1. #1
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    Question Function of Training Officer

    Fellow Brothers and Sisters:
    A question came up at my departments last business meeting regarding our Training Officer. In a sense, it was in regard to experience and length of service on the department. It has always been my understanding that, regardless if we are volunteer or career, we're still covered under OSHA standards with NFPA guidelines being used as a...well, guide. I know that OSHA will cite NFPA guidelines in pursuing legal action against individuals or departments who violate those laws and guidelines. So...with that in mind, the thinking of a few individuals was that the Training Officer only needed to have the experience (gained by length of service on the department), not that they needed to have any knowledge of the OSHA regs and NFPA guidelines. Their thinking is that they wouldn't trust a Training Officer who didn't have experience (as relates to time on the department), irregardless of whether or not he had the knowledge and training on the OSHA regs and NFPA guidelines. I do feel that you do need experience (irregardless of where its obtained i.e. industrial or woodland) on the fireground, and trust is important. However, the training you receive is reflected by your actions on the fireground. I feel you also need someone in that slot who does understand NFPA and OSHA, and how they impact the fire service and its impact on training. If you have someone who has no knowledge of the NFPA guidelines and how they interact with the OSHA regs, you could be setting yourself (and your department) up for a very rude awakening by OSHA. My questions to you are thus: How do you handle the training on your departments? Do you appoint/elect a training officer? Are they versed in the OSHA regs and NFPA guidelines? Or, is that not an issue in regards to training? Do you only let "experienced" firefighters act as training officers, irregardless if they have any knowledge and or training on OSHA or NFPA guidelines?
    I don't mean to offend anyone. I only want to find out if my expectations are realistic or if I'm mistaken in my beliefs. Thanks for you input...
    FFI/EMT-B

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    I would have to agree that a training officer needs to be aware of NFPA and OSHA standards and codes. This is a very important factor, there are guys at my department who have been there for years that do not have a clue about OSHA and NFPA. While experience is a contributing factor you also need to consider the level of training your prospective offier has. Textbook training can only give you so much but if the FF has more field experience and does it "his own way" instead of the safe, correct way then that is doing the dept no good. I guess what I am trying to say is that in my opinion several factors need to be considered in appointing a training officer. Education, experience, personality, a decent speaker, and creative. I realize you pointed all of this stuff out already, now I will answer your questions. "How do you handle Training?" Our training is mostly handled by our training officer, everyone is encouraged to present topics they want to train on and if no one gives one the training officer and a couple of other guys will come up with something. Our training officer is appointed by the Chief, the members have a chance to present any problems they may have with the appointment if necessary. We use OSHA and NFPA guidelines as "guides" for training and reasons for why we do the things we do in training. I hope this helps, and I hope it is not too confusing.
    Matt Griffin
    Chief
    Eastern Chilton County Division of Fire, Rescue, and EMS, Station 91.

  3. #3
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    Default Who should do what...

    Spanner66:
    Deja vu! I think that just responded to another one of your posts.
    Where it comes to following the applicable Federal and state requirements, it is the ultimate responsibility of the fire department's Board of Trustees. The chief should have a very good working knowledge of the rules and regulations as well. The training officers should train to the rules and regulations. I don't think that the training officers should necessarily have all of the OSHA and NFPA regs memorized, but they should know that they are delivering training that meets the law. The chief will affirm this.
    It is important that your training officers are trusted by the people that they train. They are not necessarily the ones who knows EVERYTHING, but they will demonstrate solid skills and contact the right source if a question arises that they can't answer. They should be a veteran of the fire service. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that they have all their years on one department, but has documented skills and a cumulative resume'.
    Many departments allows the chief to appoint the training officers. So, if I am the chief and I understand the many liabilities involved with appointing a best friend instead of the most qualified, then rest assured that the most qualified individual goes into that role. Sadly, many departments don't understand the importance of having the right teachers. Not only can they teach, but they can motivate. And motivation is very key to successful training programs. It's getting them to train when the weather says "go fishing". It is getting them to want to learn more, even though it may be past their bedtime. It is getting them to risk learning rather than taking risks on the fireground.
    A combination of experience, education and a basic knowledge of the rules and regs would make a very good training officer, indeed.
    CR
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    Default

    Wow, how can I top that.

    I would just add that a training committee can combine the best of both worlds. Training officer is a huge job, a committee approach sometimes works well.

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    Default Training committees do work!

    ADSNWFLD:
    You are absolutely correct with the committee concept. Training has become too big a task for just one person. Most small departments will usually bestow that title upon the one who complains the most about training or the lack of it. Having two training officers works OK, but three would be even better. The two can take care of all the other training requirements and the other can devote their time solely to new recruits. The training calendar will come from input by the other members and will be set by all officers and presented for approval. The big hitters are always going to be SCBAs, smoke training, and pump operations. More technical evolutions such as water rescue, confined space and others that are outside the scope of your training officers will need to be included in the schedule as well. And when someone asks to go to training outside of the department, check their in house training hours before you approve it. If they are not willing to attend in house training, then I would not pay to send them outside. If they feel that they NEED to go outside because of a lack of in house training, then it's time to revamp your training programs.
    But using the committee approach that includes feedback from all members is a win-win.
    And your training officers will feel supported, rather than overwhelmed.
    Excellent point.
    CR
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    Smile Whew!! I do feel better....

