"Training For The Information Age”

Fire departments in the Information Age face many significant challenges. The issues that normally permeate news headlines – fire prevention and suppression, emergency medical services, hazardous materials, technical rescue and the ever-increasing demand to “do more with less” – bring a...


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Fire departments in the Information Age face many significant challenges. The issues that normally permeate news headlines – fire prevention and suppression, emergency medical services, hazardous materials, technical rescue and the ever-increasing demand to “do more with less” – bring a number of other concerns along with them.

A fire department’s ability to meet these and other objectives within the context of its missions and resources are affected more by the manner in which its members train than any other aspect of the fire protection business.

In the Seattle Fire Department, training has taken a new “program-based approach” to meeting the extensive training requirements of a large metropolitan fire department.

Founded in 1869, the City of Seattle is located on Puget Sound, 113 miles from the U.S.-Canadian border. Surrounded by mountains and water, Seattle is a commercial, cultural and advanced technology hub of the Pacific Northwest and a major port city for Pacific and European trade.

The Seattle Fire Department (SFD) provides a full range of fire and life safety services. These services include an extensive company-level inspection program, fire suppression response from 33 fire stations and one of the world’s most renowned emergency medical delivery systems, Medic One.

The challenge for the Training Division is meeting the training needs of 1,120 employees in the most efficient and effective manner possible, within the resource constraints facing most governmental agencies in the 21st century, especially fire departments.

SFD Training Division

The SFD Training Division is segmented into four units including Administrative Services, In-Service Training, Recruit Training and Wellness/Fitness and includes a deputy fire chief, two fire captains, five fire lieutenants, a wellness/fitness coordinator and an administrative specialist.

Administrative Services Unit.

The chief of training, Deputy Fire Chief I. David Daniels, a 19-year fire service veteran, directly supervises the Administrative Services Unit. This unit, which includes the division’s administrative specialist, Judy Waleryszak, is where the management of the division occurs. The unit manages the division’s approximately $1.8 million budget, which represents approximately 2% of the department’s overall budget.

The other significant responsibility of the unit is the training information management process. Nearly every federal, state and local requirement for training brings with it a need for documentation. In Seattle this is accomplished using the department’s Training Information Management System (TIMS). TIMS is a database that not only can be managed in the division, but can be accessed by fire officers in their stations to record training activities.

Although TIMS is available, it does not totally remove the need for written documentation. Each in-service training program on the department training calendar also requires written documentation that members attended and successfully met the objectives of the program. In addition to the management of the administrative unit and direct supervision of the other three units, the chief of training also represents the SFD in training organizations locally and at the county, state and national levels.

Training center project.

A major focus of the chief of training over the next few years will be the design and construction of a new training center for the department. Currently, the division is housed on the second floor of a working fire station, No. 14. These facilities have been in use for over 40 years. The division is working with a City of Seattle interdepartmental team (IDT) to complete the project. Not only is the fire department in need of a training facility, but the Seattle Police as well as two of the city utility departments have similar needs. The IDT will make its findings known to the City Council in the spring of 2000 as a part of the biannual budget process.

One initial milestone of the training center project was the completion of a training needs assessment for the department. The assessment revealed a need for the division to facilitate nearly 500,000 hours of training each year. To accomplish this task, it has been necessary to prioritize the training delivered and enlist a number of segments of the department to ensure that the training is effectively developed and presented.

Training program management.

The SFD completes so many tasks on a daily basis that it had become difficult to prioritize the tasks or the training necessary to prepare members to fulfill their responsibilities. To better address this issue Seattle has developed a Training Categorization System and a Training Program Management process.

Training categorization is based on the relationship of the training program to state law. Category A training is a program or course of study that is both required by state law and has a frequency of training attached. An example is training on bloodborne pathogens. State law in Washington requires training annually in this subject. Seattle does so as a part of its emergency medical training program. Also included in Category “A” are core areas of business skill necessary for members to function on a daily basis. These include human resources, fire prevention and computers/ technology training. Category B is training that is required by state law without a frequency attached or recommended by a national or industry standard such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Category C is all other training courses or programs.

