Look At The Instructors Before Blaming The Recruits!


For some time now on this website and many other forums the world over, there has been some pretty hot debates about the attitudes and skill levels of recruits and the "younger" generation entering the emergency services.

Well, I've got a newsflash for ya'!

Check out who's teaching 'em.

Even more importnantly, check out what they're being taught by these people.

By way of background, I run my own EMergency Management training and consultancy company. I spend my days teaching a wide range of OHS/HSE, Emergency Management and Business Continuity training courses to Industrial Emergency Response Teams (ERT's) as well as providing consultancy services to many industries including refineries, pharmaceutical, steel manufacturing, automotive and many others.

I also spend a large amount of my time doing the "sales" thing- convincing the potential client why they should use my company and our instructors to deliver their training.

What I have notived of recent times, is that it's actually getting easier to do this! (Not that I'm complaining!!!!)

Our instructors are coming across a whole range of interesting, unusual and in many cases, down right unsafe procedures being undertaken by the ERT's.

Here's a few examples-
One new client had been taught by their previous providers that ERT members should NOT do high pressure and low pressure tests, along with positive pressure tests on SCBA's as it consumes too much air.

Another client had been taught Confined Space Rescue by the same provider for over 5 years and no member had ever been taught, or heard of Threshold Limit Values (TLV's) such as Time Weighted Average (TWA), Short Term Exposure Limit (STEL) or Peak measurements.

Another client had been taught that their evacuation wardens (not sure if you guys in the States have these in your commercial buildings) had been taught by the local fire brigade how to do searches in smoke filled rooms and evacuate people, with no PPE on.

Finally (I could keep going with these examples if you really want me to!) on a recent fire extinguisher training course, there was a volunteer firefighter (12 years with the local fire brigade) and he'd NEVER been taught the classes of fire.


Now, last time I checked, all of these examples have one thing in common- people WILL DIE if they get this stuff wrong.

Failure to don a SCBA set correctly and ensure it's readiness coudl result in members entering a toxic atmosphere and being exposed to harmful levels of contaminants.

TLV's are there for a reason. The limits are set for a reason. Failure to abide by them could lead to either an acute or chronic reaction to the atmosphere.

The searching of a smoke filled building by non-trained civillians is a recipe for disaster- that's why we have fire brigades. That's why the fire brigades have correct PPE (Though it is debatable if they always wear it, or wear it correctly, but that's a whole new blog!!!) That's why the fire brigades train their members.

And finally, to put the wrong extinguishing agent on the wrong class of fire coudl result in either a disaterous spread of the fire or death.

It doesn't get much simpler than that.

So before we are too critical of the new recruits or other agencies in our area or we respond with, let's look at who's doing the teaching.

We must ask what qualifications do they have?

We must ask what experience do they have in the topic being taught?

We must ascertain what level of competency is being taught?

We must ask what timeframes the courses are being dleivered in? (And why?)

We must ask, what drives the client (substitute the word client with "service", "department", "agency", etc) to select the instructors they did? (ie: was it budget driven?)

I also get concerned when agencies won't look outside their own backyard for instructors to use. We must network and train each other, we must train together. This ensures that new ideas are being picked up, bad habits are stifled, and the sometimes dangerous traditions are questioned.

It also promotes growth within the department- it means we're not trying to coax our members to the same old training session with the same old instructors.

The way I see it, that's a win-win for everyone.....

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Comment by lutan1 on December 21, 2008 at 12:14am
Though I think it may be a bit different since I'm from the states and you talked as if you aren't.
The great land down under- Australia!


Bad teaching leads to bad students
You're spot on Heidi, and thanks for the comment...
Comment by Jim on July 1, 2008 at 8:41pm
This has me thinking of four words that apply to instructors. Certification, Qualification, Experience, and Competence! Without all four you don't have much value to the customer (client, department, ect.).
Comment by Rescuefrog on July 1, 2008 at 2:29am
Well said lutan
Comment by roy yoder on June 30, 2008 at 4:44pm
well said and i find that as an instructor with the amount of teaching it is hard for me to find the time for classes myself. it takes a commitmit to keep up and a lot of our instructors don't take the time to keep up with the changes. on the other side we have (instructors) like the one that took 1 year to teach mod1 or a 30 hr course in the basics of fighting fire. and no one passed the test. in Ga. we have a live fire instructor from the state academy but don't get much support from them when our chief back at the house says they are going to do it another way. what's NFPA 1403. stay safe stay trained
Comment by Oldman on June 30, 2008 at 12:34pm
Very well said.
Comment by Lawrence W on June 30, 2008 at 10:01am
Thank You Lutan,

Excellent Post.

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