Planning prevents firefighter training injuries

Not everyone has a dedicated training facility and those departments need extra planning to avoid injuring firefighters


Editor’s Note:

Scroll to the bottom to watch the video.

Firefighters train on a regular basis to keep their skills afresh and to increase their overall proficiency.

The training ground can be just about anywhere, using everything from the fire station to an acquired structure to an open parking lot. Whatever firefighters can get their hands on, they can use it for some type of training evolution.

However, for all of it's good, firefighter training has its dark side.

National statistics on firefighter injuries, show that every year firefighters suffer injuries during training. According to the National Fire Protection Association, of the 63,350 injuries suffered by firefighters in 2014, 11 percent were attributed to training.

This accounts for more than 6,000 firefighter injuries. Out of this number, more than half, 58 percent or 3,985 firefighters, were injured as a result of a sprain, strain or muscular pain.

Keeping it real
How does this happen?

Part of it has to do with the need for firefighter training to be realistic — we need to train as we play. This realism acclimates firefighters to the environment in which they work and helps give them the readiness and confidence to face the real deal when the time comes.

However, there still needs to be and can be a reduction in the number of firefighters injured if training is set up properly.

Props are often built and used when firefighter training is conducted at the fire station. The physical characteristics of the building are also used to facilitate training.

Yet most fire stations are not designed and built with training building specifications in mind. Those might include safety features such as anchor points or structural components that are designed to be used and abused.

Plan it out
Before using the fire station for a training ground, it is important to prepare the building or area so that we are not contributing to the possibility of more strains, sprains or muscular pain type of injuries.

The training evolution in the video was not properly planned or prepared to reduce the possibility of injury. Perhaps it was a spur of the moment type of training class or it may have been one firefighter taking it upon himself to practice something without others helping.

No matter what the situation was, this could have been prevented with adequate planning and preparation.

Instructors are taught to take the time to plan and prepare for a training evolution or scenario. The firefighting crew also needs to do the same thing.

The little dominoes that start to line up when we fail to do this eventually lead to a point where firefighters either strains themselves, sprain a body part or experiences muscular pain from a fall such as seen in the video. 

About the author

Mark van der Feyst has been in the fire service since 1999 and is currently a full-time firefighter in Ontario, Canada. Mark is an international instructor teaching in Canada, the United States and India. He is a local-level suppression instructor for the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy and an instructor for the Justice Institute of British Columbia. He is also the lead author of the book "Residential Fire Rescue." You can contact Mark with feedback at Mark.vanderfeyst@firerescue1.com.

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