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Are You Using Pre-Incident Plans During Firefigher Training Exercises?

Pre-Incident Plans
Comprehensive pre-planning reports and training prepare a crew for when they are pressed into action. With TargetSolutions, agencies are able to document training hours spent analyzing local facilities.
Electronic Pre-Incident PlansYou know how important it is to document inspections of your local facilities. Proving these examinations have taken place is critical to your next fire department ISO review.
But pre-plan reports are also great resources for training activities. Simulated training using pre-plans prepares crews for critical challenges they will see when pressed into action.
They can also be tremendous for teamwork exercises. Many departments effectively use pre-plans during training to give their crews a chance to work together as a team. This profession isn’t just about how strong or fast an individual might be. What matters most is how firefighters execute as a team.
By finding training drills and exercises using pre-plans, you’ll have great insight into how people will perform during emergencies.


TargetSolutions: The Next Evolutions in Training Management
TargetSolutions comes loaded with pre-built electronic documents for tracking pre-incident plans, ISO compliance, PPE inspections, licenses, and much more. Download this special report to learn more.


So Many Chemicals, So Little Time

Blog by Mark Bridges

Battalion Chief/Hazardous Materials Specialist – Retired

What you don’t know, will hurt you! You’ve heard the phrase “high risk, low frequency”?  A new PowerPoint presentation found in Community Resources, “So Many Chemicals, So Little Time,” will help you learn more about how the decisions you make can reduce your chance of getting hurt. This information was presented at Firehouse World in San Diego in January and delivers insight into many different potential dangers and deadly situations we encounter in the fire service.

Do you know the hidden hazards in jewelry stores? Or what’s in that tank on the roof of the dry cleaners? Or why underground electrical vaults are so explosive and dangerous? How about dark chemical bottles exposed to heat and fire?

So Many Chemicals, So Little Time
Firefighters need to always be in learning mode when it comes to dealing with chemicals and hazardous materials.

Most fire department training focuses on the more common emergencies such as EMS and general fire training, including ladders, hose, pumping, etc.  We all have a good handle on that stuff, but what happens when we encounter a smoking electrical vault or some of the other less-frequent emergencies? Do we need to walk right over to the vault and stare inside it?

The short answer is, NO!  When the components and wiring of these vaults heat up, they off-gas or release Acetylene gas, which has a flammable range of 2.5 percent to 81 percent. This is the type of gas that if you look at it funny, you’ll blow up.

So what should you do? Recognize it, rescue nearby victims, cordon off the area and wait for the power company to de-energize it. Then you will consult with them and follow their guidance. Most jewelry stores use Sodium Cyanide – mix that with fire hose water and you get Hydrogen Cyanide, which is the same gas used in gas chambers.

Now, what about the chemical stored on roofs of dry cleaners? That chemical is Perchlorethylene (PERC), which decomposes to Phosgene gas when heated – similar to any chemical containing “Chlorine” or “Chlor” does.  What about the dark bottles? The reason the bottles are dangerous is because they don’t like heat or fire, which is exactly what occurs in any fire situation!  Once heated, the chemicals inside begin to decompose. Then they dry out to form a very unstable material, and can become shock sensitive, or also known to a common person as a small bomb.

These are just a few of the examples of types of things one does not routinely learn or train on. That is why it is important to seek answers and ask experts questions. In the future, consider stopping your engine or truck once in a while when you see a utility truck, or the gas company working, and ask questions – you’ll be amazed at what you learn.


About the Author

Mark Bridges presented “So Many Chemicals, So Little Time” during Firehouse World in San Diego in January. Bridges served as battalion chief/hazardous materials specialist with Santa Monica Fire Department in California. He is now retired and can be reached via e-mail at

How Fire Department Training Leaders Can Communicate More Effectively with Personnel

Communicating Effectively in Your Department
The fire service is always evolving, but good communication has always been vital to successful operations. It’s important for leaders to be specific in detailed with directions and train personnel to follow instructions to eliminate mistakes in the field.

