TRAINING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: A LOOK AT THE NOMINEES
The Training Achievement Award, given by Fire Engineering at the Fire Department Instructors Conference beginning this year, recognizes individual or department training accomplishments that have had an impact on the state, regional, or local level. Selection criteria include innovation, effectiveness, resourcefulness, usability by others, and contribution to firefighter operational safety.
This year`s nominations reflect the professionalism, resourcefulness, and dedication of the fire service. A brief overview of the programs submitted for consideration is presented here (in alphabetical order).
Masterfirefighter Robert A. Anderson, Virginia Beach (VA) Fire Department/Video Production Unit/”Virginia Beach Frontline Firefighter”
Robert Anderson has led the nation in municipal fire training through the innovation of video and computerized educational tools. He has shared his talents with hundreds of aspiring fire service video producers, magnifying the tools of technology.
He is the catalyst of the video production unit and is largely responsible for its success over the past eight years.
He created the monthly training program “Virginia Beach Frontline Firefighter,” which is distributed to all Virginia Beach fire stations. Each month, the department sends 30 to 40 copies of “Virginia Beach Frontline Firefighter” to area military base fire companies, some neighboring cities, and some out-of-state recipients. The show is aired on the city`s dedicated cable channel. The department uses a video training program, accompanied by a worksheet, to certify its firefighters for EMT–the only video EMT training and certification program approved in the state. The video unit also produces a segment for the Emergency Educational Network, an international training program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Anderson is currently working on a plan that will use fiber optics or microwave transmission to enable the department`s programs to go live on cable.
Deputy Chief Gary Appleby, Director, Philadelphia Fire Academy: Philadelphia Fire Department Outreach Program
Gary Appleby has put forth “extraordinary efforts” to develop and deliver the Outreach Program, which provides regional training. All fire departments–career, combination, and volunteer–in the states of New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania have been invited to participate in the training program. “Hands-on” support of this educational endeavor has resulted in a steady increase in students from the fire-rescue community in a tri-county area. Instructors include those from the areas of fire, police, medical, haz mat, employee assistance, legal, prevention, and management; corporate safety professionals are also among the faculty. Some 101 courses are offered at the present time. Courses are given at the Academy, the Philadelphia International Airport, and the Philadelphia Marine Units. Some 2,642 students attended the program during 1997. The regional training effort has expanded to 94 courses in six tracts, offering 700 hours of free, high-quality training.
The official in-service training curriculum mandated for on-duty personnel is open to “outsiders” in an effort to provide regional training and cooperation. The seating capacity of the Academy is fully used because “open seats” are filled.
Arlington (TX) Fire Department: The “Quick Drills”
At the direction of Assistant Chief Larry Brawner, the fire training staff developed “Quick Drills” to provide a compact delivery method of presenting “high-risk, low-frequency” items to department members–to keep these items at the forefront of their minds. Quick Drills, which are five to 15 minutes, are presented in the station after shift change each morning and do not require a structured lesson plan. More than 30 examples have been distributed to other departments and agencies.
Burlington County (NJ) Fire Academy: Firefighter Assistance Strike Team (F.A.S.T.)
The Academy has demonstrated its commitment to making the fireground safer for firefighters by developing and delivering its F.A.S.T. training series. An awareness level course, “F.A.S.T. Orientation,” was delivered regionally to 700 County firefighters and fire officers in six weeks. The program also includes a review of the countywide F.A.S.T. Standard Operating Guideline, developed by the Burlington County Fire Chiefs Association. The F.A.S.T. concept was then implemented in County fire departments in a coordinated manner. The eight-hour Operations course combines classroom and hands-on instruction in such areas as building construction, F.A.S.T. officer duties and responsibilities, fireground size-up, and firefighter rescue and removal techniques. The F.A.S.T. program will make it possible to have a standardized training curriculum for implementing the rapid intervention concept within their departments and the mutual-aid system.
Chicago Fire Department: Advanced Life Support (ALS) Engine
Companies, Staffed By Firefighters/Paramedics
As of January 1999, 24 fire engine companies, carrying life-saving equipment comparable to that carried on fire department ambulances, joined the department`s fleet of ALS vehicles, bringing the current total to 83, including 59 ambulances. Each ALS engine company will be staffed by one cross-trained paramedic/firefighter, one EMT-B/firefighter, and three “first responders”–firefighters trained in advanced first-aid techniques. Engines are equipped to assist patients in every way an ambulance can, except for transport to area hospitals.
The additions will increase department productivity, maximize efficiency of resources, and expand the department`s emergency response capabilities. The ALS engines are dispatched to handle medical emergencies when they are closer to the scene than the closest ambulance, saving precious minutes when time is critical. Twenty-four ALS engines will be concentrated in fire engine stations that have the highest volume of emergency calls.
