April Roundtable Replies: Company-Level Training

Question: Does your department require company officers to develop and deliver their company-level training? Read replies to this month’s Roundtable question from Fire Engineering readers, and see Skip Coleman’s reply HERE. 
Captain James F. Rosse Sr., South Schodack (NY) Volunteer Fire Department

Response: All of the truck officers are expected to share in the training on a rotational basis. The chiefs are also responsible for a monthly drill. There are five truck officers; we average three drills a month. We work with the chief in developing a yearly training calendar. Each officer is expected to develop a drill that involves his or her truck so that all the members become familiar with all of our apparatus. I am in charge of our rescue truck and first-response vehicle; therefore, my training and drills revolve around responding to EMS calls, motor vehicle accidents, vehicle extrication, CPR/AED, SCBA training, and rehab. I am lucky in that my wife, who is the lieutenant on the first-response vehicle, is a registered nurse and our son, who is the lieutenant on the rescue truck, is an EMT; they help to develop the drills and actively participate in our training sessions.
Deputy Chief Thomas Dunne, Fire Department of New York
Response: Company-level drills are conducted in our firehouses during every tour. A monthly schedule specifies subjects to be covered and provides a list of relevant FDNY training bulletins that can be used for reference material. Our company officers are the key link in this process. Their ability to prepare a lesson and present it in an accurate and interesting manner can impact firefighter safety and ability on the fireground.
This daily training is a vital supplement to the many formal classroom sessions given at our training facilities. Those sessions cover the certifications required for the incident command system, hazmat, and other specialties.
Our unit officers have the benefit of being familiar with the knowledge and skill levels of their personnel and their response areas; they can tailor their training to the unit’s individual needs. Since the formalized required training is handled separately, our company officers have the opportunity to research, develop, and deliver relevant unit-level training without the burden of having to meet certification requirements. 

In fact, the main distraction to this process usually comes from responding to fires and emergencies. These activities, in turn, can be the best forms of training when they are critiqued and “book” lessons are reinforced by hands-on experience.

Captain Bill James, Jacksonville (AR) Fire Department

Response: As a company officer, I am responsible for developing and delivering company training. We are to have 20 hours per month. I have a crew of seven. Except for the two drivers, who both have been on the job for 13 years, my ‘senior” firefighter has been on the job for three years, and the others have been on for two years or less. Training is not the issue; the crew likes to train and looks forward to classes and drills that improve their knowledge and skills. The problem is finding time to provide quality training. With all that we must accomplish each month–our fire and EMS calls, prefire plans, hydrants, and whatever else–it is hard to find the time to conduct training. I have found that training sessions do not have to be lengthy. Some training periods can be as short as five minutes; others can take a couple of hours. What counts is that the sessions are beneficial to the firefighters.

Firefighter Michael Bricault, Albuquerque (NM) Fire Department

Response: Our department uses several training approaches. We sometimes take companies out of service and bring them to the city training academy for standardized training. Another method is to send out a monthly training curriculum for companies to review while remaining in service. This second option is usually a review of some department standard operating procedure or a basic procedure or tactic.
Under the second option, the company officer can deliver the curriculum or have a member of the company do it. We prefer to have a member lead the training when we have a member who is a subject matter expert or if a rookie is assigned to the company.   Having rookie members administer a basic curriculum gives the officer and company members an opportunity to assess the member’s competency as well as to learn what is being taught at the training academy.
Lieutenant Clayton B. Kovats, Westlake (OH) Fire 

Response: Our fire department uses members of our organization who are certified as State of Ohio fire instructors. This group is comprised of seasoned firefighters and fire officers. The instructors specify and roll out the mandated training program set forth by the training officer. These firefighters and officers build the instructional presentations, present the programs on each shift, and initiate the practical trainings.

Each company officer can train their individual crews at any time. Most of those sessions are company-level operations and fire scenarios. Company officers have permission to present these training sessions and are somewhat encouraged to conduct them, but they are not required. Normally, our “regular company level training” occurs every weekday our shift works. 

Lieutenant Michael Anderson, Travis County ESD#2- Pflugerville (TX) Fire Department   

Response: Our company officers are not required to develop company-level training, but we encourage our officers to develop their own company-level training. In the past, we assigned to our officers topics on which they were to prepare instructional material that was to be delivered across the department. Currently, we provide topics each month to the company officers and allow them to deliver the topic in a manner tailored to their company. Our department highly encourages and supports any member who develops company level training. 

Deputy Fire Chief Gary Ryan, Morristown (TN) Fire Department 

Response: All our station officers are state certified as Instructor I. Initially, they did most of the training for their crew. As the department has grown and the regulatory demands have increased, this is no longer possible. To maintain conformity through the shifts and ranks, most of our training is conducted by the training division. The only exception is in single and sometimes multicompany drills for ISO credit.

The officers are given a cafeteria list of the skills their crew must demonstrate. The officer is responsible for ensuring their personnel can do this during practical skill days. The desired result is that all personnel are trained at the same level. Some may be better than others, but all should meet the minimum standards. Allowing individual station officers to train on the subjects that appeal only to them would not allow this to happen. Our officers conduct drills with assistance from the training division. 

Captain Will Anderson, Euclid (OH) Fire Department

Response:  Our company officers are not required to develop and present company-level training for their personnel. We are, however, moving in that direction by requiring all company officers to become certified as fire instructors. Our department is small and has only 15 company officers. 

Recently, Ohio enacted a law that requires continuing education for firefighter, fire instructor, and fire safety inspector recertification. In addition, our training budget is slim because of the economy, so any training that can be done on duty is a plus. Some company officers, including me, have developed lesson plans, skills checklists, instructor evaluations, and post-training quizzes for our personnel. They meet the applicable National Fire Protection Association requirements. We have shared our lesson plans with each other to reach a greater number of our personnel. To receive continuing education credits, we submit the appropriate paperwork to the institution granting the continuing education. 

Company-level training will become more important as time goes on because training budgets will continue to dwindle. This is also an excellent opportunity for company officers to establish themselves as students of the job by staying current and proving themselves as leaders within their organizations. 

Chief Mike France, South Schenectady (NY) Fire Department

Response: We run five drills a month plus Monthly Truck Class/Rescue Class on-off shrill nights. The truck captain runs the truck drill; the rescue lieutenant runs the rescue drill. The engine captain and lieutenants run the remainder of the drills each month. The chief officers (both assistant chiefs) run the weekend drills we hold each month. I assist each of these officers in their drills and get my training in as well.

Duty crews, when on shift, are required, with the duty officer, to go over the basics of firefighting when in the station. In their downtime, they do their online training.

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