The fire service has an unhealthy obsession with meeting “minimum standards” or “minimum training requirements”. Formal fire training course curricula is based on meeting the topic’s applicable minimum standard. The standards and the respective formal training courses are designed to be the baseline, a foundation for future training. Instead, departments use them as training end-goals for which personnel must achieve in order to be qualified for certain duties or positions. Firefighters may then focus their attention solely on meeting these goals, and the actual learning suffers. When did it become acceptable for the minimum to be our target?
The minimum should not be the preferred level of training. Would you want a minimally trained surgeon to operate on you? Replace ‘minimum’ with its synonym ‘least’ and we can see how it may give some a false sense of security.
“The LEAST amount of knowledge, skills, and abilities required
(for a job that can kill you).”
Let’s take a look at formal fire training designed to meet a minimum standard:
-Death by PowerPoint
-Memorization rather than understanding
-A brief demonstration of the skills
-A brief time spent practicing the skills under perfect conditions
-A ‘check the box’ skills test performed under perfect conditions
This training is designed to be entry level, and if used as such, it serves its purpose well. However, fire departments should not ‘hang their hat on’ their firefighters meeting this minimum. Fire departments that do not follow this training up with department-specific training and routine company drills are failing their firefighters and the citizens of their community. If a firefighter’s training does not reflect the realism of actual fire grounds, they will have no training to fall back on when shit goes awry.
It is up to individual fire departments to provide customized and applicable training to their personnel, beyond the minimum. This training should be realistic and challenging, and should also reflect how the specific department operates on fire grounds. A fire department’s goal should not be to mandate their members meet some arbitrary minimum, rather they should identify the specific training required for their personnel to be competent in their duties, so they may be truly trained commensurate to what they are expected to perform.
The minimum training standards alone do not meet the minimum expectations the public has of us. No citizen wants minimally trained firefighters responding to their life or death emergency. They want and deserve maximally trained firefighters.
What is a maximally trained firefighter?
There is no such thing. Yet we must commit ourselves to an infinite pursuit of it.
As a firefighter your goal should not be to acquire certificates or certifications. While completing any course is an achievement, it is only one possible route to take toward achieving the ultimate goal of this infinite pursuit of learning. Achievement alone does not equal fulfillment. Instead, your goal should be to learn daily, continuously bettering yourself. This culture of self-betterment should also include physical fitness, knowledge comprehension through self-study, and skill competency. By existing in this constant mode of self-betterment we are positioned to be able to offer the citizens what they deserve – our best effort.
Take care of your firefighters and they will take care of the citizens.