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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Going for the “Training Trifecta” I have finally found a decent method for online presentations. So through the blog, the Video Episodes and now the presentations, you have mulitple ways to satisfy your training thirst. On the homepage you will now find ON SCENE: Online Training Modules. Each module is 30 minutes or less of training information and is unique to ECO22. Maybe in the future we will have some guest instructors.

Please visit the main site to make today a training day. http://engineco22.net

Thanks for stopping by, we think thats AWESOME!

Dont they know Firemen are a little crazy?

You will get strange looks, but they benefit from your dedication.

When putting together a training regimen what do you look for? The Internet has a plethora of quality resources ranging from all out strength, weight loss and conditioning. A novice to a world full of “perfect” and “latest and greatest” it can be very overwhelming. Years ago when I made the turn and decided to get in shape, almost everyday my goals changed. Every article that touted the best movement for strength and size or nutrition plan that gave the best results, I took in and lived by. That would last about a day till the next article was posted.

With any program you have to allow time. Usually 6-8 weeks of a program will allow you to see the results. Of course you must follow the program as prescribed. This type of model is typically weight loss or strength/size based. The model a Firefighter must follow to excel on the fire ground is much different.
Everyday more and more fire service members are being turned on to the Crossfit methodology. If you need more info on Crossfit check out their website. Personally I started doing Crossfit-esque training sessions a few years ago. To increase my work ability, after my strength session, I would perform X-amount of push ups, then 1 min of kettle bell swings, followed by pull ups then a 400m sprint. This would be ran in 3-4 rounds. After several sessions I started to see my endurance would be extended. Whereas the first sessions I would need a break in between rounds I was not taking breaks and getting through to the next round.
This training was monumental when it came training for the combat challenge. If only strength is sought for the FFCC, your time will reflect it. Once my work capacity improved, without losing strength, my time improved.
Firefighters must be Built to Last. When the alarm goes out you have no way to know how long you will have to work. We don’t get to take a breather after a critical task. It may be dragging hose to throwing ladders, if must be done with minimum effort for maximum gain and with the stamina to move on to the next task. One of the ways to build this resiliency is designing a program that mimics the fire ground.
Dynamic training sessions allow for total conditioning. A Dynamic session could look like this: 60 seconds of kettle bell Snatches, 60 seconds Dead lifts, 60 seconds of kettle bell swings, 60 seconds of box step ups and 60 seconds of “Ceiling Breach”( see EngineCo22.net Episode 5 for this) . This would be performed 3-5 times, each completion of all movements equals a round.
For the first few attempts no gear. Once a baseline has been established slowly add a pack, then turnouts and finally attempt on air. After time you will see your fireground abilites improve.

{ This post was written for and featured on http://eghillinois.org }

Looking at annual Line of Duty Death statistics, anyone can easily see that cardiac arrest is a Firefighters foe. In fact, heart attack is at least 50% of the reason why we lose so many brothers and sisters each year. We can all agree that improving our health, getting annual medical physicals and exercising are the right things to do. However, I have two questions. First how many of us are working out regularly and to the intensity of the fire ground, getting physicals and eating the way we should? Second, are you wearing the right personal protective equipment, wearing it properly and until determined safe to remove?

Your personal health, fitness and safety starts with you. Emergency Services is a physically demanding and intense field. In our down time, we should be doing everything within our power to prepare ourselves. Whether it is physical fitness or reading a textbook, our main task is preparation. Everyday has unknowns, when will the call come, what will it be for and could lives be on the line. Honestly, that is why most of us chose this profession. No matter if your career or volunteer, you still have the duty to perform how you are expected, you must be ready to respond. The actions you take start with how your body reacts to the moment. At this time, I could point out the obvious, heart attack. Let’s save that for another day and use our time to discuss our wellness.

