Smoke divers show right way for high-intensity training

As intense as the training was, the instructors never lost sight of keeping firefighters safe

Over the years, I've written extensively and presented at several national conferences about the challenges of balancing realism and safety in firefighter training.

For it to be valuable in a "real-life" situation, we must strive to make training as realistic as possible, but without compromising participants' safety. Unfortunately, every year we see firefighters killed or injured during training evolutions. This fact underscores something one of my former coaches used to say about football practice: "It's all real."

A couple decades ago, I went through a smoke diver course that was similar to this one. To say it was an intense (physically and mentally) experience would be an understatement.

Years later, however, and even with all the training I've done since, it remains one of the most impactful classes I've ever taken. There's no question in my mind that those skills, and more importantly the intense focus on using breathing apparatus in difficult circumstances, have helped me through more than one near-miss incident.

At the same time, that course was conducted with safety as the first, and last, priority for everyone. The idea was to learn your limits; not force you to exceed them. From watching the video clip in this story, it appears the instructors at this class are following the same principles.

There's obviously a high instructor-to-student ratio for high-risk evolutions — you can see one of the trainees staying hydrated by carrying a gallon water jug. And the training follows a logical progression from practicing skills in a "clean" environment, to practicing them again (and again) in the burn building.

It's great to see a positive example of high-fidelity, high-impact and high-risk training done right.

Stay safe!

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