Multi-Company Operations Part II

Multi-Company Training should focus upon the individual firefighter's expectations, and present a challenge that re-enforces: consistency of performance, introduces new and modified procedures, and creates a general atmosphere in which learning occurs.

Also of interest early in my career was the fact that we would routinely lay dry lines during Multi-Company Training. This was because the hose jackets during this time period were made mostly of natural fibers, which would mildew unless properly cleaned and dried. In addition, there was a concern that the Engine Company, which remained in service while participating in the training, would be delayed in responding to an alarm when flowing water. Thankfully, shortly after I was assigned to the training division, the introduction of synthetic materials for hose jackets had already resolved the fabric mildew problem, and the hose could be used for flowing water, then packed back into the hose bed. No, the engines were not pulled by horses back then, I'm not that old, but even now, it still amuses me!

This opportunity presented a new challenge for the firefighter's during Multi-Company Training, a continuation of consistency and standardization of hose lays, as well as allowing the engineer's to practice their pumping skills while performing in a more realistic setting. When the companies are performing in a more realistic time sequence, and actually flowing water and utilizing multiple hand-lines, or perhaps a master stream device, the firefighter's are tasked to establish the lines, and the engineer's are challenged to flow the appropriate pressures while maintaining a positive water source. The officer is challenged to coordinate his/her company, and blend their companies? efforts into the over-all operation.

Also, expect errors to be made while performing the drills. The result of which should not bring the wrath of the department down upon the individual firefighter or the company making the error. Training is the arena for such errors to surface, and the training officer should be prepared to cope with such occurrences through coaching and positive re-enforcement. I have had many discussions with company officer's concerning a poor performance of one of their firefighters (in complete privacy) and collectively arrived at a means of improvement while training at the station level.

As time progressed, we identified facilities in the community in which to perform Multi-Company Training. This proved to be one of the most advantageous methods of preparing for an incident at the given facility, or a similar type facility. It was surprising the cooperation local industry offered. Most wish to establish themselves as good corporate neighbors; joining forces with the fire department serves as an excellent example of this community-based commitment.

For example, one chemical company, when asked to allow our personnel to train at their facility brought in one of their leading safety experts from out-of-state to provide specialized instruction concerning the companies operation. During the training exercises, the companies? local associates participated in the drill, and assumed the role they would normally play should there be an actual incident at the facility. The safety expert would closely observe the drill, then offer suggestions to both the facilities personnel, as well as firefighters. Another facility shut down a large processing machine in its plant for three days; so as to offer our firefighter's, on all three shifts, an opportunity to conduct Confined Space Rescue training at their facility. This corporation also brought in out-of-town specialist's to instruct classes, and evaluate the drills. This cost the facility several thousand dollars each day that the machine was shut down, however, the team work between the plants employees and the firefighter's was well worth the effort.

As for the benefits of this type of training for the individual firefighter, this effort brought about an opportunity to participate in an on-site drill, within the environs where the firefighter may very well be called upon to perform an actual rescue or fire suppression function. The specialist at the industry shared valuable information concerning the uniqueness of the facility, as well as building a positive working relationship between private industry and emergency responders.

In my first article focusing on Multi-Company Training, I recommended that that the individual firefighter participates in such training at least twice a year. In doing so, The firefighter should expect to perform the basic tasks and functions essential to bringing about consistency and proficiency in the organizations operations. This is imperative for the purpose maintaining a high quality of minimum performance standards. In addition, the firefighter should expect and be prepared to be challenged by being presented with realistic and unique situations. The training officer should always focus on the firefighter expectations first, then the Engine Company as a team; and how the Engine Company contributes to the over-all operation. This methodology pertaining to training is imperative, because what occurs while training, will also occur during the actual alarms, when lives are on the line!