The Top Three Ways to Optimize Your Fire/EMS Training With Simulation

The Top Three Ways to Optimize Your Fire/EMS Training With Simulation

What decisions will a first responder make behind the wheel when responding to a “baby not breathing” or “Mayday” call? It’s already a big ask, expecting anyone to make safe, split-second decisions when stakes and adrenaline are high. Factor in variables like weather, traffic, road conditions, and apparatus operation, and the job is even tougher.

The fundamentals of safe apparatus operation are essential to a safe, efficient emergency response. As such, responders need every opportunity to get the most out of every training session.

FAAC Training Group Lead Chuck Deakins has found that the most effective Fire and EMS training takes a “hands-on/hands-off” approach, where the students take the wheel (“hands on”) and instructors take a step back (“hands off.”) He has three tips for instructors looking to make the most of their simulation-based training today.

Training Tip #1: Stay Student Focused

Deakins has a simple message for instructors: Stop talking; start training.  

When an instructor uses FAAC simulators as the primary teaching tool, students have the opportunity for experiential learning with low-stakes, hands-on practice, rather than passively listening to a lecture. Deakins says: “If you are doing more talking than your students in a simulation exercise, then your class is ‘Instructor Centered’ versus ‘Student Centered.’”

Step up your training delivery by guiding your students’ learning, rather than spoon-feeding them information. When instructors give students the opportunity to practice, they open the door for students to discover for themselves by asking questions, engaging their critical thinking, mastering procedures/policies, and elevating their driving skills under pressure.

Applying this is simpler than you might think:

The instructor is only allowed to ask questions throughout the entire training event. 

Sound impossible? Then you could be “that” instructor who lowers retention rates through war stories, lectures, or interruptive coaching.

Training Tip #2: Let Students Experience Consequences

“During a lesson, when an instructor stops or interferes while a student is driving,” Deakins points out, “they have reverted the high retention rate of ‘practical application’ driving training down to the low rate we see in ‘coaching/lecture’ situations. That reduces the student retention rate from about sixty-five percent to about fifteen percent.”

A lecture can’t replicate the experience of emergency driving:

  • scanning and assessing
  • eye placement
  • use of primary focus versus peripheral focus
  • look-off time
  • synchronized directional head movement
  • … and doing it all with emergency lights and sirens activated, while traversing busy intersections or winding country roads, in driving rain or heavy fog.

And it certainly can’t replicate the experience of getting blindsided by a drunk in an intersection. But FAAC’s family of simulators for both fire and EMS immerse students in realistic scenarios, safely putting their decision-making skills to the test in any weather. If they are about to get t-boned in an intersection or hit a pedestrian darting out onto wet pavement, let it happen. Then let them tell you what went wrong and why.

Training Tip #3: Fundamentals Win Ball Games

FAAC fire and EMS driving simulators allow trainees to isolate skills and practice in a safe environment until it becomes “muscle memory” or “conditioned response,” which increases safety, reduces collisions, and enables controlled responses to crisis situations.

Students need the opportunity to break down those skills for themselves. That doesn’t happen if every scenario is racing to a blazing inferno in white out snow on icy roads at midnight. Let students establish their fundamentals, and practice scenarios from simple to complex. As Deakins notes:

“Every session shouldn’t be an emergency with lightning striking, ninjas jumping, and bridges collapsing all around the operator. These are fine for ‘final exam’-type training, but the best way to maximize training in a simulator is to weave in simple ‘skill builders’ that isolate and develop good driving habits.”

Tying it Together with After-Action Review

Training sims for firefighters and EMS Response allow students to drive a scenario and experience the consequences of their on-the-spot decisions in real time, in realistic conditions. They receive instant feedback—but that’s only half the benefit of simulation-based training. After a student completes a simulation, the instructor can use FAAC’s VITALS After-Action Scenario Review. This allows the student to step back, walk through each decision point in the scenario, and objectively assess their own performance from every angle.

Contact us today to learn more about how existing simulation-based training solutions can model your worst case scenario, as well as the daily grind, and prepare your responders to meet those challenges.