Blog by Rich Miron of TargetSolutions

Are you communicating effectively with your team? That was the question laid out in January during Michael Daley and Ryan Pennington’s training session at Firehouse World in San Diego.

Daley of Monroe Township (New Jersey) and Pennington of Charleston Fire Department (West Virginia) teamed up to deliver a 90-minute session, Communication between the Front Seat and Jump Street. The topic originated during a casual conversation the two had one evening.

“These kids today, they just don’t understand,” Daley recalled saying. After talking it over, it was determined issues arise because of breakdowns in communication from the front seat, where Daley sits, to jump street, which is Pennington’s area.

It was an interesting topic, considering the theme of the conference: “Changing with the Fire Service.” Times are clearly changing, but communication has always been a critical component to success. Whether it was 50 years ago, 20 years ago, or today, it’s always critical for leaders to set clear expectations.

During the session, Daley conducted an interesting experiment with the room of firefighters. He gave each a piece of paper and asked everyone to follow a series of instructions. After completing the seemingly simple instructions, each firefighter delivered a different result.

“Nobody did anything wrong, you all followed the directions; the point is, everybody follows directions differently,” Daley said. “This is an example that everyone hears directions differently. That’s why we have to get everyone on the same page.”

But how do you do that is the question that leaders sitting in the front seat often struggles with, Daley said.

Here are two key steps leaders can take to improve communication in their organization:

Be More Detailed: If you’re not specific with instruction, there can be confusion that can lead to unexpected outcomes.

Increase Training Using Instructions: Make sure you receive feedback that instructions have been received and understood. “So many communication issues come from lack of training,” Daley said.

Daley outlined key traits of a leader with good communication skills: Stability, integrity, flexibility, sensitivity, and personal power.

“If you’re a leader, when you leave this profession, you’re going to ask yourself, ‘did I do everything I could?’ I want my firefighters to be better and smarter than I am.”

Michael Daley, Monroe Township (New Jersey)

Pennington then presented his perspective from “jump street,” aiming to explain how subordinate firefighters feel communication breakdowns arise. He outlined how critical it is for personnel to support the mission, respect their leaders, and function as a unit.

Good traits of a good follower are self-management, commitment, competence and courage, Pennington said.

The ABCs of Fire Training: Always Be Creative.

The ABCs of Fire Training: Always Be Creative.
Editor’s Note: this is the fifth tip from TargetSolutions’ special report, “Eight Great Tips for Training Your Crew,” a best practices guide. To view the entire report, please click here.  
Let’s face it, training isn’t always fun. Some might even say it can be monotonous. It’s important for training administrators to be creative and think outside the box when implementing training. Mixing up regular exercises can make them more engaging. Add a competitive twist, a team component, or a prize, and watch your personnel’s intensity heat up. It really doesn’t matter what you’re doing – training, sports, video games, etc. – make it a contest and everyone will find it more engrossing.
TargetSolutions Product Specialist Tim Riley worked as training chief with Dunedin Fire Department in Florida and he remembers having crew members make their way through an obstacle course with hidden treasures placed throughout the maze. The race to find the treasures was memorable.
Next time you need to put your aerial device into the air, try a game of aerial cornhole – where the operator is required to place a weighted ball into a bucket with the aerial device. Not easy, and guaranteed to make a usually mundane exercise more lively. If short on ideas, you can always conduct a simple race: who can put their gear on the quickest? This includes everything: boots, pants, coat, SCBA, etc.
TargetSolutions’ Tim Riley has all kinds of ideas for mixing up training. Here are four good ones:
  • Instead of sending personnel through a maze on their own make them do it as a team. After all, you’re not going to enter a smoke-filled structure alone, right?
  • Make personnel bring appropriate tools they will need when called into action. Treat everything like a real drill. Don’t take away flashlights or gear they will have during the real deal.
  • Blind-fold a member, spin them around and have them find the hoseline on the floor. Have them practice reading a hose out of the structure while disoriented.
  • The classic “Breath Down Drill” … Force members to control their breathing while making their way through a gauntlet of obstacles using SCBA gear. How many evolutions can you do?