District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services
Department: Training Academy Staff
The District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department Training Academy staff in conjunction with departmental adjunct instructors have transformed departmental training during 1998. The Academy has developed and implemented seven new programs, including quarterly in-service refresher drills in basics, incident command, Mayday policy, and SOPs; a four-phase new apparatus program (placing new apparatus in service within 30 days of delivery to the department); new equipment training and drills; diversity and sensitivity training to improve customer service and team interaction; nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons training; a first-level supervisors course based primarily on NFPA 1021, Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications; and Hazardous Materials Level II. “Saving Our Own,” “Techniques and Duties for Rapid Intervention Company,” and “Ice and Swift Water Rescue Techniques” will be added within the next few months.
IFSAC accreditation has been granted for eight programs; accreditation for three more is expected in the next few months. The Academy has applied to the American Council on Education for a review of its programs for qualification for college level credit.
Each program was designed with built-in incentives and challenges–for example, new apparatus is issued only after company members have successfully completed the four-phase program that encompasses the emergency vehicle operators course (a new requirement); intensive performance training on the driving course (a new requirement); and the performance of fire service operations, such as pumping, operating ladder, and so on. The final phase is proficiency testing.
Fairfax County (VA) Fire and Rescue Department: Confined-Space Rescue Simulator
A federal government, local government, and private sector partnership was key to constructing this confined-space rescue simulator in the Washington metropolitan area. The primary objective was to construct a realistic confined space training aid that could provide multiple training scenarios. The funding needed from Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department was minimal. The private sector donated more than $13,000 worth of concrete, utility vaults, and culvert pipe. The Military District of Washington Engineer Company provided heavy lifting and construction equipment and personnel to assemble the project.
The simulator will be used by the department`s FEMA USAR team, Virginia Task Force One, for realistic training on a continuing basis, as will the department`s other technical rescue units. The USAR search dogs can use the rubble pile for multiple training scenarios.
German Township (IN) Volunteer Fire Department: Volunteers with Pride Basic Skills Program
The basic skills training program, developed as a roadmap for State-certified firefighters, assists them in identifying the skills and knowledge needed to retain proficiency. The department identified in 1994 the critical tasks firefighters are expected to perform and then developed scenarios that incorporated these critical tasks in realistic training evolutions. The EMS basic skills program was developed in 1995. Some125 firefighters have been through the program at least once a year since the program`s inception. Since no in-service training requirements are mandated for certified firefighters in most states, the program allows the training officer to develop an in-service program based on the identified critical tasks.
The evolutions may also be used to evaluate experienced firefighters or train recruit firefighters. Among topics covered are SCBA Timing Procedure; Grass Rig Operations; Ventilation; Light Man Evolutions; Driver Certification Record; and Basic Driver, Pump, Tanker operations and drills. A written driving test; maintenance and extrication drills; equipment locations; search and rescue; rapid intervention team; and structural search and rescue are also covered, as are duties of RIT forcible entry, secondary means of egress, self-rescue, SCBA emergencies, and basic EMS skills training.
In addition to helping the firefighters to sustain proficiency, the program builds self-confidence.
Robert Irish, Exeter, New Hampshire: Interstate Emergency Unit
The Interstate Emergency Unit trains members of about 30 fire departments in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine. A training committee, headed by Robert Irish, oversees the facility. Irish was the motivating force behind the construction of a dedicated training facility. With very little financial support, an empty field has been transformed into a training ground of facilities that deliver various levels of fire training. Irish orchestrated the long and tedious process of obtaining sparse funding, donated materials, and volunteer personnel to construct the facility and its props. He used items such as large-diameter agricultural irrigation piping as an aboveground hydrant system instead of dropping big lines. He fostered the cooperation among private industry, the county, and individual fire departments that helped make the Interstate Unit a reality.
The beneficiaries of the Unit are communities that 10 to 15 years ago were predominantly rural or rural bedroom to the Boston hub. The explosive growth of these communities has made relevant a facility of this type–once thought of as a big-city item–where firefighters have been learning the additional skills needed as their communities continue to grow.
Captain Mike Lombardo, Buffalo (NY) Fire Department: Firefighter Safety and Survival Training
Mike Lombardo has been instructing in firefighter safety and survival training for some eight years–before it even became organized on the national level. He became acutely aware of the need for this type of training in his own department, and for the past three to four years, has been training his crews in safety and survival.
In August 1998, Lombardo trained his entire platoon–more than 175 personnel–on duty in rotating crews. The training took place in a vacant house and used only the resources within the house–for example, he would take down a wall and use the studs to simulate breaching in a doorway. Training consisted of six evolutions: wall breach, SCBA, emergency operations, ladder slide, rappelling out a window, handcuff knot, and window drop.
