On Scene?

Feb. 28, 2006
Most candidates in the fire simulation I coach don't start off on the right footing. Once I give them the assignment, the first words out of their mouths is something like, "OK I'm on scene" and start giving a size up and I later reply "Yea, but what else?" Blank stares is often what I am left with.

Most candidates in the fire simulation I coach don't start off on the right footing. Once I give them the assignment, the first words out of their mouths is something like, "OK I'm on scene" and start giving a size up. I say, "No, you're not on scene yet. This is probably going to be a burner and they want to find out how long you can tread water. So, how can you tell if you have a working fire?" Well, "Smoke showing?" "Yea, but what else?" Blank stares.

How about you ask dispatch how many calls on this response (I'm playing the part of dispatch)? They jump right in and ask, "Radio, how many calls received on this response. Dispatch replies, multiple calls. Some candidates just proceed to the call. Too many don't think big enough. Some will call a second. I ask, "Can't you call a third?" "Well, that would involve all our resources and go into mutual aid."

Understand that this tactical exercise is fantasyland. The BC or other chief is going to be delayed and you're going to be placed in charge of the run away train. Got it? In fantasyland you get to order any and all the resources your little heart desires. It will magically appear. You just order it and let dispatch get it moving. You will never be criticized for ordering too much equipment (you can always send it home), but you will be crucified for not ordering enough.

Side Note: One candidate told me, "We're a rural department where we have limited or no water supply and often draft. We are discouraged from ordering mutual aid units." My question was, "Are the raters going to be from your department?" "No" was the reply." "Then, don't you think these raters will want to see how you can handle the fire with ALL the available resources?" "Well, sure." Then fight the fire that way." Well, guess what? He ordered up the world during his simulation, got a top score and a new badge!

Then, the candidate will say, "OK, now I'm on the scene." "Hold on big fellow. You have just called a greater alarm. What other resources can you get moving now that you might forget later?" With a little nudging they come up with police for traffic control, ambulance with supervisor, utility company, light and air units, volunteers, canteen, etc.

Now they're a little goosey. "OK, am I on the scene yet?" I say. "Nope. What are you thinking about as you're responding?" "Ur, uh, like what?" "Like time of day, occupancy, rescue, the whole ARESEO thing. But you must tell the panel members what you're thinking or you won't get credit for it." Again, this has to come out of your mouth to get the points that are going to pull you away from the rest of the pack.

"Whew, well, am I on the scene yet???" "Yea, now you can go on scene and give your size up. It's your fire hit it!"

But concentrate on a solid plan. A critical error many candidates make in the tactical problem of our assessment center coaching session is try to put too much into play out of sequence early on in the exercise and make the problem bigger than the raters have given them. Is this how they have been taught in classes? Often, candidates will give assignments to units to place positive pressure ventilation, a crew to pull ceilings, assign more than one unit to carry out search rescue and other tasks, call the canteen truck, and add a rescue problem that wasn't given to them. This is before they have the first line on the fire, a RIT team assigned, utilities pulled and sending a crew to the roof for ventilation. The fire gets away from them and they are out of equipment and resources before they realize what happened.

Yes, you want to cover all the bases to make sure the box is check off on the rating sheet, but the best offensive for extinguishment and rescue is an aggressive fire attack!

These are major areas the raters will be checking off on your scoring sheet that can rack up big points. You come out swinging! Once you have proven you can start off handling the call. You're nailing it, and as soon as the raters know you got it, they will help you over the top to that badge! It's a beautiful thing when it happens.

Along with the glory of the badge comes the benefits and pay that go way into retirement. One candidate gained a $1,000 a month more in pay on his promotion. That's real money.

A recent letter Bob Smith received:

Captain Bob: About 6 1/2 years ago, I called you and ordered your package for entry-level firefighters. I was happy to report that the information in your program was invaluable! Out of close to 3,000 people who tested, I was hired in the first class of 30!!!

Two months ago, I was eligible to take a promotional exam for the rank of Fire Captain. I remembered how much your entry-level program helped me, so I ordered your promotional program. Once again, I am extremely happy to report that you have another success story. Out of 181 candidates who took the written test, 70 moved on to the assessment center. I was one of the 70. My final ranking in this testing process is 14!! The department is due to promote 22 in the next 30 days. Your program advice on the employee conflict, in-basket, and fire scenario were extremely helpful. I am once again recommending your program to everyone I know. Thanks again. I'll let you know when I am actually promoted!

Sincerely, Jon Dorman DeKalb County, GA

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