On Training and Taking Personal Responsibility

* Image from Goshen, MA. Fire-Rescue website.


Got your cup? Here let me fill it up…..What 'da? Who left the pot empty?!?! This is what I'm talking about!

Hello all. I'm a little cranky today. Maybe it's the weather, I dunno. Maybe it's what I've been seeing a lot of lately on the training ground that's got me irritated, not sure. First off, the picture up above of the young lad from Goshen F-R isn't meant to imply the kid was doing anything wrong. He wasn't. It was a rest and rehydration break during a full day of instruction. But I thought the general pose lent itself to my discussion. Hence why the faces of the innocent have been blurred.

You see, I've seen an awful lot of lackadaisical, ho-hum, here-we-go-again plodding through training lately. A lot of, been there, done that got the t-shirt attitude. Only problem is that I as an instructor have also seen a lot of corner cutting and sloppy performances on the drill ground. I get it. Throwing a 35 isn't a lot of fun, especially when I tell you that it's only you and your partner because the other two guys from the truck are throwing the 24 to another window and everyone else is committed. But when I'm telling you that because the scenario is an advanced fire condition in an ordinary constructed SRO with people in the windows, do 'ya think 'ya could move a little faster than give-a-crap speed? From the first time Benjamin Franklin mustered his troops to train on passing buckets down the line this kind of attitude has been the bane of every training instructors existence.

Good, solid, realistic training. Something that challenges us. Something that makes us think. Those are responses I've heard when asking the question, "What do you want to see out of the trainig division?" And I agree that the responsibility to put that kind of training on falls squarely on the soulders of the Training Officer and the instructors. However, it cannot be a one-way street. The students need to engage and act like it is an actual scenario as well. That part falls squarely on you. If you come into training with the attitude that this is B.S. and you only have to "get through" the evolution then you aren't going to get anything out of the most inventive, realistic scenario any instructor can come up with.  Sometimes the topic is boring and there is only so much that can be done to make it interesting. Blood-borne Pathogen training, for instance, was one of my most hated topics as a trainee and still is as an instructor. So when I had to present it recently I incorporated a mini response drill using a CPR manikin as the victim. The responding crews shuffled into the room, laughing and joking, not really paying attention all too much. When they approached the patient and began receiving information as to what had happened etc., the first guy, not wearing any gloves or any other form of personal protection kneeled in an open Zip-Loc bag of melted chocolate bar that was deftly placed under his knee on his way down. When he reached down with his ungloved hand to see what it was and brought his hand back up covered in melted Hershey bar and was told it was feces, the look on his face was priceless. Another guy got a 60 cc syringe of cream of mushroom soup in the kisser after he went to intubate without any eye protection or a mask. Interesting enough for you? Realistic enough for you?

We had done another drill at the training tower towards the end of fall before the weather got too bad. All the windows and doors had been framed out with 2×4's and covered with plywood to resemble HUD coverings or at least give the look of an abandoned building. This was going to make for actual forcible entry work for companies instead of the "simulated" work that was accustomed to. One exterior door on the back-side of the building had been covered in a similar fashion but then forced, giving it the look of a covering that had been removed to let someone sneak inside. Companies were initially gathered in the classroom area of the education building and given the scenario and objectives for the drill. Time of day: Now; Weather: As is; Building: As you see it; Information: As given by dispatch. The tones then dropped for a reported fire, 123 Main Street with the companies due assigned. The first-due companies kind of got up, moved out of the room to their rigs and then all showed up at once on scene. This led to multiple companies standing around waiting for the first-due Lieutenant to finish his walk-around, give his size-up and begin instituting his plan. No one thought that, hey, wait a minute, my Engine would normally take 4-6 minutes to get there, I'd better hold back. No one thought that this building would normally be the middle building in a block of storefronts and we couldn't just walk around the entire perimeter. No one thought that the truck should actually be moved from where it was parked when companies reported to training. It was frustrating to watch. The drill kind of plodded along with the main objectives being met along the way. But it was disappointing to see how slow the assignemnts were carried out. How uninvolved many of the participants were. How little buy-in there was. Many of the instructors had thought that we had provided the troops exactly what they had asked for, and it still didn't get their engines going.

I've mentioned LYBITS before in another post. For those that haven't read that post or have forgotten, LYBITS is a shortened acronym for the dreaded Leaving Your Brain In The Car When You Get To The Firehouse Syndrome. Maybe it can mean leaving your motivation there too? Are you just showing up to work to get through the shift? Are you simply showing up to training because you have no other choice? Do you truly believe that training is important to develop muscle memory and that automatic pilot so that when you really need to perform you will? Do you truly believe you have it all down and don't need to do this stuff anymore? I sincerely hope not. 

I don't have a magic bullet. I don't have any kind of inspiring quote to give you that will suddenly inspire you to really invest yourself in your training. I can only hope that you care enough about your profession, your teammates, your family and those you've sworn to protect that you'll do it on your own.

Now get off 'da tailboard and ask not what your training division can do for you, but what can you do for your training division.


1 Comment

  • Cal Fire FOBS says:

    In my opinion, what you described is on the Training Bureau and participating company officers.
    If the stage isn't set during the classroom portion of the drill, and the desired outcome fully briefed, you get what you paid for.
    Somewhere in your department it became OK to take a less than serious view of multi-company drills and most likely first-in drills by individual engine or truck companies.
    I was fortunate in my career to have had a Training Bureau that demanded the best out of us at the drill tower so we were at our best on the fire ground; we trained the way we fought fire and handled every other type of incident  we responded to.
    Go back a reestablish your expectations of every company in your department and emphasize the absolute life and death need for the best possible attitude toward drills because someday, somebody's life may depend on what you did or did not do at the drill tower.

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