Benefits Of Training

April 1, 1996
Training is the backbone of a fire department. lt produces a well-prepared force that through repetition increases the speed of an operation and enhances proper execution while reducing injuries.

A firefighter who arrives at an emergency unprepared can be faced with life-and-death situations and will find himself or herself under ex-treme stress to perform his or her duties.

Training benefits everyone: the firefighter, the company officer, the fire department.

Photo by Mike Meadows Quality training prepares individuals and departments to control major emergencies, such as this recent fire at a commercial building in downtown Los Angeles, CA.

Firefighters improve their skills. They experience less fumbling and fewer errors. They are able to gain confidence in themselves, since they can perform their job at a high level. They develop pride in themselves and in their department. Training allows for continuous growth in their ability and prepares them to assume more responsibility while grooming them for promotions.

The company officer reaps many benefits from a highly trained crew. There is better control over operations. The training frees him or her from interruption of workers' questions, allowing more time for the officer to assume greater responsibility. It improves the firefighter's overall ability and the officer has less fear of emergencies. The relationship between the officer and the firefighters becomes pleasant and fewer troubles exist. This results in the officer having job satisfaction instead of job headaches.

The department as a whole is a beneficiary, since training allows for constantly improved operations. The efficiency of the fire department is recognized by the citizens they protect and can be directly linked to good public relations, permitting the passage of bills which benefit the fire department. It also keeps morale at a high level which though an intangible, facilitates every function of a department. The career firefighter will work in a pleasant environment and the volunteer firefighter will look forward to participation in the various departmental functions.

Preparation Is Required

Training, though, must be challenging. Reading from a text is boring and counterproductive. To conduct an interesting training exercise, the officer has to be prepared. This involves prior reading and research.

An officer can maintain interest in the subject by asking questions and seeking input from all participants. Drawing from the experience of each member allows for a well-rounded exercise. It also permits the officer conducting the training to reap the benefits of the firefighters' experience, while letting the officer recognize each member's level of expertise.

Training permits mistakes to be made and corrected in a non-emergency setting. The fire officer can take the time to stop a training exercise and point out correct procedures. He or she can explain what problems can arise by failing to use the correct method, including problems that can occur if shortcuts are taken.

Performance Standards

A department that establishes performance standards or timed evolutions for engine and ladder companies and then trains utilizing those criteria will be better prepared to handle the varied problems that occur at an incident scene.

Development of these evolutions can start by stretching an attack line into the first floor of a structure while hooking up to a hydrant or obtaining a water supply from a tanker/tender. This basic evolution can then be changed to placing a portable ladder and stretching a hoseline up the ladder and through a window.

Each evolution can become more complex by including additional functions. The agenda can be expanded to placing master-stream devices in operation. Ladder companies or tower ladders can place their apparatus into operation for simulated fires requiring elevated streams. The object is to achieve a standardized operation that emphasizes safety. Standardization lets members assigned to different units work together.

The entire evolution must be specific and documented. There should be a maximum amount of time to complete an evolution. Using time frames simulates the stress found at the incident scene. lt also demands teamwork on the part of all members to ensure that the time frames will be met.

An excellent method to keep training interesting is to foster a competitive spirit between the various units. This can be accomplished by recording the time needed to complete each evolution and posting the individual times. Realize that speed alone should not be the determining factor. Safe operations and adhering to the entire performance standard must be judged. There should be methods to penalize units for minor mistakes or omissions.

Videotaping evolutions lets the officer note a unit's strengths and discover areas where improvement is needed. An excellent tool for the training division is to maintain tapes of the units performing the best times. This permits recognition of these outstanding accomplishments while allowing other units reviewing the tapes to take advantage of their experience.

In addition to the benefits gained by firefighters training on timed evolutions, a fire officer should make note of the amount of time required to perform these evolutions. This can help the officer when commanding a fire scene in assigning tactical operations.


