Southern Marin Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Matt Barnes uses TargetSolutions to streamline training, track ISO hours, deliver pre-training coursework, and much more.


Battalion Chief Matt Barnes of the Southern Marin Fire Protection District (Calif.) considers himself a student of lifelong learning, so serving as his department’s training officer for the last 10 years has been a natural fit. Searching for a way to simplify his department’s training and documentation, Barnes implemented TargetSolutions’ powerful online management and recordkeeping software years ago.

fire department training success storyAs an incentivized bonus, when it came time for the typically dreaded ISO audit, Barnes’s preparation with the platform paid off tenfold. In fact, some might even say the ISO results were anticlimactic.

“They basically took my information and said ‘thank you,’” Barnes recalled.

Utilizing TargetSolutions’ ready-made training package specifically built to cover the five categories tracked for ISO fire department training (Driver, Officer, Hazmat, Company, Facilities), Barnes was able to organize his department’s training without any hassle.

“I knew I hit the mark on each of those categories,” said Barnes. “I was anticipating a much more rigorous type of review but I think based off of the pre-built TargetSolutions categories, I was able to give specific hours for those categories and it helped a tremendous amount.”

Barnes recently accepted the Vanguard Award, which goes each year to someone who exemplifies dedication in the delivery of fire department training. Boasting a decade’s worth of experience maximizing the platform, Barnes was an ideal choice.

Below is a Q-and-A with Barnes conducted during TargetSolutions’ annual Networking & Training Workshop.

How did TargetSolutions help with your ISO review?

“It helped me when I did all the analysis and the data push to ISO by all the categories that TargetSolutions has, the five categories, the facilities, HAZMAT, company training, officer training, driver training. TargetSolutions helped me organize those training categories so I knew I hit the mark on each of those categories per ISO. It was actually pretty easy and not stressful at all. They basically took my information and said ‘thank you’ so it was pretty easy. I was anticipating a much more rigorous type of review but I think based off of the pre-built TargetSolutions categories, I was able to give specific hours for those categories and it helped a tremendous amount.”

What are your goals with TargetSolutions?

“My whole goal was to make that experience for firefighters to log in as quickly as possible, document their training as quickly as possible and then get out. The next goal was how can I provide a means for firefighters that are in the firehouse on the slower days or if they want to access some sort of training documentation? How can I organize a platform for them to access it? So I used TargetSolutions in the File Center as well as really as getting involved in building custom activities and that’s where I really liked the TargetSolutions piece where I could go in, get all the programmatic information, reading articles, those things. Build a course activity and then the firefighter could go in and log in and go through that course activity through a pretty systematic routine. It made it easier for them to access the information as well as document it.”

Are you using TargetSolutions for pre-training?

“Ten years ago, we would have a battalion drill where we would pull in multiple companies and the expectation from the crews is they wanted us to provide them with some sort of PowerPoint presentation, basically tell them what we’re going to teach them prior to going out on the drill ground and performing the function. And I said, ‘well, there’s gotta be a better way to do this.’ So we’re not taking companies out of service for four or five hours. We can take them out of service for an hour, give them the pre-course work, give them the opportunity to train in their own firehouses without any stress of anybody watching them except for their companies and their peers and allow them to prepare themselves for when we do the battalion drill and then they can just go out and perform the physical activity, throwing ladders, pulling hose lines, rescue search, those kinds of things. The people that did take that information excelled on the battalion drills because they had all the information, they had an ample amount of time to review it, study it, ask questions, call me, do whatever they needed to do so they could become proficient at the skill that they were being expected to perform in a group setting.”

 Why is training so important to your department?

“I come from a family of two parents that were professors in college, so lifelong learning has always been a desire of mine and in our profession, the old adage says that the only day that was the same was yesterday. The fire service changes and evolves on a daily basis and the only way to stay current is through research and going out and performing skills and based off of the information that you’ve gathered and learning from the past. We’ve had some significant near misses in our organization, we’ve had two line of duty deaths in our organization due to health, so training is very, very near and dear to me. I think it’s the fabric of what makes someone become a good proficient performing individual in the fire service.”