By Michael Lee
As I sat in our most recent officers’ meeting, I noticed a paragraph that our division chief of operations had added to the agenda: “Lessons Learned.” It encouraged officers to present one incident or situation where they and their crews enacted a training practice separate from the current training schedule.
I know there are not enough hours in the day, much less on the training schedule, to hit every subject we need to. But there are a variety of different methods around — and I was impressed with the “non-standard” methods our officers used to get in as much training as possible.
Here are a few of their ideas (and yes, I asked permission to use them!):
1. Throw the biggest ladder on your apparatus every day. The better you are with the larger ladders, the more practiced you will be with all of them.
2. When on fire alarms, stretch a dry line in to the structure to the seat of the “fire.” Recon to ensure you know where the “fire” started. Make sure to minimize your damage of course, but this drill is great for deploying practice, teamwork and estimating your hose stretch distances.
3. Use the numerous video resources on the Internet to find clips of fires and then perform a size-up report and initial strategy and tactics. A wide range of clips can be found regularly on Firerescue1 and FlashoverTV, which has hundreds of from-the-scene clips.
4. When involved with multiple agencies at large events such as county fairs, practice unified command during fireworks displays, etc. Tie together the law enforcement, county agencies and on-site management to work on a drill based on the possible scenarios that exist.
5. Utilize the ICS forms on non-emergency events to be proficient with them when you need to be.
When was the last time you filled out an ICS 202 form? Remember, the more practiced you are before you need this tool, the less stressful it will be on a multi-alarm fire.
6. Review a piece of equipment from each of the apparatus in your station, every shift. If you have multiple apparatus, every one has a show-n-tell.
7. Hold surprise blind cabinet inventories. Everyone should know everything in the cabinet before opening the door. Try to stump the crews with the less used pieces of equipment.
8. Review significant incidents from events around the country and apply to like occupancies in your district. What would your resources look like and where would you get your help from? How much time would it take to get the same number of resources used in the case you are studying to your local event?
9. Each crew member is assigned a department SOP each month. Generate five questions from that SOP and if you stump your crew, you get rewarded! (Free lunch, ice cream, etc.)
10. Learn the art of flexibility. We need to be able to change the direction of our options when taking care of customers – so why can’t we be as patient and flexible when our daily schedules are impacted and demand we deviate from the original plan to plan B, C or D?
11. Use paramedic students as a catalyst to review protocols and in-depth medical knowledge. We rarely get the opportunity to review all the EMS topics we may be faced with. The more practiced we are with our base knowledge and equipment, the better the outcome will be for our patients.
12. Each cycle, have a paramedic deliver a report on a rare disease or syndrome that they/we could actually have to face such as pheochromocytoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or other syndromes, especially pediatric challenges.
I was impressed with the ingenuity showed by all our personnel in coming up with these. The officers showed a true desire to ensure members were informed, practiced and capable. I was proud of the initiative taken by them and wondered how I would perform if I faced all of these challenges as well.
How would you or your crew fare? What non-standard practices do your crews utilize to ensure they are as capable as possible? If you don’t feel as comfortable as you would like to, introduce one of the above concepts or one of your own to start the ball rolling. Once you do, you can expand to cover more topics when possible. Good luck!
About the author
Michael Lee has 25 years experience in pre-hospital paramedic experience and about 20 years experience in the fire service. He started as a FF/Paramedic and worked up through the ranks, including training officer, to his current position as battalion chief. He currently serves as battalion chief at Mountain View Fire Protection District in Colorado. He is currently filling the role of safety officer for FEMA USAR Colorado Task Force One and has military service in the U.S. Navy. To contact Michael, email Michael.Lee@FireRescue1.com.