Our bodies well being is the every day maintenance of our mental and physical soundness. Good nutrition, exercise, mobility and good sleep habits all play vital roles in our well-being. To ensure that we maintain a precise level, we must see a doctor on a regular basis. The trend of Firefighter Heart Attacks, sometimes over shadows why we need to ensure we have physicals each year or more. It is not just about our tickers, our whole body is priority. The human body is a very complex system and we must maintain it with rigor. If one part of our system is not functioning properly, other systems must compensate for it. When you have regular physicals, your doctor can trend these findings and make sure that it is corrected or at least ensure it does not get worse. Could some of the annual LODD reports be attributed to underlying issues that could have been found well before the heart attack occurred? Personal responsibility and accountability must be enhanced throughout the fire service to prevent line of duty death. We choose to be firefighters, so choose to continue to be one for a long time, by taking responsibility for your health and well-being.

What prompted me to write this today is the health struggle that I am having. Let us just say my plumbing system is on the fritz. My body is in no condition to be in all my gear, breathing air and pulling hose. If I responded today, I would be a liability to all on the fire ground. Having the COURAGE to say, “I am not fit to fight” is hard to do, when the Fire Service is your life. The statement had to be made, for myself, for friends, for the brotherhood and most importantly my family. Please have the courage to see your doctor, get that physical each year and if you are not fit to fight, HAVE THE COURAGE to speak up!

Now on to the second question I posed about PPE. Their really is not much to say about this one. They buy, we wear it. We must be accountable for ensuring the protective equipment, the department sometimes struggles to purchase for us, is worn as required. Wear your hoods, wear your gloves, wear eye protection and breathe your air. Over the past few years, several studies have looked at the effects of toxic gases in smoke and the damage it inflicts on our bodies. Evidence has even shown that certain toxins can be absorbed through our turn out gear. Simply ensuring your gear is washed can help reduce the chances of illness. You should also think about what get absorbed into your skin that you might take home. If you wear gear that was not washed after the last fire on your next medical run, are you exposing yourself and the patient? What about your family after the call or at the end of shift? Take a shower before going home or do not interact with family members until you shower and put your dirty clothes aside. Our PPE is not a protective force field it has limitations. Think about every line of duty death reported due to illness. How many more lose their lives from Cancer? Smoke and off gases are hazardous materials, treat them as such. Always decontaminate yourself, your equipment and your personal protective equipment. Save a life today by wearing your gear; breathing your air then get it all washed. Do not expose yourself and do not take that crap home to your families.

The bottom line, go see your doctor as soon as possible for a physical. Eat whole foods; fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds and lean meats. Exercise daily; based on your performance requirements and under doctors advice. Get enough sleep. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before and after the call. Use the equipment provided for you. Know when you are not fit for the fight and speak up about it.

One great aspect of the blog world is the ability to quickly share ideas and insight with millions of people. Anyone and Everyone has a blog these days. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great concept, yet some days it seems that bloggers blog something just to blog something.

The Fire Service is a great example of how this advancement in technology can help us to do our jobs better. A fire happens tonight in New York and in 5 hours the whole country can learn from it. But are we OVER loaded with this information?

In 2006 I started this website. It was updated 2-3 times a month with training drills, fire commentary and my point of view. These days that has become to insufficient. If I do not post a great epiphany every day my views and thoughts are swirled into a melting pot of Fire Service prose. The videos helped to stand out some, yet still so many others have been there done that. Tactics used to be my favorite subject, yet somewhere along the way I have gravitated towards the mental processes of our trade.  Tactics create too much debate, not enough focus on how different we all really are. Tactics should be left to the basics when posting for the masses. How is a young Firefighter to learn and master the basics when he is watching 45 different systems doing something 65 different ways. None of those are the way HIS organization expects it to be performed.

Bottom line, use a mental strainer when reading the blogs, the tactics, the arm chair quarterbacking. Look for the topics of what this job means and what it takes to do it. 5 different departments cover an area the size a smaller city where I am from, and we all do things differently.

 

By the way this was actually to be about my guest spot over at http://eghillinois.org . I will be posting there from time to time…check out my latest “Mayday For Stress, posted now! http://eghillinois.org/2012/03/mayday-for-stress-lsi13/

A simple equation that has great value is Performance
= (Knowledge + Desire + Experience
). In a previous post, I mentioned this
formula briefly, as it applies to training. Today we want to examine our
performance, when altered by outside factors or influence.

