Your right on Lt. McCormack, we dont kill our people on medical calls (at least not based on decisions we make out there), we kill them on the fire ground. Having firefighters that know what they are doing, know what they are looking at not only helps make the crew better/safer, it leads to officers down the road that know what they are doing as well. With the exceptions of a few cities, the work (fire) is dropping off, and brothers/sisters that have come on in the last 5-10 years are now teaching new guys and niether group has had much (compared to the older guys) real fire experience to base their knowledge and training on. We have to pass on the good tactics from guys that were there, and make props/training that gives as realistic experience as possible because the time we spend training and fighting fire is being minimzed by the EMS side of this job.
Unfortunately, the recruit academy process is often viewed as another step in the hiring process rather than the foundation of skill sets. Our recruit academy is 18 weeks and recruits will stretch a ton of hose and flow a ton of water. However, basic theory and didactics is the focus rather than the intracies that differentiate a good vs. bad Engine Company. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Recruit academies are mired in certification and regulatory instruction; That's reality. The academy is designed to instruct students on what the department as a collective requires. On-the-job or company training teaches what your respective Engine Company requires. Topics such as holding and moving the nozzle, estimating the stretch, and positioning often vary in the academy based on who is teaching it at the time. These things are better discussed and trained on at the company level; relying on what was taught in the academy as the foundation or a benchmark. This helps develop critical thinking and self-improvement, and lets you develop based on your future experiences, what you would teach when it's your turn to spend some time teaching at the academy!
Try being a jack of all trades firefighter. On our dept. and most suburban fire departments you are not only the engine company but also the truck and rescue. Firefighters are hired on departments because they are medics not good firefighters. They only get the very basic training in fire 1 and 2 and if you have a fire degree you must be a good firefighter? WRONG. Yes we run more meds than fires but more die in fires than meds. This web site and others is a great wealth of knowledge for departments with low fire runs. In the training I do with my department I try to bring back the basics. I try to fill the void that is left from not having tricks of the trade passed on down to me. A FDNY firefighter once told me that it is your obligation to pass-on knowledge that you have received from the old-timers because one day you will be one of them don’t let it skip a generation. Every firefighter should ask themselves why did they become a firefighter is it a job, a career or is it your calling? If its your calling you must look over the ones that are here just for a job, remember its your calling. Big city Brothers and Sisters keep posting and passing it on the tricks of the trade.
The belief of the officers in my fire department is simple, drill til you drop!
Firefighter 1, Recruit School, Probie School, or whatever you call it provides the foundation on which the remainder of a fireman's training will be built upon. These courses provide the neccesary skills and knowledge for a fireman to function on the fireground. I am from PA which is a home rule state and there are places within the state the currently have no training requirements to ride fire apparatus! I currently serve as an engine lieutenant and training officer in a large volunteer department (around 120 active members) with 3 individual companies that make up the department. We have our own fire training center with a 2 story burn building, 3 story burn building, and 5 story drill tower. The officers from my fire company have taken an aggressive stance on training at the company level, department wide there are different views but the Chief of the Department also reviews training topics and makes sure that the individual companies are completing the required topics per the department guidelines.
At the company level, our training program is quite stringent and the path for a new firefighter is very well laid out. New firefighters are not permitted to ride apparatus until they have completed their probationary firefighters packet, which is solely base on the operations of our company/department. Included in this packet are departmental guidelines, the new firefighter is tested on entry level skills that they must be proficient in prior to taking in runs. They must be able to identify, locate, and describe what each piece of equipment on the rig does and how it is cared for. They must be able to identify hose loads, tell how much hose is carried, know how to pull and operate each hose line, and how many GPM's the nozzle is capable of flowing. They must be able to hook up to a hydrant and establish a water supply, they must be able to name all the parts of a ladder, different raises/carries, how to raise each ladder, etc. Our probationary period lasts for 6 months, it is up to each new firefighter is responsible for completing their probationary packet and only a line officer may sign off on each individual section stating that the new firefighter has successfully completed their packet. Once this packet is complete, the new firefighter is permitted to take in runs at will but may not enter an IDLH environment except at training.
The new firefighter is then able to complete their required state certified training courses, once they have completed their state course the new firefighter is administered a company level 3rd class (interior firefighter) course that is based on the state ciricumlum and a on company level and department level operations.
Once a firefighter is certified to operate all of their company level apparatus they are adiministered a 1st class test, you must be a 1st class firefighter prior to being promoted to Lieutenant. The 1st class test is both a written and practical test that contains questions that are geared towards skills that the firefighter should know.
While this seems like a lot to ask of a volunteer firefighter, it is a program that works well for us. Hope this helps
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