the highest professional standards, please do not get overwhelmed by the word "professional." It is my belief that when a citizen is having the worst day of their life and they dial 911, they are seeking a paid responder. The citizen does not care, or may not even know, whether the responder is career/fully paid, part-time paid or fully volunteer. They need responders meeting professional standards to solve their problem.
Many of you will first think of the cost when contemplating quality training programs. I agree that cost should be considered, but the emphasis must be on the benefits of training programs that conform to the highest professional standards:
- Increased capabilities to provide better services to your citizens.
- Increased safety of your personnel, with a direct result of reducing injuries to your personnel.
- Increased interest of your personnel in your training program. Seldom will you find anyone seeking to be just average; they are seeking to be as capable as possible.
- Improved image of your department. As capabilities and safety increase, the public will recognize your department's improvement. The public may not understand that the increased capabilities and safety are a result of enhanced training, but they will recognize the improvements in your department.
- Improved relationships with adjoining departments. As your capabilities and safety improve, adjoining departments will see greater benefits in responding with you, both on your incidents and theirs.
- Ultimately, your recruitment and retention rates will increase as people want to be part of an organization that strives to reach the "highest professional standards."
As you conduct your cost/benefits analysis, I would like to guarantee that all of these benefits can be reached with minimal cost to your organization. There is no cost to increase commitment and dedication toward higher standards, although your department may need to purchase some training materials or send some staff to specialized educational programs.
When considering improvements to your training program, in addition to considering costs, you need to consider your personnel. Your staff will want to know what is required of them and what the benefits to them include. Benefits to personnel include:
- Responders will be safer during training and responses. I believe each instructor always teaches personnel that the first priority is safety of our own personnel.
- Families will appreciate the commitment of both firefighters and the department to improving safety.
- Responders will be more effective and efficient.
- Increased and improved training will enhance firefighters' qualifications to advance in the organization.
- The best ("B.E.S.T.") news for firefighters, as we seek to conform our training programs to the highest professional standards, is that we will strive to train smarter. This translates to the goal of making sure every minute a firefighter is in a training program, he or she is participating in the best training program possible.