Simulation Training with Fairfax County, VA Fire Rescue

While driving, the expectation for the command officer (Battalion Chief) was to monitor radio traffic of units on scene and begin a mental assessment of actions being taken, along with actions that still required consideration.
(Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, YouTube)

Enhancing Reality Based Incident Simulation
Training Capabilities

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue

By Battalion Chief Rocco Alvaro
Professional Development Section – FCFRD Training Division

Recently, the Professional Development Section (PDS) completed a final round of incident simulation testing. A vehicle storage bay at our North Apparatus Service Center, which is located on the campus of the Fire and Rescue Training Academy, was utilized. The purpose of the testing was to finalize equipment and logistical needs to support incident simulations for both our company and command officers.

A beta test was conducted to simulate an engine company arriving on the scene of a house fire. The company officer provided an on-scene report, initial situation reports, assumed command, implemented an incident action plan (IAP), and effectively managing their crew. To evaluate appropriate benchmarks and expectations, Jessica LeBlanc from our Data Analytics Section, provided feedback and realistic validation measures for capturing additional metrics and data.

All participants utilized a training radio channel along with a Mobile Cad Terminal (MCT) that is specifically programmed for testing and training. The scenario was designed with participants driving a pre-determined route and then being dispatched to the house fire. While driving, the expectation for the command officer (Battalion Chief) was to monitor radio traffic of units on scene and begin a mental assessment of actions being taken, along with actions that still required consideration. Notable benchmarks were ensuring company strategy and tactics matched on scene reports, along with the proper incident priorities.

Once on scene, the Battalion Chief drove into the vehicle bay and began the simulation that was projected on the screen in front of the unit. The participants put real knowledge, skills, and experience into practice to solve a myriad of incident challenges (distractors and stressors) that were built into the simulation. Participant’s ability to critically think through some of these “problems” is the foundation to building mental memory or developing that mental match known as, Recognition Primed Decision Making.

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For the company officer participant (a Lieutenant or Captain), the simulation was the same. However, the measured benchmarks were adjusted with a focus on crew resource management (CRM) and initial on scene strategy and tactics. An assessor was placed with the engine company to observe the ability of the crew to information share, problem solve, work as a team, and empower one another through a decision-making process.

As with the Battalion Chief simulation, the engine was driven into the service bay and the company officer was presented with the same house fire. Assessors observed actions taken by the officer and the crew to include water supply reports, on scene reports, and crew deployment. In this simulation, the company officer instructed their crews to deploy fire hose in support of firefighting efforts.

A critical component and measured benchmark for the company officer is to effectively manage their crews, while at the same time conducting a 3600 assessment of the house. The necessity for the full view of the structure is so that the scope of the “problem” can identified. This part of the size-up process includes a risk/benefit analysis that will ultimately drive incident priorities. Once the officer completes the 3600 assessment, the expectation is that a command statement is announced followed by initial incident operations.

Our ability to conduct reality-based, immersive style scenarios provides our officers a learning environment that is as close to real-world as possible. These performance-based simulations are designed to challenge the participant’s ability to not only demonstrate knowledge but, more importantly, their ability to critically think through a well-defined decision-making process.
Completing a successful beta test that places an entire crew through a tactical incident simulation has elevated our ability to further refine their situational awareness, develop skill sets, enhance CRM and conduct training/learning in a safe and controlled environment.

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