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Duties of a Training Officer: Never Stop Experimenting

Blog by Brian Ward
Chief of Emergency Operations, Training Director for Georgia Pacific, Madison, Ga.

I recently had the opportunity to manage the Training Officers Desk Reference for a Jones and Bartlett publication. Despite having been a training officer for a few years, I had never really considered all the various areas a training officer must be versed. As I reviewed this process and determined the critical areas to focus on, it was amazing to recollect the amount of knowledge and aptitude that accompany this role.

As a training officer, you have a responsibility to exhibit solid interpersonal skills, computer skills, knowledge of performance metrics, generational issues, alternative-learning methods, strategic planning, investigations and budgets, just to name a few.

How can one person be proficient in all of these areas? The answer is continuous education and experimentation. Continuous education is easy. We have to constantly be willing to learn new methods and research technological advancements. However, the experimenting aspect can be much more difficult.

We should never experiment during investigations and budgets; however we can experiment with alternative learning methods such as computer-based learning, tactical decisions games, conferences and more. We can also experiment with altering classes based on the generations served inside and outside of the classroom.

As a training officer, we have to be willing to try these new methods. Some will work, some will not, but you will learn from your experiences. This, in conjunction with your continuous education will prove to be extremely valuable with your influence inside your department and within your region.

It will also lend credibility and respect for your programs and classes as your students will respect your efforts to provide information in new and enlightening ways.

As always, train hard, take care and be safe.

About the Author
Brian Ward is the chief of emergency operations and training director for Georgia Pacific, Madison, Ga. He is a past training officer for Gwinnett County, Ga., chairman of the Metro Atlanta Training Officers and currently serves on the Honeywell Advisory Council. He is a State of Georgia Advocate for Everyone Goes Home and the ISFSI Board of Directors Director At Large and Lead Live Fire Credentialing Instructor. Brian was recently awarded the National Seal of Excellence from the NFFF/EGH. He has an associate’s degree in fire science and a Fire Safety and Technology Engineering Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Cincinnati. He is the founder of FireServiceSLT.com and Georgia Smoke Diver #741.

 

Survey Highlights Benefits of Online Training

slider-main.pngTargetSolutions recently facilitated the completion of an interesting marketing survey in which respondents described their favorite benefits associated with online training. Here are some of the top features reported in the survey (in no particular order):

  • User friendliness of completing training online
  • Interesting videos in courses
  • Personalized and self-paced ability to complete courses
  • Can add customized content to assigned courses
  • Variety and realism in videos in courses
  • Can keep records with innovative training management tools
  • Accessibility and flexibility of online training
  • Saves your place if course is not completed in one sitting
  • Cost-effective method for completing mandated training hours
  • Tests and feedback make courses interactive, challenging
  • Quick help if needed is available online
  • Self-paced so users don’t have to rush through training
  • Plentiful number of courses from leading providers

The survey, which was conducted by Miller Pierce, a marketing agency out of Indianapolis, found that nearly 50 percent of the fire service is currently using an online training provider and nearly another 30 percent are considering making the switch soon.

TargetSolutions is the industry’s pioneer and leader in web-based education as its comprehensive web-based training library features more than 1,000 training courses and more than 250 hours of Fire and EMS recertification courses. In addition to NFPA-approved content and EMS continuing education, TargetSolutions offers online training covering OSHA and Compliance, Human Resources, Water and Wastewater, Law Enforcement, Education (K-12), Driver Safety and more.

With TargetSolutions, users can complete courses 24/7 anywhere there is an Internet connection. Meeting federal, state and local mandated requirements has never been more convenient and affordable.

“The biggest benefit for us (using online training with TargetSolutions) is being able to provide consistent training on compliance topics for all our employees. Emergency response, sick days, holidays and regular days off consistently made total coverage a nightmare. With TargetSolutions, that problem is now a thing of the past. On things like sexual harassment, it was difficult. We’d bring in an expert and they would do a wonderful job, but how do you recapture that for everyone not there?”

Al Schlick, Wauconda Fire District (Ill.)

About TargetSolutions
TargetSolutions delivers cutting-edge software applications, engaging online training courses, and world-class customer service. The company was founded in 1999 and today there are more than 4,000 organizations across the country using TargetSolutions’ innovative technology to solve their training challenges.

