The primary purpose of conducting Multi-Company Training is for the purpose of introducing and modifying procedures, as well as maintaining consistency in operations throughout the organization. One of the most common questions addressed to me by firefighters upon arriving for Multi-Company Training has been, "How many times do I have to catch a hydrant?" This could be, and has been, a consistent valid question when conducting recurrent training. After all, if the companies are simply being put through their paces as a matter of meeting the department's training requirements (doing the numbers), or for achieving points for the Insurance Service Office (ISO) Rating Schedule, negative attitudes will soon develop.
Firefighters will quickly become concerned that the training sessions are not designed to enhance their performance, but rather to accumulate training hours for some type of credit. Sure the firefighters wish to contribute to the goals of the organization. However, if the philosophy of the training officer is, "Do as you are told to do," a misguided attitude which seems to have encroached upon our profession recently, the firefighter will soon resent having to participate in the drills. Training officers must be prepared to validate the worth and the contribution the training will have upon the individual firefighter as well as the organization.
Should this mentality of doing the same hose lays over and over each time the companies report for Multi-Company Training be allowed to continue, the organization, or even the individual training officer who cultivates this philosophy, is re-enforcing the negative attitudes! Of course it takes less time to prepare for a drill when using the same lesson plan as last year, and the year before that. The "Do as I say do," mentality is a quick manner in which to resolve concerns that the drills are accomplishing little more than that which might be just as easily accomplished while back at the station house. The training officer may also have a negative attitude because the fire chief has given him/her the directive, "Do it because I said do it!" Even so, the training officer must over come such adversities, and not allow this mentality to be transferred to the training participants. Bottom line is, the training officer must treat the participants with respect and as adult's; and appreciate the fact that adult's learn by problem solving.
As the training officer, ask the question, "How might we enhance the performance of the individual firefighter who will be participating in the drills?" Because, as soon as the memorandum announcing the schedule of the Multi-Company Training arrives at the station, the first question the firefighter will be asking is, "How will I benefit from this training?" In order to fulfill the individual firefighter's expectations, the training officer must become creative!
In my first years as a career firefighter, the majority of the departments' Multi-Company Training was conducted in a stadium parking lot. We had one hydrant and all the vehicle traffic we could dodge while rolling up the hose. Our training officers were great, and made the very best of the situation. Soon, we changed locations to new streets being constructed at different locations within the county. Now, rather than simply laying supply lines off the engine in a straight line as we did in the parking lot, the engine would lay out the hose from a hydrant, proceed down the street, and turn onto a side street. Therefore, the engine was no longer in the line of sight of the firefighter catching the hydrant; which is more realistic and presented a greater challenge to the company. This brought about a higher degree of difficulty during the training, we were performing tasks in the streets where we would be functioning during an actual alarm, and the change of scenery also enhanced firefighter attitudes.