1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber

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    Jan 2006

    Default Getting Firefighters to train

    Hi All,
    I am the training officier for my dept. I am having trouble getting everybody on board with training. I have the guys that are willing to learn all the "new" techniques, then I have the "old" guys, who don't out number the "young guns", but have a large influence on everyone. So I need so ideas on what to do.

    Many of the firefighters state that we have "never" needed this before, why should we now. I hate that mentality.

    Thanks for listening,


  2. #2
    MembersZone Subscriber

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    Jan 2004
    Snyder County Pa


    Well simply put who is in charge? The Chief? Do you have a board of directors or anything of that type? Is the chief onboard with training? If so then the chief needs to put in place a standing policy that if you do not train you do not go on calls. I f the Chief does not believe in training just remind him of the results of not training effectively LODD"S, injuries, disabilities and of course law suits. The people who really want to do this will do the training they may grumble about it but this is 2008 not 1968 we need alot of training and you need to show that to the Good Ole Boys" because its different now than it was then.

    Oh and another thing if you and the guys who are willing to train keep at it then you are better off maybe it will catch on to the rest of the ones who dont.

  3. #3
    Forum Member

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    Feb 2006
    Upper Midwest

    Default Training

    You are hardly alone in this situation, or dealing with something unique. In my work I deal with many departments who have the same issue. And the second thread of "who is charge" is another very good question. In departments where leadership is elected by the membership (yes, this still exists in many places, it can be a positive and a negative) I've seen good people get voted out of a position over training issues. Many places are still training once a month and not getting required training, you can make them aware of laws and standards, they still refuse to listen. I have encountered several very bright and creative training officers who were elected, that get no support from the other officers or their chief.

    When I look at departments I try to do several things. One is look at run volume or how much non-call time is required, and has that along with run-volume increased over the past years. Are people burned out? I also encourage work such as interviews or surveys to detemine what the objections are, what is desired, sometimes problems can be fixed. I found one department that paid a rate for calls, and then a much less rate for training, they basically de-emphasized training and didn't realize it. Nobody should be in it for the pay anyways, but that is becoming a trend I don't like.

    I also look at myself, and how I handled change over a thirty period, and how I accepted things I initially didn't like. And yes, I as resistent at times too, but I always accepted things.

    All I can suggest is that you try to identify the resistance or problems, and try and solve them. If you bring "required training" into the spotlight and why it is that way, you may gain a little headground. Some things I've seen help include multiple activity training sessions, more emphasis on "hands on" and less on classroom lecture when it is allowable. I've always bought into the philosohy that firefighters like direction, and work better in groups, for me its brought good results. Use your members who have the right knowledge on what you are doing as mentors. Identify the leaders who share your way of thinking, use them. And my experience has shown that the more experienced or elders or departments are not necessarily against training, its more of a fear of not being able to learn or pick up a new skill and look incompetent. Younger members can come in with more education, previous training, and an appearance of knowledge which can be perceived as a threat by veteran members. You need to identify and be encouraging and positive when you can.

    While the easiest method is "do it or find the door" by leadership, recruitment and retention has become a huge issue in the fire service. While leadership needs to stand strong, this method can reduce membership very quickly. Respect for veterans members is nice, but there is a point where they are no longer an asset to the department if they constantly resist, a very tough situation. Don't try and do a huge upgrade on training overnight, you need to analyze and make gradual improvements as you go along. A good plan with needs identified will help you accomplish this.

    ICS requirements does not make this challenge any easier! ICS training is a whole different story.
    Last edited by StillLearning; 02-13-2008 at 12:32 PM.

  4. #4
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  6. #6
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    Dec 2003


    "I am having trouble getting everybody on board with training."

    Well placed 2x4.
    Focus on the desired impact area, not the 2x4.

    Talk to your Chief. Does he support you, your concerns and the training goals?

    If the Chief supports you, he needs to have some small group meetings with training resisters. Or, he should have a very blunt meeting with all department members present.
    Tell them that by not training they're screwing around with the safety of others and helping create cluster foxtrot's at scenes.
    It may get to the point that you appear to the resisters(from their view) that your a powerless winer and you can't touch them.
    If your Chief and other officers don't really support you and don't participate in training, your fighting a losing battle.
    You can have training, but if it's not enforced on-scene it's a waste.

    Openly post training announcements.
    Train with the new guys if that's all who shows.
    Lead and train by example.

    If it gets better, it may be small steps.
    If it doesn't get better, resign the Training position and let someone else have the headache.

