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Fire Simulation Training: “Train ‘Til They Can’t Get it Wrong”


It’s winter. The roads are icy, but nothing too terrible. Old holiday lights left plugged in overnight have failed, causing a house fire. You arrive at the scene, deploy the hoses, activate the pump—and no water flows.

There’s air in the pump.

A really small mistake—a single missed step. “But a lot of times,” notes Phil Duczyminski, a fire department training officer for the City of Novi, Michigan, “Those small mistakes will snowball into large mistakes.” Forgetting to pull the primer—as was the case above can easily be corrected in a few seconds. But continuing to run the pump without remedying this can lead to cavitation—damaging the pump to the point where it is useless on the scene.

“Chances are,” Duczyminski continues, “that one mistake that one person made on that fire scene, somebody’s going to make that same mistake in the future. There’s a huge benefit to identifying the little mistakes, and finding ways to correct them in advance.”

But that’s easier said than done. If explaining the proper procedure or practicing at training events was sufficient, no one would have made the mistake, to begin with. You need to be able to train students to perform that procedure under the same conditions, limitations and stresses that they’ll confront in the field.

This is where immersive fire simulation training solutions become invaluable. According to Duczyminski, “a simulation training solution, like PumpOps, is perfect for recreating those mistakes and situations. And you can do it over and over again. Train ’til they get it right, not just train ’til they get it done.”

PumpOps Fire Simulation and Situation Training

Phil Duczyminski trains firefighters in Novi, Michigan. In these colder climates, they keep their pumps drained in the winter, to prevent water from freezing in the unit. In order to flow water, the pump operator must remember to introduce water and evacuate air from that pump. These sorts of conditional steps–ones that only come up in certain situations or at some times of year—are precisely the sorts that trip people up. On the scene, where seconds count, an operator might not be able to immediately recall how to correct the issue (which can be as easy as pulling the primer or checking bleeder valves).

“It could take seconds to remember,” Duczyminski explains, “because they learned it in the classroom, or it could take forever until someone walks over and corrects it for them. What I’ve found and seen on our training events is that, if they’ve only ever heard about it in lecture, if they’ve never gone through that tactile motion, it just doesn’t build up in their memory banks of tactics to help solve problems.”

As Duczyminski notes, “We build up our memory banks from experiences—what goes right, what goes wrong.” With a good fire simulator that includes pump operations, you can simulate all of the things that can go wrong–from user error (like that neglected pump primer) to any number of mechanical failures, and even hard to predict environmental factors, like extreme cold, or loss of pressure at the water main. Most importantly, you can do so in advance, as part of regular training, so that every trainee can learn from this experience with zero risks to any person or equipment.