Ok. I have a small (actually big) situation on my department, and I'm looking for some input from others. I'm sharing Training Officer duties with another member, and since we've started it seems that our training regime has gone for a tumble (I work shift work, and out of town, so I'm not always around). Participation is low, and the other ffs just don't seem as interested as they used too. I'm looking for any and all advice on how to keep things running smoothly.

As it is, we have 28 members on our department. More then half of which have less then 3 years experience (we have a high turn over rate).

Any words of wisdom will be greatly appreciated.

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Well Sarah, it seem I happen to know a little about just what you are going through. I am the training officer in a volunteer fire dept and work for full time at a paid dept in metro atlanta and I see alot of the same problems in both of my depts. The best advice I can give you is this. Start at the top... If you don't have the support from the top down, you are doomed to fail because you have been put into a position where you cannot properly function in if you are not supported. By this I mean have the chief publicly stress the importance and take part in the training when he/she can. Get with the other officers one on one and ask them for their help in training (They may have the notion/view that they feel left out or what can she teach me that I don't already know). Be prepaired to respond to this type of negitativety by stressing the importance of the senior officers working with junior/rookie firefighters. Let them know that you realize that they may know or be profiecent in the training topic and that their input is welcome. Second, don't rely on one type of training. Mix up your training between classroom and hands on. If the training cannot be accomplished in one training night, look for ways to have weekend training by rewarding those who attend with lunch provided by the department or other incentive awards like most improved or most deciated plaques as examples. This is a inexpensive way to motivate some but not all of your members. You will always have one or two that you will not be able to reach. Don't waste your time and effort on these members and do focus on the ones who are attending and training. Third, when conducting hands on training lead from the front as much as possible. By this I mean don't just instruct how or why we do this training but actulally do the training with the members. I know that sometimes you won't be able to do this due to needing to supervise the training and so fourth but it goes a long way when the people your are training see that you are not just a "do as I say" but a "do as I do" training officer. And finially, relate your training whenever possible to a reality referance to why this training is important. Show an MPEG or download a video form the internet or net work with other training officer to see what they can offer you, so that your members can see for themselves what the lack of training can lead too. Research fire web site for mishaps and related incidents for the training topic like firefighterclosecalls.com and others. If you are covering ventilation and they see the video of the 3 Az firefighters falling through the roof, it will have a more direct link for the members to connect the importance of this training. Feel free to reply back for discussion or help. I hope this will help you with you.

Sincerely,

Lt. Kevin Milton
Training Officer
City of Gray Fire Department
when we have our training night the same 10 people show up. thats sad cause we have almost 50 active ff on our departement but what can ya do its a 100% vollie departement so we can't make it manditory to attend. we just change the content of our training sessions from month to month and see who shows up.
Ok..I can relate, as I was training officer on my last department. We had trouble getting people to show up as well. We tried various methods..offering a meal after training, voting on a new policy that everyone had to put in a number of hours to remain on the department..none of it worked because there was really no way to enforce it. What seemed to really work was to call a mandatory meeting(with food-so they all came..lol) and then to drive home the point that people were depending on us for their lives. And then to allow each person to speak on what types of training they would like to see. The final part of this solution was to divide the fire department into groups and assigne them a truck to learn (including all of the equipment on it) Those members that claimed to feel "confident" in all aspects were put into leadership roles. What happened was that they discovered very quickly that there were areas that they needed to improve, and being put inot a position to teach the others caused them to seek the answers, which seemed to show those who were not as experienced that the continuing need to train was important. Before we knew it we were having near a full roster show up to the trainings because of their obligation within their smaller groups and the new found knowledge that they didn't know it all as well as they thought, as well as more one on one training. So, by shifting the task of training onto them, they actually developed more of a desire to learn more. Also each group would report on what they had learned at each scenario to the whole department at the end of each training, this really helped the entire department grow together, and what we saw happening was that they were learning to work together between trucks as well, and support each other in that respect as well. Good luck! It is a difficult task..but a worthy one!
A lot of the training is required these days. And these members need to be held responsible. Useta department would put those who fell behind in training 45 days on Administrative Leave of Abscence after a warning letter was issued after 30 days.

From the legal standpoint, your department can be held legally responsible for not having these people current on their training and still responding. If these people are becoming more complacent in willingness to train, they shouldn't be there. Are they just there for the t-shirt?

