By Author(s): Jim McCormack 
Published Wednesday, May 23, 2012
| From the July 2012  Issue of FireRescue 
Truck company training is simple: Practice the basic skills over and over until they become instinctive. After that, practice some more! The more you train, the faster you’ll start operating at an advanced level on the fireground. What many people don’t realize is that you really can’t perform those more advanced operations until you’ve mastered the basics. After all, advanced skills are nothing more than basic skills that have been adapted to handle particular fireground variables.
One of the most common excuses for not conducting training is “we don’t have a training facility.” Give me a break! If you have a firehouse, then you have a facility. Sure, you may not be able to perform all the training you want without making some additional effort, but you should be able to perform most of it. And for those skills that do require a little more effort—like building a prop or gathering some materials—as the saying goes, just do it!
With this in mind, the following are some training ideas that cover basic truck company functions.
Aerial Apparatus Training
When it comes to the rig, start with the basics. Make sure everyone is able to operate it (meaning they can drive it and use it). The apparatus should be exercised on a daily basis. In fact, this is actually more like a daily rig check—but one where everyone gets to operate the rig. Pick a certain day and have everyone use the rig so they keep up their skills in this area. Want to make it fun? For a little extra enjoyment, place a cone or other object on the roof of the station or in a window and have a little competition. Have your folks position the rig, set it up, and operate and position the ladder (or platform) as quickly as possible. The winner gets some bragging rights at lunch. And actually, everyone is a winner because they all got to practice this skill—and the competition gave them a little stress/stress relief/enjoyment!
This type of training may require a little more effort if you don’t have a forcible-entry prop—but only once. There are plenty of designs available to help you build a prop. (If you need some help, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll get you started.) Tip: Go to your local home improvement store and see if they’ll donate any damaged doors or even some wood to help you make a prop.
Conventional forcible entry using the irons is a skill that every firefighter should be proficient with—it should be instinctive. You should be able to force inward-swinging doors, outward-swinging doors, wood doors in wood frames, metal doors in metal frames, doors in light/moderate/heavy smoke conditions—basically any variations you might run into in your response area.
Commercial forcible entry involving the rotary saw is actually a bit easier to practice. You just need to find some metal. Again, a simple re-useable prop goes a long way. If you have a local metal shop or scrap yard, see if they’ll donate some material. Worst-case scenario: You may have to buy some rebar and build a small cutting platform/tree to allow you to cut using the saw in multiple positions. But it’s worth it. You must be proficient with working the saw and knowing the cuts to make different doors. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to find a few overhead doors in your district to practice on—possibly at a vacant building being demolished or through an overhead door company with new installs. Check around.
Search training is often overlooked. One of the main reasons: The majority of the training is downright boring. That’s right, boring! The solution: Make it realistic and challenging.
Start with the basics. Set up a few stations where everyone has to identify—and differentiate—realistic objects. Take a set of bed linens and blankets, a few kids’ toys and a life-size child manikin, and practice searching through that pile of materials until you can identify the child. Blacked-out or artificial smoke conditions while breathing air will increase the realistic feel of the training and help develop some additional skills.
Once everyone has had a chance to run through the skill-building session, allow two- or three-person search teams to search multiple rooms that are set up with realistic furnishings and dummies with heat packs/wraps. Incorporate the use of a thermal imaging camera for both accountability and victim location.
Here’s a training session that doesn’t require additional effort, like building a prop. Get the ladders off the rig and practice single-person carries and throws—that’s right, single-person! Books are great at depicting more people than you’ll actually have on the fireground. But training with unrealistic numbers won’t help when you arrive and have to get the job done with fewer people.
Once you’ve practiced throwing and placing ladders to the roof, window, etc., by yourself, then incorporate moving the ladder—and the tools you’ll need—from the rig to the building, and throwing the ladder. Then go to work (see venting and VES below).
Don’t forget to practice two-person carries and throws as well. When it comes to the 35-footer (or longer), you’ll need to get your communication skills dialed in so you and your partner can throw it efficiently.
Vent, Enter, Search
After the ladder reviews, take a shot at reviewing VES—as a complete evolution. Set up a simple training session using a second-floor window (add a drywall window prop to allow for simulated glass-breaking). Have each person carry and throw a 24' ladder, raise and ascend the ladder, vent the window and then enter the room and search it. Remember: Close the door to the room, search it and communicate along the way. For an added challenge, use two windows so that both windows need to be searched, requiring the ladder to be moved after completing the first room.
Here’s a session that requires a bit more preparation, but the fireground rewards speak for themselves.
The first part of the session should incorporate a saw review and simple maintenance station. Like the aerial training, this should actually be a daily check so it becomes part of your normal routine.
Pick a day and take the time to do some actual cutting. If you’re fortunate enough to have a nearby training location, then take your crew out for some cutting. If you don’t have a location, then collect some pallets or build a small prop that you can use at the firehouse. Get creative—maybe you can store it on the roof?!
The bottom line here is to get some quality saw time–both chainsaw and rotary saw (for roof operations). After exercising your saw skills, throw a few more involved evolutions into the mix. Carry a ladder and your equipment to the building, raise the ladder, get to the roof (or prop) and cut a vent hole. Review the most common cuts you’ll use (peak and flat roof), and don’t forget to practice everyone’s favorite cutting method—using a hand tool!
There are plenty of other training sessions for truck work, but these few should be part of your normal routine. If you want to make things (or keep them) simple, then determine those 15 to 20 truck skills that make up your truck work. That’s right—there aren’t that many individual skills, so hopefully your bubble didn’t just burst. If you remember the first part of the article, the advanced truck work comes from being able to adapt those basic skills to the problem at hand. It’s really simple stuff.
To get really creative, check out a few of our truck company training station videos at www.fdtraining.com .
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