While community safety is a high priority for residents, elected officials and first responders, the allocated funding doesn’t always meet the needs for adequate training. Developing continued education and training at minimal cost and equipment is imperative, especially for departments comprised of volunteers. It’s a growing issue for departments whether large or small, how to train firefighters without incurring cost which could be associated with travel expenses when sending staff to train or conferences.

While there is an abundance of trainings and practice drills from legitimate sources to utilize, there are fun and beneficial drills passed down from seasoned firefighters to rookies that are not found in any book. These drills measure common sense, staying calm during the chaos of a situation, teamwork, communication, control, patience and cooperation.

Equipment & Tool Proficiency

A thermal imaging camera can be a vital life saving tool but how often is it used by each of the firefighters. In efforts to better understand how to use the device, heat a large wrench in the oven and carefully hide it somewhere in the firehouse. Crews can seek out the ‘victim wrench’ by using the camera, allowing everyone to practice and better understand how the useful tool works.

Additionally, this drill creates an opportunity to discuss search and rescue tactics, grid formations and challenges, both individual and collectively associated with specific locations.

Power tools are often used in rescue missions. The more comfortable you are with using it before the emergency, the better you will perform under pressure. Start by cutting a piece of rebar with a grinding wheel while laying upside down. Doing so will improve tool control and dexterity. Continue to expand this drill by creating more incumbering situations such as being tied off to a ladder, then only using one hand.

Practicing with a hydraulic spreader is important but can also be a fun training activity, potentially sparking some friendly competition among the crew. Begin with practicing using small blocks of wood, picking them up and arranging them or even staking them. The goal is to have minimal damage or dings to the blocks. A fun twist is to use the large size Jenga, build the tower with the spreader and then enjoy playing the game. When the crew really starts to get the hang of it, take it up a notch and use eggs. There are many ways eggs are used in trainings like such, picking them up and setting them down on orange cones is one. The twist to this drill is making the eggs the next shift meal, rather omelets for breakfast or an egg salad sandwich for lunch. Knowing the crews next meal is on the line will create a fun competitive atmosphere.

Communication & Knowledge

Have half the crew write their name on a piece of paper and toss them in a bowl. The other half will pick out a name and that is your partner for the next drill. Having a blind pull for partners forces staff to work with others they may not normally choose but will have to work alongside during an emergency. One firefighter will have a rope and the other will place their hands behind their back. The person with their hands behind their back must verbally inform the other to tie a knot with the rope. The firefighter tying the rope must obey the instructor’s every command. This drill amplifies real communication skills both instructing and listening. Adding difficulty to this otherwise simple drill is blindfolding the instructor or even the student.

Surprise, it’s a blind cabinet drill! Understanding the inventory on the apparatus and its location is vitally important. This drill can be done as individuals or teams. Have each team with a pad of paper write down everything in the cabinet without opening the door. Work your way around the apparatus. Upon completion, open each door as a group and compare lists. Which ever team has the most correct equipment listed gets lunch made for them and the team with the shortest list must make lunch of the winner’s choice.

It’s cost effective to hold trainings regionally and partnering with neighboring departments but let’s not forgot about the other first responders within the municipal territory. Paramedic’s can provide medical information that firefighters could face at anytime and need to know how take proper precautions. Have a paramedic drop off a report on a rare medical condition or disease providing the definition, symptoms or other descriptive verbiage. There are many ways to create a drill to learn about medical challenges. The paramedic could provide the description of the illness but not the name requiring the crew research and discuss what it could be. Another option is to have a group prepare a brief tutorial on the illness and teach the whole group.

Knowing your territory including changes in development or temporary construction is important. Write the names of all the streets in your first-due area on a separate piece of paper and place all the slips of paper in a bowl. One by one, take turns randomly picking out a street and telling the group where the street is, the cross-streets and how to get there from the fire station. Continue to add layers to this drill by asking which direction the street runs, side of the street the odd/even numbers are, and the target hazards on that street.

Hopefully these out-of-the-box training idea’s will spark an interest with your department to create fun and inexpensive rainy day training drills.

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