    Generic details: What's the dept size and how is the leadership?

  7. #7
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    Jan 2008


    Don't think a person will be responsible if you do not give them responsibilty. When the ten commandments were made there should of been eleven. The eleventh commandment should of been jealousy. If a person is jealous they will work against you and not for you. A person might be jealous of your position because they think they know more than you. They may feel left out because they think you feel that you are superior because you communicate through your actions or body language that they are not part of the process of decision and they are in the shadows.

    Senior firefighters usually are the head cow in line. Their attitude is with me being the head cow, just get in line and when I find out where the line goes I might let you know. Their attitude is been there, done it. Sometimes the Training Officer comes across as I am the leader so follow me or get out of the way. These senior firefighters may be jealous of your positon or maybe they don't respect you or your position.

    You need to find the senior head cows. COMMUNICATION is the key. Communicate with the head cows that you need them to train the new guys. Tell them your plan of training. Ask them for ideas. Ask them to attend a private meeting to show them what you want them to teach the new guys.TRAIN THE TRAINERS! The senior guy wants to lead and wants to feel important because they have done their time. Give these senior trainers incentives. Comp time or maybe a flashlight or getting out of a routine task. Break down into teams. COWS like to compete. Let each of the senior cows pick one non-senior team member and alternate the pick until all teams are full. When you think you have found one head cow ask them who would make another good head cow to accomplish your mission. There is nothing worse than asking someones opinion if you already have your mind made up and are not flexible. When teaching these Senior Cows if you are not flexible and will not listen then you are not a coach but a preacher. In my years of experience the good boss was the one who felt secure enough in their position to trust me and tell me everything they knew. These guys don't go to your church and you are not the preacher. These firefighters are in the people helping business and if you ask the right senior cow to help you train this is going to make this old cow feel DAMN IMPORTANT.

    If you can get the senior trainers on board to teach then they will want to learn everything for the new guys won't show them up. You as a training officer want to eventually get into MBWA (management by walking around). Let these trainers know that you are not always going to put this hardship on them for training. You want to do this just in case the cowpicks don't accomplish your mission.

    I don't agree with some of the comments about heres the door or do it or else. Sometimes you might have to discipline but first try using your best weapon which is your mind in this child psycology experiment.

    P.S. I don't know if this will work but I do watch alot of Dr. Phil...good luck

  8. #8
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    Oct 2002


    I know this frustration well. When I was hired, it was made made clear to me to raise the bar and set some standards. I am about half way there.

    The biggest issue I have is that my department is a combination department. The career guys are there and they train when I ask them to. I have steadily increased their schedule each month. However, I have senior POC officers who consistently inform me that there should never be any training except on day X and that they are only here to run calls if needed. I have young guys and gals who I have been involved with since the day they were hired and they run circles around other members.

    I maintain my vision and planning. I do not allow the few nay sayers to influence my decision making. Those who do not agree with me have learned quickly that I could care less about their complaining. I treat everyone the same and I do it with a smile on my face.

    Do I listen to what people have to say? Yes. Do I always agree? No. But I do try to look at the big picture. If something is not working I stop doing it. It is a culture that takes time to build. I learned very quickly that getting it done overnight does not work with everyone. Will there be bumps in the road? Yes. Stay consistent and have faith. It comes back to Pride and Ownership.

  9. #9
    FlyingKiwi's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2002
    New Zealand


    Have you thought of dividing the two camps into two teams and giving them the same task timed against each other.

    Get the "old" hands to do it their way, and the "new" hands theirs.

    Now pop the suprise.

    Run it the other way round and check the timings.

    I bet the results will be interesting and may even get people talking.
    Psychiatrists state 1 in 4 people has a mental illness.
    Look at three of your friends, if they are ok, your it.

  10. #10
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    Jan 2006

    Thumbs up Thanks for all the advice

    Sorry for taking so long to respond, We have been running quite alot of calls, plus work...
    I want to say that I truely appriciate all the comments they all gave me great ideas. I am glad to see that there are guys in the same boat, I am going to continue to push, trying to challenge guys along the way. I am going to work on the 5% of ney sayers and see if I can challenge them.

    I want to say thanks for the challenge the two camps, I am going to use that idea next month.

    For the question of if my chief has my back. When he asked me to continue as the Training Officer, he told me that he would stand behind me on whatever I thought we needed to train on. The problem is that he has been not around quite as much lately, so the ney sayers keeping pushing.

    Like I said thanks to all who wrote in.


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