Taking the Right Steps at a Hazmat Incident

Blog by Michael de Guzman
Captain, San Diego Fire-Rescue

If you come up on a hazmat incident, you need to know what to do or better yet, you need to know what not to do. What I tell people is to keep things basic and know your limits.

In the fire service, acronyms are often used to help first responders remember response actions. For Hazmat incidents remember S.I.N.

S
Safety
I
Isolate
N
Notify

Lets break each item of SIN during Hazmat Incidents:

Safety: Your first thought in everything you do should always be safety. To ensure a safe response, its good to assume the worst. Remember to take account of all information given on the dispatch. Make sure you consider all of the environmental factors on your approach to the scene and protect yourself with PPE (personal protective equipment).

Responding upwind, uphill and upstream with the windows up and HVAC shut off on the apparatus
will assure no exposure to responding units. Additionally, using SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus) will assure firefighter safety. Inhalation is the No. 1 cause of exposure so be sure to take these precautions.

Isolate: Its critical to restrict the entry inside the perimeter of the release, known as the Hot Zone. Perimeters are determined using the Emergency Response Guidebook. Isolate any contaminated victims within the perimeter until they may be decontaminated by properly protected personnel.

Firefighters in PPE and SCBA should have a hose line outside the Hot Zone and be ready to decontaminate victims or personnel as needed. Firefighters should avoid any contact with product and decontaminate themselves if necessary by using ample amounts of water.

Removing clothing eliminates 90 percent of the contamination from victims. But preventing the spread of a product can be very challenging since victims tend to flee the scene to seek emergency care or proceed home. Contamination beyond the incident of origin may compromise an ambulance and hospital. Obviously, it can harm people if infected. A useful tool is the Public Address (PA) system on the apparatus. Use it to give victims instructions from a distance while staying protected inside your rig.

Notification: Notify the proper resources to respond to the incident. Typically, its the Hazardous Materials Team that is the priority notification. Notifying the Hazmat Team will get the resources needed for these responses.

First Responder Operational (FRO) firefighters are not trained to the level of hazmat mitigation. The response requires equipment and expertise that only the hazmat team can deliver. First responders usually do not have proper training, capabilities and equipment, so its important that they don’t jeopardize themselves by trying to do too much.

Remembering S.I.N. during initial response will help ensure hazmat incidents are properly handled.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on TargetSolutions’ Command Post website on Oct. 28, 2010.

About the Author
Michael de Guzman has worked with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department for the majority of his 20-plus years in the fire service. He is a Hazmat instructor with a degree in economics from the University of California San Diego.

TargetSolutions Excited to Be Showing Web-Based Technology Solutions at FRI

In a just a few weeks, TargetSolutions will join most of the fire service in Denver at Fire-Rescue International. The annual conference, which is scheduled Aug. 1-4 at the Colorado Convention Center, is one of the industry’s most well-attended events on the calendar each year.

TargetSolutions sees the conference as a fantastic opportunity to meet face-to-face with existing clients and prospects. The company, which will be at booth No. 17089 during exhibit hours, is hosting a user group workshop on Friday, Aug. 3. The special event is scheduled to run from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at The Crowne Plaza Denver and will feature a free breakfast for attendees.

At the user group workshop, TargetSolutions will be discussing best practices for the platforms newly upgraded interface and features, ISO tracking, best practices for recordkeeping, plus an interactive Q&A session. According to Director of Client Services Jenny Fergason, TargetSolutions will attempt to answer all of the attendees’ questions about the platform.

“We are looking forward to showing off the platforms capabilities,” Fergason said. “This event will be beneficial to both current TargetSolutions’ clients, as well as prospects looking to better understand how our training management platform can help them save time and money. We really enjoy hosting these events. We know our platform wouldn’t be what it is today if not for the tremendous feedback we’ve received through the years from clients. So we really value these opportunities.”

If you’re interested in attending the special workshop, please e-mail TargetSolutions at usergroup@targetsolutions.com to reserve a spot.

During exhibit hours, TargetSolutions will be at booth No. 17089 with free swag, including t-shirts, chap stick and other goodies. FRI is one of the year’s most important events and TargetSolutions is excited to show attendees how online training and recordkeeping can help departments increase operational efficiency and decrease expenses.

