Why you should add video surveillance to your training tools

Video surveillance footage can help train apparatus operators and fire officers for improved performance and firefighter safety

We’ve all heard the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” right? Well then, how much is a video recording worth?

The widespread availability of small, durable and affordable cameras that can be mounted almost anywhere on the exterior of fire apparatus and inside the patient compartment of ambulances is providing a treasure trove of video recordings.

Mobile surveillance systems are enabling automatic download of on-board recording storage when apparatus are close enough to their home station, allowing easy transfer to the department’s central server.

Photo/City of Phoenix

Here are three areas where your fire and EMS departments could be using that surveillance video to improve your firefighter training and enhance the performance of your people:

1. Improve apparatus driver performance

Reduce risk when reversing emergency vehicles. Video gives you the opportunity to give everyone involved in backing up a vehicle – the driver, the ground spotters and the fire officer – the same view that the driver sees. Those ground spotters can see for themselves how the driver can see them (or not see them) when they’re incorrectly positioned.

Improve apparatus driving practices for incumbent operators. Video from a front-view camera can provide visual evidence of safe driving practices (which should be applauded) and not so safe practices (which can be corrected). Those videos can also be used to give incumbent drivers more examples of safe, effective and efficient responses to mentally upload so they can learn from the experiences of others.

Improve driver training for up-and-coming drivers. Video recordings of actual driving during both emergency and non-emergency conditions can be used to put students into a virtual reality operator seat. Think low-cost driving simulator, and one that can give students hundreds of driving scenarios – showing both correct and incorrect practices – that the instructor can review with the student.

2. Improve apparatus operator performance

Whether you call them a motor pump operator or engineer, one of the critical jobs on any fire scene is that of the person responsible for operating the pumping or aerial apparatus. Most of the time, nobody ever notes what they’re doing – good or bad, safe or unsafe – until something goes wrong.

Video surveillance recordings provide an excellent means to rectify that training and improvement deficiency for incumbent apparatus operators and newbies alike.

Sport teams, particularly college and professional football, make extensive use of game day video to review what worked and what didn’t in the game plan for that week’s contest. Cameras equipped with a fisheye lens mounted on the sides of your fire apparatus can capture all the apparatus operator’s movements and actions for later review and learning after the game.

3. Improved fire officer training

What better way to give students in fire officer training a sense of what it’s like to be in the front seat than to use videos from that front-view camera to expose them to:

  • Being the first-arriving officer on a variety of call types.
  • Delivering their initial on-scene radio report, describing what they’re seeing as they approach the scene to other responding units.
  • Working with their driver/operator to achieve proper apparatus placement for maximum safety, effectiveness and efficiency.

While mobile video surveillance systems have operational and risk management benefits, don’t overlook the value of using your video recording retrospectively to provide better training and education for your people – and better outcomes for your organization in the future.

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