Personnel from the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department are participating in a Train the Trainer program at the Fire/EMS Training Academy (FETA) in Cheltenham. This training is actually a beta test for a program that will be taught around the Country. The training program, “Fire Ground Survival” is designed to teach firefighters how to survive on the fire ground and is presented by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). Fire service instructors from around the Country and Canada provided instruction during the three-day training program which concluded on March 26.
The IAFF began developing the Fire Ground Survival training program in December, 2007 to ensure that training for MAYDAY prevention and MAYDAY operations are consistent between all fire fighters, company officers, and Chief Officers. Fire fighters must be trained to perform potentially life saving actions if they become lost, disoriented, injured, low on air, or trapped. These training exercises must be consistent throughout the fire service. Traditionally in the fire service we train for success. We are taught how to put out a fire or mitigate other hazards, but what we haven't done is train our fire fighters for when we get in trouble and failure does occur. Our guiding philosophy has been that fire fighters must be trained in and practice a standard set of skills and procedures they can rely on when things do go wrong.
Funded by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and assisted by a grant from the United States Department of Homeland Security through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG), the IAFF's comprehensive Fire Ground Survival training program applies the lessons learned from the Firefighter Fatality Investigations conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and is being developed by a committee of subject matter experts from the IAFF, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and NIOSH.
This initiative relies on the experiences that our members have faced on the fire ground so fire fighters in the same situation will be able to perform standard, potentially life saving actions if they become lost, disoriented, injured, low on air or trapped.
Through classroom and hands-on exercises, the Fire Ground Survival training program provides materials on Preventing a Mayday, Being Ready for the Mayday, Firefighter Self Survival Procedures, Firefighter Self Survival Skills, Skills Necessary to Self Rescue, and Fire Fighters Expectations of Command.
By February, 2008, the IAFF had completed most of the program content and began working on an outline for video production to support the course materials. In May of 2008, they began video production to support this program at the Warner Brothers Studios in California. Over the next several months, video segments were edited and the students and facilitator manuals were created.
In September, 2008, the Fire Ground Survival Committee began conducting beta classes to test and evaluate the curriculum and the delivery methods. To date, beta tests of the class have been conducted in New York, Los Angeles County, Austin, TX, Tucson, AZ, Frederick County, Maryland and now, Prince George's County, Maryland. These classes included members from more than 30 IAFF affiliates. Feedback from these beta classes was used to update the curriculum and enhance the quality of the program. The program was also highlighted at the IAFF's 2009 John P. Redmond Symposium.
The next step in the development of this program is determine the best delivery method to provide the greatest access while maintaining the quality of instruction and most importantly, providing the highest degree of safety. The IAFF is currently evaluating various methods of providing the classroom portion as an online or distant learning module where members can progress through the curriculum on their own pace.