Keeping Training Interesting


One of the hardest tasks for a training officer, especially of a volunteer department, is keeping training interesting. In an environment where you have mandated OSHA training, minimum standards, and limited resources, training is becoming a very difficult task.

When you add all the requirements into the fact that we are ‘only volunteers’ you find that members can start to loose interest, and excitement easily. It has always amazed me that the members who say they do not have time to train show up when there is a live burn or extrication drill. It just goes to show that it may not be the time constraints, but their interest level.

So the question at hand is how do we keep our members interested in training, keep it informative, and accomplish all of our training goals?

The first step in a successful training program is advanced planning. The fire service loves the saying “Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance…” well this goes double for training. When you plan your drills and lesson plans in advance you will find that the training is of a higher caliber and will have a higher turnout.

The Wilderness Ranch Volunteer Fire Department submitted their training schedule to VolunteerFD.org at http://www.volunteerfd.org/training_display.php?did=989. A quick look at this schedule shows a well planned training approach, along with the flexibility of having weeknight and weekend drills. Offering weekend or even day drills can help to train those members who may not be available for the ‘standard’ drill night due to work, family, or many other reasons.

As you lay out your schedule, you will find that the ‘mandatory’ requirements take up a large percentage of available time. The challenge is to spread them out, and add a little spice to the schedule with unique training opportunities.

The Noble Township Volunteer Fire Department submitted a unique training program to VolunteerFD.org at http://www.volunteerfd.org/training_display.php?did=823. This program is for a night of ‘SCBA Basketball’. The Noble Twp VFD uses this night to teach teamwork and breathing control, while keeping their members interested.

Programs such as SCBA Basketball may not seem to fit with the normal realm of training, and are an often-overlooked option. While it may seem like just a ‘fun drill’, it serves a training purpose, and more importantly, gives a break from the classroom and mandatory drilling we must do.

The East Whitehouse Fire Department submitted a mention of a flashover simulator at http://www.volunteerfd.org/training_display.php?did=1104. Flashover simulators are made out of old shipping containers, and provide members with a feel of ‘real heat’ and are very intense. Flashover simulators provide you with an opportunity to teach your members about flashover, and are guaranteed to be a remembered drill.

A cautionary note on flashover simulators… The heat is so intense that it can cause malfunctions of equipment, and need to be handled by trained personnel. Check with your local or state fire academy and see if they have a simulator and personnel you can use.

Stroud Fire and Rescue mentions working with your neighbors in your training effort. (http://www.volunteerfd.org/training_display.php?did=834) This is a great idea, and provides for a few different faces to be involved.

Try setting up an ‘exchange’ program. Each department may have experts in certain areas and by exchanging instructors, you can spread the knowledge while keeping members interested. Often just having an outside instructor can raise interest levels, and through an exchange program, you wouldn’t even have to pay for them.

Finally, look inside your department for subject matter experts. A member does not have to be a ‘certified’ instructor to teach a drill. The nice thing about volunteer departments is our diversity. Members have other ‘real jobs’ where they may have skills that can help your department.

By rotating the training duties between instructors, you also limit instructor burnout, while keeping members involved. Those who have been in education know that when you teach a topic, you learn quite a bit yourself. Allowing your members to teach will help them to appreciate the work you put in, while sharing their knowledge with others.

Remember, no matter what drills you do, you need to stay organized. Plan ahead. VolunteerFD.org is full of lesson plans and drill options at http://www.volunteerfd.org/training.php. Adapt other programs to yours, and I would love to hear your results. Also, if you have something unique, please add it to the community, as we all could use the help.

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