Technology with a Purpose


With TargetSolutions Life is ‘Easier’ for Oceanside Fire Department

Stuart Sprung thought he would be a firefighter forever. After working as a firefighter for 17 years for the San Francisco Fire Department, his career came to a sudden conclusion when he suffered a spinal cord injury in a work-related accident.

Because of his injuries, Sprung is no longer able to perform his old duties. But he’s still able to help other firefighters. Since 2006 he has served as the fire training specialist for the Oceanside Fire Department.

“I’m here for the guys,” said Sprung, who recently conducted a Q&A with TargetSolutions’ marketing department. “I’m here to make sure they get the training they need.”

Oceanside looks to TargetSolutions for answers to its training needs. Sprung has seen the company’s platform come a long way since signing up in 2008. He continues to be a huge proponent of the technology, but not because it’s shiny or cool, but because it’s effective and helps his firefighters complete their mission.

“The whole reason we are here is so guys can get training in the most efficient way possible,” Sprung said. “The guys are out running calls, so we have to try and make their lives easier. TargetSolutions makes everyone in our department’s life easier.”

Here is a transcript of the complete conversation on how Oceanside is benefiting from TargetSolutions online training and records management system:

Question: Please talk a little bit about how TargetSolutions helps your department?

Sprung: We have to get training out. We have to make sure it’s complied with, we have to have a way to make sure it’s getting done, and we have to keep records for it. If people miss training, how do we get that fixed? We lost people in this office, and we had to find a tool to still do what we are required by law to do. Just because were short on staff doesn’t lessen our legal obligation to fulfill our training requirements. If our doors are open for business, we have to provide the training; we have to figure out a way to get it done with what we have. TargetSolutions is key for us accomplishing that. It gave us the ability to be able to do all the things we are required to do. TargetSolutions has become an invaluable tool for us.

Question: How has the platform progressed since you started?

Sprung: When TargetSolutions first came out, and we started using it, it didn’t have the ability do everything it does now. It was probably at 25 percent of how it’s functioning now. It was really kind of a CE provider. The management aspect of it was in its infancy. But over time, it has become something we use extensively. Before TargetSolutions, training and recordkeeping was very cumbersome. We knew that for the firefighters to use TargetSolutions, it had to be easy or they wouldn’t use it. With TargetSolutions guys can now enter a full day’s worth of training reports in less than five minutes and that data is captured. Our guys have logged thousands more training hours than ever before ever since we implemented TargetSolutions.

Question: You guys experienced budget cuts. Can you talk about how TargetSolutions helped your department make it through that?

Sprung: Over the last five years, we’ve seen our training staff cut in half. TargetSolutions has not only picked up the slack, but improved our recordkeeping from our inception all the way to now. There has never been recordkeeping as thorough and accurate as we have right now with TargetSolutions. All of our training is tracked on TargetSolutions. When those guys do hose evolutions this month on their own, it’s on them to enter training after completing the drill. It’s all tracked on TargetSolutions.

Question: What applications have helped your department the most?

Sprung: The first is Custom Activities, which we have built to allow companies to log training very simply it takes them seconds to do it with TargetSolutions. The second is the Credentials tracker. We have the unfortunate role of being the certification police for all things that are required. We learned the hard way that is something we have to take seriously. We can’t have any flexibility on that. People cannot work with an expired paramedic license or expired driver’s license. We have to have eyes on the certificates of 100 people, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. TargetSolutions has really helped with that.

Question: Have you ever done a cost-benefit analysis to see just how much money you are saving with TargetSolutions?

Sprung: We’ve never done a cost-benefit analysis. … But it is worth every penny. The best way I can put it, is that it’s the best money a department can spend per training hour logged.

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.

A Case for Company Performance Standards

Blog by Bill Sturgeon
Retired Division Chief of Training for Orange County Fire Rescue Department in Florida

During the 1970s, the fire service became involved in Emergency Medical Services. Then, during the 80s, it was Hazmat. And in the 90s, it was technical rescue. After 9/11, Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) became the new service everyone wanted to provide.

We trained hard and became proficient at delivering these new services. But there may have been some unintended consequences.

I recently retired as the chief of training for a large metropolitan department in Florida. The department has its fair share of fires and I noticed numerous times that critical errors related to fundamental firefighting techniques were being made.

Pulling the wrong line (too short, too long), hooking up to an intake instead of a discharge, not properly using forcible entry tools, poor ground-ladder deployment. The list goes on and on.

If this sounds familiar, read on! This is how your department can develop a low-cost training program, set performance standards, improve basic skills and have some fun in the process.

To begin with, fire chiefs must use company performance standards to measure progress. These can be internally developed standards or you can refer to NFPA 1410 (Standard on Training for Initial Emergency Scene Operations, 2010 Edition) and use it as the standard.

