Training Days: Starting a Fire


Part One


By Tom Kiurski

As the recently appointed training coordinator for Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue, my focus has shifted to training our firefighters. Although I don’t claim to be a great trainer, I have attended sessions, heard speakers, and have attended FDIC numerous times. Armed with that information, I started out designing my first drill.

For the first drill day, I decided to hit a few of the basics. I remember Tom Brennan saying many times over, “The basics are where it is at!” I hope that, as you read this, you will see how simple it can be to put together a drill. Maybe this will be the “shot in the arm” you need to get your firefighters to train. Maybe you have been a part of these types of drills in the past, but it has been awhile since you ran them for your firefighters. Whatever the motivation, let’s get out and train!

I started bringing the station crews to a vacant house one crew at a time, planning to switch crews every hour throughout the day (two morning sessions and three afternoon sessions) to get all five crews through the drill. This same drill should be repeated for as many days as it takes to get the majority of your firefighters through it. It is nearly impossible to get 100 percent participation since firefighters have vacations, are off on injuries, and may be away at a training conference. But I am happy with the majority.

The first evolution took place on the porch of the old farm house we are using for training. We started by looking at our portable radios, an often-used piece of equipment with many optional features we don’t regularly use. We have an emergency traffic button that opens the microphone for 10 seconds to transmit emergency traffic. I asked the firefighters to put a finger on it without looking. We then discussed each radio channel and its use.

I arrived at the house early and started the fog machine to start filling the large living room with smoke. I closed doors and stapled heavy duty plastic over openings to keep the smoke confined to the large living room. The firefighters handed over their SCBA bottles first, and then their backpack harnesses. They were left with full personal protective equipment and their masks on. The bottles and harnesses were arranged in a pile in the center of the living room. They were told they had to find and distribute a backpack, harness, and bottle to each firefighter and then assemble the unit in front of the firefighter, all without vision. They would then start breathing off the tank and don the assembly prior to leaving. I would enter with the group with a thermal imaging camera (TIC) to ensure safety during the event. The firefighters performed this task very well. It was great to see the teamwork as the firefighters made sure everyone had the necessary pieces before assembly began.

After firefighters exited the room onto the front porch, I took them back into the living room one at a time. I took out a length of 1¾ hose I had stashed in a bedroom and placed it inside the front door. The male and female ends were coupled. I had the firefighter get on their knees and feel the coupling placed in front of them. I asked, “If you needed to exit and found this coupling, which direction would you take to get outside of the building?” After they answered, they were dismissed back onto the front porch. When the last firefighter was done, I dragged out the hose and took apart the coupling. We could have talked about the construction of the hose, but this is very confusing. In an article in Fire Engineering, this concept was put in very simple terms: The phrase “bumps to the pumps” was the great memory aid that told firefighters that the lugged end of the hose was the way to face to go outside, not the smooth shank found on the female end of the hose.

When we were all outside, the firefighters took off their SCBAs and we had a brief discussion about forcible entry. We considered the early 1900 farmhouse we used for training and also applied the theory of forcible entry (simulated) to the houses across the street. Although practical training on forcible entry would be nice, I wanted to end the drill the same way it started–with the members on the porch “talking fire.” Happily, this first real “training session” was well received. We have great firefighters in Livonia, but all firefighters across this land are pretty great individuals who enjoy a little hands-on training when the opportunity arises.

Tom Kiurski is training coordinator, a paramedic, and the director of fire safety education for Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue. His book, Creating a Fire-Safe Community: A Guide for Fire Safety Educators (Fire Engineering, 1999), is a guide for bringing the safety message to all segments of the community efficiently and economically.  



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