With today's budgets it's getting harder to send our people to conferences, seminars and quality hands on training that sharpens our minds and skills. So, when we do send our people out to bring back information or have an instructor come in to provide a new perspective, are taking advantage of those experiences?
I will admit that in the past I have attended conferences and classes that provided some great insight and ideas and then never tried to establish them at my agency. You know how it goes, you sit in on a great class with a dynamic speaker with all of these great ideas and we get all pumped up and ready to conquer the world. Then we get back to our department and do absolutely nothing with it. To me, as a training officer, I didn't get a return on my investment.
Sometimes it's not the attendees fault. Sometimes the organization that he works for is not receptive to these changes and shuts it down before it can even start. If that is the case, why even spend the money to send someone? As training officers and chiefs, we need to do a better job of not only encouraging our people to attend these classes, but pick and choose the ones that we can use to make productive changes in our organizations.
A good method of determining how to spend your training dollars on external resources is to take an honest look at your deficiencies. A fire department has to look at not only where we are excelling and doing well, but where we need improvement as well. But, is has to be a realistic evaluation. If we think we are stretching lines "good enough" but have never timed our deployment or we only use a pre-connected crosslay for training, we are likely setting ourselves up for failure when it really matters and conditions dictate a different line. This hard, honest look is many times not an easy thing to do.
Once we have determined our deficiencies, we now must figure out how to change. Our high rise operations were in bad shape. The equipment we used and the operational guideline was not conducive to what would lead to success on a high rise fire. We brought in a well respected speaker who does extensive instruction on high rise fires and tapped is knowledge for what we could do better. The chiefs bought in and things finally started to move forward. But, even after we implemented the new equipment and guidelines, we still had people that didn't understand the importance of making the changes. This is just human nature, but we are in much better shape regarding high rise firefighting.
It was money well spent because we invested into to the information that was provided during the class. Our operations are safer and more efficient because of that investment. It took bringing in an outside speaker to get the "buy in" but it was effective and a good return on investment.
I understand that not every fire department can afford to bring in speakers to change their operations. That's really not the point here. The point is that whether or not we have big or small budgets, we should try to focus on utilizing every bit of information that our training provides to us and our people. This can come from online resources, webcasts, articles, any sources of credible training will provide you with avenues to make improvements in your department. Even just trying something different and finding that it isn't better than what you have provides perspective and a good day of training.
The same intent should be used when we send people outside for training. What is the benefit and can we apply it at our organization? How will we use that information to invest in our department? Those are questions that must be asked when expending funds for sending our people out on these reconnaissance missions. After all, that's what they are, right? We send our firefighters to listen to other firefighters and officers provide information about our job to bring back "nuggets" to use to make our department better. The key here is to actually use those "nuggets" when they are suggested.
Every fire department has it's own needs and methods for improving their organization. Right now, funds are tight and the costs associated with bringing instructors in and sending firefighters out may be too much. But, if we become more judicious with how, who and what and how it relates to our needs, we might have a little more luck with the next budget cycle. And, maybe not. But, our firefighters and our department will have experienced meaningful training that made a difference in making things better.
Whatever you do in regards to training, try to find someway to make an improvement in your personal skills and knowledge and in the operations of your department. It might not even be a change as much as an awareness that wasn't there before. Obtaining knowledge does not always equate making changes, but being aware of something that we weren't aware of before.
Use the training. Bring it back and share it. We are wasting time and money and doing our firefighters and department an injustice if we don't wring out every drop of water from that learning sponge and use it. Keep training and sharing.