Training the Technical Rescuer

While we generally cover skills in this section, it has come to my attention that a lot of instructors visit venues like to pick up different ideas, tips, tricks and maybe learn about a new topic they have in their crosshairs. So...


Teacher: “The structural engineer just informed us that the estimated load we’re shoring is about 15,000 pounds, so 4-by-4s are going to be a no go. What are we going to do?” (Being that the student is new to this field, coach him a bit to bring out the knowledge you taught him.)  “How about using 2-by-8s?” (If his answer is no, ask him why and what he wants to use.)


Student:  “No, 2-by-8s won’t support the load, I want to use the 6-by-6 lumber because I know at 12 feet its support load is roughly 20,000 pounds and our uprights are 7 feet so they will work.”


Teacher: “Great, sounds good to me. Let’s first throw up a temporary shore to give us a safe area to work in. What can we use here?”


Student: “Let’s use the struts!”


Although these weren’t actual problems, by asking the student questions and offering him multiple materials to use, you’re training his brain to make decisions on the spot. Even though it’s training, the student is under pressure because it’s a new and unfamiliar skill he’s doing and human nature gives us the desire to impress someone who is at a higher skill level than us. Thinking outside the box, under pressure, is the desired goal…well, that and demonstrating the skill properly.

If you can level the playing field with your students and take away any insecurities they may have, their ability to learn will increase. The trick is to insert the needed “pressure” to really hammer home importance of the skill they’re learning. Realistic training seems to work well. Instead of using a white board and a projector to discuss a trench rescue operation, arrange to have an actual trench dug and hold a live exercise. Remember the “entertainment” part. Maybe arrange to have a hysterical site worker approach your students screaming for help. Or add some fake smoke to a confined space drill and simulate a broken steam pipe.

I teach students a skill such as how to build a 4:1 Mechanical Advantage System, then allow them to build it once or twice then a surprise them with this line, “Now, put these blacked-out safety glasses on and build the mechanical advantage system again under zero visibility. Their first reaction is that I’m nuts, but then they do it, and wow, their confidence goes through the roof. I’m sure anybody reading this has thought of these or similar ideas, but some may think it and not implement it. It really makes a big difference. The sky and your creativity are the limit.

Rescuers in this field tend to learn better visually and by using their hands. I know this because I’m one of them and I also tend to poll all my classes to find that out. All the disciplines you may be teaching are clearly hands-on activities. So, why not teach them that way from the beginning? I call my lectures “active lectures” because there are always hands-on activities involved. I’ll always find a way to get the materials or prop into the room. Even if that means building something special to make it happen. Lectures are your biggest challenge as an instructor. All eyes are on you, and if you don’t bring your “A” game with you the students will have you benched in their mind with in the first 10 minutes. Bring your “A” game, turn the volume up to 11 and belly in. Technical rescue topics such as Confined Space Rescue, Trench Rescue, High-Angle Rescue and Building Shoring are very technical subjects as well as very interesting topics.


Never...Never...Never use bullet points. They will kill your crowd. If you’re discussing Anchor Systems in a rope rescue lecture and Slide 1 discusses what bombproof anchors are, just show a picture of a steel I-beam or a structural column. Discuss what they are and give examples using your voice, not words on a screen. By doing this, you’re constantly interacting with your students and they in turn are focused on you, not the typeface on the screen. This really makes a big difference in your overall class flow and the students’ retention of what you’re teaching them. I learned this in several books I’ve read on presentation and when I implemented it, the difference was huge. I was never a big bullet point guy to begin with, so I tweaked a few things and came up with a few ideas of my own.