Money and Its Impact On Fire Service Training Operations

An important part of every fire officer's responsibilities involves teaching and training people to do their jobs properly. This is a difficult and challenging job, but one that ultimately is rewarding. Success requires an intimate familiarity with the...

An important part of every fire officer's responsibilities involves teaching and training people to do their jobs properly. This is a difficult and challenging job, but one that ultimately is rewarding. Success requires an intimate familiarity with the communications skills you need to get your...

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Once you have outlined the mandatory requirements, you can begin to hone in on what you must review on a recurring basis. The list will be long, and you may never get to every subject, so I urge you to be innovative. All of us in fire departments must use certain skills on a recurring basis. We use tools, apparatus, hose, ladders and a wide range of ancillary equipment, and we must drill on these tools and talents. Set up a recurring training curriculum based on standard fire service training texts. List the subjects that the texts cover and lay them out in a timeline. It is hoped that you can cover the topics at least once every two years, but this may too ambitious for most of us. It is critical, however, to write them down to keep reminding you of the things you need to teach.

Many fire departments also deliver emergency medical services to their communities. The continuing education requirements for this subject area are usually covered by statute, so you cannot ignore the expenses involved in ensuring that your personnel maintain their skills. This can create a sizeable financial requirement to be addressed every year.

A similar issue exists in the delivery of rescue services. Some agencies provide a wide range of rescue-related services, such as vehicle extrication, technical rescue, and urban search and rescue. Each of these has a skill set that must be exercised on a continuing basis. Bear in mind that specialized programs come with a much higher price tag, so you must be able to prove the need for them so that you can substantiate the increased cost.

You are now at the point where you can begin to create a training program:

  1. List your mandatory programs.
  2. Decide what skill training programs you need.
  3. List the resources needed to supplement your programs.
  4. Decide which programs will be developed and taught locally.
  5. Decide which subjects will be taught by outside resources.
  6. Determine whether these courses can be taught at your facility.
  7. Find out where are these programs are available, if you do not have the tools and talent to teach them in-house.

This exercise now brings you to the point where you have an idea where you are headed. You now must place a cost on the program you are seeking to develop.

You need to ask the following questions:

  1. What level of training exists?
  2. Will new training be needed to accomplish our goals and objectives?
  3. Will we need new audiovisual tools?
  4. Can we take advantage of the new computer-based technologies to create and deliver our training programs?
  5. Do we have a training facility? If so, is it adequate?
  6. Do we have the talent to deliver our training programs?
  7. Where can we go for help?

To do this task properly, you will need to brainstorm for new ideas and new approaches. You must not consider conducting business as usual. If you are not moving forward, you are headed for failure. In training, there is no such thing as preserving the status quo. Be worried if you hear either of the following two phrases:

  1. We have always done it this way.
  2. We have never done it that way.

These two phrases are indicative of a mindset mired in the mud of the last millennium. It is critical for you to stand up, take responsibility and point the way to the future.

The next step is to determine the cost of the product you wish to deliver. The following are important steps in your budgeting process:

  1. Come up with dollar estimates for each area you have identified.
  2. Put them into the format required by the budgeting system used by your agency.
  3. Create a strong and detailed justification for each item. Show what you wish to accomplish and how it will benefit the department and your community.
  4. Create a solid defense for each request.
  5. Arm yourself with facts, figures and friends (lots of friends).

As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day - but it was built over time according to a plan. If you fail to plan and budget, you will never achieve training success.

DR. HARRY R. CARTER, Ph.D., CFO, MIFireE, is a Firehouse® contributing editor. A municipal fire protection consultant based in Adelphia, NJ, he is the former president of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. Dr. Carter is a past chief and active life member of the Adelphia Fire Company. Currently chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners for Howell Township District 2, he retired from the Newark, NJ, Fire Department in 1999 as a battalion commander. He also served as chief of training and commander of the Hazardous Materials Response Team. Dr. Carter is vice president of the American Branch of the Institution of Fire Engineers (MIFireE). He recently published Living My Dream: Dr. Harry Carter's 2006 FIRE Act Road Trip, which was also the subject of a blog. He may be contacted at