For more information on Fire-Rescue International, please check online at http://www.iafc.org/fri. Also, download the conference’s new Mobile App to learn about TargetSolutions and the rest of the conference’s activities.

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.

Shared Situational Awareness for First Responders Safety

Blog by Dr. Richard B. Gasaway
Web Master for Situational Awareness Matters
www.SAmatters.com

Shared situational awareness for first responders simply means two or more responders have a common understanding of what is happening. Formally, it means responders have a shared mental model. A mental model is the image formed in the brain of what is happening and, perhaps even more importantly, what is going to happen in the future.

Each responder that arrives at the scene of an emergency uses perception to capture clues and cues about what is happening. Since responders can look at the same thing and see something different, their situational awareness may be very different. When responder’s situational awareness is not aligned it can lead to challenges in teamwork and, subsequently, safety problems.

It is quite common for responders to arrive at emergency scenes at different times. As each subsequent arriving responder assesses the scene, it is entirely possible (even predictable) they will develop a different awareness of the situation. This broad-scale variation in understanding can cause significant teamwork and incident-wide safety problems.

The safety of responders can be compromised when individuals and teams assume there is a common understanding of what is happening. Simple exercises conducted in a classroom setting can show how easy it is for this to happen. The problem of responders not having shared situational awareness can be complicated when it is assumed everyone is on the same page.

Imagine if you arrived at a movie 10 minutes after it started. Those who have been in the theater from the beginning have a different understanding of what’s going on than you have because they benefited from capturing all of the clues and cues from the start. Unless you get a briefing, you are going to be at a disadvantage and it may be hard for you to fully understand what is happening.

The person in the best position to have a comprehensive situational awareness is the incident commander. The commander’s awareness will be strongest if they arrive early in the incident or if they receive a comprehensive briefing prior to assuming command. The individual who has been in a position to see the big picture incident (and all of its changes) from the start, in real-time, will likely have the best situational awareness.

The big picture commander will also have a good understanding of the speed of the incident — a critical component to ensuring responder safety. The commander, or their designee, can provide progress and update reports for other responding units and provide critical information to responders as they arrive. It is very difficult to have shared situational awareness when newly arriving responders think they know what’s going on when, in fact, they may be clueless (literally).

About the Author
Dr. Gasaway is widely considered to be one of the nation’s leading authorities on situational awareness and decision making processes used by first responders. In addition to his 30+ year career in the fire service (including 22 years as a fire chief), Dr. Gasaway has a second passion: Uncovering and applying research in brain science for the benefit of first responders. His website is: Situational Awareness Matters (www.SAMatters.com). He can be reached at Support@RichGasaway.com.

 

Small Department Receives Huge Benefits With TargetSolutions

Nestled up against the Atlantic Ocean, Hinesville is a small town sitting along Georgia’s coastline. Established in 1837 in Liberty County, Hinesville is known for its tall pine trees, majestic oaks and impressive wildlife. The city is also home to the fire departments two stations that are tasked with protecting more than 30,000 residents. The department is led by Chief T. Lamar Cook, while Captain Kristian Johanson is responsible for training a 47-person staff for the obstacles emergency responders face on a regular basis.

Hinesville may be a small department, but that doesn’t prevent it from experiencing some of the same issues many bigger departments encounter keeping training structured and standardized. In the past, the department faced numerous challenges, including maintaining an organized schedule and consistent curriculum from shift to shift. Training was conducted on a random basis, and training and ISO hours were minimal and usually not tracked.

“We did not have an avenue for the members to receive training, except in a class setting — whether it was in the bay or in a classroom,” Johanson said. “We were looking for an online solution. In the past, communication was also done person-to-person and that wasn’t reliable. We wanted a platform with more transparency and consistency.”

In 2008, Hinesville Fire Department found the solution it was seeking in TargetSolutions. With the platforms expanding, high-quality course content and the powerful Activities Builder application, users were finally receiving a consistent message in training curriculum.

