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i have been the Training officer at my dept for about 8 months. In the past year we got a new chief and me as a new training officer. In the years prior, training consisted of going to a hydrant somewhere and shooting water. Since then I have come up with a strict training regiment focussing on firefighter safety and advanced techniques and tactics in all aspects of fire dept operations. This however has been met with mixed emotions. Our core guys love it, but the others hate it and are hard to convince that we are light years behind compliance and the need for training is crucial. I would love any tips on how to get the," wet stuff on the red stuff ", guys to get on board. This is after all a Fire Dept. not a social club right. Any help from senior firefighters and officers would be appreciated.............STAY SAFE

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How deep is your pool of talent? Can you work if you tell your people "Get right or you are 3rd due on an exposure line"? The vollie department that I work at had very low skill levels until we got a new Chief and several firefighters that grew up to become our Command staff. We are a rural department that now has a lot of experience at the crew leader and above level and the requirements for getting inside a house or going on an extrication job are high.

Start with some of the Flash over videos on FR1. There are several that I have used for crew discussion. Roof venting, car fires , structure, PPE, ladder work, some very good back drafts caused by improper venting. Show them, ask for thoughts and select the ones that point out the bad practices as the people that are going to be your main students. Those people get to crew lead and the others are under strict supervision.

If you are have people that are freelancing on your jobs, you need to show (and there are some great videos for this) how this kills us on the job. No kidding around, dead serious business.

Get back with us as ideas come in and you implament them. Without a big core of talent at the top of the department, it's tough to make the "Don't give a rips" safely work. People get into bad habets in a short time, and if they don't get corrected fast, there is a lot of inertia that you are going to be pushing against.

I wish you the best of luck in this,
Also, it's tough for anyone that considers themselves to be a "newguy" to confront a long timer. The fact is, if you are following old timers into a hot zone and they aren't wrapped up; they need to be told. Anyone should be allowed to call a safety issue!

No one should be allowed to tell your younger/newer troops that "real firefighters get burned". That's old timey, breath through your mustach, b*******. Firefighters get burned because they misread/under estimated the sevarity of the conditions and their PPE was inadaquite or they were not in full PPE in the first place.

If your PPE is breaking down, there is nothing alive in the area and that includes the fish in the tank. If you don't have your turn outs in good repair and on correctly and your BA in place with a full tank on entry, you are not serving yourself, your crew members, your community or any potential patients.

ANY member of a crew should be allowed to say to a senior member, you aren't being safe and it's making me uncomfortable. It's the job of the leadership to make sure that they don't get slapped for saying it.
John, I was in just your position about three years ago. What you are talking about is changing the culture on your department. I had the same training issues you discussed. I had a core group that was willing to train hard. We took that and began to build one FF at a time. Slowly, at first, we pulled more FFs into the core group. A true FF is willing to train hard because we find it fun. So the more fun we had the more it attracted certain fence dwellers. Others quit, good riddance! Also I think a key to my success was complete autonomy by the Chief to run my training. Members who did complete assigned training had their gear pulled, that is within my authority as training Captain. I could not terminate members not assigned to my company but I could enforce safety rules. Untrained FFs are violating safety rules. Now, with that said I made myself available three times a week for members to make up training and retrieve their gear. I made sure that the culture we were trying to change was fair for all, even the slackers have every opportunity to train. My Lts. are available on different times, making it impossible to circumvent training. It requires a tremendous commitment on the part of the training company. My LTs were hand picked knowing what we were about to take on. At first I will admit I was a complete tyrant. It was my way or no way. But as I set benchmarks and as I achieved them I was able to return back to my more normal style of coaching. I started with two benchmarks.
1) Never speak bad about a fellow fire fighter you are not willing to help train.
2) Brotherhood is not cheap, the price of admission starts in training.

Once I saw that I achieved these two benchmarks I moved on. Once the bad talk about each other ceased and they really started to add value to the term brotherhood, we moved on. I started with what I saw lacking at calls. I was able to get them to see real value in this because they knew they did not perform well. So we trained on just what I could show them as deficient. That was the lure and I was ready to reel them in. Before I knew it, the change happened. the "cool" kids train and they began to self police. They would tell slackers to get off the first due engine. I more then once heard them say," first due is for the first string players, go back to practice squad!"

