One of the most important components of any fire department's training and development program should be Multi-Company Operations. There are a host of topic's which may be applicable when conducting such drills; but for the purpose of this session, we will focus on fire suppression. Perhaps in future articles, we'll broaden our scope into EMS, special operations, and SWAT/Criminal activity situations.
There are many reasons for conducting Multi-Company Training:
- To present realistic challenges to the organizations officer's and firefighter's in a safe and controlled environment
- To evaluate the performance of the individual members of a company
- To evaluate the efficiency and performance of each individual working collectively as a member of a company
- To evaluate the efficiency of a company functioning as a part of the fire ground team
- To maintain a standard of over-all efficiency and consistency in the organization
- To observe companies perform under realistic conditions
- To observe the companies performing tasks in real time
- To evaluate the efficiency and limitations of equipment and apparatus
- To test the efficiency of the organizations Standard Operating Procedures (SOP"s), such as: communications, size-up, apparatus positioning, pumping procedures, hose lays, and command procedures
- To introduce new Standard Operating Procedures, or individual changes in components of existing procedures
- To introgate mutual aid companies into the Multi-Company drills - we must all work together to build trust. This is the best opportunity to learn what to expect.
How often should Multi-Company Training be conducted:
Based upon my experience, each individual firefighter should participate in at least two Multi-Company training exercises each year. This is for the purpose of maintaining efficiency and consistency within the organization. Such sessions should be an average of four hours in length, and include at least three separate drills. In Georgia, the climate in which to perform Multi-Company training is during the months of May and September. (October is actually more suitable, since this month records the least amount rain fall. However, the Atlanta Braves play in the World Series far too often for the instructor to hold the firefighters attention). Schedule the sessions Monday through Thursday for three weeks, and then allow the fourth week for make-up of those firefighters that may have missed their regularly scheduled training date (this schedule is for a department with an average of 150 to 300 members).
By conducting the training sessions using this schedule, the individual firefighter participates in Multi-Company training a minimum of eight-hours each year. (The Insurance Service Office (ISO) offers points up to six hours per year for night training; so maintain complete records).
Should Multi-company Training be conducted during the day or at night:
I much prefer conducting both sessions at night. My reasoning for this is simple. If a firefighter can perform the task under the most challenging of circumstances, darkness, performing the same task in "real life" and during day light hours will be simpler. Have the firefighter utilize all the equipment they would normally utilize during an actual event! This aquanauts the firefighter with the equipment in a controlled environment, as well as allowing for the evaluation of the equipment. If the equipment is going to malfunction, this is the time to learn of such, not when lives are on the line!
In addition, many departments' relay on non-paid professional firefighter's whose full-time positions require them to be at their post during business hours. Such training must be conducted during the evening hours, or on a Saturday.