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Thread: The elephant in the smoke filled room...

  1. #1
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    DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Somewhere between genius and insanity!

    Default The elephant in the smoke filled room...

    From Backstep Firefighter
    As we look at the evolution of training in the fire service, we must realize that we are at a time like never before experienced. Today there is the availability of information at a moment’s notice. Fires occur and are on YouTube before the companies finish making up. There are training companies springing up by the minute and Facebook pages by the second.

    Social media has had a tremendous impact on our training and knowledge, yet that impact is not always positive. We now place the onus on the individual fireman as to the quality of the information received. And in many cases that fireman does not yet posses the experience level necessary to determine the good from the bad.

    In this day of Facebook ‘likes’, the quality of our training and information is often based on a popularity like system versus a bona fide vetting process. Furthermore many feel that this social media learning is a suitable replacement for actual hands on training, giving them that ‘jake’ like status with a fraction of the work.

    Today you can be a KIC (Keyboard Incident Commander) and post your decisive size-up points to someone else’s fire from the safety of your living room. You can shred them for safety violations you observe during a two minute snapshot of a four hour incident, applying your years of experience watching other YouTube videos and reading the comments of other anonymous ‘firemen’.

    Don't worry men, the critique will already be going on when you get back to quarters.
    While all this is going on from your bedroom command post, where the latest ‘I fight what you fear’ poster hangs on the wall, the gap between training and experience continues to grow. This is not to say that there isn’t quality information available at your fingertips. In fact, today, there is more quality information available to the average fireman than ever before. Today you can read about the biggest fire to occur in the history of ‘XYZ” Fire Department in real time, you can chat with fireman from all over, you can watch training videos of the latest techniques; techniques that many years ago you had to read about in next month’s issue of whichever magazine you preferred.

    There is a huge disconnect between what is needed in that smoke filled room and what people decide to learn and train on. The information is out there, and there are hundreds of quality, dedicated firemen that spend hour upon hour providing you with the information you need. Unfortunately, what many miss is that these firemen are just regular brothers. As comfortable with a beer in their hands, talking about family, as they are teaching you the much needed skills you should posses to do this job. Instead they are often giving “star like” status, while their hard earned message falls by the wayside.

    There is no regulatory agency for the ‘new’ training environment. No one is sitting in the back row, deciding if the class or the instructor has what it takes. Instead anyone with a computer and a keyboard can become an instant expert. And the more they are liked on Facebook, the more credibility they get. Even if they are still 6 months off probation, still trying to figure out if they should put a Bronx Bend in the leather helmet.

    'Knock this down quick so we don't end up on STATter911 or The Fire Critic.'

    Then there is the social media spin. If I were to believe everything that was posted on Facebook today, I would believe “that artificial sweeteners were safe, WMDs were in Iraq and Anna Nicole married for love.” (1) With social media there is often a rush to judgment, because everyone want sot be the first one to share information. Couple that with some inaccurate information and then throw in posts by Captain Anonymous, and before you know it the ‘good’ information you are reading isn’t any better than what is written in the Enquirer.

    In some ways social media has also created a “window shopping” method to fire service training, where you can read and article or watch a video and then quickly move on to the next thing, feeling satisfied that you have actually accomplished something. When in fact nothing could be further from the truth, while you can certainly learn ideas and concepts from reading articles and watching video, there is hard work to be done. Hard work if you want to get better.

    This is not to say that everyone has to be from the busiest or biggest fire department to have “street cred”. However, there are some steps you should follow with everything you learn, to make sure the information you are getting is valid and then to make sure you use it to improve yourself and your crew.

    1) Before you take what anyone writes at Facebook value, take some time and educate yourself. Make sure that there is some validity to what is being said. Read the magazines, yes the paper ones. Talk with some other fireman.

    2) Once you read about it…DO IT! No matter what, the art of firefighting will always require equal parts doing and thinking. You can analyze the daylights out of any fire, but until you actually do something, it will never go it.

    3) All your training should be RELEVANT, REALISTIC and REPETITIVE. So once you do #2, do it again, and again. Don’t do it until you get it right, do it until you can’t get it wrong. Do it until it becomes part of your fiber. Do it until you can process what is going on around you while you are doing it.

    4) Two eyes, Two ears, One Mouth. No matter what math you use, you should be watching or listening twice as much and you speak. It is easy to watch a video and develop an instant opinion as to how screwed up the Department is in the video. Remember you are only seeing part of the picture and for a brief moment in time. You don’t have all the facts, and therefore you can’t possibly offer an educated opinion. Keep your comments constructive, and learn from what you see. Captain Paddy Brown once said, “You can do everything right on this job and still get killed.” You can also do everything right on this job and still look like a screw up on YouTube.

    Some final thoughts:

    You can do everything right on this job, and still look like a screw up on Youtube.

    The problem with Facebook Firefighters is that you can only take them at Facebook value.
    Link to the original article...
    Chenzo likes this.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

  2. #2
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    ChiefKN's Avatar
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    Feb 2003
    The Nice Part of New Jersey


    If you have ever "buffed" or even watch another department while there for M/A, we have all been tempted to critique and poke holes in what we see.

    I have had the pleasure of watching various fires with a sage old firefighter/photographer. He always made it a point to never poke or critique there on scene. He considered it bad manners, disrespectful and was always quick to flip the tables on you and ask if your fires were always so "perfect".

    I realize this was only a small part of the article that you linked, but that part jumped off the page at me.

    Those in glass firehouses... as the saying goes.
    DeputyChiefGonzo likes this.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

    "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

  3. #3
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    This is a great article that is well written.

    Everyone is a critic that isn't part of the incident. Do screw ups happen? Absolutely. I would submit the majority of the time they are handled correctly given the training, experience, and resources available to that crew.

    There is a military maxim that states: “All plans are great until the first shot is fired.”

    Same with fire incidents.

    The social media component is certainly a factor, but should never ever be a consideration for the IC while the incident is ongoing.

    Politics is like driving. To go forward select "D", to go backward select "R."

  4. #4
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    Just North of South Central


    Excellent article. No disrespect to Dave Statter because he brings incidents to light in the fire service that we would normally not even hear about, and he does it at no cost to you or me. But the comments there are out of control. It's easy to tell who has worked a few fires and who has just worn out his third copy of Ladder 49. You can tell in here as well who is good at what they do, and who is just in it for the cool clothes, if you pay attention.

  5. #5
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    Talking about training being realistic and step #2 are huge points. It's too easy for a crew to pull up around the tabletop or watch a video and talk about what they would do or do differently. It's difficult to establish a realistic timetable in these exercises and frequently have crews carrying out tasks in an unrealistic amount of time, and with great success always (how convenient). "I'd force the door and conduct a primary search." Done in all of the time it takes to say it, when in reality the last time that guy has forced a door was back in the academy. It's fine to start out with these, but often times the 2nd part (where you practice in the real world and actually get sweaty [gasp!]) gets forgotten or rescheduled indefinitely.

    As someone that considers themselves part of the generation that is staunchly skewed to the book learning side and not enough time on the experience side, getting hands on is where that gap can be closed. Don't get me wrong, e-learning is better than sitting on your butt playing video games or watching tv, but only gets you halfway. You're gonna need your bunx for the 2nd half.

    Thanks for posting. Sorry if I rambled.
    Nothing is as unimpressive as someone who is unwilling to learn.

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