Implement Online Training, Watch Your Fire Department Thrive

implement online training
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth tip from TargetSolutions’ special report, “Eight Great Tips for Training Your Crew,” a best practices guide. To view the entire report, please click here.
Training in the fire service has never been more challenging than today. Budgets continue to shrink and requirements continue to increase. It makes sense training administrators would look to technology for help. That’s why online training and recordkeeping software is making such a huge impact on the industry.
By delivering accredited EMS continuing education through a learning management system, departments are able to efficiently meet mandatory training requirements with 24/7 convenience. Online tools make it easier than ever to streamline compliance and
track results. A recent survey of more than 600 fire departments by the marketing firm MillerPierce found that 76 percent of departments are either already using an online training system, or are considering acquiring one. It’s clear, affordable online training tools can help departments operate more effectively.
That being said, balance is critical to an effective training program. Training administrators will always need to deliver live training sessions in combination with online training to ensure students receive the appropriate blend of hands-on experience. Using TargetSolutions to achieve and track training compliance makes all the sense in the world. But it’s not meant to replace the real thing.
If your department is still considering the merits of online training, here are three benefits of TargetSolutions’ internet-based fire department training system to consider:
Achieve Compliance with Fire and EMS Recertification Requirements: TargetSolutions features more than 250 hours of Fire and EMS recertification training. If you are looking to meet federal, state or local training requirements, TargetSolutions’ has accredited content you need.
Save Time and Money with Convenient Training That Can Be Taken Anytime, Anywhere: TargetSolutions’ online training management system is accessible 24/7 anywhere you have an Internet connection. Users can complete assignments on their own schedules at their own computers.
Improve Performance by Assigning Pre-Training Before Hands-On Exercises: TargetSolutions provides departments the ability to ‘flip the classroom’ by delivering didactic course information before personnel jump into hands-on training. When members arrive for hands-on instruction, they are prepared with background information.
Don’t Just Take Our Word for It: Please Click Here to Hear and Read What Fire Department Leaders Are Saying about TargetSolutions!

Great Tips for Fire Department Training

Train Your Crew to Deliver Exceptional Customer Service

Customer Service in the Fire Service
Editor’s Note: This is the third tip from TargetSolutions’ special report, “Eight Great Tips for Training Your Crew,” a best practices guide. To view the entire report, please click here.

Emergency responders take incredible risks to help others. The courage, integrity and talent it takes to do this job should be respected by everyone. At the same time, emergency responders have an obligation to treat everyone with respect. Providing honorable, dedicated service to the community requires outstanding customer service in the fire service.

“We have to be sober and salient 24/7, but we only have to be nice eight times a day for 20 minutes at a time. That is mandatory. If you can’t do that, just stay in the truck. It’s about the added value. Mrs. Smith is going to remember how she felt because of the effort we make to connect.”
Alan Brunacini, Retired Chief of Phoenix Fire Department
The question is how does a training administrator instill this mindset in personnel who struggle with this concept?
Without question, some personnel will grow unhappy with the profession, the sacrifices they make, and the increasing workload. They may feel burnt out. But it’s critical every patient is treated as if they are on vacation. You read that right … vacation. Granted, emergency response is far from a day at the beach, but the need for first-rate customer service is just the same.
Retired Chief Alan Brunacini is an ardent believer in the importance of outstanding customer service in the fire service. He believes citizens will strongly remember the first two minutes and the last three minutes they spend with responders during emergencies. To encourage the right behavior, Brunacini says leaders need to treat personnel how they want them to treat the public.
To make sure your organization does everything it can to please customers, make sure the right type of people have been hired and have been trained on how critical this is to the success of the organization. Personnel need to be professional at all times. Remember, if citizens are treated well, it will pay dividends in the future when emergency services need public support.
Tips for Fire Department Training

