Company Level Training - To Train or Not to Train? The Next Step

For non-critical subjects, sporadic training is fine. But how do you handle the vital, time-sensitive information that must be addressed on a regular basis?

Some of the subjects listed are not the sexiest topics in the world, but they are important nonetheless. And the content is based on and prioritized by the needs of my company, while fulfilling the requirements of my department. However, the same schedule would not be ideal for a swift water team or a technical rescue team. Notice the list does not include command, accountability, or tactics. My department's regular citywide training addresses those topics. In terms of training, my company covers the thirty subjects listed, above and beyond what the department mandates. Due to budget, staffing, and time constraints, many departments cannot provide all the training their personnel need.

Now that you have an overview of the process involved in developing a course of study, how do you decide on which subjects to train? First, review the SOPs or SOGs in order to determine what your department deems important. Then pull out the last twelve issues of Firehouse Magazine, which I am sure you have sitting around the station. Do any specific articles catch your eye? Survey old study material and take notes. Search the archives, as well as the various other fire service websites. The information is out there, you just have to look for it.

Next, advise your chain-of-command and your crew of your training plans, and solicit constructive feedback on both the schedule and the course of study. Allow them to alter the list of topics and designate the importance of content with a numerical value, as they see fit. For my schedule, I used the numbers one through three on an ascending scale, with a 3-rated topic most important. Then I multiplied the values by 2, and the sum determined how many times we trained on a particular subject in a calendar year. A 3-rated topic is featured in six training segments, during a twelve-month period. Likewise, a 1-rated topic is covered twice a year. I had to play with the numbers to make the schedule fit a calendar year, but the result was well worth the effort. Included is my training schedule. You can see exactly what training we are doing on any given day. Remember, we work 24 hours on, 48 hours off. This will give you an idea just how often we train on each subject.

From my schedule, I've devised additional trainings tasks, which I have expanded into a two-year program. To successfully complete the two-year course of study, my crew and I must fulfill three separate requirements:

  1. Everyone has to attend each subject a particular number of times, which I have already designated (i.e., participants must attend room orientation ten times out of twelve and laddering a building three times out of six)
  2. Each participant must plan a major training session for two or more companies, from start to finish, including all related tasks (e.g., gathering necessary props and obtaining authorization from city agencies); and
  3. Every participant must teach each subject at least once.

Ideally, each task must be fulfilled within the prospective two-year time frame in order for the participant to complete the training program, but you can always expand the time frame. While everyone is expected to assume ownership of their responsibilities, which includes writing and delivering a lesson plan, I will help make contacts. The idea behind this concept is to actively engage personnel not only in the material, but also in the training process. And I believe a program like this will prepare personnel not only for their current job, but also for future promotions. Again, if you decide to try a two-year program, cater my suggestions to your specific needs.

We have now completed all of the boring housekeeping items. Future articles will focus on specific training subjects--the good stuff. Everyone at is here to help you put the pieces of the puzzle together. You just have to want to put the puzzle pieces together, in the first place, and be willing to work with us.

13-Month Training Schedule (in PDF format):

Please e-mail me at with any thoughts or ideas. As always, credit will be given to the individual and their department for any ideas used in future articles.