The internet, is a great tool. In-fact, if you're reading this, you're most likely on the internet right now. But, for every good thing the internet is used for in the fire service, their is certainly just as many negative things. One topic that comes to mind is the amount of valuable, basic, hands-on experience our newer firefighters receive. Due to the technology that is currently available, any new firefighter can view a variety of tactical topics on the internet. The downside to this is that much of what they will see is open to interpretation. Without actually performing what they've learned, the impressionable firefighter could be left with a false sense of security. If they are required to perform a certain type of skill, under this false sense, they may place themselves and others in danger. To add to this, they may also become "stand-offish" and shy away from additional training due to fear of embarrassment.
In the current day fire service, it is imperative that we force ALL of our department's members to train on basic, hands-on skills. This will surely be the only way that they will learn the rights and wrongs, coupled with their strengths and weaknesses.
Back in the 1950's and 60's, the Detroit (Michigan) Fire Department trained all of their "Trailmen" (rookies) utilizing apparatus and some tools that dated back to the 1920's and 30's. This wasn't due to the fact that they couldn't afford newer equipment. In-fact, during the 1950's, the City of Detroit had a population of nearly 2 million and was at the height of the american auto industry boom. They were a fully staffed/equipped department and were certainly a model for large American cities to follow. Their department training school was no exception.
The mindset of the "DFD" was simple, if new "Trialmen" could successfully and efficiently operate the operations of the "old" (20's and 30's) apparatus and tools, they could surely master the new equipment. It was also thought that by learning the ins and outs of the vintage equipment, each "Trailman" would essentially earn their way into the world of the fire service. A right of passage, if you will.
So, how do we emulate this way of teaching in our current time? Its easier than one would think. Basic skills are just that... basic. Many leaders of our departments struggle to find ways to teach the newer firefighters of our organizations. Yet, everything we need to do so is usually right inside our respective firehouses. Many topics come to mind and are listed below:
- Tool and Appliance familiarity (uses, abilities, comfort, etc.)
- Hoseline stretches and being systematic with a crew.
- Operating hose streams while advancing inward.
- Operating 2 1/2" attack lines for interior operations.
- Basic forcible entry with one and two firefighters.
- Searches in unfamiliar rooms.
- One and two person portable ladder placement.
- Proper PPE application for time (Placing all PPE as quickly as possible and correctly).
- Driving around and randomly picking an address to "size-up", identify construction challenges.
- Area map drills (running routes, water supply, access, etc.)
- GPM flows for all nozzles and master streams carried.
- Establishing a water supply.
- Blindfolded "standpipe riser" hook-up, using apparatus as a mock hook-up.
- SCBA familiarity, proper procedures for emergencies and daily check outs.
- Managing dry hoselines in confined areas (firehouse stairwell/doorways).
- Identifying hand tools, origin and uses (halligan hook, halligan bar, Boston rake, etc).
- Parts of a nozzle, explain the strengths and weaknesses.
- Door chocks, uses and how many to carry (5) (front door, bottom stairwell, top, door to fire, extra).
- Local department SOP's, riding assignments.
- Practice coupling and uncoupling hoselines for time/efficiency.
With all of this listed above, a group of people or a motivated person has to lead the way to assure members are constantly training on the basics... hands-on basics. As you've read, there are many things that need to be taught and practiced on a routine basis. Its up to everyone to do so and pass-on what has been taught to them. Its a never ending cycle of improvement, starting with the square one of our field.