By Ray McCormack
Fire officers who train their crews provide firefighters with opportunities to enhance old skills and experience new ideas. Training is critical to reinforcing base knowledge as well as learning new and alternative skills. Training is best when it’s consistent and repetitive, but this isn’t always possible because of crew rotation, topic selection, instruction style, and attendance. Many times one group of firefighters will attend a training session on a selected topic and others will not. Officers and firefighters that don’t have interaction between training sessions or drill separately on different shifts need to be kept abreast of what’s going on. Some instructors will get in-depth on a topic, whereas others may just scratch the surface. An excellent way to keep everyone informed and on the same page while providing consistent training is to create a training logbook.
A training logbook is specifically for the instructors’ use. It should be a synopsis of the training given, including
- A subject index
- A checklist of those who attended
- Time allotted to the session
- Tools used
- New ideas proposed
List any common difficulties the firefighters had with the skill on which they were trained.
Also, the instructor should answer the following questions:
- Was the drill site a good choice?
- Is the topic too broad for one session?
- Do you need to provide additional information or extend the drill session time?
- If the training was on a new topic, was it understood?
- If you did the drill twice but at different locations, which one served you better? Why?
- What was the feedback from the firefighters?
Assess your own level of interest and familiarity with each subject, listing any additional information that would improve the drill topic, setting, or schedule. Keep your notes short and to the point.
By keeping a training logbook you will be better able to adjust the number of topics that should be covered in a selected time period (for example, a month). You will also have documented proof of attendance and ensurance that your firefighters have been exposed to the selected topics. To get the most from your drill periods, post a brief description of the topic along with the skills you want to work on, and offer a supplemental reading guide so that your firefighters can self-study the topic.
Over time, the logbook will help the instructors to present consistent subject information to everyone. The logbook enables the instructors to fine-tune their training programs through a collective approach, maximizing the impact of the drills and providing a more consistent voice to training. By creating and using a training logbook, a more effective training program will emerge.
Ray McCormack, a 25-year veteran of the Fire Department of New York, is a lieutenant with Ladder 28 in Harlem. He has written numerous articles for Fire Engineering, hosts the engine company video segments of Fire Engineering Training Minutes, and is a contributor to WNYF. McCormack has presented at FDIC and is a H.O.T. instructor in the Live Fire program. He is the founder of liveburntraining.com, which provides firefighter training and benefit seminars. He lectures frequently on the role of the company officer and engine and ladder company tactical operations.
Ray McCormack can be reached at Ray@liveburntraining.com.