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.