Many departments across the country have a in-house maze for SCBA Confidence training. These mazes are great for instilling confidence for the brand new fire fighter and maintaining proficiencies for the 20 year veteran. The issue that I have heard not just in my own department but departments across the county in which I reside is, “I can do this maze in my sleep” statement. A lot of mazes are constructed modular so different paths can be taken; the maze will also be slightly different depending on a right or left hand search pattern. Even different search patterns or when different trap doors are locked or unlocked the firefighter with 3 years in the department could probably clothes their eyes right now and recite how their maze is laid out.
What to do, a solution, spruce up the maze, teach an old dog a new trick or two. One complaint that also rang through was that they wanted more realistic obstacles in the maze, so we brainstormed. We referred back to other mazes that we might have trained on at FDIC, State Academy's, the NFA, maybe other departments. We looked at NIOSH reports and thought of some of our own experiences at jobs.
We didn’t want to make drastic changes right off the back so we only changed the placement of one obstacle, enhanced a current obstacle and added a new one. We also did not inform anyone that was training that night that this was done.
We didn’t know the effects of the changes would have on the firefighters so we shortened the path up slightly. Just by changing these couple of obstacles and adding a new one, guys with 20 years in the department look like they were rookies, guys with 5 years in that thought they were pretty proficient came out saying that they need to keep working and keep up on their skills. There were guys even running low on air just due to the new stressors introduced. Now the guys are calling for new and more changes to challenge them.
Mattress Springs - Call the local mattress store, they usually have tons of old mattress that they just throw away. There have been reports of gear being stuck on items such has burned up mattresses, and it happened three times during one drill. It has also become a "collection well" of door chocks and anything else hanging lose on the firefighters gear.
Mini Blinds. Hang them on the wall of the maze, when the firefighter is sweeping the wall for their search patterns they will eventually get caught in the blinds. I know the local big box hardware store in our district treats us very well when we ask them for items that might be thrown out due to defectiveness or damaged returns. A phone call has never hurt anyone.
Move obstacles - We moved the full escape obstacle, to where once the obstacle is cleared and the firefighter is re-donning their SCBA there is a low hanging wire that can entangle them while re-donning. We also repositioned the location for the “Firefighter Trapped” obstacle.
Enhance obstacles - We had a fairly large tunnel in which that we would droop rope to act as loose wires. They were configured in a “U” shape. Try to change the configuration and add more. We also found hanging pieces of chain link from the rope added weight which helped with the obstacle. We will be adding thermostat wire, thermostat wire is pretty cheap and has memory so it gives a more “realistic” feel.