Since his department`s Training Division had no money available and no one trained to conduct this training, Lombardo took the initiative and did it himself. The Training Division then asked him to train the entire department. Instead, he trained the captain in charge of the Training Division, making it possible for the Training Division to train the entire department.
Lombardo was instrumental in developing this program for the State of New York.
National Fire Academy: Curriculum on Emergency Response to Terrorism
Included in this curriculum is a self-study course, two-day courses, and a one-week (incident management) course. Training is intended for all fire and EMS departments across the country and can be delivered in-house, as field training, as a regional program, or at the NFA.
The curriculum was developed for all emergency responders, although the majority of funding provided by Congress was earmarked to train only the 120 largest cities. The NFA`s training was developed faster, is delivered more consistently, and is likely to have more far-reaching effects on firefighter safety.
Passaic County (NJ) Fire Academy: Physical Training Firefighter I
The Academy is training recruits not only to be more knowledgeable but also to be more physically fit. Physical training was implemented in Firefighter One classes in 1998, prompted by the inordinate number of new recruits who were physically unprepared for the rigors of firefighting. The physical training was voluntary, but all recruits participated nevertheless. The program was well received by recruits. The recruits are encouraged to continue the physical conditioning after training ends.
Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department: Emergency Services Institute Regional Training Academy Training Programs
The Phoenix Fire Department Emergency Services Institute (Training Academy) has evolved from a basic recruit training facility to one that provides a full range of training and educational opportunities and is authorized by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress to accredit training programs.
It serves any Phoenix Metro Area fire department involved in the regional dispatch system. Recruit classes typically represent four or more fire departments. Its offerings include officer development programs and new officer academies for captains and chief officers (officers from other states participate in these programs). Delivery of training includes the department`s cable TV training network (three broadcasts daily), CD-ROM, and laser disc simulation training. Partnerships with local colleges and universities have made it possible for more than 1,000 firefighters a month to receive college credit for training classes delivered on the Institute`s campus or in the “field.”
Virginia Department of Fire Programs, Richmond, Virginia: Virginia Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting Program
In the summer of 1998, the Virginia Department of Fire Programs (VDFP) implemented a comprehensive Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF) training and delivery program statewide; it is one of the seven nationally accredited ARFF training programs in the world. The program includes new/revised ARFF course work and training methodologies and a mobile aircraft rescue fire fighting trainer system. This trainer was built to exact VDFP specifications. Each mobile unit is U.S Department of Transportation (DOT)-compliant and has a fully integrated computer-controlled training system that safely simulates realistic training in a fail-safe environment. More than 400 firefighters have taken this 40-hour program within a 60-hour class.
The program`s cost of about $1.1 million was obtained from an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grant that covered 90 percent of the cost, and a grant from the Virginia Department of Aviation, which funded eight percent. The VDFP provided just under $22,000.
Program components include the Structural Aircraft Fire Trainer (plane mockup) and the Control Trailer and Propane Trailer, aids for teaching the proper methods of interior and exterior aircraft fire suppression realistically in a fail-safe environment.
The FAA mandates airport firefighting training at commercial airports. Without the FAA certification of an air carrier fire department and its firefighters, aircraft may not take off or land. Although there are a number of fixed-site training facilities around the nation, class availability, cost, and scheduling of personnel for time away present challenges to an air carrier fire department. This mobile trainer is transportable and brings the training program to the student. Virginia`s structural departments/firefighters can register for classes and be trained.
Thomas VonEssen, Fire Commissioner, Fire Department of New York: The Probationary Firefighters Development Program
Implemented under the leadership of Thomas VonEssen, this multidimensional program attempts to integrate a new firefighter`s formal learning process with field experience, long-term structure development, and multilevel control and evaluation. Recruits play an active role in their own development; their peers are encouraged to actively help them achieve their goals; their supervisors and their supervisor`s supervisor play an active role in the development process; and the Bureau of Training monitors the probationary firefighter`s progress.
On completion of the Probationary Fire Fighters School, all probationary firefighters are required to work for one year in each of three different units, in three different areas of the city. This three-year rotation ensures that the firefighters are exposed to three different work environments under three different commands.
While going though this rotation process, each firefighter must participate in a structured reading and learning program and must record in a journal the significant learning points of each drill or training session. The journals are collected and evaluated by the Bureau of Training staff whenever a probationary firefighter is attending a training session at the Fire Academy. Probationary firefighters are given an examination to measure their learning level. Division commanders are given the results of these exams and the evaluations of the class members for follow-up. n