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Prep for reality: 3 tips to rethink how you train

Firefighters often work in extreme environments; how we prepare ourselves for those conditions can influence the outcome

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At WHP Trainingtowers, we want as many firefighters as possible to partake in the most realistic firefighter training so that lives can be saved.

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At WHP Trainingtowers, we have been building fire training towers for over 40 years, with a focus on firefighter safety. We want as many firefighters as possible to partake in the most realistic firefighter training possible so that lives can be saved.

With that goal in mind, we’d like to ask firefighters to rethink how they train. Are your trainings as realistic as possible? Chief Keith Padgett had this to say about keeping it realistic.

3 Tips to Rethink How You Train

Firefighters work in a wide variety of conditions and extreme environments; how we prepare ourselves for those extreme conditions is important and can change the outcome of an event before we are ever called to respond.

Quite often when we train, we don’t drill the same way we would be required to operate, opting to take a less demanding or less challenging means of groundwork. This only hurts us in the long run. It’s the same principle as not working out with heavy weights or not running those extra miles when attempting to prepare for a weight lifting competition or a marathon. You must train like you work and not cut corners if at all possible.

1. Always train in full PPE gear. When establishing a drill for your crew, make sure to set up the training conditions to be as realistic as you possibly can, beginning with donning PPE – often the first item crews eliminate when training. They will make excuses as to why they don’t need to wear full gear when “it’s only training.”

If you don’t practice in your complete PPE, you will never be comfortable when required to do so on an active scene. When in full gear and utilizing new or rarely-used skills, it becomes apparent that the PPE is another factor that must be addressed. Something as simple as operating a tool or even a radio with your firefighting gloves on, will be difficult and may require some rethinking to accomplish the task.

2. Create realistic firefighter training simulations. Once basic skills are engrained, the next step is to build a training scenario to incorporate several components into a real-world training simulation. For example, a simulated overturned motor vehicle crash with entrapment would include operating vehicle extrication equipment; deploying a charged hose line for safety; utilizing the incident command system; and establishing tactical objectives for the emergency scene.

3. Build relationships and invite mutual aid partners. Train for worst-case scenarios, and consider including other emergency and public safety agencies in your training simulations. Building a relationship with a wrecking yard in your district to obtain vehicles for this type of training is required, but well worth the effort to create such a training exercise. The countless firefighter training scenarios that can be developed will reward your organization many times over.

So, take a few moments to plan your next training event and rethink how you train!

Safety & Innovation

With a focus on firefighter safety, we are always looking for ways to enhance our training towers and make them more realistic, with an emphasis on safety, through constant innovation. Many features have been added to the fire training towers over the years, making them safer, stronger and more durable.

Steel railings, stairs and ladders

In 2007, WHP Trainingtowers began creating structured steel railings, stairs and ladders for the training towers. They feature a hot-dipped, galvanized steel finish that is weather resistant, so it not only lasts longer, but saves fire departments time and money due to lower maintenance. While much of the innovation in fire training has a focus on safety, this particular upgrade increased the durability, longevity and, ultimately, the value of the structures.

Padgenite Interlock System

We started with Padgenite I – a calcium-silicate-based thermal lining system that provided the best balance of durability and thermal protection. In 2002, we developed Padgenite Super. Today, we have raised the bar once again with our patent-pending Padgenite Interlock system. The interlocking grid system also makes replacing a broken tile fast and easy. Firefighters can simply remove a few screws and replace any broken panels.

MOD-x modular training system

In the early days of fire training, firefighters would use repurposed shipping containers as training buildings. These containers could be easily damaged, may contain unknown chemicals in the paint, and required maintenance. This spurred the creation of the MODx modular training system, uniquely engineered and designed for the fire service. The fully-galvanized structural steel frame allows for open floor plans. The walls, doors and windows can be easily moved, removed or reconfigured allowing for a wider variety of training exercises within the system. MODx can also be easily expanded in the future.

Standardized railings on roofs

Unlike other training towers, our towers feature standardized railings on roof surfaces to meet OSHA fall protection compliance codes. Similarly, the rappelling anchor system set the standard for the industry. We upgraded the rappelling anchors to forged, hot-dipped, galvanized swivel-style anchors, making it safer.

HAZMAT training props

WHP Trainingtowers has also introduced a series of dedicated HAZMAT training props that are all controlled wirelessly. We designed a trailer system for HAZMAT props that can travel to different fire stations, districts or even states, making it possible to reach and train more firefighters. From single props to a complete HAZMAT city, we can design props to prepare firefighters for anything from leaking pipes and exploding drums to falling cylinders and liquid spills. In 2009, WHP designed the first fully integrated HAZMAT training facility for the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Leading through innovation and communication

These are just a few examples of the innovative products WHP has introduced over the more than four decades we’ve been in business. Through open communication with firefighters throughout the nation and beyond, WHP Trainingtowers strives to lead an industry that protects those who protect the rest of us.
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