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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fire Ground Survival Training

Personnel from the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department are participating in a Train the Trainer program at the Fire/EMS Training Academy (FETA) in Cheltenham.  This training is actually a beta test for aprogram that will be taught around the Country.  The training program, “Fire Ground Survival” is designed to teach firefighters how to survive on the fire ground and is presented by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). Fire service instructors from around the Country and Canada are providing instruction during the 3-day training program which will conclude on Friday, March 26, 2010.

The IAFF began developing the Fire Ground Survival training program in December, 2007 to ensure that training for MAYDAY prevention and MAYDAY operations are consistent between all fire fighters, company officers, and Chief Officers. Fire fighters must be trained to perform potentially life saving actions if they become lost, disoriented, injured, low on air, or trapped. These training exercises must be consistent throughout the fire service. Traditionally in the fire service we train for success. We are taught how to put out a fire or mitigate other hazards, but what we haven't done is train our fire fighters for when we get in trouble and failure does occur. Our guiding philosophy has been that fire fighters must be trained in and practice a standard set of skills and procedures they can rely on when things do go wrong.

Funded by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and assisted by a grant from the United States Department of Homeland Security through the Assistance to Fire Fighters Grant Program (AFG), the IAFF's comprehensive Fire Ground Survival training program applies the lessons learned from the Fire Fighter Fatality Investigations conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and is being developed by a committee of subject matter experts from the IAFF, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and NIOSH.

This initiative relies on the experiences that our members have faced on the fire ground so fire fighters in the same situation will be able to perform standard, potentially life saving actions if they become lost, disoriented, injured, low on air or trapped.

Through classroom and hands-on exercises, the Fire Ground Survival training program provides materials on Preventing a Mayday, Being Ready for the Mayday, Fire Fighter Self Survival Procedures, Fire Fighter Self Survival Skills, Skills Necessary to Self Rescue, and Fire Fighters Expectations of Command.

By February, 2008, the IAFF had completed most of the program content and began working on an outline for video production to support the course materials. In May of 2008, they began video production to support this program at the Warner Brothers Studios in California. Over the next several months, video segments were edited and the students and facilitator manuals were created.

In September, 2008, the Fire Ground Survival Committee began conducting beta classes to test and evaluate the curriculum and the delivery methods. To date, beta tests of the class have been conducted in New York, Los Angeles County, Austin, TX, Tucson, AZ, Frederick County, Maryland and now, Prince George's County, Maryland. These classes included members from more than 30 IAFF affiliates. Feedback from these beta classes was used to update the curriculum and enhance the quality of the program. The program was also highlighted at the IAFF's 2009 John P. Redmond Symposium.

The next step in the development of this program is determine the best delivery method to provide the greatest access while maintaining the quality of instruction and most importantly, providing the highest degree of safety. The IAFF is currently evaluating various methods of providing the classroom portion as an online or distant learning module where members can progress through the curriculum on their own pace.

The IAFF's final challenge is the hands-on or practical evolutions. To provide the proper supervision and safety requires a significant instructor to student ratio. Accordingly, the IAFF is developing procedures and course instructions to make the program available to all members with minimal costs and without compromising quality and safety.

The IAFF is confident that the entire program and the delivery system will be established and available by the summer of 2010.

Retired PGFD Battalion Chief James Brinkley, now the Director of the Department of Occupational Health and Safety for the IAFF was instrumental in allowing the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department to be one of the beta test sites. One of the factors that proved to be a significant influence on this decision was the fact that we have 36 recruit fire fighters will begin the fire fighting portion of their career recruit school training on April 5. The direction that the Administrative Services Command and the leadership at the Fire/EMS Training Academy wants to focus on is not just "saving your own" but as this training provides, how to avoid getting into a precarious and dangerous predicament by recognizing the warning signs in advance. It seemed appropriate to begin the training of our personnel by incorporating this very important topic into the career recruit school to evaluate the various delivery methods and training concepts and get "in-house" feedback on how to make this training successful for the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department, its career employees and volunteer members.

Eighteen personnel, spanning all experience levels and ranks within the Department, are involved in the Train-the-Trainer portion of the Fire Ground Survival program. It is our goal that once this training program is implemented, the cadre of instructors is comfortable with instructing this material, and all props and resources are in place, an in-service training program will commence at the FETA for all personnel and members. The anticipated start date of this delivery is sometime this summer.

Prince George’s County Fire Chief Eugene Jones feels this is an excellent training opportunity and is proud of the personnel taking advantage of this opportunity. He stated, “This is a fantastic opportunity for the entire Fire/EMS Department. I commend Acting Lt Colonel Steve Hess, commander of the Administrative Services Command and FETA staff for undertaking this project with great zeal and to IAFF Local 1619 President Andrew Pantelis for helping to bring this class to our County.” He concluded by saying, “This training will improve our chances of everyone going home after every call.”