BALTIMORE – While there’s no substitute for classroom and hands on training for firefighters, sometimes that’s just not feasible given scheduling and financial constraints.
That’s one of the reasons why ALIVE (Advanced Learning through Integrated Visual Environments) was created with the support of a Department of Homeland Security Assistance Firefighter Grant Program.
ALIVE is a web-based, interactive training program that simulates critical decision-making aspects of firefighting.
The creators of the program and those who helped fill it with content were presenters at Firehouse Expo on Friday.
Deputy Assistant Chief John Mooney, from FDNY’s training division, explained that three modules have been created for the innovative learning tool, the first is about wind-driven, high rise fires and a second covers residential fires in lightweight construction buildings and a third about sleep deprivation and fatigue in the fire service.
Mooney explained that FDNY was losing firefighters in high-rise apartment fires with unacceptable frequency and baffling conditions. Hallways were igniting and reaching 2,000 degree temperatures without explanation.
After a lot of investigation, and testing done in Chicago and New York City, wind was discovered as the cause of the extraordinarily hot fires, Mooney said. Using the information gleaned from FDNY incidents and the testing in in live burns in Chicago, a training program was developed and widely distributed.
The ALIVE training tool was developed through Polytechnic Institute of New York University and it is now becoming available for use by departments nationwide.
“We were doing something wrong,” Mooney said. “And we decided to figure out what was going on rather than just keep throwing bodies in to go in get to the fire, put it out and get out. …None of us signed up to get killed or go to the burn unit. So we knew we had to do something different.”
The ALIVE program was developed, in part, to create a delivery system to share the training and knowledge learned from the testing.
Chicago Fire Department’s Director & Chief of Fire Department Training Peter Van Dorpe described how the system works. By walking attendees through a few questions, he explained that the program will teach the lesson, test the firefighter’s knowledge and offer corrections and reinforcements for each correct or incorrect answer.
A correct answer will allow the firefighter to continue and offer a nugget of knowledge to add to what already has been learned, Van Dorpe said.
An incorrect answer will provide the firefighter with some reasons why it was incorrect and allow the firefighter to try to get the correct answer again, allowing advancement only when the correct answer has been selected.
A firefighter with no knowledge of the topic being taught can get through the whole program in about a hour, Van Dorpe said, adding that it allows for interruptions because of calls and other responsibilities.
“It will save right where you are and ask if you want to continue from where you left off when you log back in,” he said.
The program developers said ALIVE is at least as good as a classroom lesson, but is far more convenient and afford real-time results to those who need to know.
Tests on material before the ALIVE program was administered to firefighters revealed knowledge of about 50 percent. After going through the program, firefighters were achieving scores in the 80s and 90s and retention after two weeks was slightly better than a straight classroom session.
“We know firefighters learn through different methods and this is just another one that is available and we think is very good and very convenient,” Van Dorpe said.
More information about ALIVE can be found at http://www.poly.edu/fire/