Major Program Areas

In addition to being categorized, SFD training is segmented into 10 major program areas:

1. Prevention/Community Risk Reduction.

2. Human Resources. This training is in given twice a year. One session is directed toward fire officers, to ensure that they are informed on the latest techniques in managing human resources. This includes instruction on labor management and other supervisor issues.

The second session is directed toward every SFD employee and focuses on a broad spectrum of human resource issues, including Seattle’s efforts to maintain a diverse, harassment-free workplace as well reinforcing the principles of the “Seattle Way,” a document that governs the conduct of every fire department employee, both uniformed and civilian. This program is co-sponsored by the Human Resources Division.

3. Health and Safety. This program is focused on maintaining a safe and healthful workplace for all members. Health and safety is interwoven into nearly every training program, with particular emphasis on issues such as firefighter safety and survival. This program is co-sponsored by the Health and Safety Division.

4. Incident Management. The focus of these sessions is ensuring that fire officers are able to effectively manage the many types of incidents to which the department responds, using the incident command system. The department utilizes the National Interagency Incident Management System and is also a member of the National Fire Service Incident Management Consortium (NFSIMC).

This training is generally focused on company officers; however, it is also available to potential officer candidates. The department is also participating in an international effort through the NFSIMC to develop a North American version of an incident command simulator, in the hope that such technology will continue to improve the department’s incident command capability.

5. Emergency Medical. Seattle has been known for over 30 years as “the best place in the world to have a heart attack.” This distinction is primarily due to the prowess of the department’s Medic One Emergency Medical Services program. In addition to 66 paramedics trained in cooperation with the University of Washington, all SFD uniformed members below the rank of battalion chief are trained as emergency medical technicians (EMTs). To maintain these skills, there are both monthly training requirements as well as two competency-based training sessions taught by Seattle paramedics to ensure that EMT skills remain at a high level. This program is co-sponsored by the Emergency Medical Services Division.

6. Fire Suppression. This program involves basic fire suppression skills training by company officers and chief officers in basic engine and ladder company skills necessary to function at the scene of a fire emergency. Included is annual live fire training in acquired structures throughout the city. This training also includes instruction on how to operate safely at the scene of a fire emergency.

7. Hazardous Materials. This program focuses on federal and state mandates for training in addressing our response to hazardous materials emergencies. These sessions involve classroom and practical application. This program is co-sponsored by the Specialty Unit Division of Special Operations.

8. Technical Rescue. The department has trained in six of the seven technical rescue disciplines in the national standard. Training in confined space, rope, structural collapse, trench, transportation/machinery and water rescues is provided on annual basis. This training is also critical in the success of the department’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) program. Seattle is a part of a regional effort and hosts a contingent of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Washington USAR Task Force 1. This program is also co-sponsored by the Specialty Unit Division of Special Operations.

9. Computer/Technology. Every SFD facility has computers connected to a wide area network and the Internet. Additionally each chief officer carries a laptop computer with pre-incident survey information from structures around the city. To access this technology, SFD members need to be comfortable with the use of computers and other information technology systems.

The focus of this training program is to ensure that SFD members have the skill necessary to integrate technology into both emergency and non-emergency activities. The program includes training on basic computers, software applications and other systems including the department computer aided dispatch and records management system. This program is co-sponsored by the Management Information Systems Division.

10. Position Specific Development. This program includes the basic, and on-going training for specific positions including recruit firefighter, firefighter, driver operator, fireboat deckhand, engineer or pilot, company officer, chief officer, paramedic, dispatcher, investigator, inspector, instructor and administrative specialist. Each of the position specific development programs has cross-functional involvement from various segments of the department.

