Why do you train?

We know why we train. We must be able to take on any problem that is presented to us by the communities we serve. But why do we really train? We must have the knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes to work as a group to take on problems ranging from cats in trees to daring rescues of life.

It is near impossible to create training that will be exactly like a run. Emergency, and non-emergency operations, contain too many factors and variables that cannot be inserted into a training evolution. It does not matter what type of department you are on, when the bells ring it will not be the same as waiting out on the pad at the training grounds. The importance of attending and participating in all offered training cannot be understated.

Many times participants feel that the session in front of them is boring, below my knowledge/skill level, have done this before, we will never do this, too hot, too cold, too long, and plenty other reasons why they would be better off watching tv, playing on the internet, or taking care of things at home.

Looking at Blooms Taxonomy, most basic recruit schools provide the knowledge, comprehension, and application for the new Firefighter. As they are exposed to real world conditions they start to move into the analysis, synthesis, and even evaluation domains. However, only on the knowledge and skills they were taught from the basic firefighting manual. As new knowledge and skill sets are presented, the process starts all over again. With time the Firefighter will merge basic with advanced skills and move through the domains. The Firefighter may then be promoted and launched into even more transitions. And of course with the fire service being a ever-evolving trade, the ability to master all skill-sets will be difficult to accomplish. We should never stop learning.

The learning objectives found in Blooms Taxonomy do not just apply to new personnel, but to all of us. Some of the most difficult students to deal with during training are the transitional personnel. The Firefighters that are ready to move to an Officer position, the veteran Firefighters seeking to leave, and the ones right out recruit school. How do you keep these students engaged? Some you have to pry to get involved, others have to show everyone how much they know from a class they just attended. While many times it is simply keeping people within their role so that the students around can learn what they are suppose to. The military expresses you should learn the job above you and teach the job below you. Each of us should lead in this manner.

Training sessions are just as much about teamwork, decision making, following directions, and communication as they are the actual topic being presented. Discussions and practical application creates understanding and increases performance when plenty of reps and sets are completed. Above all confidence is elevated. All of these attributes are just as, if not more important than the skill being presented. Almost all NIOSH Line of Duty Death reports list many of these items as contributing factors.

Training evolutions expose members strengths and weaknesses to the group. If someone needs extra practice on a particular skill,  training is the time to find out, not on the fire ground. It may not even be a particular person but a team or group. Some people simply do not work well together. Every training session, lecture and practical, should create teamwork skills, decision making, action/task continuity, and clear communication. As we have all heard many times, “practice like you play.”

“Yes, I know you have been around for 15 years and have seen this training 100 times, but I need you to participate, help those who haven’t, and at the same time fine tune your skills with the task.”

It is frustrating when department Officers and Senior members blast a Firefighter for a mistake on the fire ground when they had ample opportunities during training to prevent it from happening. If expectations are not communicated, enforced and used to engage members during training, you cannot expect anything different to occur on the fire ground. When department members know the little details about their team mates and about the orders they are expected to carry out, the flow on the fire ground increases dramatically. A tap on the shoulder or a two-word command is understood and action is taken without hesitation. 2 a.m. is not the time to analyze your training program.

Lt./Training Officer Chris Huston

About Chris Huston

Chris Huston is a Training Officer, Firefighter and EMT for several types of organizations. Chris is co-founder of Fire Training Toolbox and is founder of Engine Company 22 (http://engineco22.net). Chris has been writing about the fire service since 2006 when he started engineco22.net
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