You shouldn't be having to entice people to come to train.
One of my mentors wrote, "The next time you're on a call at 0330 and complain about not getting to sleep, remember; you don't have to be here. You get to be here."

We are lucky to be in the positions that we are in. Each one of us has made sacrifices to get here. And there are countless others out there just waiting for the same chance.

A lot of the training is mind-numbingly boring, but a lot of it can be fun. Find the balance.

bam
I couldnt agree with you more bam, i think people shouldn't be there if they dont want to put in the effort. I personally cant understand it because i jump at every opportunity to learn something new. I want to be the best I can be and know what i am doing, but the trouble with smaller volunteer departments is that you end up with not as many options when it comes to members. When we were looking at letting people go because they werent coming to trainings, we had to weigh the liability they posed to the department to there not being enough people to fight the fire. It is a difficult situation for sure..will you whittle the department down to the 4 or 5 people that are actually going to the trainings, or will you keep the handful that have been trained, but slack off on the trainings? On one hand they could be more of a hazard on the scene, on the other at least they can roll and connect hose... What are you supposed to do if the people aren't there to fill the boots?
I'm going to paraphrase some numbers from a recent article in Firehouse Magazine so these numbers aren't completely accurate. Volunteer staffing in NY state is down about 33%. PA some whopping number like 78%.
With households having to rely more on multiple incomes, people are becoming less apt to volunteer because that is time away from work and therefore lost income.
Right this moment I don't have any definitive answers but communities are going to have to figure something out.
Check out the article if you can. I'm definitely not doing it juctice here. Aug, Sept or Oct issue. Pretty sure it was Oct's. I'll try to find it tomorrow and see about a link or something.

*(Okay it's October's issue, but nothing will be available online yet. Here's the article title though: Help Wanted! - Barry Furey discusses recruitment and retention problems in volunteer department staffing.)
bam
cool thanks bam! i'll try and find the article when i get a chance.
Hey! Awesome! Thanks for the replies everyone! I'll have to delve into them a little more thoroughly when I'm not so tired, lol, but everything I see looks great! I'm sure I'll definitely be able to use a few things you've suggested, and it seems I've been thinking along the same lines in a few certain aspects.

I'll probably reply back later with things I want to try and do in the future. Keep 'em coming if there anymore ideas/thoughts out there; as its very muchly appreciated!
As a Training Officer, what I do to help out. Is make up a list of topics and then ask for those to put there names down who would be interested. Mention that those who do select a topic. I will add there name to it, from this point I state the dates of each training. For our dept. we train on the first and third Wed. of each Month.

As I too work shift work, I find that a Training Officer does not have to do all the training and can place some of the training on others. As you use your resources, to the best of your ability. This also helps out with others getting to understand the work that goes behind it. I will help out each of the firefighters with finding information.

Another thing I find, since your dealing with about the same number of firefighers as what I do. I split it up so, it's just not one topic. There might be four different stations that they have to go through. This prevents those hidding in the back ground and just chatting.

We have even set up games as mini-competitions, so that the groups learn but as well have some fun. It's a tough job and you may get a lot of greif from those who do not like changes. But sometimes change is good... Good luck....
My numbers were only slightly off.
NY - 31%
PA - 76%

Definitely check out the article if/when you can. The author is looking for input on this very same topic.
Sarah,

I am the Asst. Chief and Training officer of my 150 member combination dept. I have found that as another poster mentioned you need the support from the top. If your chiefs arn't comming to training and leaving you holding the bag, shame on them. Training is everyones responsability. I have put that sentence to good use by involving my Capt.'s and Lt.'s in planning and executeing drills. It is also the responsability of 2 line officers from seperate company's to prepare a family style meal each month for our membership after drill. Since taking on training I have seen a 20% increase each month in attendance. You must remember however that it is important to have a job for every member to do during a drill and to keep everyone busy. Firefighters don't want to come to a drill and sit around watching others do the work so get everyone involved. Make sure to include safety at the begining of every drill, and try sneaking in your mandatory OSHA stuff from time to time even if it's only a 5 min leason durring some down time between stations. Don't try to be a marter and take this on by yourself put responsability on everyone and you should see a rise in attendance. No guarantee's though.
yes you can make it manditory, you can set-up some kind of SOG/SOP that states each member must make x number of drills per year or whatever you want to do. just because its all volunteer doesnt mean you cant make it manditory.

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