Technology with a Purpose

Archive for December, 2011

Celebrate Your Department’s Legacy

Blog by Battalion Chief Chris Hubbard
Hanover Fire & EMS Training Academy

I liken it to Tom Brokaw’s bestselling novel The Greatest Generation. That sparsely populated group of remarkable individuals who left a footprint on our profession without even knowing. You know whom I’m talking about. The old-timers. The ones who don’t come around quite as often anymore and take with them the tale of your department’s journey.

With their departure comes a lack of knowledge for the legacy of our fire service. We are left scrambling to put the pieces of the puzzle together and celebrate the impact they’ve had on today’s generation of firefighters.

As a battalion chief in the Hanover Fire & EMS Department in Virginia, I recognize a need to educate tomorrow’s industry professionals on the history and the legacy of the department. While the importance of fire behavior, streams, ladders and EMS skills are essential to the development of a firefighter, so too is the passing on of our history.

The past is a direct reflection of who we are as a department. The vision and mission is directly impacted by individuals who painted the canvas of our department and the footpath for those who will take ownership of it.

To tackle the lack of knowledge and respect for past generations – and their influence on the department – our training division established a program that both honors our veterans in the department and delivers an invaluable learning experience to the fire academy recruits.

Life members of the Hanover Fire & EMS Department were assigned to current academy students with an expectation to personally interview them. The result was to provide the students with a deeper understanding for the decades of services by the life members, as well as the history of the station. The students were held responsible for presenting their research in both a written report as well as an oral presentation to fellow recruits.

The challenge for today’s training department is providing quality programs on a tight budget. But at little to no cost, a similarly designed program will re-energize both the new recruits and officers alike. It engages that dwindling generation of fire service professionals and calls home the importance of celebrating our past to develop our future.

What are you and your organization doing to capture the history and legacy of your organization? Capture it now before its gone forever!

TargetSolutions Helps City of Lawrence Fire Department with Recordkeeping Challenges

One of Mark Fleming’s first initiatives after being promoted last year to Division Chief of EMS for the City of Lawrence Fire Department was finding a solution for the organizations recordkeeping challenges. The department had already signed up with TargetSolutions in 2009, but was not yet capitalizing on all of the platforms capabilities.

Fleming quickly changed that.

“We already had a membership with TargetSafety (now called TargetSolutions) at the time,” Fleming said recently during an interview to discuss the powerful online training and records management system. “The more I learned about it, the more I saw it could do. I learned there was a whole lot more we could use it for.”

The platform was originally intended to keep the townships personnel in accordance with mandated training requirements while doing it in a flexible, convenient web-based format that keeps staff members in their districts serving citizens rather than attending expensive, instructor-led training sessions. But Fleming soon learned TargetSolutions was the answer to his entire list of training needs; things like recordkeeping, reporting, and disseminating critical information to personnel.

“I (now) use every single thing TargetSolutions offers,” Fleming said. “From Web Events, to Reports Manager, if we have a new directive out, we put it on TargetSolutions as a mandatory read and it gets communicated to everyone. I don’t think there’s an aspect that I haven’t used. I’m a huge fan.

Simplifying his department’s recordkeeping practices was the biggie for Fleming. When he needs to pull a report to see how many hours his personnel have in EMS training, or some other topic, it’s all at his fingertips.

It saves me a lot of time, said Fleming, whose department serves approximately 46,000 citizens with 118 firefighters on the TargetSolutions system.

Fleming and the Lawrence FDs fire chief Dave Batalis recently participated in an in-depth interview on how TargetSolutions online training and records management system is benefiting their organization. Here are the transcripts of their comments:

Mark Fleming, Division Chief of EMS, City of Lawrence Fire Department

Question: How is TargetSolutions different from other systems you’ve considered?

Fleming: They really paid a lot of attention to us as far as customer service, by showing us new products and helping expand on the products we already have. The representatives really went all-out to explain all the ways we could use the system. And while were using the system, we can call them up and there’s usually someone there to answer questions. If they need to get back to me, it’s same day.

Question: How has TargetSolutions helped your business?

Fleming: Recordkeeping is the biggie. I’m kind of a stickler when it comes to records. It makes it so much easier for me to pull a report and see exactly how many hours they have in EMS training or exactly how many hours they have in Special Ops training. It saves me a lot of time.

Question: What application inside the platform has been most beneficial to your department?

Fleming: The recordkeeping and the Web Events. The Web Events was a new part when I took over; it allows us to do in-house training for example. I can sit at the training academy and host a class, and say it snowed and there is 2 feet of snow on the ground, the guys can sit and watch the training at their firehouses. It saves us time, saves us money for vehicles moving back and forth across the city. There are a lot of features there that have helped us.

