YouTube: Firefighter Training at Your Fingertips

Sean Wilkinson illustrates how a training officer can spend a short amount of time on YouTube and create real-life training scenarios for their department.


Providing your firefighters with a worthwhile training experience can be a challenging task for a training officer. We attempt to not fall into the same routines and have the same drills during the same season, or have them fall on the same time of year annually (while easier, volunteer departments will notice a decrease in attendance over time).  Many times this can’t be helped and they are necessary to be completed  at certain times (refresher course on standard operating guidelines (SOGs) or blood borne pathogen training, etc.).  However, throughout the time period of your training schedule, there should be openings to bring up topics that will provide new drills for training, or times when you look through department tactics and find that certain things are out of date and could use a bit of reworking.  

Many topics for discussion that can be used for new training material are at your fingertips in this day and age of on-demand technology.  These lessons can come from any place, but this article is going to focus exclusively on YouTube.  This internet source can provide you with multiple drill segments on a variety of topics. Specifically, YouTube puts amateur drill video makers on the web for free and there are many videos on hose advancement, forcible entry, search, and whatever else you are looking for as a drill subject.  YouTube also has videos that show fire departments in action; which in many cases are shot from helmet cams or other fire department-approved video sources (example: someone in the department or a friend of the department shot the video). Other video sources from the public are also on the site (but are less likely to show the important items we as firefighters would find as good material for analysis).  

Using YouTube during a drill can be a very rewarding tool as a presenter; it takes some of the pressure off of you being front and center as you are just making observations and queuing the group while they are focused on the video presented.  It also exposes your firefighters to different and more “out-of-the-box” scenarios that have occurred elsewhere, and maybe responses that your department haven’t discussed about how to handle. Remember, mutual aid calls come in a variety of forms, near and far.  While the spectacular events are on the web, there are also unlimited videos on what can be called “bread-and-butter” responses. These videos are a bit more important for firefighters to focus on when conducting certain drills.  The topics that could be covered on a conventional house fire can lead back to my previous article about engagement during drills.

The First 30 Seconds

The great thing about using this source is that there is virtually an unlimited amount of information available from what has been posted to the site.  Many fire videos have the same components, the first images presented of the video can allow for officers to give an initial on-scene size-up of what they are encountering.  Drivers and senior firefighters can discuss apparatus placement for engines and ladders as they are approaching. Engine firefighters can discuss what hoselines to stretch and where to place them, routes of entry, and last, but certainly not least, truck members can discuss how and where to ventilate. These discussions can all occur within the first 15-30 seconds of the video being played. This conversation could last several minutes and include members of all experience levels.

After everyone has discussed tactics and equipment placement, begin an open discussion on your department SOGs while watching the rest of the video. While SOGs differ from department to department, you can discuss what your apparatus placement should look like in accordance with your department’s guidelines and what the initial size-up is presenting. During the duration of the video, continual reminders of what the department SOGs state are important to build the memory for junior members who are still learning. An effective tool for SOG learning is to ask the members of your department questions in regards to the guidelines, such as: How many handlines can you charge off the booster tank? Are the ladder placements correct?

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