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Do you believe the training your new firefighters receive in school is sufficient, and accurate, or just the opposite. What have you done to improve training?

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I've found that our Engine Operations training has been lacking. We initially just teach the "Firefighter I" stuff...rolling the hose, racking the hose, and a little bit of fire streams. This was unacceptable to we've initiated training in Engine Company Operations, including: floor layouts, nozzle discipline, stretch estimation, kink prevention, line positioning, knowing your area, flaking the line, etc. I have a long way to go, but I think it'll help.
I know it would help. Sounds like your on the right track. Are you doing this on your own or has the school been modified?
Basically, I'm in charge of recruit training for my fire department. I'm required to teach firefighter I, which I present...then, I added the "extra" stuff. Right now, unfortunately, it's shift on the fly and I'm trying to get things down in a more formalized curriculum. Any help or documentation on teaching Engine Company operations from the members here would be appreciated!!!
I've found that a fundamental mistake that many schools and instructors (myself included) make is not teaching realistic extinguishment techniques from the very first fire a student is exposed to. For years we would do a "fire behavior" burn and let the students sit in the room to observe all the fire behavior elements and when finished have them exitnguish the fire. The next fire we had the students advance to the fire and expect them to exinguish the fire. What is the first thing that they do? They want to crawl into the room on fire and extinguish the fire just like they did the last time they were exposed to a live fire. We are attempting to change that mentality and have begun to teach "real" world techniques and strive to impress upon these students to utilize the reach of the stream, the movment of the nozzle, and stream selection to name just a few key points.
The academies just scratch the surface. They get the basics and we fill in the gaps when they come back.
The academy we send out recruits to does not instruct them on pump operaitons -- it is not part of the FF1 curriculum in NJ. Once the recruits are out of the academy and back in north hudson, we begin the dept. specific training. This includes in addition to our SOP's rules and regs, etc. all things hands on.
In regard to the company they are initially assigned (cross training to other engines, squrts, and ladders comes later), the officer has a detailed guide on what he must cover each month -- our probie trainng program.
In order for them to be considered "qualified" as a pump operator, there are criteria that must be met including a hands-on test that includes pumping of multiple lines, master streams, both attack engine and supply engine operations, and proper communications in regard to same. They must also be able to answer all the questions asked of them by the proctor (usually a BC) in regard to their pump operation. Trouble-shooting is also included in the training
All of the qualification testing is timed and documented.
Academy training for our volunteer department is a year long process. We certifiy them in First Responder (first aid), Haz-mat Operations, and Firefighter I after FFI is complete we have session on apparatus ops & driving and then a test on department SOP's. We have added more than just the basics to the fire fighter I academy. We feel that if you teach them at a level that exceeds the minimum requirement that when it comes time for them to take their Certification exam they will pass them easily.
That begin said I do have to agree with the earlier comment that Shawn made in regards to not teaching them realistic extinguishment techniques. We take them in the burn building and tell them to just hit the ceiling with water because we don't want the fire to go out all the way because we have more evolutions to do and we don't allow them to ventilate because we want to keep the heat and smoke levels in the building for the next group. Then we take into a fire we expect them to extinguish and the open the bale for 5 seconds hit the ceiling and shut it down and don't call for any ventilation. I'm not sure how we manage our time wisely and teach proper extinguishing techniques.
I agree with Anthony, the academies only begin to scratch the surface. The academies are forced to teach a curriculum which will prepare the recruits to take the National or State Firefighter 1 test. These classes do not prepare the firefighters for real world firefighting. I am a state instructor in Pennsylvania and while I think we teach some things well, we do poorly at most things. The problem here is time restraints. We have about 140 hours to fit everything in, this is no where near enough time to cover or even begin to cover and become proficient at anything in the fire service. And dealing with primarily volunteer firefighters this might be the only class they ever take, depending on company requirements. So I think our firefighters are coming out of the training academy grossly underprepared. However in the career academy I went though I think we came out better prepared and proficient in most aspects. Our recruits participate in over 800 hours of training in the academy. It is still however necessary to continue training the recruits with company drills so that they can improve upon what they have learned and become familiar with company operations. And after the academy there are two tests that the probationary firefighter must pass.
