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Firehouse: Are there plans for a new training academy and, if so, what will it look like?
Bowers: There are plans for the construction of a new, state-of–the-art, joint fire-police training facility. The new proposed training facility will have advanced classroom technology platforms and practical skills areas for fire, rescue and EMS training. The fire training building will have a high bay with a practical training area that is weather protected. There will be a practical rescue area for vehicle and machinery extrication training. A basic and advanced life support EMS simulation training room with simulation manikins for patient assessments and skills training will also be incorporated. There will be a Command Development and Competency classroom and lab to conduct command competency evaluations. One other unique practical-skills component of the new training facility will be the all-hazards “city-scape” design training area for fire and law enforcement personnel to practice tactical techniques at various building layouts.
Firehouse: Is the fire department moving into a new public safety complex? How will that help the department?
Bowers: The department is moving this year into a joint public safety complex with the Montgomery County Police Department. Both departments will benefit from greater efficiencies by centrally consolidating our department divisions, sections and resources into one location. The departments will gain business and operational efficiencies with the move into the public safety headquarters.
Firehouse: You have been involved in the investigation of several firefighter fatalities. How do you incorporate lessons learned from the after-action reports into everyday training?
Bowers: I have had several opportunities to serve on firefighter fatality and significant-injury report investigation teams in my career. Every department needs to review the lessons learned from these unfortunate and tragic events as these incidents can happen in any department. There is no doubt that you can “take the patch” off any one of those incidents and put your own department patch on the report.
Our department learns by reviewing the report information at both the battalion and company levels. Firefighter fatality and significant injury reports are distributed department wide. Our training and safety sections as well as field battalion chiefs and company officers discuss the report information and the lessons learned with the troops. Company officers drill with their personnel and focus on the incident chain of events and lessons learned from those reports.
Firehouse: Did you come up with the phrase “Train, Train, Train”? What does it represent?
Bowers: The importance of training was instilled upon me the first day one I got into the department. I did coin the phrase “Train, Train, Train” because my belief is that training builds competence and confidence. My expectation is for the troops to focus on the fundamentals and execute the basics perfectly.
Training is what builds the instinctive and intuitive reactions that make a difference during incident response and operations. Our department embraces training and the troops are always engaged in various training activities. My job is to provide those training opportunities so personnel can build their competence and confidence. I am very proud of our department personnel because of their technical competence and their commitment to continually “Train, Train, Train.”
Firehouse: Can you explain the Command Competency Program and what all chief officers are required to do?
Bowers: The Command Competency Program targets all of our certified chief officers (command officers) in the department. All chief officers from the fire chief to battalion chiefs are required to successfully perform an annual simulated Incident Command Competency Evaluation and an online knowledge competency exam. An incident scenario is developed that is consistent with our incident-response data. Peer evaluators are utilized to assess the knowledge skill and abilities of all command officers in the department. The Command Competency Program has greatly improved our incident command, fireground operations and safety. Our command officers now operate on the same page and hit the same critical incident command benchmarks during incident operations.