As Firehouse Sees It: Is Training and Education Your Priority?

July 3, 2023
Peter Matthews heard multiple times and multiple recent events and conferences that he attended that, unfortunately, training isn't top of mind.

The scope of training is changing: Sometimes it’s the down and dirty training at a burn building or hours of sweat and perseverance in a training yard or an apparatus bay; other times it’s a formal talk with a PowerPoint presentation or videos; and then there are the kitchen table conversations that can go on until the house bells ring for the next run.

After attending several conferences in the past few weeks, it appears that the terms “training” and “education” parallel and complement each other, but awareness-level education is a growing focus, as fire departments take on more and more roles in their community. It was encouraging to see the increased emphasis on awareness education, including the short- and long-term health and longevity effects of the firefighting career (for both paid and volunteer firefighters) and the focus on firefighters taking care of themselves, watching out for their colleagues and caring for their family.

We were invited by the Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters to talk about Firehouse Expo during the Leading Issues Training Summit. In addition, I spent a lot of time listening during the two days of education regarding cancer, PFAS, sleep deprivation, and effects of the job and its exposures on men’s and women’s health. Dr. Sara Jahnke and David Bernzweig were among the presenters, and they shed much light on science and research findings that every firefighter must be aware of. Remember, not every topic requires hourslong discussions. Furthermore, many of the topics are uncomfortable, but left ignored, they could get worse.

Back to the down and dirty training: Despite the run volumes that departments face, company officers must ensure that members spend time honing their skills. The consensus of discussions at the various events that I attended was that training isn’t top of mind. Many said newer officers are uncomfortable leading training as they work to get acclimated to their new role. With that, senior members and others in the companies can devise training opportunities.

Maybe a dedicated hour after lunch is good for operational, EMS, and wellness training and discussions. You already are at the table—now just focus the conversation.

Firehouse Expo Must-Attends

The Tailboard Talks sessions return to the exhibit floor of Firehouse Expo this year and will feature key instructors who will deliver brief talks on fireground operational and leadership topics in quick, 15-minute sessions. Find the full lineup at

An addition to the pre-conference workshops includes a full-day session that will combine classroom and hands-on training for various through-the-lock entry skills with John Hayowyk Jr. The session requires pre-registration.

In addition to the education sessions and visits with product professionals on the exhibit floor, there are networking opportunities as well. On Wednesday (Sept. 27), the exhibit floor opens at 4 p.m. after the Opening Ceremony and includes an opportunity for attendees to converse with exhibitors and product experts to find solutions for future purchases and service needs.

On Thursday (Sept. 28), join Columbus Fire Fighters Local 67 for the third annual FireFest at their union hall. The beautiful facility (a former train station and named Station 67) is one of Columbus’ hottest event centers. Shuttles will transport attendees from the convention center to the event and its live music and great views of downtown Columbus from Station 67’s front lawn. Grab some food, a drink and a seat and catch up with friends or spark a conversation that creates a new relationship. This event is free, and transportation is provided throughout the evening.

On Friday morning (Sept. 29), the annual National Fallen Firefighters Foundation 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb will take place at Huntington Park, which is the home of the Columbus Clippers, which is the Cleveland Guardians Triple-A affiliate team.

Lastly, don’t miss picking up your official 40th anniversary Firehouse Expo T-shirt by stopping by the Gettin Salty Apparel booth on the exhibit floor.

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