I agree with everyone’s comments so far. With only 5 Years in the service I am still new to the service but I have taken many more classes that have helped me to learn more than what the Firefighter 1 program taught me. I think one of the number one problems with the program is they teach you here the fire go get it put it out and that is all. The very first fire I went to was an attic fire. All I could to was stand there and watch as this was briefly covered in the Fire 1 class. It is very hard a volunteers to get new recruits to take other classes once out of Fire School. Our department however has come up with an SOG that requires new recruits to take further classes if they want to become a lead firefighter. The main topics covered in the fire one class are fire behavior, nozzle discipline, hose stretches and that’s about it. I'm sure that if the state didn't have the requirements that it dose the instructors would teach more.
Our department has made great strides in the last few years. Our equipment to train is now basically the same as the field uses (instead of generations old equipment that worked different then current), we have a new training tower that is more realistic, and our training division has become more progressive (using aquired structures and well trained crews). We have also started to dedicate people to training the classes (so there is some continuity and improvements get made class to class), Lt. Kelly Ross has also started leading a lot of the classes, he's a class act and going to do a lot of good down there.
We run our own school with 6-9 new members each year. I run this school since we started it in 1987. Each year we try to build a better mouse trap. We used a local academy a couple of times but found the program generic and that the members did not bond well with either each other or our senior members. Besides the obvious issue that they learn our equipment and SOPs, they learn our values and we have a larger student-instructor ratio (we average 3 candidates per instructor).
We still use the first live burn as a fire behavior exercise where they see and feel the heat. We also then show them what to do and not do (upset the thermal balance with a fog pattern). We have them use hand extinguishers to control room fires and we spend a half of day just on nozzle technique. \
Our candidates get five 8-hour days of live fires plus car fires and flammable liquid pit fires before graduation. We spread the fires out and add skills into each session. The general plan goes like this:
Burn 1 - Fire behavior, hand extinguishers, nozzle work
Burn 2 - Line advancement, both 1&3/4 and 2&1/2, standard hose line positions and action
Burn 3 - Advance lines from apparatus and repack after each burn (we have mutliple hose beds to keep things moving along).
Burn 4 & 5 - Coordinated FG ops: 1 engine, 1 ladder, 1 squad - Eveybody gets a job and works with an officer to accomplish the asgined task. Officers stay with crews as they rotate and do tailboard critiques.
Last, what we have tried in our last class and it worked well was to teach all the very basics-state/NFPA FF1 stuff-in the first 40 hours then go back and expand on each area and work it into the next topic. The primary reason we did this was t be NFPA1403 complinat with training for the first burn but the payoff was that they already knew what we were talking about and could focus on the new info.
New recruit training is a hard process to develop and maintain. especially when the recruits come from a wide variety of experiences and back grounds. As an instructor in our acdemy process ( we still pull line firefighters in to teach the new recruits) I have to balance the companies needs for a firefighter that is ready to work their first tour, meet minimum training requirements, a get them on the street fast to make the brass happy. The simple answer is "NO." They always need to be better trained. We can teach them the knowledge and skills to do the job, but it is the company officer they are assigned to that has to train them to be a firefighter. In our organization, one of the requirements for promoting to a company officer is to be certified as an instructor. This helps in the training process post academy. Another aspect is that our organization requires the recruits to set first year career goals just prior to graduation. At one year the D/C reviews those goals with each recruit to see if they met those goals. Areas of improvement would include more live fire training, more extrication, more safety/may-day.
It seems from the comments that the basic training is good but could be improved. That time is short and more realistic training is needed, including better props to more real world based instructional methods. The core mission of any fire department is fire extinguishment even if the call volume leans toward medical responses. We must make sure that engine company operations - from water supply to overhaul are not just another subject in the school or in the field.


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