Finding Those Training Moments - Part II

May 22, 2003
This article we will identify five different ways and opportunities for you to guide a training exercise with your personnel.
In part 1 of this 2-part article, the tremendous and on-going training needs of fire-rescue personnel were discussed. We recognized that in today's fire service, diversity of topics is required to maintain proficiency in all expected areas of service. We also acknowledged that all of this training requires time and as a company officer/squad leader, it is our job to maximize the available training moments. In order to gain the greatest benefit, we can look towards "high risk - low frequency" responses/activities to provide guidance for topic areas. Also, five general areas were identified for assessing training needs. These are: 1. Needs of the Fire Company2. Requests of the Company Members3. Needs of Your Community or Response District4. Requests from Your Training Division5. Needs and Missions of the Fire Department

In part this article we will identify five different ways and opportunities for you to guide a training exercise with your personnel. These examples are "low-tech" in that they require minimal upfront equipment or supplies. They are also time sensitive in that they can be started and stopped without putting your company out of service.

Inventory Check-off

All apparatus have required check-off sheets of equipment, supplies and operational readiness. Depending on your organization, this may be accomplished everyday at the beginning of the duty shift, on a particular day of the week or after each call or use. These times provide us with a great opportunity to conduct training. The equipment is exposed and in many cases taken out of compartments. We have our hands on tools. Ask the person checking the equipment about the indications for use, how to deploy the tools, identify safety precautions, how to troubleshoot operational problems (especially important for power tools), maintenance considerations, and finally, what can be used for the job if that particular tool cannot be employed. This type of training works well for newer members and when new equipment is placed on the truck.

While the apparatus operator/driver is checking the mechanical components and pump, take the time to discuss and review items related to his/her duties. For engine companies, this would be a good time to talk about pump pressures for hose lines, signaling methods for charging and shutting down lines, discussing relay pumping or even uncommon evolutions like standpipe and sprinkler supply pumping.

Many departments maintain spare fire apparatus. Take a look at yours. Is the equipment on that spare identical to the front line piece? Is it older, maybe even antique? Will the troops know how to assemble and employ the equipment? Take the time when checking these older trucks to assure that all players can utilize the gear.

Are you responsible for keeping inventory for stock items that are not kept on front line pieces? Do you have a cache of equipment and supplies for mass casualty incidents, HAZMAT or terrorism response? Has it been a while since you and your crew received training on this cache? Use the time while completing these inventories to review what you stock, when it would be deployed, who would use it, and how it is to be used.

Incident Response

There is probably no better source of "training moments" than at the incident scene. Of course, we need to be keenly aware of the right time and right forum. But, don't miss the opportunity to emphasize training points.

During defensive operations, as events settle and there is not as much activity, gather your crew and discuss the incident. Areas to look at include, but are not limited to tactics, the Incident command system and how accountability was monitored. Each of these can be expanded to fit the needs of the group.

It is also possible to find training moments during offensive fire operations. If you have newer members, use these times to explain some of the "whys" of what is going. Overhaul operations and ventilation operations have many teachable points. These include how and why operations are being carried out in a particular manner.

EMS operations, like fire operations, can be used as informal training sessions. When the situation permits, discuss physical exam findings, treatment rationales, and medications that are being administered. Again, no better time than when actually doing the skills. However, keep the patient in mind and think about how your discussions might be received.

Before leaving the scene of an incident, take a few minutes to discuss the overall operation. Look at the building construction and how it effected operations. Ask the crew if they had any safety issues or concerns. Share yours. If the incident commander relayed any information to the company officers, this might be a good time to relay the IC's thoughts. In many locales, this form of debriefing is also called a "tailboard talk". Whatever you call it, it is a good use of an available training moment.

Computers and CD Based Simulators

With a little savvy, you can find many different training programs available for download and use. Some of these programs are actually on-line instruction that requires completion of the program in sequential fashion in order to continue. There are commercially available CD fire and EMS simulators. Although they may not exactly fit your organization with the built in resources and protocols, they do offer the opportunity to practice fundamental approaches to common problems. Another type of training can be using the Internet. This could consist of reviewing Hot Shots and Photo Stories as posted on Use caution in preventing the team from "Monday Morning Quarterbacking". Many of the photos displayed will offer a great opportunity to talk about strategy and tactics, as well as resource deployment.


One of the most abundant and inexpensive training mediums is video. Videos come in all forms from the homegrown to the commercially produced. TV news and television shows can also provide video footage to use as a basis of discourse. One of the obvious benefits of video is that it can be started and stopped with ease and at your convenience. If interrupted, simply pick up where you left off. As far as topics for training, video provides an endless array. Look for the type of video or incidents that are relevant to your department.

Mutual Aid Companies

Today, the fire service is no longer able to provide all of the resources needed within the confines of their run district. Almost all departments have some type of mutual aid agreement. If you have a mutual aid department that borders your district, or if it not too far out of your district, plan training with those companies. Meet at a midway point or at jurisdictional boundaries. Take the time to become familiar with their equipment, (is it different? compatible?) discuss their normal operations and share yours, ask about staffing and what to expect when you call for help. Can you communicate easily, not only between units, but also between dispatch centers? When the "stuff is hitting the fan" is not the time to discover the lack of interoperability.

In this article, many different opportunities were expressed for you to find training moments. The lists and possibilities are endless. You must keep a creative mind when trying to maximize your crew's time. And since we are dealing with adult learners, keep the training relevant, applicable, of a short duration (under an hour), inclusive (hands on when possible), and allow input and feedback. Now might be the time to allow those veterans to tell a war story or two - making sure it applies to the day's lesson. And finally, reward your team for taking the extra time to learn and review in a non-traditional training environment. A bucket of ice cream goes a long way!


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