On a recent fire, we had a FF fail to pull his hand line correctly. It really slowed down the first due guys and they were not happy with him. They, without any prompting from training officers, built a full size mock up of the cross lays. It was made so they could lower it to his height. The guys explained to me that they thought if he could see how the hose loads and pulls he would better understand. It also then adjusts to the proper height to practice.Talk about hitting a benchmark!

So stay the course, be committed. You can tell the measure of a man by what it takes to discourage him.

Marty Mayes said:

On a recent fire, we had a FF fail to pull his hand line correctly. It really slowed down the first due guys and they were not happy with him. They, without any prompting from training officers, built a full size mock up of the cross lays. It was made so they could lower it to his height. The guys explained to me that they thought if he could see how the hose loads and pulls he would better understand. It also then adjusts to the proper height to practice.Talk about hitting a benchmark!

So stay the course, be committed. You can tell the measure of a man by what it takes to discourage him.


Oh, I like this idea ALOT! Just letting you know that I will shamelessly rip it off.
Hey Bro! Kill them with kindness first of all, I have found that if you try to push training on the older guys they seem to push it away and resist it more. Do postings like firefighter closecalls, NIOSH, reports and so on...... I have also found that do a good training for and hour (MAKE IT GOOD) and then you will find your guys will like to train. Before you know it your trainings are lasting a couple of hours! I love and live to train! This is what I have done and it worked for me. I hope it works for you!

Some ideas for trainings:
1) FDIC on line with a projector is great stuff! It is about an hour long pick something that applies to your guys
2) training sections
3) Build things>>> My unit has built the entanglement drill, Denver Drill, and the Pittsburgh Drill
4) SCBA Drills have them take their SCBA apart and put it back together, then blind fold them and have them do it
5) NIOSH reviews Don't let it happen to you that s what I call that training
5) ERG Reviews Guys pick up the ERG only when they have to take the class... Take paper and and a 5 gallon bucket and put a UN # on it. Fill the bucket with water and soap with a h*** at the bottom and see howmuch info they can get before the bucket empties. MAKE IT FUN, MAKE IT A GAME!

This list goes on and on! If you need some help contact me at, will be more than happy to help!

One last thing if your going to FDIC or know anyone that is going I will be speaking on Friday at 0830 hours. I HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!

Your Friend,
Todd McKee
Steal, borrow and cheat! Larry, it is all good. I think the union by-law states if you say it three times it's yours!!! LOL


Oh, I like this idea ALOT! Just letting you know that I will shamelessly rip it off.
Marty Mayes said:
Steal, borrow and cheat! Larry, it is all good. I think the union by-law states if you say it three times it's yours!!! LOL
< Thanks, thanks, thanks a lot!
Hey John, good luck with this. What we did was tasked the company officers with the training. Give them a month then each month there after, each C.O. has to come up with, and teach/instruct a class they thought was significant to the dept. We didn't have high hopes when we started this but we were pleasantly surprised with some of the subject matter and the care that was given to the delivery. It is important, however, to not dictate what to teach only that they will be responsible for the delivery. Be patient and encourage those who are going to be nervous about this. This is for the company officers only(right now) you have to get them on board and watch there crews fall in line. Again good luck to us all, Charley
hey thanks for all the tips guys. This is the first time I have posted anything on the website, but now youre stuck with me. I will take all the advice and put it to good use for sure. Thanks again and stay safe...
Hey John,

We would love to see you at our 8 hour workshop this year on "Drill Development" I think it will answer a lot of your questions.

Feel free to contact me at my personal email address ( and I will give you my number and I can give you more info.

Be safe,
Mike Posner
Hey Brother.

First you have to see who gets motivated and keep them motivated. Don’t lose them while trying to motivate the non-motivated. In a vol. dept. you really can't force them to train. Take tips on what you should drill on. Maybe your less then motivated group has something they want. Then drill on it. Then you can work them into the program. Pick on the things that some or all of the less then motivated excel in. Make them the trainer, or get them involved and ask them for input even if you know the answer. This gets them involved. Once you get them involved peer pressure kicks in. First 4 members are motivated to train, then 6, 8 and so on.

I had issues with a Dept I was in because we never left the bay. We would move the rigs and do the same old BS drill over and over. Never a challenge. The younger members would die for new drills, skills and hands on training. I had been a State Instructor for a while which allowed me to run drills. I told the Officers that there was a training or lack of training issue. They let me start running drills. I put them on the drill board and then the first time a few guys showed up. They liked it and told the other members. Well the next few drills more and more people showed up. Soon this changed the attitudes of the rest of the members and those who ran the ZZZZZZZZZZZZ bay drills. Now the bay drill instructors don't want to look bad so now they kick it up a bit.