Performance on and off the fire ground is crucial. From the final test to receive
certification to how we function on our next working fire, performance should
improve anytime we increase a constant. Measurements of knowledge and
experience can be made and most predictably, an increase will be seen. Personal
desire to perform to high standards, beliefs or at maximum effort is much more
difficult to account for.

Fire service members should always be seeking to increase their knowledge, skills and abilities to improve performance. Instructors and Trainers can ensure KSA through
education, but desire must come from within the student. A side note, I prefer to use Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes, since attitude
relates more closely to desire. This is also due to abilities being a sum of
your knowledge and skill.
Instructors can influence a student’s attitude
with enthusiasm. At least that is the desired affect. When the KSA’s are met we
then can apply performance indicators, (Knowledge + Desire + Expirience) to
track how a student improves. Typically, new students have high desire to learn
and perform well, while lacking the knowledge and experience. As students grow,
either all three constants increase or a deficiency noted. Instructors should
be aware of what is lacking and take correct measures promptly.

Outside influences can trigger a shortcoming during a task. Humans are free thinkers.
An issue that may arise when we put our workers into a situation with theirs
peers, is conformity. Have you ever seen a group make a poor decision even
though the individual members knew what they were doing was either wrong or
should have been different? Humans will conform to the norms, values, and
expectations of their peers when they feel pressure. Another angle is our
younger/newer members; they tend to emulate behaviors of people whom they
admire. All of us have looked up to someone in our career and felt we needed to
show them our worth. Finally, the most influential way humans will exhibit a
behavior, a positive reward.

Human Performance then would look like this:

HUMAN PERFORMANCE = (KNOWLEDGE + DESIRE + EXPIRIENCE + X)

X = INFLUENCE of various types and degrees

Our actions will differ when in a group setting, under leadership of someone we look up to
and when rewarded. We most desire admiration and respect. The question is, do
we as Fire Service Leaders ensure we influence the performance of our people by
leading with the right behaviors, keep our values even in when were in the
crowd and reward good work with the proper reinforcement? Conversely, influence
could be a positive force, where we want to shift it though is to increasing
desire. Even with hours of deliberate practice, hours of application, desire
and no external influence firefighters are human and we will make mistakes.
These mistakes however, can be with little or no consequence if we put certain
defenses into place. Defenses are either by human or physical means. For
example, we can tell everyone on the fire ground to avoid the garage area to
protect against evidence spoliation or we can put physical barriers in place to
protect the area. We should be able to trust the on scene responders with this
task however the consequences of someone failing to follow directives could be
dyer. Other defenses are what we call human performance tools. These are
actions like peer checks. A peer
check is simply having another person who is knowledgeable in the subject or
field double check your work. Another tool is Stop, Think, Act and Review or
(STAR). How many errors could we prevent just by slowing down and thinking
about what we are doing before acting? If humankind did this 10% of the time,
we would be out of a job! Discuss using these tools during training evolutions
to reinforce the behavior during the real time event.

 

The most significant tool we can adopt is Management Oversight. On the fire ground, maintain Psitive management of responders. In the firehouse, it is how we work as
groups or take responsibly for our actions. This should sound very familiar right.
Typically, this is the role of the Company Officer. Frontline oversight with
knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes, desire and most importantly
experience. No other position can carry influence as those on scene then the
Company Officer. Those in this position need to understand the importance of
HUMAN PERFORMANCE. Desire and influence are factors that cannot be measured
easily, yet the CO must be cognizant of how they affect the crew. Work with
your crews to increase their overall performance while ensuring that the
influence factor is minimized, or only positive.

Performance is
an attribute to responders at all levels. In a profession where most workers
choose to be a part, it would be difficult to say they do not have desire. What
does have a negative affect, the influence of those with less then optimal
desire to persuade those to come down to their level. Bottom line, do your best
the first time and we all will perform great.

This week’s post is a weblink to my YOUTUBE Channel. Over the weekend I presented the first full pilot of SPEED SMOKE STRESS: Is Killing American Firefighters. Please stop by and take a look. It is just a glimpse, I can’t give to much away. My goal is to have a version of this course on the docket for FDIC 2013. WIth the support of this training community, I believe this will happen.

http://www.youtube.com/user/firefighterco22

Does your engine have a reserve or secondary line? This line is not a main per-connect, “the second line” or the back up. This line functions as a reserve set up.