“The biggest problem before starting with TargetSolutions is that nothing was standardized. Everything was everyone’s own version. If the topic was extrication, it wasn’t to a standard, it was that teachers view of extrication. TargetSolutions really allowed us to get everyone on the same sheet of music. With Custom Activities, we were able to track company training, safety drills, standard-operating procedures, dissemination of vehicle ERGs and many other activities.”

Kristian Johanson, Captain

Things only got better for Johanson and his department when TargetSolutions released Credentials Manager in September 2010. This new application gave members the ability to manage their own certifications, rather than relying on management to remind them what needed to be done.

“That’s when the platform really took off,” Johanson said. “It allowed us to track every type of certification required for the department to include. When Credentials Manager came out, everyone was given the ability to see what requirements they have left and achieve them through the platform.”

Not only does TargetSolutions keep records organized, it provides quality curriculum and gives users the ability to receive continuing education units, which helps the bottom line.

“I just can’t say enough about the platform because it just does so much for us,” Johanson said. “Every month a new application seems to come out, and that makes it more usable and user-friendly.”

The platform continues to add more applications and tools all the time that have really made TargetSolutions an integral part of the Hinesville Fire Department. With the user-friendly environment and customer service that is above and beyond all, TargetSolutions is an asset for our small department.

About TargetSolutions
Founded in 1999, TargetSolutions is the leader in online training and records management for public entities. More than 2,000 organizations across the country use our technology to solve their training needs. We work hard every day to understand our clients’ challenges and deliver powerful tools that save time and money.

Implementing Crew Resource Management for the Fire Service

Blog by Brian Ward
Officer with Gwinnett County Fire Department in Georgia

In a recent article, I discussed the components of Crew Resource Management (CRM). I tried to show how CRM can increase safety and efficiency on the fire ground. I also examined CRMs five major components: situational awareness, teamwork, communication, decision making, and barriers.

With this article, I’m going to try and show how you can integrate these components into a structured training session. These types of training scenarios can be used at the company level or in a more formal fire academy course.

One of the most important aspects of training is the application or the level of versatility that a certain type of training can produce. As a training officer, I look for training that can be used in multiple applications. I also seek training that is effective and cost efficient.

With the setup recommended in this article, you will need to build a story of a task or operation in your mind. By using this training method, your crew will retain more information than by just reading about an operation or by watching it performed. The two examples below are low cost and can be conducted mostly with items already in the station.

Medical Training
Allow your officers to perform a mock cardiac arrest, with a plot, in the station. The plot or story should be developed beforehand and should provide information similar to that shared by dispatch.

The company should be notified in advance and take the apparatus out of service for about 30 minutes. The firefighters and paramedics will start in their apparatus as if they just pulled up at the incident and then the time starts.

They jump off the apparatus, grab their equipment, and start working. There is some stress added with this being a timed event, just as we are timed in the field.

As the team performs the scenario, some things just flow while others have to be said. Details such as starting IVs, obtaining vitals, setting up the AED, and getting all of the equipment ready are signs a team has performed together before. This allows the lead paramedic to worry about more important details, like benchmarks, intubation, and drug dosages.

After the scenario, the officer critiques the crew on what they did well and where they could improve.

Fire Training
Another easy opportunity for training with CRM involves conducting scenario-based fire training. Throw out a problem-like a single family dwelling with fire on Side A, put a picture up on the screen or wall, and let the firefighter handle the incident.

Scenario based training is some of the best training firefighters can receive without actually being real. If the firefighter leading the training wishes to add a sense of stress to the scenario, start timing the incident to force decisions to be made, and have the other crew members participate as responding apparatus.

In order to force decisions and create pressure, the entire scenario should run between six to 12 minutes, according to the level of difficulty. Constructive criticism should be provided in a formal manner as well.

After completion of the scenario, make sure that the IC can identify the task and location of all personnel. Confirm that safety concerns were met and that benchmarks according to your standard operating procedures were identified.

Performing these types of scenarios at the company level will prepare our crews for the battles we face. However, never neglect the basics of our job, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), fire behavior, or building construction.

The understanding of these basics will lead to us performing successfully on the fire ground or the medical call. Other alternatives can be used for these scenarios as well, such as magazine covers, close call stories, and NIOSH reports.

As always train hard, take care, and be safe.

