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I was surprised that no one has yet created this type of group here, so even though I am not an authority on the subject, I figured I would try to get the conversation rolling.

In witnessing several departments create their centers, I have seen a clear, unserved need in the Fire Service to help them network and share good and bad experiences. What a great opportunity for using this site to do so.

As the first posting, it would be great to hear from those with operational sites or those considering building them as to what your goals are, and where you see you can use help, or any experiences you can share to help the next in line.

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We opened up our CTC in September 2007 after a great deal of help from Don Abbott and the Phoenix CTC. Our goals are to give our officers the opprotunity to expierence situations in training before they have to expierence them in the field. Basically that recognition primed decision making slide tray.

The thing we all must remember is that no one fails during a command training exercise. If we scare someone away we learned the learning environment.

Also I would say the biggest issue facing all CTC's is the amount of time it takes to build a scenario. I really see this group taking off after the Command Training Center meeting at FDIC!
I visited the CTC in Phoenix in 2005. Don Abbott has built a very strong program there. The thing I found most interesting was how the officers spoke the same language shift to shift. From the senior officer to the newest member, representing their B and C shifts, they spoke the same language and used common procedures to evaluate and mitigate their simulated problem. That is my goal, to standardize our response and deployment to different situations. I get a lot of flack from my fellow BCs but I have seen it work, and I believe that I can make it work here (what can I say, I drank the Kool-Aid!).

Sacramento Metropolitan Fire to our North has built a nice CTC. We run with them quite a bit. I am recomending to my Ops Chief that we adopt their curriculum and train the same way they do (I know, crazy talk).

I have placed $160,000 in my budget next year to buy the infrastructure necessary to build a CTC. We'll see what sticks and how far I get. Let me know if you have any questions!

I agree with regard to the issue of building scenarios (among the biggest issues), and of course about the FDIC comment.

I see an essential problem with perception about software -- people think if they buy software, it will solve their problem--even if they haven't figured out what their problems are!

I think in part this is perpetuated by vendors who claim that one can make a scenario rapidly. The truth is that while one may be able to put smoke or fire on a picture rapidly (or assemble a basic scene quickly), creating a training scenario is much more intricate. I hear many stories from those who acquired software and it is sitting on the shelf because they underestimated the amount of time or effort to build it. I try to explain this to those I meet, but sometimes a person has to experience it (get burned, no pun intended) before they understand it.

In my opinion, one big problem is maintaining a realistic expectation about the implementation of a CTC. It takes at least:

1. A realistic but forward-thinking vision of how a department wants performance to change
2. Time (to mature the process and understand what the real goals need to be), and
3. Many resources to create, operate, and maintain a center.

To some degree, a lot of CTC's have been sold based on Phoenix's success, but things go awry when the success is attributed more to the mechanical components (software, facilities, equipment, etc.) than to the instructional components. I don't think I have to go out on a limb to say that the Phoenix model is successful for Phoenix because they have really nailed the instructional process that leverages a certain level of technology.

The time component is really something that needs to be taken very seriously. Often the decision to create a CTC occurs through some grant funding process, and the high-level administration expects to be up-and-running very quickly. The pressure to produce quickly can lead to a bubble bursting if there is not enough prep time devoted to root out a department's specific issues and dynamics of operating the center. For example, I've seen situations in which the department thinks they have one type of problem, and in the course of addressing it, they realize there are several, related others.

I hope that through this forum we can identify these issues to come up with creative (or not so creative) solutions.
I agree with Jonathan. It all comes back to objectives. Any training that is developed you need to have objectives for and this is especially true for simulations. Anyone can throw smoke and fire on a screen, but what are you trying to teach, what are you trying to achieve?
Thank you for creating this group. Practical application training of incident command classroom learning is essential to effective delivery of incident command skills at the incident scene. This applies to all disciplines. In my experience, we, in the emergency services, do not get adequate ICS experience at “real world” incidents. The required classes give us basics but do not prepare us for Command. Only experience can do that and the best way to get experience (short of burning down our communities) is through tabletop incident command training. Not the tabletop where we sit around and discuss an incident, but a real tabletop diorama that delivers scenario based training and requires the establishment of command, groups, divisions, branches and sections (as appropriate). As we work our way through the scenarios we truly get an understanding of how to build command in the field. It could NOT be more important that everyone who may participate in ICS at a “real” incident gets training through tabletop simulation.
In the fire service, we don't use ICS very much on the 'routine' calls, because we handle them, well, routinely. The challenge arises when we get to 'the big one' and the foundation isn't there. Assuming command at a scene, or calling the one in charge the IC, doesn't change the way we have been doing things.

I have to go around with our volunteer department's leaders on this subject on a continuing basis, as ICS is similar to the way we do things, and everyone has had the courses (thank you, commissioners!), but unless we practice ICS within the department and with other responders, we will not be ready. My day job is as an Emergency Manager, so I am always looking at the big one, and it scares me to see that so many firefighters, especially those that have been given the responsibility by the membership to protect the community are not willing to work for the common good simply because they need votes to stay in office.

As to the original question, it's the same answer that I gave in my instructor's class on day one: make my department more professional. Training is the means, and the sub-goals include safety, accountability, leadership, and the military's C4I (Command, Control, Communication, Computers & Intelligence). Volunteers cannot afford to be less professional than our paid brothers, it is our own homes and workplaces that we protect.


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