Question: How effective is the auditing process for completed training?

Fleming: That’s one of the best features of (the platform). I can pull a report and verify that they have done the training. We require the officers to do the entries and once the officer does the entry, I know it’s on TargetSolutions. The training is complete and has been verified by a supervisor and that actually helps me in my recordkeeping, as far as auditing my version. If the state were to come in, they could pull my records and see that (our personnel) have done all the required trainings.

Question: Are there any major accomplishments that you can attribute to TargetSolutions?

Fleming: Just improvements in training. I know we’ve saved the city a ton of money in gas and maintenance, things like that. TargetSolutions is the best decision I’ve ever made. They’ve gone a long way to assist the department and to assist me with my job. Overall, I’m totally satisfied with TargetSolutions. Our representative really helped me to expand the services that we use to help me with my recordkeeping. It takes me five minutes to verify training for somebody, where before it could take hours. If it’s on our TargetSolutions system, we’re good.

Dino Batalis, Fire Chief, City of Lawrence Fire Department

Question: How has Target Solutions benefited your department?

Batalis: TargetSolutions has been very popular around this fire department. It serves a lot of purposes. It’s easy access for firefighters. We’ve been able to access training and leave equipment in their firehouses to protect the districts. This is especially important for EMS runs, for fire runs. Instead of bringing everyone to a central location, we’re able to leave firefighters and ambulances in their respective locations and watch the telecast live (through Web Events). It’s also about getting the training or message out to the whole shift and keeping the apparatus to better serve the citizens.

Question: How has TargetSolutions impacted your bottom line?

Batalis: I don’t have the exact figures, but there have been cost savings with the fuel, going to and from trainings. I don’t think you can put a value on quick response, if these vehicles are able to stay in their districts; the response time is much quicker than having to travel from a central location. Cost savings, definitely, but time, effort, support, things that we can’t put a number on, all the way to quicker response time to the people we serve.

Question: Do you use the entire platform now to its full potential?

Batalis: We use pretty much everything TargetSolutions puts out there. The great tool for supervisors is that it notifies us when assignments aren’t done. It also allows us to send out directives firefighters are given a certain amount of time to get them back in, if they are not, supervisors are notified, so it’s a good tracking method on who has done what. I use it every day and it makes the day-to-day business much more fluid.

Question: What application is your department benefiting from the most and why?

Batalis: The training. It fits our needs as far as the time element. If the firefighters are in the middle of training and they need to make a run, they can stop it and go back to it. I like the ability to start and stop. Once they complete their training with TargetSolutions, their chief, EMS or fire chief, immediately transfers that into their personnel file. It’s a very modern way of keeping track of the training they’ve had, what they’ve completed and what they still need to do and how long it takes them to do it.

Question: What would you say about your overall experience with TargetSolutions?

Batalis: Fantastic. It’s made our jobs much easier. One of the hardest things is to go back and follow is a paper trail. This makes it easy to go back, check certifications, past training, what they’ve completed. It even has come in handy for discipline, now we’ve got a record of a person not completing assignments. It’s all recorded. It’s good documentation.

About TargetSolutions
TargetSolutions is the leading provider of web-based technology solutions for fire and EMS departments. These solutions enable departments to maintain compliance, reduce losses, deliver curriculum, and track all station-level tasks, certifications and training activities.

What’s the Best Way to Maximize My Personnel’s Training

Blog by Jacob Johnson
Pearland Fire Department in Texas

I’ts natural for fire service instructors to question whether they are training their personnel properly. They may wonder, am I training my people on the right things? The answer to that question is simple: Training coordinators should focus on what needs to be covered, as well as what personnel want covered. This can be accomplished by performing a needs assessment that centers on training needs vs. training wants.

This can be accomplished by performing a needs assessment within your department that centers on training needs vs. training wants.

The most important question instructors face is what type of training should they deliver? They may wonder, should I focus on the basics or should I focus on advanced training? Here is my stance: Are the basics of firefighting important? Yes, they are very important and much needed to survive in this profession.

The fire service, however, is prone to focusing too much on the basics and not nearly enough on the more challenging training or skills we need to improve. By completing a needs assessment, you can use those results to determine whether you should be focused on the basics, or pushing into the more advanced material.

