The Secret to Training Firefighters…

One of the first things that you need to do when you’re planning a training session is to decide why you are doing the training. Is it to review skills that most should know? Is it to simply develop proficiency? Is it to introduce something new — equipment, technique, procedure? There needs to be a reason and the reason must have value to the students.

Next, figure out who will be participating in the training — is it the normal crew, is it new guys or guys not familiar with the material, is it a combination of the two? This is important because you’ll need to make sure there is something in it for everyone.

Lastly, before you ever get started, make sure the material has real value — something that they can (and probably will) use during a response. So many training sessions and training start-ups fail because they’re simply textbook-type training sessions that don’t give the guys something that they could actually use on the street.

Training Sessions from a Firefighters Perspective

If you want guys to participate and get involved in the session then make sure there’s something in it for everyone. Let’s face it, some guys may need this particular training session and some may not. For the ones that do need it then make sure the material is designed for them to “get” it. For those that don’t need it, or may simply benefit from a quick review, then make sure there’s something else for them to learn. Maybe they’ll learn they have a better grasp on the material than they thought. Maybe they’ll learn that they need to review it a bit more than they thought. Sometimes what they learn may not be about the actual material, maybe they’ll learn a little about teaching the material to others by helping with the students (which actually helps them develop a better grasp on the material).

Most of us learn by doing, not by listening to others tell us how to do it. Keep that in mind all the time. If you have to present new information then, at the very least, try and make it interactive by keeping it short and asking questions to get them involved. Put yourself in their shoes, you probably wouldn’t want to be there either so make sure you consider that when developing the material before you deliver it.

When we talk about passing things off, you really have to put together a core group of instructors that crosses the gamut of the people that you’re going to train. The instructors have to be very knowledgeable in what they’re doing to the point that they don’t even appear to be doing it. That’s the key to all of this right here. When you teach somebody, you have to get up in front, you have to pass it off, but you have to pass it off just like you’re talking to the guys. And that’s the key to it to make it successful.

In order to do that, you have to be well-versed in the skills yourself. You have to realize that there are multiple ways to get something done, and the successful way is actually the one that works for that individual. If you have a group of 20 standing in front of you, you may have to connect 20 individual times or 20 separate times for them to get the material that you’re trying to get across, and it’s your job as the person trying to pass it off to make that connection.

Spend a lot of time in the preparation mode. People don’t think that you have to do this, but you have to spend as much time preparing the session as you will delivering the session. That’s critical to success. Spend the time up front and plan for all of the problems. If you were taking the training, how would you criticize it? What would your complaints be? Address those as the person putting the package together.

Then, when you assemble your group, make sure that your group is able to hand that off and has your same philosophies. When you get to the actual training time, split up the group evenly, make sure that you have enough instructors for people going through it, and simply let them learn. This is the key right here- this is the big secret. Set the training session up to the point that there’s no chance that they can’t learn something. It doesn’t really matter what it is at this point, because it will be something that they learn.

When you teach somebody, you have to show them, you have to let them try it, and then you have to let them build it into their instinct by doing it over and over again. Learning is really something that everybody wants to do, and everybody likes to do. It’s simply a matter of taking the time to make the session a learning session – too many people fail to do that.

It’s All About Learning!

If you reach into your pocket and pull out a $5 bill then you’ll be probably be happy because you had it in your pocket. If you were walking around the corner and found a $5 bill on the ground you’d probably be much happier…because it was something you found and you never expected to find it. Make your training session like finding a $5 bill. Make your training session a place where everybody who comes can actually learn something for them and they will come back and participate again with renewed energy.


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