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When I talk about training firefighters,I often get asked, where do I start?  After I accepted my position as chief of training with the Lewisville Fire Department, Chief Lasky and myself identified the training subjects that we believed where most important to our success.  We wanted to focus on the "basics"; the subjects that we wanted our firefighters to master.  Five subjects were identified and the monthly training calendar was built around drills that focused on one or more of these subjects.  The goal was to conduct at least one four  hour training session on each topic, each quarter.  The five subjects are:








Firefighter Rescue / Survival




At least four times each year a hands-on exercise is conducted so that companies can apply the knowledge and skills they have trained on, in a simulated event. 


It doesn't matter what your five subjects are.  Combine your Big 5 with a monthly Line of Duty Death Drill, a First 5 Minutes Drill so that strategy and tactics are reviewed at least monthly and an EMS Drill and you will be providing a pretty good training foundation.  Specialty training can be added in as needed to mix thing up a little. 


What we are finding out is, that as the troops begin to master the basics, other critical thinking and tasks seem to fall into place.  My personal conclusion on this is that, as basic skills become second nature, firefighters are able to concentrate more on their overall situational awareness; reading conditions, room orientation, communications etc. 


If we look at past line of duty deaths or close calls, we see that it's not how tasks are performed that actually cause the event, it's the information that is not recognized or realized that get firefighters into trouble while they are performing basic fire ground evolutions.  Be Safe   

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Replies to This Discussion

Your last sentence says it all. If we can have the basics to where they are second nature to us many of the problems firefighters encounter would never happen. Many times it takes us too long to make a decision, too long to stretch a line, too long to actually locate and control the fire. Ladders are not being thrown enough, and if they are it is usually an after-thought. Hose management, line selection, and understanding fire control is like Greek to many firefighters. We are finally seeing firefighters show up on the fireground with tools in their hands. That came from alot of training and hammering the importance of tools. The talk around my department for years now is, "get back to the basics." With our new training facility we are seeing more training drills, but we have a long way to go to be where we need to be.
I like your idea of the big 5 drills. It is similar to the modular program FL. has. There are about 10 modules, all basic stuff, and some drills to put it all together. You can keep it as simple as you need to, or add as many of the modules as you want to make a more complicated drill. Thanks for the discussion topic.

Bruce Clark
Great point. I am amazed often to see large Metro departments that struggle with the basics you mention. Your new training facility sounds great!
Chief, I agree with Bruce, we have lost touch with the basics of firefighting. I'm seeing this regardless of the size of departments. While not everyone has this problem, IMHO, we need to get back to our roots, before we start trying to incorporate survivability profiling etc. All of the new tech stuff is very important, but without the basics down, it seems all else faulters.

Be Safe, Train Everyday!
Back to Basic's drills are what we need to go back to. With all the TRT, Special Ops, Dive Rescue, Haz-mat, EMS, we tend to forget about the stuff we learned back in the Fire Academy. Stretching hose lines, throwing up ground ladders, search & rescue, are just some of the basic drills we need to have our guys do on a regular basis. Let's get back to basics!

Let's be safe out there...

Tom Cole
Thirteenth Battalion
It's funny that all the basic skill sets that we mention here are proficiencies that firefighters can build while on duty, in service and on the back ramp of the fire station. In our department we're currently running everyone through LP Gas Fires & Emergencies and it seems that the valid teaching points of this critical topic are often overshadowed by the lack of basic skills regarding: making the stretch, managing charged lines, nozzle discipline, apparatus positioning, basic hydrant connections, tank changeovers,......yada, yada. It's like trying to teach PPA to someone who forgot everything on Fire Behavior. Should we wait for the Chief or the department heads to push accountability for performance or do the company officers take the initiative to improve the crews on their own? And if the officers take charge and find deficiencies,..... will they have the backing to ensure that performance standards are met?

doug m.
All great, valid why do we still struggle with the basics? I use the term "mastering the basics". The expectation should be 100%. If we don't set the standard at 100%....what do we set the expectation at 80%? Do we tell our next generation of firefighters that they only have to throw a ladder correctly 80% of the time or be able to advance a line to the second floor 80% of the time? Do we tell our drivers that we only need water 80% of the time and our officer's decisions only 80% accurate? The problem is that our brothers and sisters are being killed or seriously injured during that 20% we are not perfect. Mastering the basics 100%, 100% of the time. If we allow a firefighter who can't locate and safely operate each and every piece of equipment on their assigned rig to respond to a fire on that rig, are we not setting them up for failure? Knowledge wise we should spend more time on building construction, fire behavior, strategy and tactics and risk management than any other fire related subject. Skills wise the Big 5. One more thing, we need to make training personal if we expect it to take at an emotional level. Remember our decisions are largely based on our emotions........


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