The bottom line is that this training must be supported from the top. All officers must get up, get out, and participate with crews.

Find out who are your strongest players. Find out who are your weakest links. And determine who your top company is so they can mentor and teach others.

Company officers must train and challenge their crews to meet or exceed standards (measured in time and accuracy). Drivers can review basic hydraulic skills, or you can develop a scenario to solve that includes a basic pumping problem.

Finally, firefighters should strive to master each task. Why? Because it is their job. Because they are the future leaders of the fire service (drivers, officers, and instructors) and they need to be capable of passing down knowledge to the newest members.

It’s better to learn these skills in the beginning of your career. They will serve you well.

Developing the plan:
1. Identify special requirements for your jurisdiction. Are there special circumstances you must consider when developing your training outlines?

2. Determine what standard you are going to follow. Is it going to be the NFPA 1410, your own, or a combination of both?

3. Develop necessary drills and use your reference materials.

4. Break down each task into a separate drill. No more than one sheet.

5. Set a time limit to complete the task or refer to NFPA 1410. This will be your performance standard for initial training.

6. Enlist some of your senior people to test the drills out (chiefs, captains, and commanding officers). This is the alpha test. Get some photographs of them in action and post them prior to having the company perform the drills. This creates buy-in. Obtain their feedback on how the drills can be improved.

7. Identify facilitators (instructors and/or mentors) and have them master the drills while troubleshooting any problems. This is the beta test. Now they are ready to begin teaching!

8. Start the drills.

9. All drills should be performed in the appropriate PPE. You are trying to get crews comfortable in their gear when operating at the scene of an emergency. It also will assist in acclimatizing personnel for inclement weather. Do not forget rehab!

10. Have each company pair up with another company in an adjoining district to practice and master the drills. Your facilitator, company officer, or chief should set up these training sessions. If meeting on the line between districts, keep one unit in service for response or use a reserve apparatus.

11. Have your mentors and/or instructors meet during regular intervals to review the training and teaching points. This is continuous quality improvement.

12. Publish each company’s drill times in a public area (the TargetSolutions platform is a great tool for this). This builds pride and competitiveness.

13. Document and share lessons learned. Explore new ideas and techniques.

14. Once all of the training is completed, develop the department performance standard and demand each company meet it. Require monthly training on the standards then supervisors should quarterly spot-check and regulate annual performance standard testing.

You will see dramatic improvement in basic skills if you use this approach. I sure did!

About the Author
Bill Sturgeon is a retired division chief of training for the Orange County Fire Rescue Department in Florida. Sturgeon was a 30-year veteran of the United States Fire Service. During his career, he served as a volunteer, military, municipal, and county firefighter and held many positions, including paramedic, EMS supervisor, company officer (special operations), safety officer, battalion chief, assistant chief and division chief. He is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy.

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.

Read more

The Power of CRM: Collective Situational Awareness

Blog by Paul LeSage
Author of ‘Crew Resource Management: Principles and Practice’

The trauma call was going smoothly. Emergency responders Kyla and Nick were communicating well with the paramedics, and the 46-year-old male patient had just been successfully intubated based on all clinical and technical indicators.

The veteran Nick asked Kyla if she wanted to take over care of the patient while he drove. Kyla felt confident, but wary. She would be in the back with a very senior fire medic named Jeff, who was known as a demanding, but excellent clinician. Giving Nick a nod yes, the care was verbally transferred and Kyla climbed into the back of the ambulance with Jeff for the 12-minute trip to the Trauma Center.

Within three minutes, the patient began bucking the ET tube, and Jeff, who was managing the patients airway, called Kyla to give 2.5 of Versed. As Kyla drew up the Versed, she became distracted by her hospital report. Pulling out one vial of Versed, she grabbed a 3cc syringe and pulled the entire 2 millimeters into the syringe.

Dropping that vial, she quickly grabbed a second one and drew up another 0.5 ml, wiped off the IV port, and pushed the meds. The patient quickly became quiet and stopped fighting the ET tube, and as she prepared to put the syringe into the sharps container Jeff blurted out, “How much Versed did you just give?”

“2.5, as you requested,” she stated, suddenly self conscious.

“2.5 milligrams, or 2.5 millimeters?” asked Jeff.

“Well, I guess I gave 2.5 millimeters,” Kyla said, suddenly realizing she gave several times the therapeutic dose.

When the agencies involved in this particular incident conducted an analysis of the events, there were several surprises.

In teaching Crew Resource Management (CRM), one of the most powerful lessons that can be communicated involves the responsibility that every team member has to speak up if they perceive a discontinuity in how events are unfolding.

