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