Whether you're a full-scale career agency or a tiny rural volunteer operation, fire departments have one thing in common when it comes to training: keeping up with the latest in firefighting technology through formal education can be time consuming and costly. When the Coquitlam Fire Department...
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"I wanted the firefighters on the EVO committee to experience knocking down fires in many diverse situations, and experience how the CAF systems operated at different stages of the fire," Boechler said. "Overall, we were really impressed with the knockdown capabilities of the CAF units, and the training situation in the acquired structure was an invaluable experience for the EVO guys."
Students Become The Teachers
Once the EVO committee completed the classroom courses and practical training, the members transitioned their newly acquired skills back to their fellow firefighters. "We were fortunate to have the experts out here for the initial product orientation, and the EVO committee transitioned very well from the role of student to the role of teacher," Boechler said.
To educate the remaining firefighters on the new CAF systems, the EVO committee held in-house courses on the CFD's training grounds and smokehouses for the pump operators and nozzle crews. Drills encompassed advancing CAFS lines through the smokehouse, protecting exposures, managing nozzle reactions and experiencing knockdown capacities with the compressed air foam technology under a variety of situations.
"The only challenge of this training experience was that the EVO committee members were the only firefighters able to participate in the live-burn situation with the acquired structure," Boechler said. "Acquired structures are hard to come by — that was the first we were able to utilize with live fire in about 12 or 13 years. The EVO committee experienced that valuable learning opportunity, whereas the rest of the firefighters did not, which is unfortunate."
Despite the lack of acquired structures for all firefighters to gain such practical experience, the CFD found that, overall, implementing a train-the-trainer program was much more cost-effective and time-efficient in fulfilling their educational needs.
"Having the EVO committee facilitate the courses for the department as opposed to hiring a factory facilitator certainly saved on costs," Boechler said. "It was much easier and more efficient for scheduling as well, because the EVO-led courses could be conducted on-shift during downtime from emergency situations."
The in-house education programs additionally provided long-term benefits to the CFD, as the EVO committee members consistently use their knowledge and experience from the factory's education courses to keep the firefighters' skills up to speed.
"As the department changes through attrition and new employees, there's a constant need for education," Boechler said. "We have a good group of dedicated individuals on our EVO committee who have a real interest in facilitating our in-house continuing education. By having those staff members who are knowledgeable on the latest products and procedures, we're much more effective in maintaining a fully capable staff and continuing professional development within the department."
Since the time following the CAFS orientation, the CFD has used similar education programs from Waterous for instruction on new apparatus. "The factory experts from Waterous teach the EVO committee, and then the committee teaches the rest of the firefighters," Boechler said. "The program works very well. All the firefighters learn the necessary skills, and the department saves time and money."
Throughout the year, the CFD conducts in-house training for existing employees and new recruits. Ranging from basic pump operations to extensive CAFS training to aerial operations, the EVO committee is busy leading any number of education courses.
"There's constantly a training course of some kind or another taking place, and the EVO committee really enjoys the instruction," Boechler said. "We've got a good group of dedicated individuals who have a real interest in that area, which makes the program run smoothly."
Maintaining vital knowledge on new technology and apparatus is essential for departments to instill confidence and peace-of-mind within the citizens they protect. By using Waterous' in-house education programs, departments like the CFD can save time and money, while continuing to keep abreast of new technology and techniques required to maintain the skills, knowledge and expertise to do their jobs.
KEITH KLASSEN has been active in the fire service for over 33 years, and has worked for volunteer and professional departments. He is a captain in the Summit Fire Department in Flagstaff, AZ, and the CAFS Instruction Program Manager for Waterous Co.