The Company that Trains

The company that trains
With the face of fire service changing every day fire departments are finding it hard to fit mandatory training into their schedules and budgets. This is shifting the responsibility of company level training to the firehouse and more specifically shifting this responsibility to the company officer. It’s up to the company officer to make sure their company can do all aspects of the job as required. Some officers need help with that task.

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Train every shift, get a little better every day.

Company officers need to adjust their operations if their company is going to stay ahead of mission creep. The current trend in the fire service seems to be leaning towards operations that favor the ill prepared and poorly trained. Myself and others have exhausted ourselves preaching the virtues of strong, basic company level operations. Your company needs to sharpen their skills and keep them sharp with or without the help of your department. YOU are responsible for your company’s performance and safety. There is a disconnect between the skills required and the skills performed. Maybe the disconnect is in how to conduct the company level training.
Do you know how to train with your company? Notice I didn’t say train your company, train WITH your company. I’ve been lucky enough to have really good crews. I’ve also had a couple stubborn senior men, which is a good thing and I’ll get to them. They like to wait until the end anyways. Its ok to learn with your company, learn together if you must. Don’t be ashamed, be honest.
Here are my rules & guidelines for training, do with them what you will. They have served me well maybe they will help you.
1. Safety
2. Teamwork
3. All perform/participate
4. No gotcha or surprises
5. Done same time and same length
6. Test new techniques
7. Repetition
8. Don’t be afraid to fail
9. Standards

Safety. Allowing an injury to occur during a training evolution should be looked at as almost as high a crime as failing to perform a skill at an incident. Use the proper PPE and follow all the safeties that the evolution requires. Dressing down for the walk, crawl, portions is fine to lessen fatigue. But when it’s time to perform as expected in real life, make sure to be dressed as you would for the real life version of the evolution.
Teamwork. Use the number of members working together for training that you will have available for that evolution in real life. I does no good becoming proficient throwing a certain ladder with 5 members when only 3 ride the rig. But also don’t be afraid to use help while skills are getting mastered. It’s better to learn the right way slowly then it is to take shortcuts. Shortcuts lead to injuries and lower standards
All perform. Everyone does the evolution the same way. Everyone performs to the same standard. Changing the rules depending on the member only breeds animosity and allows for substandard performance. Even the officer should be able to do the skill to the standard it’s ok to learn with the crew. Sometimes a senior man will be an anchor and not want to participate. Give them time and ask for input. They may just watch a few times before getting involved. Don’t push the issue too much but do ask them for input.
No “Gothcha”, no surprises. NOTHING kills an atmosphere of teamwork like someone throwing a curveball in a deliberate attempt to get someone to fail. DO NOT throw a surprise test on a skill that has not been covered before hand go through what is expected and then test. It’s ok to make the evolution more difficult as proficiency is demonstrated.
Done at the same time and same length. Consistency is one of the keys to buy in. If the crew knows training will be done every day at about the same time they will eventually stop fighting it and accept it. Then they will start to suggest drills. DO NOT make them marathons. I like to limit it to 1 hour and more only if the crew wants it. Sink or swim I cut it off at an hour. There is no point beating a dead horse, try again another day.

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Test new techniques. Now is the time to try that thing you saw on Youtube. Or that cool thing that guy did with the webbing. Do it at a drill to see if it works. Training time is when you want to learn if it works or not.
Repetition. The most important skills need to be done more often. Just like pro baseball players still practice fielding ground balls, a fire crew cannot make a mistake charging a line or hydrant. The practice needs to be consistent and bring in real life challenges to make it realistic. These are the fall backs if you cannot come up with another drill.
Don’t be afraid of failure. Fail during drills. That is the ideal time to do it. Don’t be overly critical of failure, use this opportunity to learn and let them try again. When trying new skills or techniques allow for them to not work a few times and maybe change them to fit your needs. It’s ok to try something and fail, or not work. Move along. But drilling is the perfect time to try.
Standards. Your department’s standards come before the standards of your company. They are the foundation for everything your company does. Your company needs to know where it fits into the bigger goals of the department via SOP’s and SOG’s. It’s ok to do more, or to set the bar higher. But the minimum standards of your department need to be met first. Don’t make up requirements until the minimums are met with ease. Don’t be in a hurry to show off your line advancement skills when your assignment is RIT.

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Sometimes it doesn’t work out and you cannot find time to fit it in. Aim a little lower, but get some sort of training in. Maybe a walk through of a building you get a call at. Or go back to a location of a previous incident, or a construction site. If the weather is crappy do a tabletop exercise. Do something.
Good luck, Good training and remember to try and get a little better every shift.

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