Quad County Fire Deparment is a small town fire department that I currently volunteer as a training captain. Our fire department is almost as rural as it can come with a small call volume. When calls do come they come with vengeance. Our call volumes consists of motor vehicle accidents, brush fires, etc. Our structural firefighting calls are too few and are often too far gone to do much interior operations. For many departments that can cause a number of problems for our rural departments that are in the same predicament as we are.
- Training: going back to the IFSTA Fire and Emergency Services Instructor textbooks, Thordikes law of learning suggest that "habits and memories that are used repeatedly are strengthened, and habits not reinforced are weakened" (Schneider, 2019). This theory can be transferred to calls that are low frequency in our services. I believe we can all agree that training is an important part of our services but the question is, are we training in the correct area? My suggestion is to sit down with your department and conduct a needs assessment. This will identify call threats that are present in your district. This will also identify areas of weakness that we can be training on.
- Interest: how are we maintaining the interest of our firefighters? Let's go back for a moment and ask ourselves why we joined the fire service in the first place. We hardly hear of anyone joining for the basis if money, I said hardly not never. I work full time in a ambulance service l (in the same rural community) and have learned over time while there is plenty of learning opportunities in EMS there doesnt seem to be as much room for advancement in the EMS realm. The fire service offers a lot more room for advancement and traings than that of our EMS counter part. If we dont keep the interest of our firefighters by offering some incentive whether rewards, raises, bragging rights, etc we will start to see harder working firefighters and we will start seeing that interest in the fire service.
- Ensuring safety- It doesnt matter how hard we try to eliminate the hazards, there will always be a risk. I cant believe there would be anyone out there that would want to work in a situation where we feel our lives are at higher risk than a normal day. Allow me to give an example, when you joined the fire service would you rush into a burning building in gear that is out dated, worn, and multiple holes in the lining? We as human beings need to have the sense of security even just that little bit such as wearing current NFPA standard PPE.
- Command: I will tell on my fire department a little bit, we are slacking in organized structure. For a long time I saw this as normal but as I grew in the service I realized this is a plan for disaster! My suggestion for this is to know and review your organizational structure so that when you are on a call, there will be no guessing on who your command team is and will allow the call to move more smoothly and assignments will be clearer for our firefighters.
- Training: wait, didn't I already state this? You bet! Trainjng is a foundation to the future of the fire service. When we allow our skills to become obsolete we are not only putting our lives in danger but our fellow firefighters and our community. When was your last training night?
Rural fire departments are a special breed of department. We are poised with personal commitments, full time jobs, and financial hardtines on the fire department side. This shouldnt stop our firefighters, with the incredible tool of technology and the use of magazine subscriptions such as fireenginnering should keep our minds and skills fresh.
Schneider, Walter, (2019), Fire and Emergency Services Instrictor, IFSTA