Fire Fighters Association of Missouri

A Message from the 1st Vice President – 01-2018

How can it already be 2018? I hope you enjoyed the end of last year and had the opportunity to visit with family and friends during the various holidays. Early last year in one of my messages I said we would visit the training topic at a later date. I guess “a later date” has arrived. So let’s visit about training a bit.

Why do we in the fire service train in the first place? Is it so we know what we are doing, which affords us a better chance of being successful and safe in our tasks? Could it be because as individuals we want to do things to improve ourselves? Perhaps it could be driven entirely by the pursuit of compliance with NFPA or ISO standards. Of course there are many reasons we pursue training and we will not discuss them all. When training time comes, my wife always reminds me of an episode of the Flintstones, an old cartoon for you who have not heard of them, that highlighted the training for the Bedrock Fire Department, which basically served as a way to get out of the house and socialize because like the town’s name suggests everything was made of rock and there really were not many fires. I always assured her that although some of the meetings were somewhat social we were actually preparing ourselves to serve the public to the best of our abilities.

Take a moment and think about how you got to where you are today in the fire service. Did you just accidently become the chief or other officer or a firefighter? How have you survived this far in your career? If you really give it some thought you will likely find that training played an important part in your career path and in keeping you alive.

Training can take on many forms ranging from formalized class room sessions followed by practical applications to plain old “on-the-job-training.” We all started out as infants and quite literally we came into this world with very little observable knowledge. Think how quickly we were “trained” to know how to acquire nourishment and later how loud to cry to get attention and yet later how to perform certain tasks. Likely we all learned by observing, but no matter how you learned you learned due to training whether it was formal or not.

Fast forward now to the day you started in the fire service. Did you know everything you would need for your entire career? Most people would say not and most would say they still don’t know everything that they will need to finish their careers. This is where that nasty “four” letter word training comes in to play. If you don’t pursue, attend, or demand quality training in some form, how will you learn and be able to stay up to date with the career you have chosen?

Some of our training is closely governed and outlined by organizations such as the NFPA. This organization has put a lot of effort into creating standards for us to use in creating and evaluating training and the needs of the members of the fire service. Now I can’t say that we all agree with some of the products of NFPA efforts and I will not try to convince you to drink the magic potion, but I will say that those standards were created as a means of not only outlining a path of training, but to help keep us alive and providing quality service to our citizens. Other departments are driven more so by ISO guidelines. After all the better our training and training records the better our score may be, which could certainly affect the insurance premium rates being paid by those we serve.

From time to time there have been discussions about the need for training requirements either nationally, state-wide or even on a local basis. The argument can be made either for or against some formal design, but I believe if you really look at the concept of having some method of measuring the potential abilities of those we work with daily or perhaps on the occasional mutual aid it is probably not a bad idea. The debate could rage on for centuries on what the best measurement criteria may be or if there should be exceptions made to accommodate those willing to give their time, but who may not be able to perform all functions expected of a member of the fire service. I am a firm believer that there is a place in the fire service for almost everyone, but the role they serve or the title they may carry really does need to be clearly defined. The overall safety and performance for all involved can be greatly affected by the things our members attempt to do related to incidents.

Some concern has been raised that as we currently sit in Missouri, if a request goes out for a fire fighter or fire fighters to respond to an area not in their jurisdiction how does the requesting agency know who they are getting or the basic abilities they may bring with them? This is a valid concern as the last thing anyone wants is to put someone in a situation they are not trained for. Perhaps a different view is warranted in this discussion. Perhaps when these types of requests are made they should be specific in nature and only those personnel meeting the specified criteria respond. I know this puts the burden on the second agency to only send those meeting the criteria, but perhaps this would allow others to remain in the fire service that may not be able to perform all functions while still filling a need on a local level. Look at it from the aspect of wildland firefighting on the national level. When the call goes out for help, a specifically trained person or group is requested and only those possessing the correct color of “card” can do certain functions. Not a bad concept as this allows even those without the “card” to be in the fire service, but their function for certain events may be limited or restricted. So in reality this type of measurement criteria type system already is being used by many.

Support the process of establishing some measurement criteria or not, that is a personal decision that will be faced by every member of the fire service. However, whether you support the concept or not you really should consider the ramifications of failing to meet even basic training levels on a personal and departmental level. As I stated earlier, the reality is that quality training is one way we can hedge our bet to have better odds of being able to go home alive and help those around us achieve that goal also. Give it some thought and consider how training, formal or informal, has helped you get where you are, kept you in the fire service and maybe even kept you alive.

Make your voice heard in relation to training standards or requirements as this issue moves forward. The entire fire service needs to be involved in this issue to ensure whatever may be developed, if anything, represents the true needs of the entire Missouri fire service and is not based solely from any one perspective, which may not recognize potential impact on areas they do not deal with or are not familiar with.

Training is important. Training is vital. Training is for everyone. Training is not evil. Seek out training, participate fully in training and make yourself and the Missouri Fire Service the absolute best there is.

As always, if I can be of service to you please contact me. Be Safe!