10 Drills for Fire Company Success

By Joshua Shumate

In our day-to-day operations, sometimes it is easy to overlook the very things that we all learned the first week in the fire academy. Training is the foundation for safety, and safety is what we all want. Doing these 10 drills will make us safer and more efficient, and is just one more way to make sure everyone goes home in the morning.

1. Don your turnout gear and SCBA in less than 90 seconds.
It all starts on the bay floor. The more quickly we can get our gear on, the sooner we can get to the scene and help citizens. It’s easy to overlook the simple things in our job, but the importance of putting your gear on quickly (but, more importantly, correctly) is not easily overlooked. Donning turnouts and SCBAs in less than 90 seconds will make you more efficient as a firefighter and will help familiarize you with your two most important pieces of safety equipment.

2. Discuss all target hazards in your district.
Let’s face it: No one can ever predict where fires are going to occur, but what’s wrong with being prepared when they do? Visiting, preplanning, and discussing the target hazards will prove to be invaluable when the situation arises. Every discussion will yield information that can ultimately be used in many situations.

3. Practice Mayday drills.
It’s the most dreaded thing a firefighter can hear over the radio, and it means someone is having the worst moment of their career. The stress you experience when you need to perform this task only adds to the fact that you need to practice. If you ever think you need to call a Mayday, chances are that you do, so pull out the Mayday procedure and review and practice giving the information vital for your rescue.

4. Practice your knots.
The little things can make or break you in the fire service. If you think no one is watching, then fumble with a knot and then look around. All eyes will be on you. Practice your knots at least once a month so that when you are asked to perform you get it right the first time, not the fourth. Knots are a base for many fire service activities, so knowing them well sets you up for success.

5. Go over the contents of your truck compartments.
It’s impossible to learn all the contents of all the trucks in the city, but you should review the truck you are on every day. Check out your truck inside and out for tool placement; also make sure they all function properly. No two trucks are the same, so looking every day will ensure you are not running in circles on the scene.

6. Discuss and practice with various tools and their uses.
Every day is different and presents learning opportunities. Take time with your crew to get tools off the truck and discuss and demonstrate their uses. Everyone has seen them used differently, so every new crew member probably can come up with a new use for a tool. Hands-on training is the best way to become comfortable with tool use, so go out there and put your hands on them.

7. Practice a hydrant hookup.
It goes without saying that the most important part of fire extinguishment is water. With it, great things can happen; without it our base for doing what we do is gone. Practicing your hydrant hookup helps to expedite this process on the fireground, ensuring your people inside aren’t left without a steady source of water for extinguishment. So practice your hookup: The firefighter on the nozzle will appreciate it.

8. Review all hose loads and lengths.
When it is 2:30 in the morning, it is raining, and smoke is showing is the worst time to be wondering on which side of the truck the five-inch feed line is on and whether or not it will reach. Knowing your hosebed layout and length keeps you from putting unneeded and unwanted hose on the ground that somebody eventually will have to put right back on the truck.

9. Practice proper search techniques.
Being efficient at search means being efficient at saving lives. Most of the people we save are not standing in the front door waiting on us; we have to go get them. Set up the bay floor to simulate a house layout, put on your gear, and get familiar with proper search techniques. The more we practice, the more it becomes second nature so that we can provide the citizens with the service they deserve.

10. Remove and throw your primary ladder to different positions.
The importance of this uncommonly used skill is easily overlooked. Review proper carry, raising, and tying off of your ladder, as well as ladder placement, to ensure that the few times we are expected to do it will make it that much easier.

These drills are not all-inclusive, but if we can try to do just one or two a month, we can become more efficient at the basics, which are the building blocks for success.

Joshua Shumate is a firefighter with Durham (NC) Fire-Rescue.

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