More On-The-Job Training

In addition to those listed above, SFD training programs include the following:

  • In-Service Training Unit. The In-Service Training Unit, managed by 27-year fire service veteran Captain Patrick Pavey, facilitates the implementation of department’s training program. Assisting Pavey are Lieutenants Jesse Atteberry (Vehicle Operations Training) and Thaddeus Mercer (EMS Training).

    A major focus of In-Service Training is the department’s annual training calendar. In-Service Training ensures that Category A and B training is made available to various segments of the department. In 2000, the calendar includes 22 scheduled training courses, each four or eight hours in length. These courses involve the pre-determined movement of fire companies to training locations around the city. Training sessions begin at 9 A.M and are completed at 9:30 P.M., five days a week. Operations chief officers conduct battalion training programs on Saturdays and Sundays.

  • Recruit Training Unit. The SFD conducts an 111¼2-week training academy for recruit firefighters. Led by 19-year veteran Captain Ray Shakoor-Asadi, the Recruit Training Unit conducts three 20-person recruit academies each year. The State of Washington and the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress accredit the academy. When new firefighters leave the academy, they are Firefighter 1 certified and have received a majority of the Firefighter 2 fundamentals. Firefighter 2 is completed during the firefighters’ first year, when they return to the Training Division for a midterm and final written and practical examinations. Assisting Asadi are Lieutenants Bill Morrow, Brady O’Brien and Phil Jose.

  • Wellness/fitness. A central purpose of the department’s training efforts is minimizing the potential for situations that might result in firefighter injuries or fatalities. Kim Favorite coordinates the division’s Wellness/Fitness efforts. The SFD is one of 10 city fire departments involved in the IAFF/IAFC Joint Labor Management Wellness Fitness Initiative. Favorite has been involved with the development of the initiative from its inception. These efforts being with the use of the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) and continue with close physical fitness assessment during the first year and on-going assessments throughout the member’s career.

Cooperative Training Programs

Not all training for SFD members occurs on the job. The department has entered into a number of cooperative relationships with both fire service and non-fire service organizations:

  • Safety officer training certification. In cooperation with the Evergreen Safety Council, Battalion Chiefs assigned to the Health and Safety Division are trained and certified as Fire Service Health and Safety Officers.

  • Fire command and administration degree. In cooperation with Seattle Central Community College, the Boeing Company Fire Department and the Seattle Fire Department Officers’ Association (SFDOA), Seattle firefighters can pursue an associate of arts degree on an accelerated schedule. The degree program allows students to complete a Fire Officer Development 1 certificate after the first year of the program, with the second certificate available in the second year. Completion of the academic requirements of the college completes the degree.

  • Paramedic training/certification. In cooperation with the University of Washington, EMTs are trained and certified as paramedics for agencies throughout the Puget Sound area. The training is completed over a one-year period and includes more than 2,000 hours of training in emergency medical care.

  • Hazmat technician training. In cooperation with the Hammer Training Facility in Richland, WA, members of the SFD and other entities, including federal agencies and other fire departments, are trained and certified as hazardous materials technicians.

  • All-risk incident management training. The division is cooperating with the South Puget Sound Fire Defense Region in the presentation of all-risk incident management training for ICS command and general staff. This training qualifies individuals to serve on regional, state and national overhead teams.

“Vision 2000”

From March 28 to 31, 2000, at the Seattle Center, the first “Vision 2000 – The Emerging Fire Service” conference will bring nationally and regionally recognized speakers to Seattle. The annual conference is in cooperation with the SFDOA and Firehouse® Magazine.

For the Training Division, this conference exposes everyday SFD members to a variety of training opportunities, without leaving their backyard. Additionally, there is an even greater opportunity to expose the Pacific Northwest to fire service “heavy hitters” in an unprecedented gathering.

The conference was the “brain child” of Daniels when he served as president of the SFDOA. During the conference the staff of the Training Division joins with SFDOA President Captain David Jacobs and Conference Incident Commander Captain Ron Mondragon to help facilitate the conference.

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