I'm sure that many of you have heard this saying, whether it was on the baseball field, basketball court, or maybe even on the training ground, but do you follow it?
If you lag behind and don't take your training seriously, how can you expect to do a job right on the fireground? Especially at 3am.... you're not going to have time to think, normal people would be sleeping but the tones and bells just dropped and woke you up from a dream about being on a desert island with a horde of gorgeous supermodels and its time to go to work. In the middle of the night, you're not going to have time to think about what you need to do, you're going to have to fall back onto muscle memory.
If it's been months since you last threw a 24 footer by yourself, when you pull up on the apartment fire at O-dark thirty where there are people hanging off multiple balconies with fire blowing over their heads, you're not going to have time to think, "Does the fly go away from or towards the building?" (obviously in an urgent situation such as this, it doesn't particularly matter) or " Will the 24 work or should I grab a 35?"
I've heard of some departments where there has historically been a lack of aggressive training and where drills were just "walk-throughs". Now these departments are paying for this dearly as with new leadership, drills are being made more realistic and full speed. I think that its a great idea to train "at the same speed" as a real incident, however, if there is a history of walk through training, maybe its a good idea to start slow.
At my vollie house a few weeks ago, we practiced some hose operations and some of the older guys got mad as hornets. These guys got frustrated as they couldn't remember how to stretch a line, forgot their mask on the rig, or couldn't get the deck gun off the truck mount. Luckily for our citizens, these guys usually aren't responding on emergency calls, but at any time, they could be on the first due engine. This mentality isn't totally their fault though. I'm sure when they first started, they were eager to train and get better but I've heard about some old chiefs who were never really interested in doing good training so everything was half assed. At some time between their first day and the present time, these guys got complacent and no longer felt the need to train.
Whatever you do, DO NOT fall into this false sense of security.
On the other end of the spectrum however, we have some younger guys who are off probation and have a year or two on the department and get pissed when we practice pulling lines. Their comments usually go something like this :
"Aww man, we just did this a few weeks ago. We all got it right. Why do we have to do it again?!"
I tell them "Amateurs train until they get it right, PROFESSIONALS train until they can't get it wrong."
There is no such thing as too much practice. Do you think that Michael Phelps, Lance Armstrong, or the Super Bowl Champions ever say, "I/We practiced really hard a few days ago, no sense in giving it 100% today". Of course not, they are constantly striving to get better ever single day.
You don't need to pick up a huge new topic everytime you train. Maybe you just learn an easier way to get that 24 footer off the truck, or if you rest your knee on the saw as you're pulling the cord its easier to start. Keep track of the little things because they matter.
Regardless of where you go through your fire training, whether your department runs an academy, you go to the state academy, or a local college, most firefighting is pretty much the same across the country. It is the LITTLE THINGS that make certain departments better and more aggressive than others.
So in closing....
1- Never get complacent and NEVER stop learning
2- You can NEVER practice enough
3- Listen to all ideas presented. Just because a guy has 18 months on the job doesn't mean that he doesnt have a tip that could help everyone.
4- LOVE THE LITTLE THINGS! You're going to get better over time. Most babies don't just start walking. They start slow, stumble alot, and eventually get the hang of it. You will too. (But as we get older with the comsumption of certain beverages it seems like we never learned how to properly walk!)
5- Don't let bad attitudes drag you down. ALWAYS keep a positive attitude and desire to learn. Just because you've been on the job for 20 years doesn't mean that things stay the same. The fire service is constantly changing and if you want to stay good at your job, you too need to be willing to adapt.