Certain situations may require positioning your hand line to another area. The problem it creates, once it’s charged the time and effort to re-position increases. The line in operation would be shut down, possibly drained, and redeployed which under some circumstances is a labor intensive ordeal. A dry, fresh line is much easier to stretch in comparision to the line that was in service. Typically we would only use this tactic during defensive fire conditions or when we are in the incident stabilization phase of operations. To start the evolution, ensure no harm will come to anyone operating on the Fireground if your stream is shut down. Back out and place the line in a secure location, so it won’t be accidentally opened up. Proceed back to the apparatus to start the secondary line and stretch dry to that new location. If your the only engine on scene and only pulled 1 main pre-connect, of course simply stretching another pre-connect works too. Another reason to have a reserve line, it could also serve as a safety line. What if the lead line fails? Do you have something in hot standby?

Another scenario we may face, what starts out as a 2.5 fire turns into a 1.75 fire. If you have already stretched 150-200 of 2.5, do you really need to replace that length with a 1.75? A way to allow for a quick change without re-stretching or losing valuable water is to use a shut off valve on the 2.5, with a break off tip regardless if it’s smooth or combination nozzle. You can then add 50-100 feet of 1.75, based on needs, rather then stretching new.

This method also may work for long stretches. 300ft in length is the max with 1.75, but if you start with 2.5 you can stretch closer to 500 feet using 1.75 without the friction loss.

Image 1: Example of a 2.5 to 1.5 playpipe with shutoff and 2.5 to 2.5 inline shutoff.(add an 1.5 reducer in this case)

Image 2: Lines connected.

Image 3: Bale secured with a piece of utility rope.

Try to position this new “shut off” somewhere out of the way and stable. Most times you shouldn’t need to drag this once the 2.5 is fully stretched.

Some organizations call this set up the “Commercial Lay”, “Horizontal Standpipe”, or “Bomb Line”. When my company puts this line into service it is typically a defensive strategy up-front, then we will add the small lines for mop up, hot spots or give us reach to the Charlie side.

The non-preconnected pre-connect:

For a non-preconnected lay using 1.75, position this flat load along the side of the commercial lay. My engine has 200 feet of reverse lay supply line that only uses 50% of its bed. We filled the empty space with an additional 100 feet of 1.75, a combination nozzle and a gated wye. This mimics a high rise kit, although we do not have high rises, we simply pull this the same as a pre-connect when stretching. If it has to been done, we can shut the 2.5 down, connect the gated wye and have 2 1.75 male fittings to supply lines.

Although all personnel on the fireground should have the physical ability to re-deploy their line, it could be of more benefit to stretch a new dry line when time is of the essence.

Disclaimer: As an Advocate for the Everyone Goes Home program, I have a duty to see the mission of reducing Firefighter Line of Duty Death fulfilled. This post was written due to my frustration with the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives being both misconstrued for personal agenda and as a shield to hide behind. In addition, the statements below are not part of the implementation process for the initiatives. My goal is to break down a key element of LSI #1, accountability and personal responsibility.

Behavior and belief of a group is termed culture. Over the last few years countless articles, discussions and arguments have revolved around the subject. A needed change in the fire service is culture. Maybe this is not the right answer, because we are asking the wrong question.

The origins of this heated debate most prominently started after the creation of the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives. At the top of the list was an initiative calling for a cultural change in the fire service relating to safety. This could be due to selective hearing or the misinterpretation of this statement, but some have left out relating to safety. A built in safety factor must be created that is followed by all levels. The way we conduct ourselves both on and off the fire ground needs to be consistent with the first mantra of our mission statement, Life Preservation.

Life preservation maybe something you have never heard, used in place of Life Safety. Our mission is to protect our fellow man from the ravishes of fire and disasters, both natural and man made. This blanket statement includes both those we serve and ourselves, the Fire Service. Our true goal is Life Preservation, defined as “protecting from harm, maintaining unchanged and provide support.” When a call for service is made, we should seek to provide assistance to the problem and help get their lives back to normal. Life preservation also includes that we do no harm to ourselves so we can continue to provide service. This process of Life preservation starts well before the call, even before we start our journey in the Fire Service.

