When discussing the future of training in the fire service and how technology plays a part, Chief Keith Bryant of the Oklahoma City Fire Department put it very simply: “This is the future.”
Prior to implementing TargetSolutions in January of 2016, Bryant and his staff were unanimous in selecting the powerful management software as a go-to solution for all of its training needs. Needless to say, the results were almost immediate.
Gone are the days of battalion chiefs having to ascend through mountainous summits of paperwork. We’ve entered an era of streamlined recordkeeping that has culminated into the highly coveted Class 1 ISO rating for the full-service metro department with TargetSolutions’ ISO Training Tracker.
“Our training records are much improved so we’re better at capturing training at the station level than ever before,” Bryant said of his department’s Class 1 ISO rating. “It’s one of those pieces of technology that makes us better at what we do. This was something we needed for a long time and we’ve seen immediate improvements.”
“The mass data that you have to collect and give to ISO for their rating, that’s more readily available. With TargetSolutions it’s better, more accurate.”
Chief Keith Bryant, Oklahoma City Fire Department
Consisting of 877 uniformed firefighters, the Oklahoma City Fire Department responds to more than 70,000 annual calls, 70 percent of which are medical emergencies. However, even as fires continue to decline, the need for consistent quality training has never been higher. Complacency, an all too familiar foe, threatens to set in if firefighters aren’t consistently training to sharpen their skills during downtime.
“The less we do our jobs, the more we need to train,” declared Bryant.
Program Analyst and Business Manager Clint Regier, who aids in managing the department’s use of TargetSolutions, echoed a similar sentiment and stressed the need for a program that personnel would buy into.
“We have control over what it looks like, what we put in there, how we build activities,” Regier said. “The selling point of TargetSolutions is that it’s easy to use and easy to modify and there’s a lot of flexibility in the platform.”
To assist in the transition as well as working toward a Class 1 ISO rating, Regier developed a comprehensive three-point plan that was geared to maximize every facet of the platform.
Point 1 – Full-time Recordkeeping: Ensure that everything that needs to be recorded is indeed tracked. Rig inspections, physical fitness, training activities; employees need to be accountable for tasks they’re expected to do.
Point 2 – Training Strategy: Create and implement a training strategy utilizing the various avenues provided by the platform. This is an ongoing process and while Regier maintains that there is still a ways to go, the ability to track and record data as well as delivering information is vastly improved.
Point 3 – Intermittent Tracking: As with every department, special circumstances will always pop up. For example, the department employs two fitness trainers who help employees achieve their health goals; this needs to be tracked.
“There are so many different variables and situations (firefighters) prepare for,” said Regier. “The training that’s required to understand those different situations and the availability of the information to pick it up whenever they need to know it, having a platform like TargetSolutions to get that information in front of their eyes in an instant is going to be critical to the evolution of firefighting.”
Seeking buy-in from a department of nearly 1,000 personnel to enter a brave new world of technological innovation is no easy task. Despite this obstacle, both Bryant and Regier reported a smooth transition and positive reception.
“Obviously there were some people who were skeptical in the beginning,” said Regier. “But every time someone walks down to administration, I’ll ask them how it’s going and 100 percent across the board everyone says it took a minute, but once they realized they’re putting everything in there, it’s really easy for them to use.”
Drawing on his nearly 40 years of experience in the fire service, Bryant views the future of firefighter training as a reflection of the past. “You’ve never seen a major event here in this country that didn’t initiate a lesson learned or something that we had to change with our training methods or practices,” said Bryant. “I can only speak for Oklahoma City, but our approach to firefighting is smarter now than we’ve ever been and a lot of that has to do with the escalation and use of technology in our work.
“Obviously, training and education, I have to put those two together, as they’ve been a great part of that.”
President Donald Trump recently announced his intent to appoint Chief Bryant as head of the U.S. Fire Administration, a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency that oversees federal firefighting programs.