How to Utilize Roll-Up Doors During Forcible Entry, Egress During Firefighting Operations

The commercial roll-up door operation is one of the most important tasks for forcible entry team members. As a progressive, proactive Rapid Intervention Crew company, commercial roll-up doors should be a primary entry/egress addressed on the RIC size-up. Yet, many firefighters nationwide fail to utilize this point of entry/egress because of misconceptions about the time and effort that is needed.
Commercial roll-up doors fall into four simple categories:
1. Rolling Steel
2. Sheet Curtain
3. Sectional
4. Slab
This article addresses the first two: Rolling Steel and Sheet Curtain. These are two of the most common commercial doors found on larger commercial and industrial occupancies nationwide.
Rolling Steel:
Rolling-Steel doors are some of the first commercial roll-up doors to be manufactured. They roll up into a drum above the doorway. The drum itself is a counter balanced device that is manually operated, or operated by a motor device with a manual override. These drums are attached to the upper ledge of the doorway and are extremely heavy. Special safety precautions should be taken based on the type of occupancies involved. Remember, an Un-reinforced Masonry Constructed or URM building will provide a weakened support system for heavy objects such as the commercial roll-up door.
The key to recognizing these types of doors is the design of the door itself. Rolling-Steel doors are interlocking single slats that are dependent upon one another to create a single-door system. Removal of one slat will eliminate the structural integrity of the door system in that area.
Illustrated in the following photos are the approach to removal of the slats to gain access to the interior of the structure through a Rolling-Steel door.
Cutting Steel Doors for Forcible Entry
The first cut starts approximately in the middle to two-thirds across the door face. The cut should be at head height. Utilization of enough blade on the rotary saw to cut through the skin of the door is sufficient. Burying the blade will reduce effectiveness, and reduce the number of doors opened without changing blades.
Proper Cutting of Steel Doors for Forcible Entry
The initial cut will continue down to the base of the door itself. Notice the effectiveness of the saw by minimizing the depth of the blade. The outside-man is utilizing only the amount of blade necessary to cut through the door skin. 
Forcible Entry Procedures
Once the initial cut is made the outside-man will grasp the door slats with a set of vice-grips, or channel locks to pull the door slats out of the door system. NOTE: On certain doors the slats are interlocked on the outside of the system. If you have difficulty pulling a slat, go to the slat above or below the initial slat pulled and try there. If you continue to have difficulty pulling the slats out of the door, make an additional cut in the face of the door furthest away from the initial cut. This will eliminate those locking devices.
Procedures for Forcible Entry
Once the top slats are removed, all slats located below them will fall out of the way and provide ample access to the interior of the structure. NOTE: Be aware that remaining sections of the door will at times roll up quickly into the containment drum located above the door way. The force of the door rolling up so quickly can lead to the drum dislodging from the wall, and falling downward toward working members. Be careful around weakened structures and URMs.
Sheet Curtain Doors:
Due to manufacturing, Sheet Curtain doors are the most widely used in today’s building standards. They are recognizable by the design.
The sheet curtain door is one solid piece of material without break in the face of the door. It rolls up into a counterbalanced drum located above the doorway, and is manually or motor operated. Unlike the Rolling-Steel door, the sheet curtain is more difficult to open, and will require additional cuts at the base of the door.
Firefighter Forcible Entry
The first cut is two-thirds to either side of the face of the door. Again, utilize only enough blade that is necessary to cut through the skin of the door. This cut will go to the bottom of the door.
Due to the design of most rotary saws, the bottom cord of angle iron that provides the base stability to the door will not be cut entirely through. The next cut, “The Tee-Pee” cut, will allow access to the bottom cord of the door.
A large enough “Tee-Pee” must be made to allow the entire body of the saw to operate and cut through the bottom cord of the door.
The “Tee-Pee” is pulled outward to allow access to the bottom cord of the door. Depending upon door manufacturing, this bottom cord can either be a substantial piece of angle iron, or a rather minimal piece of aluminum angle brace. Either way, the bottom cord must be cut through to allow the door to be opened effectively. 
The final cut is the lateral or face cut that goes from the opposite side of the door to the initial cut within the face of the door. Notice the position of the saw – the cutting operations are going away from the face, and eyes of the firefighter.
Once this cut is established, the door can be opened by pulling outward on the door structure to allow for rapid access and egress into the structure.
NOTE: One final cut may have to be made as a small portion of the door may be hidden in the track. Once this cut is made the door can roll-up into the drum quickly. Be careful.
If you have any questions about commercial roll-up doors, you can reach Hadfield online at
About the Author
Ed Hadfield has more than 26 years of fire service experience after rising through the ranks from firefighter to division chief. He is a frequent speaker on leadership, sharing his experiences within the fire service and also with corporate and civic leaders throughout the United States. For more on Hadfield, please check online at