My personal goal as an instructor is to give a training class that is challenging to my audience and makes a difference in their performance. If that goal is accomplished in every class, everyone is happy. Now, sometimes a simple building construction class is challenging to some members of the department. But at the same time, it is taken as a refresher for some of the other members and not really much of a learning experience. It’s important to remember training is all about learning and what new skills your students can extract and spread to the rest of their crew or department.

Unfortunately, many instructors don’t train enough themselves. They become so confident and comfortable teaching the basics, they become lazy and even begin to think they will look bad if they teach outside of their comfort zone. They may be afraid they won’t have all the answers to all the questions, or they may be challenged by someone more up-to-date, making them look bad.

We can’t let ourselves become paper-stack instructors. Meaning, we can’t become an instructor who piles up certifications (aka: a paper stack) and then forgets what we were taught, and even worse, didn’t bother to learn more.

In order to give a challenging training class, which will truly benefit our students, we must take classes that challenge us and make us better; giving us the confidence and knowledge we need to be effective. After all, it’s on us, as instructors, to make training as impactful as possible.

About the Author
Jacob Johnson is a driver/operator for the Pearland Fire Department in Texas. He has been in the fire service for more than 10 years. He has taught at extrication schools, recruit academies, and several suppression schools over the last decade. His certifications include: FF Intermediate, Driver/Operator, Fire Officer 1, Fire Instructor III.

Stop the Entertainment During Fire Suppression Operations

Blog by Christopher Naum
Chief of Training, Command Institute, Washington D.C.

There’s an often overlooked factor contributing to unsafe practices during fire suppression operations, one that we rarely talk about. In short, we need to stop entertaining ourselves during operations and instead focus on comprehending and reacting to evolving risks.

Rather than practicing appropriate risk management, some individuals employ adverse behaviors that occur on a tactical level while incident commanders and company officers believe firefighters are completing their assigned tasks. This compromises accountability. Here’s the short version of something I came up with a few years ago and have discussed during a number of my training programs:

Tactical amusement: Engaging in any practice or tactic during fire suppression, support tasks or operations that place personnel at risk for the sake of entertainment.

Tactical diversion: Diverting from an assignment while engaging in fire suppression, support tasks or operations in such a way that places personnel at risk.

Tactical circumvention: Deliberately getting around an assignment or disregarding risk assessment and incident action plans.

If we’re going to reduce firefighter injuries and deaths, we need to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons, and in the right place. We must stop the entertainment.

The demands and requirements of modern firefighting will continue to require the placement of personnel within situations and buildings that carry risk, uncertainty and inherent danger. Fire suppression tactics must be adjusted for the rapidly changing methods and materials impacting all forms of building construction, occupancies and structures.

The need to redefine the art and science of firefighting is nearly upon us. Some things do stand the test of time, others need to adjust, evolve and change. Not for the sake of change only, but for the emerging and evolving buildings, structures and occupancies being built, developed or renovated in our communities.

It’s no longer just brute force and sheer physical determination that define structural fire suppression operations. Aggressive firefighting must be redefined and aligned to the built environment and associated with goal-oriented tactical operations that are defined by risk assessed and analyzed tasks that are executed under battle plans that promote the best in safety practices and survivability within know hostile structural fire environments, while maintaining the values and tradition that defines the fire service.

Remember one thing. Don’t ever underestimate what you might encounter on any structure fire, or what might change in a second. Focus on the occupancy risk not the occupancy type. And know your buildings, your team, and your capabilities. Here are some valuable links that can help you meet this mission:

 Remembering FDNY Black Sunday … Multiple Firefighter LODDs  
 Chicago: Anatomy of a Building and its Collapse 
 Chicago: Anatomy of a Building and its Collapse-PDF Download 

Also, if you have not had a chance to look over the emerging website,  Buildingsonfire.com , take some time to explore the rich content. It’s still under construction, with an expanding wealth of information, research and data that today’s firefighter, company officer, and command officer need to know.

The authoritative and informational site that provides leading insights on fire service issues related to building construction for the fire service, firefighting operations and command risk management for operational excellence and firefighter safety.

Buildingsonfire.com, coupled with its companion sites CommandSafety.com and TheCompanyofficer.com, will continue to provide prominent and timely information to support the continuing traditions and missions of the Fire and Emergency Services.

About the Author
Christopher J. Naum is a 36-year fire service veteran and a nationally recognized and highly acclaimed fire officer, instructor and author. Chief Naum is an authority on building construction, command management and firefighter safety. Chief Naum is the executive producer of buildingsonfire.com. Chief Naum has developed and delivered training to more than 200,000 personnel nationally and internationally throughout his career. He can be followed on Facebook (facebook.com/buildingsonfire) and twitter (@buildingsonfire).