What’s the secret to Jerry Springer’s ability to capture an audience and send them away talking about the show? Even more than that, why is it that he has such a faithful following of viewers – willing to skip even the most traditional afternoon snooze to catch his show? Maybe one of the keys to successful fire department training is entertainment. Here’s a few of the things that seem to be working for Jerry. It seems that he’s always got some kind of interesting topic (even outrageous), the pre-show hype appeals to a whole bunch of people, he’s found a way to make every topic come to life on the stage, and he’s been able to sink a hook deep enough into his viewers to get them to come back day-after-day-after-day. Maybe it’s time that we ask him for some help with fire department training – or maybe we can just follow his lead.
Here’s how Jerry might do it…
So you think just because you put the fire out you did a good job! Let’s see if you’re really up to the challenge or you’re just LUCKY most of the time.
Today at 10 AM…it’s time to put up or shut up! All companies will be participating in a department-wide company challenge…That’s right – time to see who really gets the bragging rights.
Here’s the drill:
You’ll respond, when called, to a working 2-story residence fire. When your company arrives (first-due) the clock begins. The drill is to perform the duties spelled out in the department SOPs (either engine or truck). If you don’t have/haven’t read/can’t find the department SOPs then it’s bound to be a great show!
Just in case you don’t know what everybody should be doing…
Engine companies – establish a water supply, stretch and advance the first line, and extinguish the fire. If you can’t protect the primary means of egress as part of your advance then you better hold it and call for another line.
Truck companies – perform an aggressive primary search of the fire building (inside crew) and perform aggressive ventilation of the fire building (outside crew) in conjunction with the attack line.
Training Division/Department Administration – DO YOUR JOB! DON’T CREATE EXCUSES WHY YOU CAN’T DO THE TRAINING – AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, DON’T WASTE THEIR TIME! It’s amazing the effort that people put into making excuses why then can’t do this or that. If you put half of the effort used in making excuses into actually setting up and conducting some quality training sessions – just think what the results might be.
For this drill: Prepare the training site. Outline the actions expected of the first-due companies (and the later arriving companies as well – that’s another training session). Create a realistic interior environment – complete with real challenges (stretching the line, searching for victims). Give the firefighters the type of training they want, and need, to stay proficient.
Tip 1: Content…
Give them what they want! In most cases, what the troops want is what they need most. One of the biggest mistakes that’s made, when it comes to training, is that we don’t ask firefighters or officers what they need.
What usually happens is that the core training curriculum is developed around what somebody else says is needed. Need a few good training sessions dealing with engine company operations? Go to somebody on an engine company and ask them what skills they haven’t used in the last few weeks or months and provide training on those skills. Do the same for ladder companies. EMS. Hazardous materials.
Be creative! Even if it’s the same old stuff – give it a new twist. Give them what they need to get the job done on the streets – not in theory!
Tip 2: Packaging…
Create a whole lot of hype, make it a big deal, and spark their interest before they ever get to training!
Think about all those teaser commercials that are seen on television. Each provides a quick glimpse of what is coming up. There isn’t enough information to do anything but get you thinking about why you don’t want to miss the show- that’s the whole point.
Approach fire training the same way. Let’s say that you have training every other shift. During the shift prior to the training session begin to give bits and pieces of information about what problems the training will involve. Start to develop their interest by providing some of the issues that will have to be dealt with.
Build up some hype, but make sure you deliver! The quickest way to turn hype into a hoax is failure to produce when the time comes. If the training session stinks then there won’t be much interest the next time. The students will probably create their own hype and it won’t be about how good the training was!
Tip 3: Presentation…
Presentation is everything! You don’t need to throw chairs at each other (maybe that was Geraldo!). You don’t need to have bodyguards or bouncers – well maybe sometimes you do. What’s needed is captivating, energetic, and informative training sessions. Sessions that keep them on the edge of their seats. Sessions that are truly interactive – getting everyone involved even if they don’t want to be!
How? Find their hot buttons and push them! That’s right, if you know a student is always willing to accept a challenge then create one during the session. If you know a student always hangs back and watches rather than getting involved then include something that requires involvement.
Stir them up! Get outrageous if you have to. Do whatever it takes to get the material across – who cares if you push a few buttons. When it comes to presentation, if the session doesn’t capture them enough to send them away at least thinking about the material then it was probably a waste of time.
Tip 4: Tomorrow’s Training…
Keep them wanting more! The secret to getting them to tune-in tomorrow, or at the next training session, is to send them away from the last one wanting more.
By delivering training sessions that catch them completely by surprise then you’re sure to have them wondering what the next one will be like.
Exceed their expectations! It doesn’t take long to get comfortable with something or fall into a routine. Give them a few good sessions and they’ll begin to expect them. Strive to design each session better than the last one.
A Final Thought…
Don’t fall victim to the quick boost that usually accompanies any change in routine. Success or failure will be determined by long-term results and will be seen in fireground performance!
In TV Land it’s all about ratings. That’s right, ratings! Success or failure (of those involved) depends on how well the audience likes it (how good it is). Maybe it’s time to use the same rating system for fire department training – but that would be completely dependent on the training priority of the department.