Two Steps for Strategizing What Training Comes Next

Strategizing Future Firefighter Training
Editor’s Note: This is the second tip from TargetSolutions’ special report, “Eight Great Tips for Training Your Crew,” a best practices guide. To view the entire report, please click here.
As a training officer, you have probably lost your share of sleep over what to train on next. You know what is at stake — but how can you be sure you are investing your limited resources in the right places at the right level?
After all, your team needs to be well rounded — from ventilation, to high-rise operations, to medical response, and everything else.
Here are two simple steps to help you in your planning process for future firefighter training:
Conduct a ‘needs assessment’ to determine your members’ training needs vs. training wants

Look to the past for training lessons — the past will predict the future
Step No. 1: It is important to make sure you provide the right balance of training at the right frequency on the right topics. Conducting a “needs assessment” will help determine what type of training personnel want vs. what they need. Your goal is to provide training that makes a difference in personnel’s overall performance. One topic might be challenging for one person, but refresher material for another. That’s why an assessment can help lead to training that is comprehensive and appropriate for all levels on your staff.
Step No. 2: It is a safe bet that whatever incidents happened in the past, will happen again in the future. This doesn’t mean the exact same accident or fire will happen at the exact same place — but odds are something similar will happen again. Keeping records of previous incidents can help you make training decisions in the future. When emergencies strike, first responders’ skills come to light, as do their deficiencies. Post-incident reports, which can be tracked and delivered with TargetSolutions, give great insight into upcoming training opportunities.

How Independent Actions Can Negatively Impact Situational Awareness

Blog by Dr. Richard B. Gasaway, CFO, EFO, Fire Chief (ret.)
For some public safety agencies, it is standard practice for personnel on first alarm assignments to arrive and deploy independently – meaning without any one person designated to coordinate the activities or timing of tasks. Oftentimes these responders are highly trained, highly motivated and action oriented. What they are lacking is coordination of their efforts.
SOP for First-Arriving Personnel
It’s important for departments to have a set SOP for first-arriving personnel at incidents. It makes sense to have a supervisor assume the role of coordinator for other incoming personnel.
It is unrealistic to think a dozen, or more individuals could arrive at varied times at an incident and each make exactly the same assessment of the situation/conditions and know, absent a centrally located commander, what every other team member is thinking and doing. Can you see how this spells trouble?
Even professional football teams, who practice their plays repeatedly, have the benefit of someone coordinating their actions on the field. Imagine the impact if a football team had no one calling the plays. The team might stumble into success on occasion, but the propensity for error, simply because the players lack a shared understanding and a centralized coordinator, is guaranteed. So it is on an emergency scene, as well.
Someone has to keep a view of the big picture right from the beginning and coordinate the actions of incoming personnel. Otherwise, the incident may degrade as the independent, uncoordinated actions of responders fail to achieve a common goal.
A Solution to the Issue
Develop a standard operating guideline/policy that requires the first-arriving supervisor to assume the position as the person in charge and have that person maintain a “big picture” view of the incident. Allow some variation for imminent rescue situations. This person then becomes the coordinator of other incoming personnel. If they are a junior supervisor, they can be relieved of their command on the arrival of a more senior command-level officer.

