It’s well established that there’s a nationwide shortage of both professional and volunteer firefighters. As one Connecticut fire chief recently noted, “age is also a concern. [Our] average volunteer now is about 50 years old.” Communities across the country need to increase the size of their firefighting forces, decrease the age, and train everyone both more thoroughly and more quickly.
According to Phil Duczyminski, simulation training is an excellent tool for bringing in more (and younger) firefighters, bringing them up to speed more quickly, and better preparing them to be effective in the field–no matter what gets thrown at them.
Duczyminski is a training officer for the City of Novi (Michigan) Fire Department. In his decades with the fire service, he’s found that “Just about the majority of firefighters are tactical or practical learners. I’ve taught many classes, and application is where the real learning takes place.“ This is especially the case with younger trainees who are often drawn to the work specifically because they are active, hands-on individuals. By moving simulation training as early into the training progression as possible, you can give those trainees the hands-on experience they crave (and which is their most effective style of learning).
For example, Duczyminski points to how we teach pump operators to handle friction loss and flow rate. This is generally introduced in a classroom setting as a textbook case: students are shown a mathematical formula and asked to determine the correct flow rate for a given hose line given this or that set of numbers.
Using Simulation Training Early to Engage the Tactical/Practical Learner
As Duczyminski has noted in the past, tactics taught in this book-and-lecture fashion often do not “build up in their memory banks of tactics to help solve problems.”
“This is where simulation training with a system like PumpsOps can really step up into the very beginning of the learning process. Now, instead of just doing it theoretically on a piece of paper, a trainer can put that student into action. Put them into the scenario. They have to come up with the correct flow rates and pressure at the discharge–not just know the numbers, but also know how to set the pump to get that actual result.”
As students demonstrate their fundamental competence with the core concepts, you can then increase the challenge by adding in the sorts of stressors they might experience on the scene.
“When you talk about life safety being the overall goal, that’s exactly true. One of the challenges is creating a training environment that really creates that same level of stress as being on the scene. When you’re not under any type of stress, the answers seem to flow to you pretty easily. But when you’re under a tremendous amount of stress, the memory locks up. If you walk up to a pump panel on a sunny day and begin pulling levers and discharging water, that’s not really realistic to any type of real event you’ll be in.”
With simulation training, you can build stressors into the training scenario–just as video game systems use light, sound, visual perspective, and tactile feedback (via “rumble pack” controllers). The increased stress makes the training more engaging–and more effective, especially for the most desirable demographic of new recruits.