Monday, July 19, 2010

Tactical Safety: Entry-Level Firefighters

The fire service’s weekly safety column

Examining firefighting to see if there is a better and safer way to operate.

Entry Level Firefighters

By Ray McCormack

All firefighters are not created equally, and that is a problem. Fire academies utilize curriculum based upon standards of training, however, they are not carbon copies of each other and even classes within the same institution will vary. This is accepted because base-knowledge for firefighting and firefighter development hinges upon known and accepted operational principles and regional aspects of needs. Academies strive to accomplish a difficult task, graduating firefighters. These newly created firefighters still have much to learn and absorb. Training does not end at rookie school; it continues, as there are different levels of training for different stages of firefighter development.

Skill development requires time and repetition to adhere properly; this process is started in the academy but must continue afterwards. For some firefighters it does, for some it does not and for the lucky few, training simply becomes a part of their routine. It is important to remember that we do not wish our firefighters to stay at the entry level beyond that limited time period.

Like any training schedule that must cover many topics, some topics will be covered amply while others will receive only cursory treatment. Academic schedules are tight and heavy: structured with the addition burden of including mandated educational tracts. One recent study complained that operational learning took up too much time.

If we do not obsess over operational function, then what level will our firefighters be at when they graduate? Could we reach a level below entry level? Yes, we could. We would develop Non-entry level firefighters who could help with tasks, except entry. What level of “fire service” will we be able to provide to others when we do not understand or haven’t learned how to perform entry level firefighting?

Looking at this study: if an academy wants to spend more time on non operational course development items, it will have to cut somewhere. Are you willing to eliminate or shorten training on PPE, or SCBA, or RIT, or any other life preserving operational tactic? Core training on firefighting is not negotiable. We can never ignore the reality of our profession no matter what the current climate or additional learning items are placed on the list.

If your vision is 20/20, you can see that entry-level training on firefighting practices does not contain deductable subjects, if you want your new firefighters to be safe and effective. Ongoing training based on entry level firefighter skills never gets old; it is the foundation on which all advanced training rests. We must make sure that what firefighters are learning at the entry level provides maximum tactical safety so that they are prepared when fire happens.

Next Tactical Safety – If Only Everyone Was A Firefighter


  1. All that to say every department has slugs who, no matter what , just aren't going to get it? Training? Who's responsible for that? Who takes responsibility for teaching, learning , and developing? I, personally am tired of force feeding people what they could care less about. Once in a while you'll get a kid who , genuinely , wants to learn the job and that's refreshing. Most of the people who come down the line don't want to be bothered with, what they think they already know. I look forward to going to outside agencies to teach because, good or bad, the people who show up want to be there. They want to learn what you want to teach them. No, they are not all firefighters, and they will be the first to tell you that but they want to try to be. Others aren't firefighters but pretend to be everyday. You can't teach PASSION, at least I haven't figured out how to teach it. You either have it or you don't.

  2. I read a while back ( can't remember where, though) where someone paralleled firefighting skills to professional baseball, regarding continued training. Even the best sports teams continually practice the basics in pursuit of that perfect game. They perform all sorts of drills, from batting practice to fielding ground balls...things they learned as little leaguers...things they need to be perfect at if they want to win the World Series. Why should we be any different?

    I actually think it's a benefit for many when we get new recruits. It's a good opportunity for the entire crew to practice their skills, while helping the new guy to fine tune his.

  3. Nate -- it's football.
    Each position has a specific job to be carried out. When jobs are missed i.e. Offensive blocking assignments no first down or td. Defense - if the outside is left open or receivers uncovered or the pass rush is ineffective -- first down/td against you. If the roofman doesn’t complete their assignment or the control doesn’t properly estimate and follow up the stretch the fire doesn’t play out as it should and we loose.

    There are lots of less desirable jobs on the football field such as offensive lineman (forgetting about the salaries for a moment). No glory and no press about your great blocking that enabled the running back to make the td/first down. Similar to the door or control positions in the engine. Never is the questioned asked who had the door or control. Do they receive a medal -- maybe just a thank you from the Officer & Nozzleman for a job well done that enabled them to make a good push on the fire -- safely.

    The coach’s playbook is similar to our books of SOG's, SOP's, etc. This play requires the RT, LG, TE, RB, FB to carry out these assignments. Similarly, this type of defense requires the LT, CB, NG LB, etc carry these assignments. The FD playbook requires the can, irons, roof, ov, knob, bu, door, control to carry out these assignments at Taxpayer, H-type, PD, etc, -- fires.

    If you expect to be/remain an excellent football player you must spend lots of time on physical conditioning, memorizing and understanding the playbooks, have a passion for what you do, practice, practice, practice – drill, drill, drill, train, train, train, carry out your assignments selflessly (still found on HS and some College levels) and be committed to your teammates and teams success. The seasoned vet risks loosing their starting position to the younger hungrier rookie if they fail to do all that’s listed above (in the FD it's respect that you loose). Now just insert FF in place of football player and Company/Dept in place of team in the above.

    Stay Safe,
    Tommy S.