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Want to know an easy way to judge the quality of a fire department? Look at how much they train. Career, volunteer or combination, fire departments become successful through training. Yet all training is not equal. Focus too much on hands-on training (HOT) and you could be missing important legal and compliance updates. Lean heavily on web-based training and you may fail to identify shortcomings in skills proficiencies. Keep students confined to a classroom and you may lose their interest quickly. Not surprisingly, a balance of all three types of training is needed to produce competent, empowered firefighters. For this article, I was challenged to think about what’s missing from our current fire training programs. As I thought about the varied way we approach fire training, three issues jumped out at me. Base training on facts and statistics Take advantage of new technologies Incorporate policy into your training Your training program should also be strong in the types of calls you respond to most Base Training On Facts And Statistics If your department has a robust training program, outlined by a calendar of various topics and employing a mix of HOT, online and classroom training, you’re ahead of the curve. But even in departments with well-developed training programs, training is often based on preference or habit, not data. Think about the topics in your training program. Do you know why they’re included? Do they match your call make-up? Are they targeting specific skill shortcomings? (And yes, we all have them!)What’s missing from many fire department training programs is a detailed needs assessment What’s missing from many fire department training programs is a detailed needs assessment that in turn establishes a factual basis for the year’s training topics. The needs assessment should include: Surveying the members to determine the types of training they want or feel they need. Measuring firefighter proficiency on basic tasks, such as NFPA 1403 drills, NFPA 1710 drills and EMS patient assessment skills audits, to assess personnel by mandate or by industry best practice. This will identify skills deficiencies to address through training. Incorporating call volume statistics and details. A significant percentage of the calls fire departments respond to are EMS and vehicle extrication But I’d venture to guess the training programs of most departments don’t match those percentages. Yes, you need to train for the high-risk, low-frequency tasks. But your training program should also be strong in the types of calls you respond to most. Incorporating these “facts and stats” into your training program will help you keep it fresh, relevant and interesting. Firefighters can use their phones and tablets to access department training information and complete training assignments Take Advantage Of New Technologies There is something to be said for back-to-the-basics, keep-it-simple firefighter training. But it’s a mistake to ignore technological advances. From teaching safe apparatus backing procedures to practicing hoseline deployment and Vent/Enter/Isolate/Search (VEIS) tactics, instructors have more options than ever before. Some instructors regard simulators as second-rate to “the real thing.” Certainly, simulation and other forms of technology-driven instruction can’t replace the value of hands-on experience. But they can augment it in important ways. Driver simulators, for example, not only save money because apparatus don’t have to be taken out of service or sustain wear and tear; they also provide an environment where firefighters can learn without risk of injury. If sitting behind a computer isn’t your kind of thing, live-burn simulators, vehicle fire simulators and hazmat simulators are available—and they all significantly boost training efficiency.Technology will never replace hands-on instruction, but it can facilitate it But you don’t need fancy simulators to incorporate technology into your fire training program. Learning management systems (LMS) are another important tool that can increase training program efficiency. Although they’ve been around for a long time, LMS continue to improve. The ability to integrate with mobile devices is huge, allowing firefighters to use their phones and tablets to access department training information and complete training assignments. Leveraging this technology can allow you to more efficiently manage information, schedule training and free up valuable time needed for other important tasks. If you’ve attended some of the larger regional or national fire conferences recently, you may have had the opportunity to see audience response technology in action. By capturing the firefighters’ responses to questions in real-time, instructors can adjust the material to reflect students’ knowledge level. Audience response is also simply a great way to keep firefighters engaged. Technology will never replace hands-on instruction, but it can facilitate it. If you’re using training methods that haven’t changed in decades, something’s missing from your training program. Without incorporating policy into your training, you’re only giving your firefighters half the equation Incorporate Policy Into Your Training I saved the biggest and best for last. When I work with fire departments across the country, I repeatedly discover the failure to incorporate policy into training. Think about it: Training curricula are almost always designed around procedures—the how of doing something. But isn’t the why just as important? And that’s what policy is all about. Without incorporating policy into your training, you’re only giving your firefighters half the