About the Author
Dr. Gasaway is widely considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on situational awareness and the human factors that complicate first responder decision making. In addition to his 30-plus 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, Situational Awareness Matters ( welcomes 50,000 visitors a month from 156 countries. He can be reached via e-mail at

Safety Should Always Come First for Firefighters. Train That Way.

Editor’s Note: This is the first tip from TargetSolutions’ special report, “Eight Great Tips for Training Your Crew,” a best practices guide. To view the entire report, please click here.
Tips for Firefighter Safety
The fire service has evolved over the last few centuries, but one thing remains constant — brave firefighters continue to risk their lives to protect others. So when it comes to training, the ultimate goal is to give personnel the skills they need to do the job as safely as possible. Of course, you already know that — the question is how do you do it effectively? What areas do you focus on? Here are four tips for firefighter safety to educate your firefighters that can make a huge difference in their well being at the end of the day.


Records Management System
It’s critical to create policies or SOGs that mandate training on key safety precautions like airway management, the utilization of seat belts during emergencies, and physical fitness milestones. With TargetSolutions you can create those policies, deliver them online, and track the results electronically. You’ll sleep better knowing your members have acknowledged what is required to stay safe.
Online Training System
TargetSolutions features the industry’s most robust online training library, including more than 60 hours of valuable NFPA content. One of those courses is NFPA 1403 Live Fire Training Evolutions. This particular course reviews live-burn evolutions and emphasizes the importance of safety and compliance with state regulations, NFPA standards, and local policies established to maintain training effectiveness without compromising safety. In fact, TargetSolutions entire catalog is stuffed with training built to keep personnel safe.
Please click here to see TargetSolutions’ course catalog for emergency responders.
>> According to a study completed by the NFPA, more than 30 percent of firefighters killed since 1990 died from smoke inhalation after running out of air and becoming lost inside a structure fire. Airway management is vital during fire suppression, so it is important to teach personnel to understand their own “rate of consumption” while using SCBA gear.
>> Speaking of SCBA, how often do members race to an emergency without their seat belt? This happens despite the fact the greatest likelihood of a vehicle collision is while responding to an incident. In fact, from 1996-2007, the U.S. Fire Administration reports vehicle collisions claimed 257 firefighters lives and another 53 died after being struck by a vehicle. That’s nearly 25 percent of all firefighter fatalities during that period. Emergency responders can’t help anyone if they are struck by an oncoming vehicle. A recommended solution is parking the truck in position to block the scene from oncoming traffic. Wearing a vest and using flares, cones and warning signs are also effective.
>> Live-fire training is critical to performance, but the majority of training deaths happen during these essential exercises. NFPA 1403: Standard on Live Fire Training Evolutions was established following several instances where firefighters lost their lives during training. By educating personnel to this standard, firefighters will have information they need to conduct live fire training in a safe manner.
>> You’ve heard it before — high blood pressure is the fire service’s “silent killer.” It’s no joke that 70 million Americans suffer from hypertension and members of the fire service are especially vulnerable. The United States Fire Administration has reported 44 percent of all firefighter deaths come from heart attacks. The first step to combat this silent killer is identifying it through regular checkups.
Eight Great Tips for Training Your Crew
1. Safety Should Always Come First. Train That Way.
2. Two Steps for Strategizing What Training Comes Next.
3. Train Your Crew to Deliver Exceptional Customer Service.
4. Implement Online Training, Watch Your Department Thrive.
5. The ABCs of Training: Always Be Creative.
6. Utilize Pre-Incident Plans During Teamwork Exercises.
7. Comprehensive Training Records Don’t Just Happen.
8. Situational Awareness Is a Trainable Skill.