    Chief Reason, ADSNWFLD, and ECFD924,
    Thank you for your thoughts and input (especially CR). Now, I don't feel as if I'm mistaken in my beliefs ( )

    Of course, I do have a couple of more questions:

    Chief Reason: I agree with everything you've written. However, I would like to seek some clarification on a couple of things: If you have an officer giving up his office every few years, how do you ensure that they have the proper training for the position they hold? We don't have a Board of Trustees, we're governed by the city council. Do they have the responsibility for setting the standards for the officers, or is that the responsibility of the department itself? The reason I'm asking is that it appears that it's more of a popularity contest in our department when electing officers than looking for the best qualified person for the job.

    ADSNWFLD: I never thought of using that approach. My initial question is do you appoint a chairman as a leader for the committee? Is there a set of guidelines/policies that are followed when you use that approach? How do you determine who's going to be on the committee?

    Once again, thank you for your thoughts and input.
    FFI/EMT-B

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    Default Glad to offer my assistance!

    Spanner66:
    Chief Reason: I agree with everything you've written. However, I would like to seek some clarification on a couple of things: If you have an officer giving up his office every few years, how do you ensure that they have the proper training for the position they hold? We don't have a Board of Trustees, we're governed by the city council. Do they have the responsibility for setting the standards for the officers, or is that the responsibility of the department itself? The reason I'm asking is that it appears that it's more of a popularity contest in our department when electing officers than looking for the best qualified person for the job.
    To maintain continuity in your training program, you should have a program that is clearly delineated. Expectations should be outlined and a plan to achieve the goals should be in place. Some departments will use by-laws; others will use SOPs/SOGs. A written job description of the duties of the training officer should be included in any document with regards to training. And again, this program has to meet the applicable standards and laws.
    In Illinois, fire departments are governed by either a fire commission or a board of trustees. A city council will have a police and fire commission and may place alot of administrative power with the chief, but it doesn't matter who does it, the law says that it must get done. In volunteer departments, the board of trustees may pass some of their duties to the chief, but regardless of what they do, the law cannot be circumvented. It is best to make certain through written documentation that everyone knows what is expected of each other. There should be minimum qualifications for ANY officer of the department. If they already do this for the police department, then why should the fire department be any different?
    Again, the standards are set by OSHA through the Dept. of Labor or NFPA, NIOSH and some ANSI specifications. It is the responsibility of the governing body of the fire department or their designee(Chief) to insure that standards and regulations are being followed. And the officers must train to those standards.
    If it is a popularity contest, then it will all come crashing down onto the governing body when a violation of an existing standard occurs and OSHA determines that your training was "ineffective". In the course of their investigation/inspection, they may also discover several recordkeeping violations because everyone thought the other was doing it.
    Don't leave anything to chance. Get the templates from someone you know and start a program that will pass muster. Believe it or not, it is for our own good, even if it feels cumbersome and may cost a little money to meet compliance. And if the fear of OSHA doesn't get your board's attention, then use Lairdsville as an example. Or the latest-Newcastle, Wyoming.
    Feel free to contact me.
    CR
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  8. #8
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    Default

    We don't have a Board of Trustees, we're governed by the city council. Do they have the responsibility for setting the standards for the officers, or is that the responsibility of the department itself? The reason I'm asking is that it appears that it's more of a popularity contest in our department when electing officers than looking for the best qualified person for the job.
    If the city council were to establish requirements for officer positions, IN WRITING, the age old problem of "popularity" would not be the deciding factor in elections. Perhaps your dept. could form a committee and approach the city's governing body with the intent of establishing the standards which you choose to enact. This could be incorporated into the local ordinances.

    The days of electing officers, based on popularity are over. In these post 9-11 times....we need trained, responsible officers in their respective positions. The public expects and demands it. Lives depend on it. Electing unqualified personnel to officer or training positions, results in tragic scenarios....such as Lairdsville, as pointed out by Chief Reason.

    However you decide to establish requirements...it would be wise to have them endorsed by the city, either by resolution or ordinance. This facilitates ease of enforcement.

    Put it in writing....and seek advice from the city council and, if deemed necessary, legal counsel.

    When the crap hits the fan....and the litigation starts, due to unqualified personnel making decisions........

    Popularity isn't going to buy you squat!
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    I have been on our training bureau for about a year now(maybe longer getting old) I have been a firefighter for 4 years. Does that make me a seasoned ff no, have I been on many fires yes, do I have lots of training.....oohh boy yes. But the main thing is I speak legalese. I read and understand what they are trying to say. The first thing we did when the "new" group took over training was get a "complete" set of OSHA and NFPA regulations on training. The Lieutenant and myself read through all of the regulations then we made up a shortcut/quick reference guide to all the regulations. So when we get ready to do some training and we have a question we can use that and if we need more info we lookup the indepth answers. The main thing is that you need to have knowledge, experience, and a good library of regulations.
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    In our department the Captains (1 for EMS and 1 for fire) set up the training for the rest of us. We are a cross trained department that run integrated fire and EMS. When it came to fire training we felt that an Officer should be heading it up in terms of if you were an officer why would you not be in charge of training ? or on the flip side if I am good enough to be in charge of training why arent I an officer. So that is how we did it........it works for us and the fire captian in conjunction with the fire lieutenants follows IFSTA and NFPA for training.
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