You know your failing when no one shows up to train with you. You have to make them want to learn. Don’t be a know it all. Even the newest member has something to offer. A good trainer learns as much as teaches.

Look there is no one way that will change the attitudes of lazy people. So use anything you can. You said it in your post “this is not a social club”. Well brother to some it is exactly that. So make it fun. Keep them coming back. Motivate the members and they will pass that on. Turn routine drills into games. Time them, find prizes anything you can to spice it up. Even joke prizes will do. Make them interested any way you can. Train for reality not fantasy. Video them. Let them grade themselves. Don't use it as a bash session. And keep it off YouTube.

People learn in different ways. Some can read or be lectured to and do just fine. Some need demonstration to get the point, while others need to do it, to get the lesson. Some need a mix and match of all three. Remember to do all of this in your training so that you reach the maximum number of students. Then grade yourself. One way is a pre-drill test to see the skills of those who are about to drill. Then a post drill test. This does not mean a 100 question multiple choice test. A quick question and answer period will do. Or if it is a skill drill have the members do it before you go over the material you plan on teaching. You want them to improve. And don't be afraid to see what they think of you. Hand out an evaluation after you teach. See where you need to improve and what they need from you.

Trainers never stop teaching. So drill every chance you get. Read an article to the crew in the bay while waiting to stand down from a call. Pull out one tool and go over it when you see more than one member standing around. Find some member who feels the way you do about training and take every chance to train. Even if it is just the two of you. Someone will get curious and come watch. Now you’re training them and they don’t even know it. Training does not need to be hours it can take min's. A 2 min impromptu training session may shake something lose for a member and keep them out of harm’s way.

I have a dear friend who is with the Freeport Fire Dept in NY. He tells me stories about some very hard core and famous FDNY (ret) guys who are assigned to Freeport’s "Truck" that drill and drill and drill. These FDNY (ret) guys never miss an opportunity to teach a fellow member. As a result the company’s attitude is amazing. They are motivated and skilled. To quote my friend "something is always going on at Truck Co", they are always drilling. Drill night is not the only time you get to train. Training is constant and continuous. Never miss a chance to train.

If you’re talking about the last fire, (not war stories) you’re training, the last pin job, you’re training. Draw it on the board and talk about it. You just taught the guys who were not there something. Just like being a parent never stops neither does being a trainer.

Good luck Brother and be safe.....(EGH)

PS: It takes time to change attitudes, lead by example and let your actions dictate attitude.

Just a few lines from Spain hoping to lift your spirits. Every one of the preceeding messages are 110% on target. Change, evolution, progress and so on require patience and dedication.The fact that your core people accept and support your training proposals is positive. Using examples from other FD's like mock-ups and the like will help. You may well have members who have skills to put them together and local suppliers who could contribute the needed materials.

Another aspect that might help influence those sceptics is one that could affect them legally. Imagine the following theoretical situation:

You develop a training program on the operation and maintenance of a specific type of rescue tool and convene members to participate in the program which would cover several days.

Some of the people sign-up while others refuse, commenting that the timing of the course interferes with their free time which they consider "sacred".

The course in delivered sucessfully and several members, core and younger have learned how to use and take care of the newly acquired equipment.

During a shift in which several of the untrained personnel are on duty a multiple vehicle accident occurs producing numerous seriously injured victims, several of which are trapped within the wreckage.

Units respond and the IC assigns various operational tasks to crews. One of these tasks involves the use of the newly acquired rescue equipment, but no one on the scene knows how the things work. The IC requests reinforcements including anybody who knows this euipment.

During this period of inability to acceed and extricate the trapped victims, a couple of these die. The reinforcements arrive, set up the equipment and get the victims out, including the dead ones.

During the post incident investigations, some relatives of the dead victims learn that their relatives died due to delays in operating the rescue equipment, and file suit against the department for neglegence. Quite probably the IC and the department chief, along with the training officer would be involved in the case.

And those who had refused the participate in the training program?

You will have to find ways to motivate people, either by creating or adapting training models and programs, or by scaring them into participating. Unfortunately, threats may not be the most appropriate nor positive way of convincing people, but they must be made aware that they could be responsable for their actions, or lack of same.

Keep safe over there,

George Potter
Madrid, Spain

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