Fire departments should regularly schedule training involving multi-units. This should include the cross-training of members normally assigned to an engine on the operations of a main ladder or tower ladder, while ladder company members get the opportunity to operate the pumps on the engines. This hands-on training permits members the opportunity to better understand how the various units function, allowing an emergency scene to operate smoothly.

Departments should routinely train with mutual aid departments. These exercises enable members to bond friendships and share experiences that will benefit each department when called upon to operate together on future incident scenes.


All fire department members need training. New members need to learn basic skills. Senior members need the training as a refresher and to keep their skills sharp. The company officer, while monitoring training, should provide positive reinforcement when required and adjust or correct improper actions should they occur.

Training fosters teamwork and cooperation. Training can be accomplished formally through drills and practical evolutions, informally by explaining policies and procedures. Members can set goals and discuss their individual progress with their commanding officers.


To demonstrate the ability to effectively place a Stang Gun in service using all standard operating procedures (SOPs) and accepted safety measures. Evolution should be completed within the acceptable time allotted, six minutes and 10 seconds.

Company encounters theoretical heavy fire conditions third and fourth floors of tower building.

The company officer will supervise the activities of properly placing the hydrant in service utilizing one or two sections of the large hard suction.

Apparatus should come to a complete stop with hydrant at front of rear tire. The company will then remove Stang Gun from apparatus, along with five lengths of three-inch or 3 1/2-inch hoseline. Stang Gun will be carried to designated area in front of tower building and placed in service at the end of hoseline.

Pump operator will, after placing hydrant in service, complete connection of three-inch or 3 1/2-inch hoseline to pumper. Pump operator will charge hoseline only when ordered to do so by company officer.

With one member manning the gun, the evolution will be complete after company has flowed water into third- or fourth-floor window for 15 seconds.

The following procedures will be used to grade the operation:

  1. Is proper protective clothing being utilized?
  2. Did pump operator follow proper procedures for operating the hydrant?
    1. Manually check to see hydrant is shut off.
    2. Visually inspect hydrant for damage.
    3. Physically check hydrant for debris in barrel and damage to threads.
    4. Flush hydrant to assure water flow and clear unseen debris.
    5. Connect large hard suction to hydrant first and then to pumper.
    6. Apparatus chocked front and rear.
  3. Is three-inch/3 1/2-inch hoseline secured at outlet with rope-hose tool to prevent damage?
  4. Is 3 1/2-inch gate valve placed in hoseline stretch one length behind appliance?
  5. Is Stang Gun fed by three-inch/3 1/2-inch hoseline from the proper direction?
    1. Standard Stang Gun - hoseline coming from front of gun.
    2. New Lightweight Gun - hoseline coming from rear of gun.
    3. Deluge Gun - hoseline coming from front of gun.
  6. If lightweight gun is used, is it secured properly by use of chains?
  7. Is gun secured properly to base plate?
  8. Have the horizontal and vertical locks that are used to control gun been properly adjusted to secure gun for this activity?
  9. Did pump operator place the proper pressure on the pump (150 psi at pump for three-inch/3 1/2-inch hoseline.)
  10. Proper supervision by company officer.
  11. Proper safety measures are carried out.



Starts: When apparatus stops beside hydrant.

Ends: When water has flowed for 15 seconds in designated third- or fourth-floor center window.


  1. Proper protective clothing
  2. Hydrant placed in service properly
  3. Hoseline secured with rope hose tool
  4. Gate valve placed in line properly
  5. Proper hose layout for gun used
  6. Lightweight Gun secured properly
  7. Gun secured to base plate
  8. Safety locks on gun used
  9. Proper pressure at the pump
  10. Proper supervision by company officer
  11. Proper safety measures carried out
  1. Major safety infraction constitutes a failure.
  2. Required time: six minutes, 10 seconds
  3. Actual time:

Add 10 seconds for each minor task infraction. Add 25 seconds for each major task infraction.


James P. Smith, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a deputy chief of the Philadelphia, PA, Fire Department and an adjunct instructor at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD.

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