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Firefighter Target Practice With Ground Ladders

Firefighters must be confident in ground ladder operations. That includes knowing what size ladder is needed to get the job done safely, efficiently, and on the first try. Passing Firefighter I doesn’t make someone an expert. Confidence required for basic skills comes through repetition. No matter how long a firefighter has “been on the job” they must constantly refresh the basics.

Frequently throwing different ground ladders builds confidence in choosing the best size on an emergency scene. Here is a simple drill that helps build confidence and proficiency in ground ladder operations.


While not as exciting as the name may imply, the overall objective of this drill is for firefighters to practice raising and lowering ground ladders using different targets for various assignments.

Prep Work: Walk around the firehouse or training center/location and pick out different targets for ladder placement (ie windows, roof, balcony, etc).

  1. Break firefighters up into teams based on size of company or training group. For team size, try to be realistic based on resources your department can expect for turnout on a fire scene.

  2. Provide instructions. Full PPE (firefighting gloves, helmet, eye protection included!). Raising the ladder should involve full deployment, including securing the halyard. Encourage new firefighters to climb up and leg lock if appropriate for their assignment.

  3. Give each team a target and task. For example, raise a ladder to a designated second story window for ventilation.

  4. Once they complete the first task, give firefighters their next assignment. For example, raise ladder to third floor window for a rescue.

  5. Once complete, give them their next assignment. For example, set up ladders for chimney fire. Set up ladder for roof ventilation. Set up ground ladder for hose line operations. Set up ladder for VES. OKAY, you get it. Repeat as necessary. The number of targets and tasks will depend on duration of drill, how many firefighters attend the training, and what level of proficiency development is required.


There is a lot you can do with this drill. Here are some ways to make the most of it.

  • Determine targets and assignments beforehand. Maximize the time you have to train firefighters by picking out targets and associated tasks prior to starting the drill.

  • Choose a location that has multiple structures. One of the main goals of this drill is to build proficiency in choosing the correct ladder size for the task at hand. This requires practicing on different structures.

  • Train at various locations. To achieve the goal above, we must raise ladders on a variety of structures. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the luxury of training at a large scale fire training complex or even a location with more than just our fire station. If so, conduct this training exercise a few times per year, at different locations. You could also select multiple locations in close proximity to one another and set a target at each property. Other municipal buildings and abandoned facilities make great options. Businesses in town are often happy to let firefighters conduct this type of training on their premises (after hours). Just ENSURE you get permission before you show up to start the drill.

  • Turn this into a timed race. If you team is already really proficient in ground ladder basics, turn this drill into a timed race. Have a list of targets and tasks. Time teams as they “hit each target.” Time stops once they have successfully hit all targets on the list (a total of 3-4 targets is appropriate for this).


This is an ideal training exercise to improve firefighter proficiency in ground ladders. Be creative. Have fun with it. Conduct it often. Don’t be afraid of offending the firefighter who has already “seen it all.” Most of us, especially those outside of urban environments, operate in a high-risk, low volume environment for fighting fires. We need to find creative and interesting ways to train on the most basic expectations of our job. Throwing ladders often is the best way to ensure your team always hits the target when it counts.

What do you think? Have you done a drill like this at your fire department? Do you have any suggestions? Let us know in the comments or please, contact us! We love to hear from our readers. If you have a drill idea you love, share it with us

Disclaimer: You must always consider your own personal safety, as well as department policies and procedures. Always wear full PPE. For informational purposes only.

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