About the Author
Brian Ward is an engineer/acting officer with Gwinnett County Fire Department in Georgia. He is a past training officer, chairman of the Metro Atlanta Training Officers and currently serves on the Honeywell Advisory Council. He is a State of Georgia Advocate for Everyone Goes Home and the Membership Task Force Co-Chair and Live Fire Instructor for ISFSI. Brian was recently awarded the National Seal of Excellence from the NFFF/EGH.

Registration Now Open for Upcoming User Group Workshops

TargetSolutions will be conducting two User Group Workshops in the coming weeks in an effort to help inform both prospects and existing clients about the platform. The first meeting will be Monday, July 23 at the San Jose Fire Department. A few weeks later on Friday, Aug. 3 during Fire-Rescue International in Denver, TargetSolutions will conduct another session at the Crowne Plaza.

The first event will start at 10 a.m. TargetSolutions will be discussing best practices for the platforms new, upgraded interface, demonstrating our new CICCS applications and answering questions. Several clients will be on hand to show how they are using the powerful program. A complimentary lunch will be provided.

In August at FRI, TargetSolutions will be discussing these same topics, including ISO tracking and best practices for recordkeeping, as well as conducting an in-depth Q&A. The event is scheduled from 8:30 to 11 a.m. and TargetSolutions will be hosting breakfast.

If you’re interested in attending either event or would like more information, please click here to e-mail the marketing department. We can’t wait to see you there!

“Both of these User Group Workshops are great opportunities for us to show our platforms capabilities”, said Director of Client Services Jenny Fergason. “Both sessions will be beneficial to prospects and clients. We truly enjoy spending time with clients and discussing how TargetSolutions can help a department save time and money.”

About TargetSolutions
Founded in 1999, TargetSolutions is the leader in online training and records management for public entities. More than 2,000 organizations across the country use our technology to solve their training needs. We work hard every day to understand our clients’ challenges and deliver powerful tools that save time and money.

Media and the Fire Service: What You Need to Know

Blog by Stuart Sprung
Training Specialist, Oceanside Fire Department

If you’re like me, you’ve probably never been able to make one of those PIO (Public Information Officer) training classes or seminars. As a result, your training on how to handle the media during incidents is limited to those fleeting moments when a reporter’s microphone is in your face.

If you’re in the fire department, and this hasn’t happened to you yet, rest assured, it will one day. Here are a few things to keep in mind when that day comes:

Just about every department has its own policy for handling media requests. Its important to know your policy and understand the ramifications of straying from it.

Each department should have a point person, or a public information officer (PIO), who is trained and experienced with interacting with the media. If you’re working at a fire or other major incident, stopping to interact with the press is not your priority, and could even be unsafe for you, your co-workers and even the media. So whenever you are asked to stop and comment, its best to politely direct them toward the PIO, battalion chief or whoever it is that is responsible for this duty.

PIOs know what to say, they understand the bigger picture, and they have all the facts. It’s key to keep the information being distributed consistent and accurate. There have been incidents in the past where an organization didn’t have the proper structure for dealing with the press and the wrong message was disseminated. That can turn into a political nightmare, so be careful.

That being said, it’s also very important to understand that a good rapport with the media is crucial. Although it’s the PIOs job to nurture their relationship with the media, we have to remember that we are all public representatives for our agencies.

For most incidents, a fire department PIO will use a press release, with specific details about an emergency, to distribute information. This helps keep the media from digging around and funnels questions back to one person, the PIO.

One thing for the fire department PIO to remember is that accuracy is his main priority with any and all information released. Small details, like the exact spelling of a name, are vitally important for reporters. The information reporters need to do their job is rather simple — who, when, where, what, why and how — but it has to be accurate. PIOs will feel pressure to get information out quickly, because time is crucial for reporters, but accuracy must come first.

If someone in the press approaches you after a serious accident, where there may have been a fatality or a serious injury, its absolutely paramount you don’t offer up any opinions. Saying the wrong thing can be used against you and your department. Again, by far your best move is to tell the reporter to speak with the PIO.

Another important consideration is the safety of the media themselves during potentially dangerous incidents. Although reporters and camera operators are for the most part professional and maintain a safe, respectful distance, there are times when they are unaware of hazards. While the police are very knowledgeable and effective at maintaining crowd control, sometimes they are overwhelmed or otherwise occupied.

