From The Officer’s Seat: Training Techniques

No matter what type of fire department you have - volunteer or paid, big or small - training of your personnel is essential to your success. Whether it's the chief training officer detailing a new procedure or the veteran showing the rookie how to break a line, training takes place every day on all levels. No matter who is doing the training, they must have a professional attitude and use sound techniques.

Photo by Glen E. Ellman
Having each student perform the task being taught is important to the learning process.

The following information is a strategic approach designed to assist the instructor in the delivering of fire courses.

Planning. Have a goal. Formats. Preparation.


Testing. Encouragement. Follow up. Humor.

What To Avoid

Instructors should avoid smoking or chewing gum; getting angry or swearing; poor appearance; and playing with pencils or chalk. Don't admit your nervousness to the class. Do not apologize for events out of your control. If something goes wrong, don't panic - take a short break and fix it or go to plan B.

Do not pace back and forth with your arms crossed. Never rush your information. Many instructors have a fear of failing, inadequacy, embarrassment or being poorly evaluated. Their nervousness is brought on by a lack of confidence because they have failed to plan and prepare for the class. The number-one mistake made by instructors is winging it.

Good instructors make proper eye contact with the students and use gestures properly. They understand the body language of the class. They pause and change pace to avoid monotony. They take breaks at the appropriate times.

A Professional Presentation When delivering your presentation, take your time, speak clearly and modulate your voice. Try to keep your sense of humor. At the end, ask if there are any questions. Explain again if you have too. State the next lesson and above all thank the students. Not everyone can be nor wants to be an instructor. Whenever a supervisor delegates a person to perform a task, check to see whether the person is qualified to carry out the assignment. The lead or head instructor must make sure all assistants are using sound methods when helping with a presentation.

There have been far too many horror stories of students being injured or even killed because unsafe practices were used. On-the-job training means you learn during working hours at your training academy. Training takes place under controlled conditions with a qualified instructor by your side, not on the fireground.

Expecting a student to learn under fireground conditions is wrong and dangerous. Learn in the classroom, then practice under safe, simulated conditions.

John G. Riker, a 33-year veteran of the fire service, is captain of Newark, NJ, Fire Department Truck 1. He is a New Jersey state-certified instructor, and a member of the instructional staff of the Newark Fire Department Division of Training and the Passaic County Fire Training Academy. Riker is a general partner in Emergency Training Associates, LLC, a fire service consulting firm.