equation.Inevitably firefighters will encounter times when following the procedure isn’t possible Inevitably firefighters will encounter times when following the procedure isn’t possible. That’s when policy training kicks in—firefighters understand the fundamental objective, and they can think on their feet about how to achieve it. Training on policy also helps departments address the issues that so often get firefighters into trouble. How many of your firefighters really understand your department’s social media policy? What about the rules surrounding sick time usage? These are things that trip up firefighters time and time again. If you’re not training on policies, it’s unlikely firefighters remember them. How many of your firefighters really understand your department’s social media policy? In addition, normalization of deviance is a risk to every organization. When personnel fail to follow policies and no negative repercussions result, it can quickly establish a new normal. Policy-based training resets the “normal” and makes sure that members of the organization comply with the policy and not what they think the policy says.Most line-of-duty death reports cite failure to comply with policy or lack of adequate policy Fire instructors often avoid training on policy because they regard it as boring or unrelated to what really matters—firefighter safety and survival. Yet most line-of-duty death reports cite failure to comply with policy or lack of adequate policy as contributing factors in the incident. If you’re worried that policy will make your training program dry and uninteresting, link it to real-world events. An online search provides lots of examples of when things went wrong and how adherence to policy might have produced a different outcome. And limit policy training to small chunks. Take out a 10-page policy and go through it line by line, and your students’ eyes will glaze over in seconds. Instead, look for ways to enrich your current training by bringing relevant pieces of policy into it. Your firefighters will be learning the department’s policies without even realizing it! Focus On Continuous Improvement Fire chiefs and fire instructors have a challenging job. Budgets are tight, and training is often one of the first things to be cut. Yet we need firefighters to be proficient in all-hazards response. Every department has a long training wish list. But if we focus on continuous quality improvement, we can get a little better each year. Looking for opportunities to incorporate statistics, technology and policy into our training is a good place to start.
In communities of all sizes, fire crews are always in need of finding ways to improve preparedness and reduce risk. When fire departments use software systems that meet these needs, they stay safer and more informed on the scene. They also ensure that citizens stay safer during fire emergencies. Since the first organized response to a fire emergency began, firefighters have always made it a point to prevent injuries and minimize fire-related damage. However, since that time, technology has improved virtually everything about fire response, from the way crews get to the scene, to the information they have in transit about the emergency, to what they need to do upon arrival. This knowledge means fire crews no longer need to use three-ring binders full of documents to search for information. Instead, they use mobile data terminals (MDTs) and mobile fire software apps on smartphones, laptops, or tablets in their ladder trucks, fire engines, and other vehicles, which provide them with instant access to the data they need when it’s needed. Fire crews no longer need to use three-ring binders full of documents to search for information Mission critical data for emergencies MDTs work directly with a computer aided dispatch (CAD) system to show first responders information about an emergency. With this technology, mission-critical data with real-time information about an emergency is available for fire crews. Having this data on hand helps keep crews safe, protect citizens, and reduce the risk of catastrophic damage to the structure involved. For example, if fire crews respond to a structure fire and dispatchers receive information while on the call that the roof collapsed before crews arrival, fire crews are made aware of this information in real time. Any information dispatchers receive about the emergency is immediately available for fire crews using an MDT. Information included in an MDT includes location of hazardous chemicals on site, knowledge of any hazardous materials on site, owner contact information, building entrance points and floorplans, and hydrant location. Any information dispatchers receive about the emergency is immediately available for fire crews Advance planning for fire rescue MDTs are vital components to fire rescue. These ruggedized laptops are often mounted in a firetruck and crews communicate with one another regarding the data dispatchers share. When fire crews do not have access to an MDT, they rely upon radio transmissions, cell phones, and pagers to share information. Without a way to share this information in transit, fire crews create attack plans on the scene. This results in more time being spent planning rather than tackling the fire emergency, which could result in more damage and injuries or loss of life. For instance, fires double in size every 30 seconds. When technology can be leveraged so fire crews can create an attack plan while in transit, they reduce risk on the scene. Advanced planning helps each member of the crew know what he or she is doing on the scene based on their roles. Mobile communication apps Another way fire crews