In a time when we are under public or political scrutiny, the fire service as a whole cannot accept the Barely Satisfactory firefighter. Barely satisfactory may make the grade on a sliding scale but in reality, barely satisfactory might not get the job done at your next fire. If we cannot provide measurability of a person's training, then where is the credibility. Without providing measurability, how is anyone expected to lead? Leadership is all about providing the opportunity to better an individual, a company or the department. I am sure we all have experienced this at times with training, you know the training that must be completed because "it has to be done" but was it completed to the BS level or held to a higher standard? What causes this mindset? Has the members seen an influence that can be corrected?
Attitude is a personal choice. Each time you walk into the fire house you have the opportunity to choose your attitude. Granted there are many internal and external stressors that can affect your attitude. But we all have the ability to remain positive through tough times or have the ability to sprinkle misery along the way... Have we become overtaxed with demands and not been able to manage our time? Has the training provided been dumbed down or we not afforded the opportunity to establish training for the environment we are expected to work in?
One example I will provide is SCBA, PPE, and TIC training. This annual or recurrent training is often completed in the confines of the fire station. Firefighters usually roll their eyes and mumble under their breath "Oh great another follow the line drill" like we did last time. The focus of this training is often on properly donning your PPE for quality (no bare skin showing) the SCBA portion of the evolution is usually targeted as a "mask confidence" drill and the TIC camera is added to show firefighters how we can see again in zero or low visibility conditions. But the reality is training on SCBA; PPE and TIC's in ambient, temperature controlled environments is not going to provide the end user with the proper education and experience to make critical decisions under fire. When they are crawling down that hallway, what benchmarks are they going to use to determine if they are OK or should they retreat before they get burned? You see the BS Firefighter is reactive to his or her working environment, meaning they will determine those benchmarks when their PPE is no longer protecting them from the insult. This is one of the reasons why we are seeing so many firefighters getter burned recently. A slave to their environment.
Training officers should remember that your last training session is most likely going to be the firefighter's primary "fall back" for decision making. How you choose to disseminate the information, the effort put forth in preparations and the conditions for which you provide for the evolutions should be greatly considered. In today's highly volatile and explosive working fire environment, we MUST provide every firefighter with the opportunity to become (EA) or Educated Aggressive. Providing them with a better understanding of fire behavior, modern fire dynamics and a situational awareness model specific to interior firefighting is absolutely critical. The Interior Benchmarking model published in Fire Engineering and taught at FDIC can provide the end user with ways to determine the interior working conditions. It will provide an opportunity to become better educated on "Go or No Go" decision making that is easy to remember and everyone should be trained on it!
Interior Benchmarking has been heralded as a simple to remember and easy to use five step concept regardless if it is during the day or at 3 in the morning! The concept is based on determining the working environment upon initial entry and throughout the battle. By maintaining a constant awareness and comparison model, firefighters and fire officers can remain ahead of the curve. This is INTERIOR (SA) Situational Awareness... We will quickly overview our model.
Interior Benchmarking Question #1 - What do I See? Providing knowledge and understanding on reading the interior conditions through the use of the human eye and the thermal imager for interpretation. Providing the user with the ability to determine thermal insult conditions; flow paths; closed box or open box behavior for tactical decision making.
Interior Benchmarking Question #2 - What do I Hear? Determining the location of possible victims or the seat of the fire through the use of our heightened sense of sound. The concept of covering your ear(s) with a gloved hand can determine and confirm it is on the left or right!
Interior Benchmarking Question #3 - What do I Feel? Determining the working environment through the use of full PPE and SCBA. The ability to acknowledge the conditions through our sense of feel and compare them to the last time you asked the interior benchmarking questions. The opportunity to understand what your PPE is designed and rated for, and the ability to determine if we are still being protected or have we reached maximum heat saturation and are no longer afforded thermal insult protection.
Interior Benchmarking Question #5 - How Long Did It Take to Get Here? This is the SCBA air management model portion of our benchmarking process. Maintaining a positive accountability of air usage to remain progressive on air usage and management.
Barely Satisfactory is not good enough for me.... and it shouldn't be for you and your organization. Stay Safe Brothers
Billy Greenwood, "Tap the Box" on Fire Engineering Radio