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By: Blaize, FD Hacks

It's critical that firefighters operate with core competencies at 100%. We should be able to dress a hydrant with our eyes closed. Connecting and operating hose lines as a team should be well rehearsed. However, many of our responsibilities are performed in a high risk, low volume environment. Unless in an urbanized response area, there just aren’t enough fires to keep basic skills fresh.

As a result, responsibility for basic skill maintenance falls heavily on training. We must frequently incorporate the basics into our training program to prevent them from falling into the mental abyss. Don’t take for granted a firefighter’s basic professional capabilities - if they are not being used, they will get weak. This risk is greatest among young firefighters or longtime members with low attendance level. And let's be honest, there are only so many drills that we want to be simply dressing hydrants and throwing ladders.

Firefighter Relay Race

The firefighter relay race is a creative way to practice multiple core competencies at once, as well as incorporate other secondary skills like teamwork and communication. Team based events get firefighters working together and timing the drill can create competitiveness to simulate working under pressure.

Pick a primary skill you want to focus on. Design a multi-step, team-based course, focusing on developing a primary skill. Let’s walk through an example.

Drill Example: Hydrant & Hose Work Relay Race

1). Divide your drill attendees into even teams. Teams of 4-5 will work best. Three groups is max for one course. Any excess will create too much downtime.

2). Review safety and ground rules. Review the entire course with everyone as a group. Ask if there are any questions. Everyone needs the same understanding of expectations:

  • No running allowed.

  • All activities must be completed with gloves ON.

  • Helmets strapped and eye protection on or you’re out.

  • Time starts on three and ends when you knock over the cone.

3). The course (can happen simultaneously):

  • Unroll three lengths of 1 ¾” hose line.

  • Set up the hydrant (or water supply)

  • Connect the hose line (and connect to gated hydrant).

  • Charge the line

  • Advance the line as a team towards the target (a cone), or through an obstacle.

  • Flow water and knock over the cone.

  • Stop time when cone tips over.

4). You don’t have to time the first round, but the added element of competition makes performing the basic skills more exciting and slightly resembles the stress element of fireground operations.

Primary Skills Covered

  • Hydrants/water supply

  • Hosework

  • Nozzle operations/water flow

  • Coupling connection

Secondary Skills Covered

  • Communication

  • Teamwork

  • Leadership

  • Strategic thinking

Final Thoughts

The relay race described above is a favorite of mine. You can apply the concept to other core competencies that should be regularly trained. For example, carry, raise and leg-lock on a ladder. For ropes, knots, and rescue operations, firefighters can set up a 3 to 1 pull system and drag a stokes basket from point A to point B. Each relay race practices essential skills, while all incorporate teamwork, leadership, communication, and strategic thought. Timing the events adds some healthy competition and stress to simulate working under pressure. Most importantly, these drills are usually a blast, so have fun!

Let us know what you think in the comments below or contact us! Have you done something similar with your department? Have any tips of your own?

Submit your own drill idea here with us!

Disclaimer: Firefighting is a dangerous operation. You must always consider your own personal safety and department policies and procedures.

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