So where does this leave the culture change?

Firefighter Life Safety Initiative #1 seeks to define and advocate for this change in culture, as it relates to safety. If culture is the sum of a group’s behaviors and beliefs then we should be seeking to change individuals. As a whole, American culture, it has already been defined that obesity and poor health are major concerns. Wouldn’t this same issue be reflected in the Fire Service? A method to correct the issue is to define the necessary health and fitness levels required to be a member of the Fire Service. Every branch of the military has certain requirements when the candidate applies. Why should the Fire Service suggest any less? What about holding people accountable for their actions? A record of positive education should also be required, since training and education are important skills to posses. Countless hours and millions of dollars are spent each year for training. Personnel must held to the standards the fire service has set. A large portion of the fire service has taken on Medical Response. To maintain your license you must attend certain courses and show proof you are keeping up to date with your skills. Where is this requirement for Firefighters? You can do just as much harm to a victim during a fire event as you could during a medical call. All personnel must receive initial training and refresher training for every task they perform and held accountable for this. The ability to self-study and practice a traits we should seek out of new members.

Attitudes along with behaviors largely affect and shape our culture. The Fire Service is a team effort. Our players need to have a team spirit and strive for success at the team level. Hard work and dedication at the personal level should be the first priority, but the accolades, desired for the team. Why do we read in the news that Firefighters are charged with arson? Thorough background checks are needed, both criminal and behavioral. Not that we are seeking our perfect angels, but public trust is of upmost importance.

Safety is not something that just happens or dictated. Safety must be created and actively pursued. Read a few NIOSH reports or Near Miss reports. Most of the incidents that get us into trouble are related to factors we have control over. Although I do not advocate for judging and “Monday morning quarterbacking” videos and images from responses, look at some of the little things. The engine company may have done a great job of putting water on the fire. Did they have all their PPE on and wearing properly? Did they work together as a team? Did they seem to follow department procedures and incorporate safety? In the heat of the moment, we may over look details, but if we train they way we should those details become habits. Work ethic can shape our attitude, which contributes to our safety factor. How many of you check out your rig, gear, SCBA and tools at the start of every shift or participate in weekly/biweekly truck checks? So much of what we do is in the preparation, being ready to respond and being able to respond are different attitudes in themselves. Be ready and safety increases ten-fold.

Many of the above points are addressed by other life safety initiatives as well. However, LSI #1 is more of an umbrella statement. We will be able to do our job better if we enhance the personal accountability and responsibility of our members, which in turn creates a high level of safety. This new safety threshold will then become part of our culture at all levels.

To create a cultural change, is to change individuals. As new members enter the fire service, teach them about personal responsibility and accountability. It is not just when they respond or in the firehouse, but in their everyday lives. Statistics do not lie. Each year Firefighters lose their lives because of poor health, nutrition and fitness. Bad driving habits and personal accountability kill, and injure even more. The Fire Service is not a social club; it is not a status symbol. Whether you like it or not it is a profession with a job to do. We need the best of the best, because lives are on the line. It is time for a wake up call. No more sugar coating the fact that we are hurting ourselves by not standing up and demanding a change. You want to be a part of the best job in the world, do the work, put in the effort and take pride in yourself.

LSI # 1 is required in the effort to reduce Firefighter Line of Duty Death in the American Fire Service. Pay close attention to the last part of the initiative: accountability and personal responsibility. The culture of a particular group is the sum of their behaviors and beliefs, understand how you are expected to behave and take responsibility for it.

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”- Alexander Graham Bell

The word focus has an interesting origin. This term comes from the Latin word for fireplace or hearth. One can only assume that the definition is a central point, the source of heat in the home long ago. In modern times, this still holds true, as many fireplaces are the focal point for the main living room.

While initially this post was to hone in on the negatives of focus, I found worth noting, the word focus is defined as fireplace. Our profession is focused on the activity of fire, well at the core. This central point, our focal point, the area of our activity is the act of Fire Prevention and Suppression. However, our focus tends to shift. Before going on, this is not about additional roles we have taken on. The negatives of focus are the factors that surround it. Did an incident occur where a lack of focus drove the error or miscalculation? Have you ever been told that the organizations focus needs to shift? This type of focus has negative ramifications.

