"Training For The Information Age”

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...


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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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.