The Firefighter Recruit Instructor

Effective recruit training requires an instructor cadre that can mold these civilians into firefighters, but this requires a strong command and authoritative presence. Authoritative yes, but bullies, no!


  • First offense might include written documentation indicating the offense and requiring the student’s signature as well as a counseling session indicating corrective measures required.
  • Second offense might include written documentation indicating the offense and requiring the student’s signature as well as a counseling session indicating corrective measures required plus a written letter to the Chief of the Department being represented (applicable to regional type training facilities).
  • Third offense might include written documentation indicating the offense and requiring the student’s signature as well as a counseling session indicating corrective measures required plus a written letter to the Chief of the Department being represented and indicating that one more infraction will result in termination from the program.
  • Fourth offense might include written documentation indicating the offense and a written letter to the Chief of the Department being represented indicating that the student was dismissed from the program and why.

Obviously the most egregious actions may result in automatic termination, but for lesser crimes, the tiered system of punishments might be sufficiently adequate.

In an era of litigation, documentation is everything, so make sure you cross your T’s and dot your I’s because you may need to fallback on your paperwork to protect you!

As it relates to dealing with students, you must go out of your way to help them at every chance. No matter how stern you are with them, remember your primary mission; to help them learn. You don’t have to be their friend because that can lead to potential problems, but you do have to help them learn so they can survive.

If you can prevent one student from being crippled or blinded or killed because of what you teach them, then we all win! Think about how much less stress their families alone would be subjected to if you taught their son or daughter the importance of always wearing eye protection during an extrication call, or to always carry a working flashlight every time they are at a call. How many injuries can be prevented by such a proactive approach?

To do this all requires structure! Strong personalities among our instructor cadre can create the right atmosphere for learning. You can communicate to your students in an authoritative tone of voice, but do not scream at them. Again, there is a difference between bullying and being authoritative.

As a basic-training instructor, you can be authoritative, you can be stern, and you can be strict, but you must show humanity and you better know the job (remember, you cannot come back from some place you’ve never been)! These attributes are the hallmark of a good instructor.

 

Summary

The way a basic-training program is structured when its core values are based on effectiveness and discipline ultimately sets the stage for a culture that will be ingrained into the entire organization. A basic-training program that is well organized (with discipline and regimentation creating an environment of order) will create an environment conducive to effective learning. This translates into a much safer and more effective organization. There are many fire academies that already provide such a structured setting and are, rightfully, very proud of it. Command presence among its staff does offer many advantages.

Instructors who have command presence, know the job and can create a strict yet humane environment, will create generations of safer and more effective firefighters, company officers and chief officers. Such an atmosphere will eventually permeate the organizational structure; so make sure to make the most of it.

Preventing that knock on the door at 2 am and the emotional disaster that a family is in for can be prevented in most cases by culture, values and wisdom of the department and its people. This organizational structure and these attributes begin in basic training. It is an educational setting that has been used with success among our law enforcement counterparts during police recruit training for generations. Should the fire service settle for anything less?

There are far too many disasters of firefighters being killed and permanently injured because the department lacked the wisdom, an effective structure, and where order seemed to evaporate under the stress of combat. Remember, when your brain turns to jelly, the only thing you can fall back on is your training. Tough, realistic training where members are able to react instantly offers the difference between life and death. To ingrain into our members this attribute of reacting instantly begins with the “command presence” of a competent and knowledgeable instructor cadre.