Several studies have demonstrated that good teams are always striving for coherence, described as clear communication where everyone is on the same page.

An important component is the realization that every team member sees things a little differently. It turns out that regardless of the uniformity of your training and education, it’s our experiences that form the basis of our interpretations about how events unfold and what actions to take when compressed for time.

This means team members are constantly striving for common ground, which can be defined as those cues, signs, symptoms, and strategies that are easily agreed upon within the team. However, when we see a team member diverge from what we believe is appropriate, there is a sudden rift, or tear on the fabric of common ground. Often, our response is one of anger or frustration. Why can’t they see they are taking the wrong action? What is wrong with them?

Studies on human behavior demonstrate our level of assertiveness will be predicated on how comfortable we are within the team, how much perceived expertise the person making the decision has, whether they outrank us in the official agency hierarchy or by experience (novice vs. veteran), and our own intrinsic comfort with managing conflict.

Surprisingly, in a study of several hundred clinical, dispatch, and technical errors, more than 74 percent of the time a team member (or members) observed a problem or overt error at the moment it occurred. But unfortunately, no one spoke up to try and correct the situation. In CRM, we know this as there are two ways to say yes, and only one way to say no.

Essentially, if you say nothing, even when you suddenly lose common ground, you have said, Yes, I agree to the actions taken by a team member.

One goal of CRM is to help us overcome the barriers associated with speaking up, and learn how to intervene effectively, which involves respectful behavior and assertive engagement.

During the incident outlined above, the veteran medic Jeff realized that when he saw Kyla pull out a 3cc syringe, it bothered him. He had been taught to minimize just this type of error with Versed by using a one cc syringe. He wasn’t paying close attention when she drew up the Versed, and Kyla admitted that she lost concentration when distracted by the radio report.

Of several valuable findings, two stand out as being common in these types of incidents. One, medication, once given, cannot generally be withdrawn. Once in, it’s in. This means we must pay close attention, particularly if we are veteran operators, to every step of the administration process.

Clearly state doses out loud, use specific language, and repeat. Secondly, when there is a tear in the fabric of your common ground, you have a responsibility to speak up respectfully and assertively. When Jeff saw the 3cc syringe, he should have said something.

Remember the power of CRM is collective situational awareness and there are always two ways to say yes, and only one way to effectively say I disagree.

About the Author
Paul LeSage worked for 29 years at Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue in Oregon, and for seven years at Life Flight in Portland, Ore. He retired as the Chief of Operations in January, 2010, and has more than 33 years of experience as a firefighter, paramedic, and flight paramedic. Paul has co-authored a popular new book on Crew Resource Management, along with several Fire and EMS Field Guides.

Great Attitudes Lead to Great Things

Blog by Tim Holman
Chief, German Township Fire & EMS

There are many books and studies that say attitude is the most important element of an individuals success. This is especially true for those of us in the emergency medical services. It doesn’t matter how skilled an EMS provider might be, if they have a bad attitude, the care they deliver will suffer.

Ask yourself a question, would you want to be treated by a surgeon that has a bad attitude? Of course not.

Some may argue it doesn’t matter what type of attitude a person has, as long as they are skilled nothing else matters. But consider the fact that negative feelings determine our outlook on situations.

If a surgeon responds to a severe trauma victim with a negative attitude, should they be looking at the victim with an optimistic or a pessimistic view? Don’t fool yourself into thinking it doesn’t matter. It does matter and it matters a great deal.

Negative thinking, spawned by negative attitudes, leads to negative behaviors. The EMS providers’ behavior at an emergency scene is first impacted by the attitude, then the behavior. The behavior is the type of care he/she delivers to the patient.

Have you ever heard someone say, “he is a great paramedic, but he has a bad attitude?” The truth is there is no way a paramedic can be great if they have a bad attitude. The bad attitude cancels out the skills the individual may possess.

Great paramedics have great attitudes to go along with great skill. Most EMS systems will tell you the majority of complaints from patients have to do with the EMS providers’ attitude and seldom with patient care.

Every day EMS providers have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. No, it is not pleasant to be called out at 2 a.m. for a patient who has been sick for three days. Drunks, overdoses and uncooperative patients are difficult. But if they are approached with a positive attitude, the interaction will go much smoother for both the patient and the EMT.

Remember in EMT class when they told all of us we would have these types of patients? Well, we chose to be EMTs anyway. Now we have a responsibility to be the best EMTs we can. The only way to do that is to perfect our skills and our attitudes.

Don’t let negative people around you determine your attitude. Attitude is a choice. Choose a good one. It means you look at each patient and ask yourself, how can I make things better for this person? Do I really care? Great EMTs care. They care about the patient, the community in which they serve, their co-workers and the organization in which they work, and their attitude reflects it.

