“The problem with training is quality”

“The problem with training is quality”

Gene Carlson`s “Trained Volunteers Make a Difference” (Volunteers Corner, November 1996) hit the nail on the head. Too often, the volunteer firefighter`s training fails to reflect real-world applications and experiences because the six-point erroneous training maxims Carlson listed are all too true. I work part-time as a field instructor for Kentucky Tech Fire/Rescue Training, full-time as an area coordinator with Kentucky Disaster & Emergency Services, and as a volunteer firefighter. I can identify departments that reflect each of those six points.

A Kentucky volunteer firefighter is required to obtain 150 hours (with specific hours identified) to become certified. Unfortunately, only 20 annual hours are required by the fire commission to maintain certification (not specified). Many departments hold that one “in-house fire school” for the firefighter to receive the required 20 hours.

There is a positive side that varies from scheduled training once a month to twice weekly in some departments. One county offers a monetary reimbursement of ex-penses for those who have 50 annual hours. And the department has a graduated scale of annual training hours: 30 for a firefighter, then up through the ranks to 72 hours for the chief, all in specific areas.

The problem with training is quality, not quantity. Too often, some departments, when questioned about their current haz-mat training level, will indicate that watching a video program has made them certified at the operations level. I hope no incident occurs in those communities, but I know some day one will.

How many bottles of air has each volunteer used this year in SCBA training? Have all of your firefighters trained as you would expect them to respond? Remember, firefighters are like Pavlov`s dog: Their responses will be those actions for which you have rewarded them. If you allow them to train over a cup of coffee, will they fight fire the same way?

The training officer must have the blessing of the chief; and the chief`s communication must exemplify a commitment to quality, practical application, and skill experience. The National Fire Academy Instructional Techniques for Company Officers stresses application as the third step in training. If the chief is a dinosaur, hasn`t left the 1980s, or is too stressed out with management because of a lack of delegation, then the training program may be missing the application step all together.

The training available must be refreshing–taught by the state training agency or department instructors. Training for the trainer is as important as training for the volunteer firefighters. Can you recall the last three times you sent a trainee to receive new information that was later presented to the department?

The rank-and-file volunteer firefighter with several years of experience wants training to be challenging as well as new or a source of refresher information. The ultimate motivation is, will you pass the test–not necessarily the written or skills checklist at the conclusion of the training, but at the next response? The public demands that the trained volunteer make a difference, a positive difference.

Rick Cox, CEM

Chief Engineer

Hawesville (KY) Volunteer Fire Department

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