So it becomes everybody’s job to maintain a safe scene. If you happen to notice a media member too close to a potentially hazardous scene, don’t be afraid to make contact with them, and courteously inform them of the hazard. Also, do not hesitate to inform your company officer or IC. Keep in mind that the media have rights to a presence in the public domain. In fact, unless its a crime scene, there are virtually no limitations to how close they can come. The most we can do is to inform them why its unsafe, and in my experience, they respond favorably to direction.

Lastly, don’t forget that your fire department can use the media for your own purposes as well. In a recent twin-engine plane crash in Oceanside, Calif., it only took one hour to recreate the events that led to the crash through eyewitness accounts that were given through the media and discussion boards attached to the story’s articles.

The day of real-time information is here, and we can use it to better understand why certain emergencies happen.

About the Author
After graduating from the University of California, San Diego Stuart Sprung completed his paramedic training and joined the San Francisco fire department as a firefighter/paramedic. He also worked as a flight medic for FEMA. The next 16 years gave him experience responding to thousands of federal, state, and local emergencies. Stu currently functions as a commercial pilot for a financial institution. He is now a fire training specialist for the Oceanside Fire Department.

After Buying Into Technical Wizardry, San Angelo Fire Department Experiences Improved Recordkeeping Recertification

The San Angelo Fire Department has been putting out fires since the late 1800s. The department serves a city with a population of about 100,000 deep in the heart of Texas and it is even deeper in history and tradition.

So it makes sense some of the departments veteran firefighters were a bit reluctant about training on the cloud with TargetSolutions’ web-based platform.

“Most of the guys were willing to change over and are pretty versed in computers, but some who were used to the old methods wanted to stick to their guns,” said the departments EMS Instructor Santos Elizondo. “Some of the older guys wanted to do it the old way regardless of what kind of technical wizardry came around.”

It’s times like this when the “brotherhood” really comes into play, Elizondo says. Facing some initial pushback after signing up with TargetSolutions in April of 2010, several younger employees came to the aid of their senior coworkers and helped them see the flexibility and superiority to completing mandated training requirements online.

“The younger guys brought them in and helped show them how,” Elizondo said. “It’s a brotherhood. The younger guys couldn’t do the assignments for them, but they really made it a family affair. The younger guys took care of the older guys — so while the older guys were teaching the physical side of things, the younger guys were teaching the technical side. Eventually everyone was going in the same direction.”

After overcoming these initial challenges, TargetSolutions started flourishing for the department with 163 personnel and eight stations across a territory that expands 1,500 square miles. Prior to TargetSolutions, the department was conducting its mandatory training through what Elizondo affectionately calls paper training.

“Our previous way of conducting training was tedious and archaic; it was truly a nightmare,” Elizondo said. “We wanted to find a vendor who could help us hold our personnel accountable, complete training in a timely manner and not burn down a forest every time we conducted training. There was just a massive amount of paper going out every month. After visiting with several vendors, we found the solution we needed.”

San Angelo selected TargetSolutions and immediately benefited from its robust catalog of training courses that includes 250 hours of Fire and EMS recertification material. In combination with the catalog was a recordkeeping system that streamlined the entire training management process, Elizondo said.

“Guys used to always be wondering where they were for recertification,” Elizondo said. Now they were able to get the data and an instant response to their efforts — kind of like when they are in the field and they give a drug to patient and immediately see if its working or not. With TargetSolutions they can complete an assignment and see where it is and know the data has been taken.

These powerful training tools make it easy to track training assignments and generate comprehensive reports that satisfy stringent audits, like the type conducted by ISO.

“With TargetSolutions we’re able to complete an audit faster,” Elizondo said. “With 12 to 20 people recertifying at any given time, it can really chew up time. Now with TargetSolutions, were able to do it much faster and it’s much more convenient. Guys are able to obtain their goals much easier.”

About TargetSolutions
Founded in 1999, TargetSolutions is the leader in online training and records management for public entities. More than 2,000 organizations across the country use our technology to solve their training needs. We work hard every day to understand our clients’ challenges and deliver powerful tools that save time and money.