improve preparedness and reduce risk in a fire response is through the use of a mobile fire software application that can be used on smartphones, laptops, and tablets, and works seamlessly with MDTs. Mobile apps help bridge the gap between the communication received from dispatch to all members of a fire crew Mobile apps help bridge the gap between the communication received from dispatch to all members of a fire crew. Plus, with a mobile app that knows who’s using the device, it can automatically populate the information the user needs based on the location of the user and the user’s role. That means personalized information is delivered as it is needed, which helps crew members to begin their attack plans before arriving on the scene. Crews that use mobile apps arrive on the scene better prepared to attack the fire immediately, thereby saving time and reducing risk. Another benefit of using mobile fire apps is that they are less costly than other software solutions, which helps fire departments purchase more for crews. Many fire departments use MDTs and mobile fire apps so that crews are well-equipped with informational tools. With this opportunity to arrive more prepared on the scene, fire crews can reduce risk to themselves and those involved in the emergency. Vital information is placed into the hands of crew members no matter where they are in the rig, ladder truck, or fire engine Accessible information for fire crews Both mobile fire apps and MDTs work together to harness the power of CAD and bring it directly to fire crews. Vital information is placed into the hands of crew members no matter where they are in the rig, ladder truck, or fire engine. Plus, mobile fire apps can be used by volunteer firefighters, which helps ensure they are as connected to details about the emergency as possible. Another benefit of technology in the world of firefighting is that mobile fire apps and MDTs can work together Another benefit of technology in the world of firefighting is that mobile fire apps and MDTs can work together. While both harness the power of CAD and bring it directly to fire crews, an app is more accessible for crews in the back of the rig or ladder truck. Fire crews using both have vital routing information, data regarding the structure involved, pre-plans, history, access to their own maps, and anything else that enhances contextual awareness for crews. Considerations when purchasing mobile data terminals The most important thing for fire departments to consider before purchasing an MDT or mobile app is this: Ensure that the software allows for users to take their own CAD information, so they can extend its functionality. These fire software systems should also be intuitive so that they know who is using it and what information they need. They should also be hands-free and understand spoken commands and have the capacity to take those commands and escalate to the next level. By making use of the software systems available to fire departments, crews experience a better use of their time, access relevant information for all roles, and stay safer on the scene through better preparedness and risk reduction.
Workplace mobility is on the rise, which means organisations have an increasing number of employees who travel or work from home. In fact, there were 96.2 million mobile workers in 2015 and IDC predicts that mobile workers will account for nearly three quarters (72.3 percent) of the total U.S. workforce by 2020. While the growth of mobile workers is a boon to productivity both inside and outside the workplace, it also creates unique communication challenges – especially in emergency situations. One of the major worries for an organisation is the safety of its employees, whether they’re on-site, at a different office location, on-the-road, in the field or in the air. When disaster strikes, organisations need to quickly communicate with their employees in case of a location-based event (active shooter, fire, explosion, natural disaster or terrorist attack) to help protect their safety and direct them to take specific actions. For example, if there are angry protesters in the same area an employee is travelling, it is important to be able to notify that person to keep them out of harm’s way. Employer Duty Of Care This leaves companies with a tough task – do you know where your people are at all times? How can employers fulfil their Duty of Care and ensure employees are safe in times of crisis, no matter where they are located? This is easier said than done. According to Ernst & Young’s latest Global Mobility Effectiveness Survey, only 30 percent of companies have a system in place for tracking business travellers. In addition, contractors, visitors and vendors are difficult to reach and account for when travelling in and around your facilities. But, with the help of timely location data collected from building access control systems, wifi access points, travel management systems and more, safety-conscious organisations can automatically keep employee locations current – even when employees are traveling or moving between buildings and campuses. In such instances, organisations can improve security preparedness and employee safety by harnessing location-based technologies that help them ensure they can send the right message at the right time The increasing regularity of critical events worldwide necessitates the need to locate and alert employees of any nearby risks at a moment’s notice. Dynamic location tracking and alerting has huge potential for safeguarding the well-being of mobile workers. Many organisations have started to integrate critical communication solutions with physical security systems to rapidly