Company Level Training - The 20 Minute Drill: Part 2

Sept. 5, 2006
There is a lot you can accomplish in training even if you don't have a lot of time. Here are some additional drills that can be accomplished in 20 minutes.

As we discussed in the last article, there is a lot you can accomplish in training even if you don't have a lot of time. Here are some additional drills that can be accomplished in 20 minutes.

1. Hazardous Materials Response. For this drill, pull out your department's SOPs or SOGs. You also will need your Emergency Response Guide (ERG). Review your department's procedures for the initial arriving company at a haz-mat event. Do you establish command? Is identification one of the first steps taken? Do you need to initiate an evacuation? The initial arriving company is going to use the ERG more than any of the later arriving companies.

What are the different zones that your department will establish? If necessary, can you set up a decontamination area? Will you call an outside agency to assist with a hazardous materials incident? These are questions for which everyone on your crew must know the answers.

Pull out the ERG and thumb through the four sections. I am willing to bet that it has been awhile since anyone on the crew has looked at this book. Determine the meaning of the highlighted lines. Remind the crew how to reference the different sections. Remember, correctly identifying the placard can provide:

  • The name of the substance.
  • The potential hazards associated with the substance.
  • Public safety information.
  • Protective clothing information.
  • Extinguishing information, as well as other relevant details.

This is neither the sexiest nor the most exciting drill that you can do, but if you are first-on at an ammonia leak inside a commercial facility with possible casualties inside the structure and multiple victims complaining of a wide range of symptoms on the outside, you had better be up-to-date on your department's procedures.

2. Apparatus placement. Get the old markers out (or the chalk for some of the relics out there!), and warm up your artistic skills. Draw an overhead view of a recent structure fire with which you are familiar. Lay out the scene to your crew. Have them place the first incoming engine, first due truck, second engine, rescue company, battalion chief, etc. There are many options for apparatus placement.

Try this drill from a multiple-alarm fire perspective. Throw in a few obstacles such as overhead wires and narrow streets with cars parked on either side. Be creative - there are endless variations of commercial buildings. What about rural residences that sit far from the road?

Draw an accident scene on a highway or a busy intersection. Where should an apparatus be parked on a freeway for a second due company dispatched to help block traffic at a vehicle accident?

For more information on this subject, go to and do a search for author Mike Wilbur. You will find several articles written by Wilbur, the foremost authority on apparatus placement.

3. Swift water procedures. Put away the PFDs and the water wings, because they will not be necessary for this drill. There are several short training sessions for swift water rescues. Refer to SOPs and refresh the crew on their specific roles in such an incident. Who is called for a water rescue? What is the role of the initial arriving company until the swift water team arrives on scene?

If you have throw bags on your truck, set up a trashcan some distance away, and see who the best shot is. Make it a challenge if you want to. Having a little fun with this type of session is still considered training for the day. Training doesn't always have to be straight-laced, button-down torture.

Pull out a section of rope, and have everyone tie a tension-diagonal. If you thought remembering basic knots was difficult (see 20 Minute Quick Drills, Part 1), try recalling this one from rookie school. If you are not sure how to tie this knot, there will be some comedic relief when everyone tries to remember the process. Hopefully, someone on the crew will have an idea where to start. (Hint: Figure eight follow through for one anchor point).

4. RIT procedures. By now, every department should have some type of RIT procedure in place, so we'll skip the lecture on the value of such a team. Have you discussed with your crew exactly how you plan to perform as a RIT? Here are some questions to consider. Figure out what works best for your crew.

  • What tools will you bring to staging?
  • Do you have all these tools on your truck? If not, where will you get the tools you are missing?
  • Who will perform the 360 survey?
  • Does your crew know which crews are inside the structure?
  • Does your crew know the interior crew assignments?
  • Does your crew know the location of the interior crews?
  • Will your crew split into two teams when making entry for a downed firefighter?
  • What will be the assignments of each person making entry?
  • What tools will be brought in for a downed firefighter?

I'm sure you and your crew can come up with 20 additional questions to ponder. The key to this drill is to sit down and ask and answer these questions in advance. You don't want to be the crew that shows up to RIT with a few tools and no game plan.

RIT is not a form of punishment. If one of your brothers or sisters goes down, you are the most important person in the world, not only to that downed firefighter, but also to his/her entire family. Take the assignment seriously.

5. Territory study. How well does your entire crew know the territory? Start off with questions from the first-on territory. Next, expand the course of study to the second and third-on territory. What about streets that start and stop? What about streets that are separated by a stream or a dead-end? Some separated streets have numbers within the same hundred block on either side of the obstruction (3700, 3704, creek, 3720, 3724...). If you are comfortable with everyone's knowledge of the territory, expand the study to the location of hydrants.

For departments in larger cities, the territory study should include the location of high-rise exterior standpipe connections. Which structures have basements? What about abandoned buildings that have interior hazards, such as holes in the floor?

Studying territory encompasses so much more than street locations. Every building in your territory is your responsibility. Take the initiative when you are trolling your territory and stop at an abandoned building that your crew has been waiting to go up in flames. Walk around it to form a game plan. You will learn a lot more by examining the structure up close than you will by driving past it at 40 miles per hour. A walk-around at one abandoned building is a training session in and of itself!

6. Bunk-out drill. Mike Harrison, Engineer/ Paramedic, Station 211, Cedar Hill Fire Department, Cedar Hill, TX, submitted this drill. The purpose of this drill is to improve the speed and accuracy in which we put our gear on.

  1. Have each member go to the dorm/bunkroom and get in his or her respective beds. They must be in the clothing that they usually sleep in. Make sure the covers are pulled up. (No cheating)
  2. Have one member use a stopwatch to time the exercise.
  3. The member with the stopwatch says, "go" and all crewmembers leave the dorm/ bunk room and proceed to their assigned apparatus.
  4. When all members are properly wearing bunker pants, bunker coats, all are seated with seatbelts on and the driver has started the apparatus and released the parking brake, the time will stop.

Continue this drill until all members can complete this drill with a team time of one minute or less. This drill prepares the members to have a quicker and safer response. The crew will find that setting up the PPE the exact way that they want it will decrease the time to get ready and on board the apparatus. Some members may find it faster to place all or part of their PPE in the dorm/ bunkroom and place it on before leaving the room.

This exercise turned into a competition amongst the different apparatus crews, which made it more enjoyable.

These are just a few ideas for those days when the weather is not cooperating, your company is getting slammed or your guys are just plain tired. Remember, company level training does not have to be a drawn out, elaborate sideshow. Anything taught is another tool in the toolbox that we may one day have to use. Sometimes, the smallest tool is the most valuable one. And try to have fun.

I welcome your feedback on these articles. If you have an idea for a training session, send me an e-mail to: [email protected]. If you have a better way to train on any particular subject, send it to me. I will always give credit to any individual and their department for any ideas that get used in an article.


Larry Manasco has been with the Fort Worth, TX, Fire Department for 11 years and has has served as a lieutenant for the past three years. He holds the classification of Fire Officer I and Hazardous Materials Technician. He currently works in one of the busiest engine companies in Fort Worth. He has worked for Firehouse World in San Diego where he was an assistant instructor for FDNY B.C. Salka's "Get Out Alive" H.O.T. class. You can contact Larry by e-mail at [email protected].

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