Until recently I would have answered “yes of course we are Firefighters and Paramedic’s. We train to fight fires, answer all calls for emergency assistance including fire and EMS related calls and the thousands of other type of calls for service we respond to across the country daily!”
Today I sit and type because my assumption was very wrong! As my departments training officer is it my job to make sure that all training needs of my department are addressed. How do we as Training Officers figure that out? We utilize that many resources around us and our knowledge of our departments. We know our departments strengths and weaknesses based on experience, post incident reviews, trade magazines, incidents locally and nationally as well as today’s current trends. Some departments will complete a strategic plan for training and/or complete an S.W.O.T. analysis, S.W.O.T. analysis (alternately SLOT analysis) is a strategic planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses/Limitations, Opportunities, and Threats. (In an attempt not to lose your interest see the following link for more information on S.W.O.T. analysis - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SWOT_analysis).
Lastly, and most often a training idea isn’t actually ours as we just “borrow” from someone else. This, in reality is how most training is conducted throughout the country. This is exactly how my latest department wide training program came about that I wanted to discuss.
Reading a from the CT Fire Academy I realized there was a training opportunity titled “Autism Awareness for Fire Rescue Personnel”. I read the posting and immediately went to the web site indicated and learned more about Autism then I thought was possible. Then it hit me; I did a call as a Paramedic many years ago where my partner and I treated a patient completely inappropriate do to our lack of training and education. I immediately again felt the disappointment in myself for treating this person so inappropriately and realized there are probably patients receiving the same inappropriate treatment today do to the same lack of training.
I contacted the organization to set up training for each and every shift and the volunteer members of my department. Now, normally this could be a challenging task but the flexibility and willingness of the organization to meet my needs were first and or most. Bill Cannata and Jason Dorval could not have it easier. Then the hard part came communicating to the department’s membership the importance of conducting this training. Day 1 came and as the training officer I was a little reluctant. We all know how we as Firefighters can be a little rough around the edges or cynical we can be and here I was bringing in an outside instructor to teach something that at time has been a subject to inappropriate comments by many in the past. Again, do to lack of education not do to lack of caring or professionalism.
0900 training begins with some of the departments toughest critics. During the class I would find myself sitting and leaning forward trying not to miss a single word spoke and taking notes trying to increase my retention. Before I knew it almost three hours past, not one forehead slammed onto the table, questions were being asked and a whole new dialogue was occurring in front of my eyes.
Immediately following the training I had 25+ year members come up and say “hey that class was really good!” or “that class was not something I wanted to be at but, man did I learn a lot” to “holy @#*# that was that good”. This was my feelings but to have it immediately validated by those that did made me realize I was doing the right thing.
Needless to say this class went forward with great results. I sat through the class a total of five times and continued to learn each and every time. I was amazed at the amount of information that was delivered in such an effective way that can be immediately applied.
All classes are taught by a subject matter expert; Firefighters who have a child with Autism. Our instructor Jason Dorval Whatley MA was very dynamic and was able to introduce his own personal experiences. However, more importantly he was able to teach us what Autism is and how we as Fire/EMS responders can effective help someone with Autism in our community.
Do you know Autism affects 1.7 million Americans? That’s 1 child per every 110 children born each and every day in the U.S. will have autism. Do you have people in your community with Autism? Yes, absolutely you do! Are you affectively training to take care of them appropriately? Are you familiar with Sensory Impairment and what you can do to help but also to protect yourself or responders when helping someone with Sensory Impairment? Do you know you can bring this valuable training program to your department at for no cost?