Change the Culture of Firefighter Training – Part 3

To be effective, training officers should be able to do their job without being micromanaged by chiefs.

As firefighters, we must take the training we attend seriously. As instructors, we must take the training we deliver seriously. As brothers and sisters of other firefighters, we must make sure that our brothers and sisters take their training seriously. Why? Because, as I have stated several times over the last two articles, our lives depend on it.

Anybody who has done this job for any serious length of time can give you several instances where they almost did not make it home. What we do not discuss, at least not as frequently as we should, is that the most common reason they did make it home was experience and training.  In training, we forget all too often that the skills we practice and train on are normally routine. There will be that one call where the training you had was the difference between making it home or not.  Many attribute our survival to luck and determination to survive.  We don’t often mention or think about past training or even past experience. We are just glad to be safe.

The reality is that everything we do on the fireground is a learned skill. It was taught to us. From the simplest of tasks to the most complex evolutions, we had to have some training and some experience to be able to proficiently use the skill, including those that are lifesaving to us or somebody else. When that close call comes, it’s this instant recall that saves us. Your brain remembers what some instructor, senior firefighter or company officer said or did and you react. Your constant and vigilant practice of skills becomes a part of you, and you react without thought. This is why training is so vitally important and is why changing the culture and being a good instructor is very important to you and to your department. If we do not change the culture, we are equipping ourselves for failure and increasing the likelihood that somebody we know and care about or ourselves will be killed or seriously injured.

For thousands of years, militaries across the world have finely tuned the art of repetition in training and with good reason. The harder you train the more likely you are to be successful. The more times you practice a skill the more likely are to flawlessly execute it when you really need it. When we train we are training to do a job with a very high injury rate and high death rate. Most of the tasks we do, regardless of how safe we try to be, are inherently dangerous.  We have to constantly train so that we are constantly safe and constantly successful.

Live to learn! With modern technology growing at its current pace, our knowledge and available information about our job at its core is increasing. The way we used to do things even 10 years ago are now considered unsafe, and there is a lot of evidence to support this. There is a lot of research out there on just about every topic related to firefighting. Read these studies; read the after action reports on LODD’s. Learn, learn, learn! Time is something all of us are short of, but taking those 15 to 20 minutes a day to read a study or an article will pay for itself over the years. Use the firehouse to discuss this stuff. Do not be an information hoarder. If you have knowledge or information, share it. The worst, possibly most dangerous, thing you can do in this profession is assume you know everything. Nobody does.

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