Teamwork: Build it Before the Bell

After the bruises and war marks from one of the most intense training weeks of this Jumpseat rider's life finally faded, I would like to share some thoughts from a class I recently took. I was asked to take "RIT: Training The Trainer Course," led by the Fire Department Training Network here in West Virginia. Jim McCormack and his awesome team of seasoned firefighters came down and put a group of instructors from around the state through a grueling class that handed out more than one piece of humble pie.

One key learning lesson kept coming up was how teamwork is essential. It seems impossible to think that an experienced group of firefighters, all who serve as instructors, would be re-learning this lesson. But, this class really drove home the fact that we are only as strong as our team. 

All Types Of Firefighters

As we lined up to get down and dirty with hands-on skills, it was somewhat funny how members of certain departments lined up together. I was fortunate enough to have members from my department and, even better, my lieutanant and captain  were in the class. It felt pretty good that my engine crew had three instructors who normally ride together working together. As we gravitated to the folks that we are familiar with you could tell the difference in types of firefighters. From the strong silent type to the outgoing leaders, we all stood there ready to get the job started.

What makes us strong in the fire service is the mix of strengths and weakness as we assemble into a group that is ready to take on any task. Every group needs a leader who can see the strengths and weaknesses who helps the team make up for those area. This training group resembled the theory to a tee. As the day progressed I realized how blessed I was to have a crew that functions as a well-oiled machine and the other instructors had the same traits going for them.

The day came for our final evolution and it was time to put the class through the big test. Would we pass or fail? Oh, one new variable was introduced and we found out that we would be splitting up the crews! Did we fail? Nope, we flourished. What is amazing about the fire service is that we are eerily similar to each other and, if trained in the same way, we can all function in different teams where we are unfamiliar with the firefighters and their skill sets. This mixed bag of firefighters drove home a couple key points to this Jumpseat riding firefighter

  • Keep training consistent
  • Leaders emerge when they are allowed to lead
  • Being a follower is a needed skill for all firefighters
  • Common terminology can bridge gaps 
  • Teamwork makes firefighters succeed

There Is No I In This Team

How can you take firefighters who are located hours away from each other and successfully complete live scenarios with clockwork-like precision? Training and teamwork. If you keep training each and every firefighter the same way, over and over with a constant set of skills and commands, you will be able to assemble groups who don't even know each other's name and complete the most demanding of tasks. This point should ring in the ears of every training officer, chief, and administrator tasked with delivering education to firefighters. Without teamwork, we fail!

With today's reduction in staffing and the declining number of volunteers, we all should strive to make our training constant throughout our region to ensure a smooth operation if we are asked to step away from our crew and join up with another crew. That will make us Jumpseat ready for work.

I would like to send a huge thank you to Jim Mcormick and his crew from the Fire Department Training Network for bringing his awesome class to us and allowing us to hand it off to the firefighters in our state. Make sure to check out his training company knowing that when you sign up they will be bring a no nonsense street level approach that will warm your heart and whip your rear.

Bunker up, buckle in, and remember it's where we all begin!

  • See Ryan Live! Blogger Ryan Pennington will be presenting "Hoarder Homes: Piles of Hazards for Firefighters" at Firehouse Expo in Baltimore, July 23 - 27.