The usual cautions apply... your mileage, hose pressure, etc. may vary, things may be wildly different in your jurisdiction, etc.
Speaking from my local, limited, perhaps ignorant perspective, there seem to be too many barriers stopping volunteers and volunteer officers from getting trained (and certified). It’s hard in terms of motivation, spare time, and department finances to get people to our state fire academy, and it’s very hard to get the fire academy to come to us (minimum class sizes, shortage of instructors, budget problems). And, growing our own instructors is a great, wonderful long-term idea, but it doesn’t help us right now.
And, there is the National Fire Academy, but that seems to be to me more in the way of enrichment, rather than bread and butter basic certification training, and takes some lead time to organize.
In our jurisdiction, getting officers trained seems to be a huge long row to hoe. To be trained as a fire officer, first you have to be trained as a fire instructor… and as structural fire fighter II… then before that, structural I…but before that there are pre-requisites, fire fighter medical and haz mat. But, with the limited time available to volunteers, and turnover in the ranks of volunteers, most of us are likely to have become chief and then retired from the department before we could ever faintly hope be trained to be chief!
If I were boss of the training universe and wanted to be nice to rural fire departments, here’s my plan…
- Break structural fire fighter I training into modules. Give volunteers certificates and recognition for completing each module. Make the modules something that could be completed in a weekend or four evenings or such. Someone smart can figure out how to organize this.
- Get some of these modules to be available on-line (With an on-line instructor who can answer questions, herd students, be available for on-line discussions, questions, etc.). Minimize the number of weekends when students have to physically go to the Academy or the instructor has to go to them. Maybe have the instructor come to the students for one weekend and the students go to the Academy for another weekend for their live burns, and * Everything * else is on-line.
- Give very serious consideration to modifying, reducing, or eliminating all pre-requisites for structural fire fighter I training.
Especially haz mat. Yes, I hear the screams. Yes, I know, there’s a lot of dangerous stuff in the world, including in our neighborhood. Yes, it’s great training. Yes, any professional fire fighter should have this.
But, reality. It’s keeping people away from getting trained as structural fire fighters. And, structural fire fighter I is something I think of as journeyman- or junior-firefighter level. And, did I mention, it’s keeping people from being trained as fire fighters. Really, a new firefighter mainly needs to keep away from that stuff – and HazMat _Awareness-level training_, which can be done in a few hours on-line, would be sufficient to train novice structural fire fighters to recognize, isolate, call for help, and stay the heck away from that stuff. Think about this. Let Operations-level training be a pre-req for structural II and more advanced work, or let it be a co-requisite for professional and urban fire fighters, or a requirement that can be imposed by individual chiefs and departments. In the meantime, let's cut out some of the hoops that folks have to jump through.
- Design specific training content for volunteer rural/small department fire officers that can be completed in short modules, much of it on line, and with * NO * (*&^#!) pre-requisites.(Yes, there are a few hours of new officer material in the annual fire-EMS conference. !Pero, yo quiero mucho mas!)
That’s my rant. Off soapbox.
I'm sure you all have lots of great ideas.
Your turn. Your opinions?
Pat Byrnes, Laguna Vista
Dumb new guy. Northern New Mexico.