As an EMT you are a role model. You are there to serve your community, provide the best care possible for the sick and injured, and meet adversity with a positive outlook. You have a responsibility to reflect confidence and compassion. You are a problem solver and people listen to you because you have a positive attitude.

Recently an EMT transported an elderly patient to the hospital. He said the patient appeared frightened and lonely. She had no family and was being admitted for treatment and tests. The EMT went down to the gift shop, purchased some flowers and took them back to the patient. The woman smiled for the first time during the transport and thanked the EMT repeatedly. His attitude made a difference for this patient. Sometimes the best treatment doesnt come from needles and medication. Sometimes the best treatment comes from a caring attitude. Great attitudes always lead to great things!

Train for Adaptation It Will Pay Off

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

One of the most essential things we do as firefighters is Train for Adaptation. This helps us be ready for any situation.

Keep in mind, firefighters never really encounter identical incidents. Its true some have similarities, but each has its own unique twist. Thats why its critical we are capable of adapting spontaneously when a new challenge presents itself.

I recently spent several days with Chief David Rhodes of the Atlanta Fire Department during the Georgia Smoke Divers Course, which is based on a few items I believe are pertinent to any firefighter wishing to survive. The first item is paying attention to details. If we neglect the details, we can find ourselves in serious trouble.

As the accident triangle shows, small acts of omission today turn into major injuries and fatalities tomorrow. Examples of these small things include inspecting your turnout gear and SCBA and ensuring your tools are safe. As the saying goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Once on scene, paying attention to details will give you clues where the fire is or may be going. In addition, looking for details should be applied to all incidents regardless of nature.

The second item heavily covered was the topic of knowing your own limitations and your equipments limitations. Do you know the length of time you can perform a strenuous level of work in gear and breathing air? Could this dictate your decisions on scene? Absolutely.

Ask yourself, if I was trapped inside a structure, would I give up because I am tired or would I dig as deep as I could to self extricate? One might argue they’d never give up when it’s concerning life or death, but how many people die 5 feet from the door trying to get out?

So, how do you truly know what you are capable of? Have you ever prepared for this type of mental and physical test? The greatness of this type of training is testing your limitations and not just hoping you can rise to the occasion.

All of the training that took place during the courses six days was based on the concept of Training for Adaptation. The first two items discussed, were meant to build a foundation. The third item was making decisions in different training scenarios. Hands on training with heat, fire, smoke and chaos impacting decisions.

The major factor for me was answering the question, can I do it when I’m mentally and physically exhausted? The training scenarios were beyond any training program I’d ever attended.

It’s important to remember when training, you need to train for what you are going to face. Do not allow yourself to become complacent with your skills. Practice picking out details by conducting simulations and pay attention to the minute nuances of a building. Inspect your gear, tools, and equipment on a daily basis. Discuss this with your crew. Once your gear is inspected, drill wearing all of your gear. And know your limitations.

One of the training items at my station is based around gear acclimation and simply developing a tolerance for the change in temperature from winter to summer. There is an absolute noticeable difference when a firefighter is acclimated to an environment. It’s important to know how your body works.

Try to practice drills that require you to think about how you would mitigate a situation. If you practice extricating a down firefighter, change the location and situation each time. It will require you to think. As with any training, critique afterward on how to perform more efficiently next time.

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.

Ward has an associates degree in fire science and a Fire Safety and Technology Engineering Bachelors Degree from the University of Cincinnati. He is the founder of the website, and Georgia Smoke Diver #741.

TargetSafety is Now TargetSolutions

TargetSafety, the U.S. leader in online training and records management solutions for municipalities including fire, EMS, and other public entities, is pleased to announce its name change to TargetSolutions effective immediately.

Since our inception in 1999, we have strived to make life easier for those professionals who serve us all. Over that time, municipalities and public entities have increasingly been forced to do more with less. As a result, we have worked hard to find new solutions that can help our clients run their departments and organizations more efficiently.

First started as an online safety training company, then expanding over the years to support the first responder community, TargetSolutions offers a wide variety of web-based solutions that provide our partners the means to reduce costs, streamline operations, and improve productivity. We believe the name change to TargetSolutions more clearly articulates that message and resonates better with our clients.

“The name TargetSolutions reflects who we are and what we do more effectively,” said Vice President Thomas Woodward. “Our technology platform is very flexible and solves problems beyond safety training. We’re dedicated to serving our clients and helping them save time and money.

“The exercise of changing our name has helped to reaffirm our commitment to helping fire, EMS, police and other municipalities and public entities control their budgets and increase productivity. As part of our core philosophy, we promise that will never change. We are the same technology solutions provider you’ve come to know and trust, with a name and logo that better reflects our commitments and range of services in all the markets we serve.”

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.