On the fire ground, we need focus. We need to deal with the situation and the task we are assigned. The quote above says this perfectly. We will perform great actions when we focus. Yet when we focus in too far, we lose what could be around us. Some may call it the “big picture”. Others more recently say Situational Awareness. Work tasks need a certain amount of focus while still seeing the overall goal.  For a simple example, consider your making a relatively light push down a long hall. You see the glow at the end of the hallway; you focus your attention and energy on getting to the seat of the fire. In your haste, you pass several rooms that contain fire. Your focus misled your attention and you were not fully aware of the situation around you.

Most often, the situations that occur are more in depth and complex.

A trend that is occurring in the fire service is an Organizational Drift. To keep up with changing times, just as in business, the focus changes frequently. A particular buzzword around my organization is “knee jerk reaction.” Something happened, so it will happen here, let’s change the way we do things. Weeks later, the focus changes and what was such a priority falls to the wayside. The administration is who allows focus to drift from one area to another. Today it may be adding more reflective striping to the apparatus while next week it is response to terrorism. Although both of these topics are important, the drift is a negative. Just as we can never stray from the basics, we must ensure all projects are seen through. A personal belief and I am sure others, the fire service must adapt to the changing world. The sentiment is well intended, yet this must be performed in a way that is conducive to the way we do business. Written policies and procedures could be implemented in a day, but do they change feelings, attitudes and do they disrupt current focus? New ideas and the means of performance must be given time to flourish. To accomplish this we must reinforce and make it part of our routine.

The story I have told too many times is that of an Incident Safety Officer I once encountered. Responding to a mutual aid box working fire, I was asked to relieve the crew-performing overhaul. I approached the alpha side door, masked up and started to make entry. The fire was fully extinguished and just a bit of ceiling needed to be pulled. Just as I walked in, I was pulled back. The ISO grabbed me by my SCBA shoulder strap. He felt as though I needed to be wearing my hood. My first reaction, well I guess I should have it on. Then as I came to my senses, he was 5 feet inside the structure without an SCBA. Wait right there! The ISO was focused on my hood and me yet he has no respiratory protection at all. From that day on my quest to eradicate, the “Hood Nazi’s” began.

The ISO and his disregard for his safety is one story but his focus on my hood is the issue. Who was watching the big picture? Who was tracking the other 15-20 personnel on scene? His role was to oversee the safety of responders and the conditions of the scene. He focused in too much on the insignificant, or the little things. What was his reasoning? PPE is a concern for him, but to what extent?

Focus can cause severe consequences if directed in the wrong direction. From time to time, we may need to change focus, possibly when we find critical factors that need corrective actions. Occasionally, we must be reminded of where to focus. The key to maintaining positive focus, clearly define the range and depth. If your crew needs to focus on improving your hose loading skills, put forth extra effort when applying those skills. Do not spend all your time performing this action. To concentrate our focus upon a single part, will allow other aspects to falter. Focus, it can be an ally and an adversary. Our focus can increase our level of performance, or cause us to fall significantly.

One lesson that I always think about when I write, someone has already said it and they said it better than you.

“A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away, to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing. Adventure, Excitement, A Jedi craves not these things.” – Yoda

If you take a minute to think about how our strategies and social skills are intertwined, you see the connection. Many levels and types of social skills are important aspects of our duty. How we interact socially affects how we will interact strategically.

If you have not read “Training Warning Flags”, go through that first along with “Owning Training” as they are built upon each other.

Four of the five more significant warning flags are dependent upon the social skills of those leading and following. Tone of voice, body gestures/language, respect given and received are large players when conveying a message. When the student has already “checked out” it is even more challenging to bring them back. When these skills are corrected and honed during training, the dividends will pay off on the street.

The following list applies to classroom, the firehouse and the fire ground.

1. How people interact with each other.
2. How leaders interact with their subordinates.
3. How bosses disseminate information down to the managers.
4. In the ways we influence each other through social skills when dealing with our customers.
5. How the public perceives us.

Does the administration empower the students to take ownership of their training?