identify, communicate with and account for employees during these disruptive events. Everything from modest access control systems to sophisticated biometric systems can track specific employee movements When implementing location-aware alerting systems, it’s important for organisations to keep the following best practices in mind: Aggregate Location Data Across Multiple Systems The beauty of today’s digital world is that everything is connected and many of the devices and technologies we use on a daily basis transmit data instantaneously – meaning employee locations (or, at the very least, last known locations) can be automatically acquired. Everything from modest access control and badging systems to more sophisticated biometric systems that require fingerprint and facial recognition track specific employee movements between corporate buildings. Wi-Fi access points act similarly, providing location information linked to laptops, apps and other devices your employees connect to throughout your facilities. By tapping into these systems, companies can maintain a database of where their employees are and use that data for triggering automated incident communication for rostering, mustering and site evacuation purposes at the moment emergencies occur. Merge Travel Risk Management With Location Alerting But what about when someone is working remotely or travelling? Corporate travel management tools, and travel security services companies like International SOS, provide specific travel details and itineraries for individual employees – so you know where they’re traveling to, how they’re getting there (airplane, bus, train), as well as where they’ll be staying once they get there. Data doesn’t exist in a silo, so a good location alerting system will aggregate and store data from as many sources as possible. This enables organisations to locate and communicate with staff during global events and emergencies and help determine if they are safe or need assistance – no matter where they are. Again, this helps you meet your Duty of Care to keep your team safe at all times. Ensure Employee And Building Databases Are Accurate Location-based notification systems, from badging systems to Wi-Fi access points, need quality data that is up-to-date and accurate in order to effectively reach an organisation’s employee base. Traditional methods of importing data, including importing spreadsheets and call lists, just won’t cut it. While these sources important contact path information like landline numbers and addresses, they clearly lack the many other contact paths that employees will be most likely to notice right away while travelling, such as cellphones and email. Collecting correct and relevant contact data, such as personal or BYOD phones, can ensure that messages are received and responded to by relevant employees. The best communications systems are those that are multimodal and allow for two-way communications between the organisation and its employees Automate Communication And Collaboration Once location data is gathered and stored, it must be connected to an incident communications solution that can instantaneously distribute targeted alerts in the case of an emergency. The best communications systems are those that are multimodal and allow for two-way communications between the organization and its employees. When a location-based emergency occurs, the systems that can send messages to a targeted geographic region – whether that is a specific building, floor, neighborhood or zip code – instead of the entire employee directory, will be the most effective in ensuring the right messages are sent to the right people. Additionally, if recipients can acknowledge that a message was received, it allows organisations to identify who is safe – and who may still be in harm’s way and needs help. Every Minute Counts Let’s say a fire breaks out in a corporate building on the fifth floor and an emergency alert is sent out to all employees in the building. You know that three employees used their security badges to swipe in to that floor earlier that afternoon, but only one responded to your emergency alert. Because you have enabled two-way communications and expect responses from employees that are safe and unharmed, you now know that there is a very real possibility that the other two employees are incapacitated and could be in immediate danger. Building upon this idea, systems that enable employees to initiate communications are much more impactful in protecting their safety in location-based emergencies. If an employee finds him or herself in an active shooter situation, for example, panic button app capabilities are extremely valuable. Panic buttons have the capability of sending a message to an organisation’s security team – automatically transmitting the employee’s location, as well as any shared audio and video with just the push of a button. During critical events, man-made incidents or natural disasters, the ability to identify and reach employees with reliable, automated communications that harness geo-intelligent tools can not only protect your business assets, but can be the difference between life and death for your staff. Because every minute counts, you can’t afford to waste time searching spreadsheets, directories and schedules to notify your employees. Automated communications that utilise available location data enable organisations to connect with employees more effectively, helping to ensure their safety during critical events worldwide. Annie Asrari Director of Product Management Everbridge Article published courtesy SourceSecurity.com®, a division of Notting Hill Media Limited. 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