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Solid Foundations vs Decorative Elements

Is your training foundational or decorative in nature? Meaning, are you doing the fun, trendy activities or spending time on what is referred to as the basics?

Driving by a commercial building construction site recently started me thinking about this idea of decorative versus foundational training. The workers were at the rough-in stage of the build. They had laid the first course of block to establish the footprint of the building and were now engaged in burying the conduits for water, electric, and other utilities.

There is nothing particularly exciting about this part of the project. It’s fairly straightforward to an expert: dig here, bury there, grade that a bit more. The occupants of the building will never see the pipes once the floor gets poured. Yet, how critical it is to get this part right. Make a mistake now and it will cost greatly down the road in terms of time and money to correct the issues.

It’s much more exciting to get to the decorative portion of a construction project. Laying beautiful hardwood floors to dress up a room. Putting on just the right color of paint to make an area pop. Unpacking the new furniture for the space and placing it just so. These things give an immediate sense of accomplishment, a feel-good kind of thing.

So back to the original question, is your training foundational or decorative?

I’m an advocate for knowing different ways to rapidly escape a dangerous environment. Ladder bailouts, rope bailouts, wall breaches. There are multiple ways to move to safety. Training on that is a fun physical challenge that builds teamwork. It’s decorative.

Training on fire behavior, airflow, and building construction are not as exciting, but, like the foundation, they will actually be more critical to your success as a firefighter. They are foundational.

We know from construction that a big expense of the project is in the concrete or masonry portions that support the weight of the building. All the utilities eat up a good portion of the budget and are generally never seen; skimp on them and watch the structure begin to erode, often collapsing in a spectacular manner.

The parallel is there when the lion’s share of our training is spent doing the so-called “fun stuff”. If we spend our time on advanced techniques without ever having really grasped the foundational levels we are setting ourselves up for failure.

We may do a terrific ladder bailout which gives us confidence that we can do it in a time of urgent need. We gloss over the fact that we had issues getting the ladder deployed properly to begin with. Perhaps if we were faster at that the crew could exit in a more controlled manner.

We have several techniques in our toolboxes for retrieving someone who has fallen through the floor. Certainly, unexpected things happen, but what if we practiced more on identifying holes before we fell into them?

The list could go on. The point is this: we must continue to make sure that our foundational knowledge is solid before we begin to add more decorative elements to our skillset. The foundational ones may not be as riveting but they are the ones that will be critical throughout your time in the fire service.

For more training thoughts check out this link: Back to Basics

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