IN-SERVICE INSTRUCTION PROGRAM COVERS ALL LEVELS OF TRAINING
Expanded duties, integration of services, and the need for Improved communications caused Portland, Ore.’s Fire Bureau to reexamine its training function.
A comprehensive in-service training plan developed for the Portland, Ore., Fire Bureau is pointing the way to more effective training for all positions.
An extensive examination of the Portland Fire Bureau training function was begun in 1978. This effort included a study of fire officer management needs and a study of its video production studio and closed circuit video television network. A later component covered the in-service training needs of uniform personnel in all the functional areas of the organization. Other departments can benefit from implementing similar activities.
Several changes going on within the department suggested the need for a comprehensive training plan:
• The increasing relative importance of a number of units within the department, particularly fire prevention and EMS. More and varied medical emergency calls lead to more training needs. Portland has nine identifiable specialties or details, functional units within the organization which have training needs.
• Recognition of growing dependencies between specialties and details (such as suppression and prevention) which are important for the effective performance of tasks. For example, suppression personnel need to conduct company building inspections. This recognition underscored the nec essity for improved communication and integration of services between these specialties and details, a need that could be partially met through cross-training.
• The burgeoning responsibilities of the training division (called Personnel Resources). For instance, implementation of the management and administrative training program which resulted from the fire office management training needs study would heavily impact the workload of the personnel resources division.
• The need to integrate the video production studio and closed-circuit video television network into the training functions of the personnel resources division. The department’s expanding training requirements and the necessity to economize led to this system’s development. However, the video production study showed that its integration into other training functions of the personnel resources division had not yet occurred.
The Portland Fire Bureau brought in two organizational training consultants to help develop the comprehensive in-service training plan. The role of these consultants was to design and implement a process that would help formulation of the plan by department personnel. Both consultants were already familiar with this agency through their involvement in the fire officer management training needs study and the video production study.
The department and the consultants agreed that an appropriate plan would:
- Include the in-service training topics covering necessary knowledge and skill areas for all uniform positions within every specialty and detail of the department.
- Clarify the similar and different training needs of various uniform positions within the same specialty and detail (i.e., suppression – fire fighter, lieutenant, captain, etc.) and of the same uniform positions in different specialties and details (i.e., suppression lieutenant and EMS lieutenant).
- Identify the in-service training needs of each specialty and detail which derive from its interdependence and interaction with other department areas.
- Distinguish between necessary inservice training which is currently provided and that which is not now provided.
- Provide a guide which enables the chief training officer to focus resources on necessary training topics, coordinate the various training efforts within the department, and offer training in a timely and appropriate manner.
- Facilitate periodic review and, where necessary, change of the in-service training topics for all uniform personnel.
“. . . a graphic portrayal of all the uniform positions in every specialty and detail of the department would help all personnel visualize the organization and focus their efforts to determine necessary training topics … the master career path chart (MCPC). . . displays all department specialties and details, along with the career path for each uniform position.”
One of the initial steps toward developing the plan consisted of a review of fire magazines for existing information. Another initial step involved requesting a number of fire departments to send us their comprehensive in-service training plans and/or related material. The results from these two steps indicated that while there is considerable interest in this subject, little information is available on training plans and their development. The Portland plan would have to be developed from scratch.
The consultants decided that a graphic portrayal of all the uniform positions in every specialty and detail of the department would help all personnel visualize the organization and focus their efforts to determine necessary training topics. Accordingly, the consultants’ research of department activities and interviews with key personnel led to the creation of the master career path chart (MCPC) This chart displays all department specialties and details, along with the career path for each uniform position. These career paths include both civil service classifications and administrative assignments. The MCPC depicts the career paths in relation to the suppression career path, which is considered the backbone of the department.
Creation of the MCPC led to the second major component of formulating this plan — determining the in-service training needs of each uniform position. The MCPC proved to be a valuable tool for this task. It served as a checklist for discerning what needed to be done. It was used to develop an in-service training matrix (ISTM) for each specialty and detail. The ISTM consists of the career path for each specialty and detail and the in-service training topics, including those not now covered, that were found to pertain to each position in the career path.
The consultants used tentative ISTMs for each specialty and detail derived from their research and interviews to help key personnel identify necessary training topics for each position in all the career paths.
Plan made comprehensive
The master career path chart and the in-service training matrix that resulted from this project fulfill the previously mentioned requirements for an appropriate comprehensive in-service training plan. Although the department already possessed an extensive array of in-service training components, this process helped place all of them into a comprehensive plan and identified a large number of necessary training topics which need to be developed. The MCPC and the ISTMs are especially useful for the chief training officer. In addition to containing the necessary training topics for all specialties, details and positions, the MCPC and the ISTMs offer a starting point for the following:
- Reviewing the adequacy of the training topics now covered.
- Prioritizing the training topics that need to be developed and identifying the appropriate media (video, on-the-job training, etc.) for presenting each topic.
- Determining the proper frequency and sequence for all training topics through development of a master calendar and scheduling process.
- Coordinating further development of the overall training effort.
The department is now implementing this plan. The chief training officer has begun to identify those training topics that will receive first attention and the people within the department who can help develop training packages lor these topics. Other fire departments can use the ideas discussed here to facilitate their in-service training efforts. Contact the Portland Fire Bureau for further information.