Failure During Training

During the†setup a multi-agency drill, a conversation was started after a prop that was going to be used was built. The conversation covered when to remove a firefighter from the prop that will be used as apart of an Air Management course. The statement was made a firefighter starts to lose it you remove them from the prop. My feelings of course is that you allow them to stay there and work it out. My feelings are this way because, I feel that we are giving firefighters a false sense of security. Allowing them to believe that there is going to be a hand to just reach in and grab you when your in trouble. Firefighters who have experienced being lost and disoriented, or running out air know that this is not so. It was said to me that it seems like we just want firefighters to fail this particular skill by allowing them to panic and not pulling them out. My thoughts are the failure would be to pull them out and build that falsehood that help is always going to be right there. The basics are simple and plain if and when you get jammed because if your a firefighter going into structure fires you will, its simple you panic you could very well DIE! Yes I said it! Its a harsh reality,† but true. You have to have a survival attitude and training to go along with it. So I ask you the fire service where is the failure. Is failure allowing firefighters to†be pulled out because they panic, or Failure not to let them panic and hammer the point home?


  • Donovan says:

    Let’s be clear about the objective of the drill. Is the purpose of the drill to accomplish a goal or run out of air?
    For example; if you are running a Denver Drill is the goal to run out of air or throw the guy out the window? Throw the guy out the window. By allowing the guys to quit when the run out of air you are not accomplishing the objective.
    The reason for drilling is to fail in a non hazardous environment and then learn from that failure. The participants need to work out the problem and find a solution. If they are allowed to punch out when they run out of air they miss the “Ah-Ha!” moment of solving the problem and gaining/refining a skill.
    My answer is usually 1 of 2 things. 1. If they are doing a drill that they can back out from, they need to notify command and do it before running out of air. 2. If it is a “survival” type skill they need to remove the regulator and complete the evolution. Both students need to try again after rehab.
    What usually happens is the “AHJ” or the agency running the show wants to get done and check the box on paper. The result is 50 guys “completed training” and nobody learned a damn thing. Well some guys learned that they will be screwed if they end up in that position.
    Allowing the guys to quit when they run out of air promotes laziness and lowers standards.
    Just my opinion.

  • FDTN says:

    The failure is not breaking the skills down into small enough segments to allow the learning to take place. “Figuring it out” on the fly is part of the reason we end up in the predicaments we do. Adapting, after running out of options is not the same as “figuring it out on the fly!” If the drill involves manipulating a downed firefighter, communicating, teamwork, and perseverance — then those should have been engrained in previous training sessions prior to just dumping them into the drill and letting them do whatever it takes. We’re all for doing “whatever it takes” but that can’t be the starting point!

  • Fyafighter says:

    Sometimes when drill in the fire service, we tend to forget to break down certain skills into smaller manageable blocks. Some of the best air management/SCBA/survival training I have done with small crews in the station with packs on reviewing emergency procedures. Take small steps to review air management, buddy breathing, and RIT pack connections first in warm dry lighted room without gloves, then proceed to gloves and dark room, and finally into to prop or maze set-up with full PPE. The time learn emergency SCBA procedures should not be in an elaborate prop. The other issue with multiagency/large group drills is the participants may feel under a microscope by the group standing around watching them.

    To understand why some participants freeze during events like this read or listen to the following books. The Unthinkable: Who Survives when Disaster Strikes by Amanda Ripley,Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales. This books will give you a better perspective on what happens in brain under these stress situations.

    I am also a true believer in replaying the scenario right there and then so that the participant ends on a win. I learned this working with police being a bad guy during simunitions training. You want to imprint the winning strategy in the participant’s brain so if they ever end up in survival situation they can fall back on the training win.

  • I agree with the theme that everyone seems to have. We have to let people discover their limitations in training (no matter how long/reps that takes!!!). That IS the point of training! Unfortunately, we often miss that point.

    Identifying the objectives, then sticking to them, is critical to the credibility of the instructor and the drill itself. Example, we used to drill on engine and truck tactics and, as part of seemingly every drill, their would some kind of spontaneous Mayday event that would be impossible to deal with! In reaction, the crews started calling company training “Everybody Dies Training” and resented the instructor. Subsequently… NO ONE LEARNED ANYTHING, EVER!

    Tough love is a necessary part of firefighter training. We learn more from our mistakes than we do our successes. But you gotta keep the learning environment productive, even when drilling on stressful topics. Firefighters will learn if they are set up to learn (not necessarily succeed, learn). Learning is succeeding in the training environment, regardless of the outcome.

  • firestudent1 says:

    Thanks for the great replies. Unfortunately in our area, training before drill is not understand.

    Please see Drilling vs Training which was written a week or two ago.

    The drill objectives are to gain mask confidence and air management.

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Marques Bush

Firefighter Basics launched in February 2009 after Founder/Editor Marques Bush was looking for a way to express himself and share his experiences with brother and sister firefighters. Shortly after founding the site Marques spoke with several trusted friends and ask them to come on board and contribute also. Firefighter Basics is a dedicated group of firefighters who strive everyday to practice what they preach about Training, Safety, and Tradition.  We can be reached at

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