In this series, Fire Engineering Senior Editor Mary Jane Dittmar looks at the things that motivated and inspired instructors to present on their topics at FDIC International 2016. Segments will be posted on a regular basis up to and through the conference, April 18-23.
By Scott Kraut
Lieutenant, Fairfax County (VA) Fire and Resue Department – Fairfax, Virginia
“Constructing a Successful Training Program”
Monday, April 18, 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
The motivation for the session Captain Dave Barlow and I have been sharing at FDIC came from a distain for the current training environment in my department and probably across the fire service post-September 11, 2001. The fire service lost interest, maybe rightly so, for a bit in firefighting basics as departments struggled to obtain federal funding by requiring its members to collect the various National Incident Management System and Federal Emergency Management Agency certifications.
The focus for many fire departments was on weapons of mass destruction (WMD), terrorism, and the specials operations training. Of course, 2001 happened to be same year that Brother Bret Tarver of the Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department (PFD) died in the line of duty in the Southwest Supermarket Fire. His death led to extensive training by the PFD and the revelation that the fire service needed to improve its rapid intervention practices. For almost three years, we focused mainly on fireground survival and rapid intervention training–again maybe we needed to.
We went almost five years forgetting about the basis of our existence. Don’t interpret my disdain for that learning/teaching environment as a lack of interest in that training, but my department went a bit overboard.
My department was placing ladder pipes in service on detached single-family dwellings regularly, and it wasn’t uncommon for us to return to quarters leaving behind only a foundation. We became protocol based, protected ourselves under the “safety umbrella,” and ceased to produce “thinking firefighters.” Our department had just failed to rescue a woman who was on the phone with dispatch for minutes after our arrival. It was just before Ray McCormick’s ‘Culture of Extinguishment’ keynote speech at FDIC.
I along with a few trusted brothers began to try to unfold this mess we had created and felt that the task would be daunting. But after extensive research in the application of adult learning as well as the physiological and psychological factors that affect our members’ ability to learn and accomplish the various tasks on the incident scene, we came to a simple solution. We offer this solution—really a roadmap to our success as a department–to FDIC attendees. The most optimal effect is that an organization is shown how to create thinking firefighters and for the individual to become the thinking firefighter.
Our class covers everything from how to instruct adult learners based on the culture and generational differences in today’s fire service and the body’s physiological and psychological response to the tasks we are required to perform on the fireground. In addition, and most importantly, students are shown how to apply these techniques to their training.
We have had many good responses to the session from various arenas of the fire service from safety and training to the boots on the ground and company officers. Mostly, people are interested in how we pulled it off. We offer many solutions and share the template we used.