Thirty Minutes for Life

Photo from FDIC training. By Tony Greco.


By David DeStefano

As firefighters, we understand the impact a relatively short period of time can have on the dynamics of an incident. If we think of our daily firehouse routine in these terms, we can develop an atmosphere where practicing skills and reinforcing lessons learned about firefighter safety can take place each tour amidst the scheduled tasks and emergency responses of the day.

Most companies should be able to create a 30-minute time slot into which ideas and policies critical to firefighter safety and survival may be discussed or practiced. The 30-minute time bracket helps keep the material goal oriented, provides a platform for further discussion or drilling, and reintroduces topics or policies firefighters may have previously been taught and may need to refresh.


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Thirty Minutes for Life training may be scheduled anytime during the tour, but consistency is helpful in making the process part of the regular routine. Some companies may prefer the morning hours after equipment and station chores, while other units may be better suited to an evening schedule. Company officers may find it beneficial to rotate the instructor duties among several experienced members in the firehouse. This solidifies confidence in the ability of the firefighters and provides differing experiences and instructional styles to maintain interest over a period of time. Additionally, with presentations spread among the company, or with several companies in a multiunit firehouse, firefighters will be driven to live up to the expectations of their peers.

The major importance of Thirty Minutes for Life is that every topic will directly relate to bringing firefighters home safely or maintaining their overall health during the course of their career. Topics may be drawn from recent incidents within the department or articles or reports available in print and online. In addition these 30-minute sessions are an ideal opportunity to review safety policies or recent bulletins concerning hazardous conditions issued from the safety division.

Company officers and firefighters should be able to decide which subjects require immediate attention and proceed to work down a list each tour. As a kickstarter, some Thirty Minutes for Life topics may include the following:

  • Review and practice of a reduced profile air pack maneuver.
  • Pocket hardware used for life safety webbing, knives, lights, cutting pliers, and so on.
  • Review of department Mayday policy.
  • Tips on hydration and cooling during warm weather months.
  • Flashover awareness.
  • Review of likely scenarios/warning signs for potential  wind-driven fire conditions.
  • Equipment and responsibilities of the initial rapid intervention team.
  • Review of air management policy.
  • Discussion of the dangers of hydrogen cyanide and other gases during the overhaul stage.
  • Review of the importance of cardiovascular fitness for firefighters.

The specific material may vary by department. However, the importance of discussing an issue directly related to firefighter safety and survival every tour cannot be overstated. Keeping these issues as a part of our regular activity will raise awareness as well as provide fresh ideas for coping with firefighter safety concerns. These 30-minute sessions will also increase our proficiency with competencies that have the highest impact on our lives.


David DeStefano is a 24-year veteran of the North Providence (RI) Fire Department, where he serves as a lieutenant in Ladder Co. 1. He previously served as a lieutenant in Engine 3 and was a firefighter in Ladder 1. He teaches a variety of topics for the Rhode Island Fire Academy. He can be reached at



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