This can be a difficult situation to pin down. Consider this scenario, you are the duty Captain and the BC called to have your crew sweep the drive near the road. It is nearing the end of winter and all the salt, sand and rocks make for a not so clean appearance. How do you approach your guys? “Hey guys, the #$%^ Chief told us we have to clean up the drive because it makes his station look like we are a bunch a lazy !@#$%%^.” Instead, try this “Men, I noticed that the drive could use some spring cleaning and we should clean it up because I know how much pride you take in our house.” Which one would motivate you more to get the job done, well with less complaining at least? A scene from the movie Office Space really shows how poor social interaction while giving orders in the work place fails. Mmm-k. Department administration should feel confident they have the right oversight in place. Micromanaging the players takes away feeling ownership of their personal success. Training is where it starts. As the lead or assistant, wear the same amount of gear the students are expected to. Sweat with them, crawl with them and work with them. Standing by the rehab fan with coffee is not re-enforcing expectations; in fact, you will fall well short of the mark. The students will understand how important the training is when those that teach it also participate. Success is built on how we fail, allow the students to fail so they can learn and succeed. Ownership comes from the sense of accomplishment. A human emotion cannot truly be created for someone else, it must come from within. Empower your students to want that emotion.

Does your program allow for student feedback?

This small gesture is monumental. The students use these skills. If they do not find value when applied on the street or see better ways, collect that feedback. We have many books to educate with, but they are not perfect resources. A combination of classroom, hands on training, real world application and feedback, works best to create excellence. Collecting the feedback is not enough; it is your response to the feedback that must be valued. Even if the feedback is not substantial, thank the student; let them know you will consider their point of view. Body language as a social interaction skill will tell your feelings more then your words. Be mindful of this when receiving and responding to feedback. Save feedback and use it to YOUR advantage. Create a type of log to review and ensure changes are made to your program that address these short-comings.

When the student sees this process in the training environment, they will also see the benefits on the fire ground. Personal experience has shown the best Incident Commanders value the information coming from the crews performing the work. When the feedback is valued, a cohesive organization exists.

Do you have weaknesses with the conduct of training?

The training program may be the best in the world but unless you lay out your expectations in an open, honest and positive way, you are destined to fail. The simple interaction between students and Instructors could be the only weakness. Create a systematic approach to training. Define what types of training there are and define how each is to be conducted. For example:

Department Training – training that all members are required to attend. Each session will start with the Instructor defining the expectations for the session, reviewing all rules and responsibilities and how the training will be conducted. These sessions are started in the classroom using a presentation regardless of the type of training. Stay consistent with the regimen. Knowing what is going to happen allows the students to focus on what is being taught rather then how its being taught.

Company Training – training that a company or squad performs under the direction of a senior member or officer. This informal session typically reviews skills that the company would like to practice and are performed with less rigor.

The world’s problems get solved sitting on the tailboard. Smaller group sessions can discover imperfections in how training is performed. The feedback collected from this type of training can sometimes excogitate the Training Organization, as we go along.

Are your trainers reinforcing department standards and expectations?

Refer back to the first example, cleaning the drive. We are here to do a job, we may not always agree and may not feel it is our job, but the bosses make the decisions. In my experience, this falls back to the staff not seeing they are part of a larger picture. The bosses may have a plan; they may not articulate every detail of the plan to the crews. If your duty is to work the haul line, focus on the haul line and do it well. The team works best as a team, all performing their function. During training, leaders should follow department standards and expectations. Just as we want our people to “train like we fight”, we should be consistent with other department policies.

Strategies, tactics and socially engaged.
Being at the end of a hose line, working to stop unrestrained fire is the last place you need to be worried about social shortcomings. The training environment shouldn’t limit it’s scope to the skills of our vocation. Training can develop solid communication and interaction skills between members. Fireground participants must have strong teamwork and interactions skills so their tasks are completed with vigor. Individuals entering the fire service in current times may not have participated in team sports, those skills will need to be developed.

For the Instructor, the most important social skill that you can exhibit, allowing your passion to shine. When you make training on new and old skills your passion, others will appreciate that. For the Officer, when you have well-trained and proficient Firefighters, you can step back and manage people. Social skills are strategies and tactics.

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