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Training is the backbone of a fire department. lt produces a well-prepared force that through repetition increases the speed of an operation and enhances proper execution while reducing injuries.
A firefighter who arrives at an emergency unprepared can be faced with life-and-death situations and will find himself or herself under ex-treme stress to perform his or her duties.
Training benefits everyone: the firefighter, the company officer, the fire department.
Photo by Mike Meadows
Quality training prepares individuals and departments to control major emergencies, such as this recent fire at a commercial building in downtown Los Angeles, CA.
Firefighters improve their skills. They experience less fumbling and fewer errors. They are able to gain confidence in themselves, since they can perform their job at a high level. They develop pride in themselves and in their department. Training allows for continuous growth in their ability and prepares them to assume more responsibility while grooming them for promotions.
The company officer reaps many benefits from a highly trained crew. There is better control over operations. The training frees him or her from interruption of workers' questions, allowing more time for the officer to assume greater responsibility. It improves the firefighter's overall ability and the officer has less fear of emergencies. The relationship between the officer and the firefighters becomes pleasant and fewer troubles exist. This results in the officer having job satisfaction instead of job headaches.
The department as a whole is a beneficiary, since training allows for constantly improved operations. The efficiency of the fire department is recognized by the citizens they protect and can be directly linked to good public relations, permitting the passage of bills which benefit the fire department. It also keeps morale at a high level which though an intangible, facilitates every function of a department. The career firefighter will work in a pleasant environment and the volunteer firefighter will look forward to participation in the various departmental functions.
Preparation Is Required
Training, though, must be challenging. Reading from a text is boring and counterproductive. To conduct an interesting training exercise, the officer has to be prepared. This involves prior reading and research.
An officer can maintain interest in the subject by asking questions and seeking input from all participants. Drawing from the experience of each member allows for a well-rounded exercise. It also permits the officer conducting the training to reap the benefits of the firefighters' experience, while letting the officer recognize each member's level of expertise.
Training permits mistakes to be made and corrected in a non-emergency setting. The fire officer can take the time to stop a training exercise and point out correct procedures. He or she can explain what problems can arise by failing to use the correct method, including problems that can occur if shortcuts are taken.
A department that establishes performance standards or timed evolutions for engine and ladder companies and then trains utilizing those criteria will be better prepared to handle the varied problems that occur at an incident scene.
Development of these evolutions can start by stretching an attack line into the first floor of a structure while hooking up to a hydrant or obtaining a water supply from a tanker/tender. This basic evolution can then be changed to placing a portable ladder and stretching a hoseline up the ladder and through a window.
Each evolution can become more complex by including additional functions. The agenda can be expanded to placing master-stream devices in operation. Ladder companies or tower ladders can place their apparatus into operation for simulated fires requiring elevated streams. The object is to achieve a standardized operation that emphasizes safety. Standardization lets members assigned to different units work together.