Volunteer Firefighter International

Volunteer Firefighter Training Guide

Use this guide to keep you regular training nights meaningful and engaging

by John M. Buckman III

Keeping firefighting skills sharp is a challenge. And volunteer and part-time departments face a variety of obstacles from training resources to firefighter availability restraints. Obstacles aside, we have to keep our people at a high level of competence.

For a firefighter to be effectively competent in the skills identified below, they can’t be performed once. What does it take to become an expert or master performer in a given field? Roughly 10,000 hours of practice. That common rule of thumb was popularized by Malcom Gladwell in his bestseller “Outliers: The Story of Success.”

That 10,000 number is not reality for a firefighter. I would say that it takes a minimum of four and as many as seven times to become competent at a skill and that skill must be demonstrated every 60 days. The proficiency in the skill will begin to deteriorate for most people at about 30 days.

Not all skills have equal value; some are critical skills, some are not. Non-critical skills may not need to be practiced as often as critical skills.

Each fire chief or training officer should identify the critical skills necessary for each firefighter to demonstrate competency and how often those skills should be demonstrated in a given time period. Training should be conducted during day and night time hours, and in various weather conditions.

Below is a template to assist the training officer in developing an annual training program to enhance firefighter skills. The list may not be fully feasible for some volunteer and on-call fire departments depending on equipment and apparatus availability. The training topics are not presented in priority order. This guide can help volunteer and on-call departments establish and carry out a plan to keep firefighters in peak form.

If you want to download a printable PDF of the training guide, click on the link below

Volunteer Firefighter Training Guide

Don PPE and SCBA

Don assigned PPE from a seated position.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          10 minutes

Equipment: SCBA, PPE

Personnel:  1

Don PPE and SCBA

Don assigned PPE from a standing position.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          10 minutes

Equipment: SCBA, PPE

Personnel:  1

Mechanical Ventilation

Establish positive-pressure ventilation for a residential structure.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          15-30 minutes

Equipment: Ventilation fan

Personnel:  2

Vertical Ventilation

Establish vertical ventilation for a one-story residential structure.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          30-45 minutes

Equipment: Extension ladder, roof ladder, pick head ax, chain saw

Personnel:  3

Establish a RIT

Gather equipment and prepare to be deployed as a RIT in accordance with department procedures and NFPA standard on a residential structure.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          15 minutes

Equipment: Based upon local policy,  minimum SCBA, stokes basket, ax, halligan bar, rope or rescue strap, chain saw

Personnel:  2-3

Initial Fire Attack

Advance an attack line into the first floor of a residential structure.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          15-30 minutes

Equipment: SCBA, 200 feet of 1 ¾-inch hose, halligan bar

Personnel:  2-3

Initial Fire Attack, Second Floor

Advance an attack line into the second floor of a residential structure.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          15-30 minutes

Equipment: SCBA, 200 feet of 1 ¾-inch hose, halligan bar

Personnel    2-3

Initial Fire Attack, Basement

Advance an attack line into the basement of a residential structure.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          15-30 minutes

Equipment: SCBA, 200 feet of 1 ¾-inch hose, halligan bar

Personnel    2-3

Primary Search

Complete a primary search of the first floor of a residential structure.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          30-45 minutes

Equipment: SCBA, 200 feet of 1 ¾-inch hose, halligan bar, room search completed indicator

Personnel:  2-3 

Primary Search, Second Floor

Complete a primary search of the second floor of a residential structure.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          30-45 minutes

Equipment:  SCBA, 200 feet of 1 ¾-inch hose, halligan bar, room search completed indicator

Personnel:  2-3

Primary Search, Basement

Complete a primary search of the basement of a residential structure.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          30-45 minutes

Equipment: SCBA, 200 feet of 1 ¾-inch hose, halligan bar, room search completed indicator

Personnel:  2-3 

Primary Search, Apartment Complex

Complete a primary search of the first floor of an apartment complex with five 800-square-foot apartments.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          30-45 minutes

Equipment: SCBA, 200 feet of 1 ¾-inch hose, ax or halligan bar, room search completed indicator

Personnel:  2-4

Primary Search, Apartment Building Second Floor

Complete a primary search of the second floor of an apartment complex with five 800-square-foot apartments.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          30-45 minutes

Equipment: SCBA, 200 feet of 1 ¾-inch hose, ax or halligan bar, room search completed indicator

Personnel:  2-4

Fire Extension, Ceilings

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          15 minutes

Equipment: Ceiling prop, drywall, drywall hook, pike pole, ceiling puller

Personnel    2-3

Fire Extension, Walls

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          15 minutes

Equipment: Wall prop, drywall, drywall hook, pike pole, ax,

Personnel    2-3

Utility Control, Exterior

Turn utilities (gas and or electric) off at exterior controls in accordance with policy and procedures.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          5 minutes

Equipment: Utility simulator

Personnel:  2-3

Pump Operator

Engage pump and supply water to 200 feet of 1 ¾-inch handline flowing 200 gpm; disengage pump and return to road capable.

Skill Level:  Apparatus, engine operator

Time:          5-10 minutes

Equipment: Engine, hydrant or supply tank, supply hose, 200 feet of 1 ¾-inch handline

Personnel:  2-3

Pump Operator

Engage pump and supply water to 200 feet of 2 ½-inch’ handline flowing 250 gpm; disengage pump and return to road capable.

Skill Level:  Apparatus, engine operator

Time:          5-10 minutes

Equipment: Engine, hydrant or supply tank, supply hose, 200 feet of 2 ½-inch handline

Personnel:  2-3

Pump Operator

Engage pump and supply water to a vehicle mounted deluge nozzle flowing 750-1000 gpm; disengage pump and return to road capable.

Skill Level:  Apparatus, engine operator

Time:          5-10 minutes

Equipment: Engine, hydrant or supply tank, supply hose

Personnel:  2-3

Pump Operator

Engage pump and supply water to a portable deluge nozzle flowing 300-400 gpm, disengage pump and return to road capable.

Skill Level:  Apparatus, engine operator

Time:          5-10 minutes

Equipment: Engine, hydrant or supply tank, supply hose, 200 feet of 2 ½-inch handline

Personnel:  2-3

Pump Operator, Aerial

Engage pump and supply water to an aerial ladder nozzle flowing 750-1000 gpm, disengage pump and return to road capable.

Skill Level:  Apparatus, engine operator

Time:          5-10 minutes

Equipment: Engine, hydrant or supply tank, supply hose, 200 feet of 2 ½-inch handline

Personnel:  2-3

Hydrant Water Supply

Connect supply line to hydrant and turn water on.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          5 minutes

Equipment: Hydrant, 100 feet of supply line, engine, hydrant tools

Personnel:  2

Water Supply, Tender Operation

Setup portable water tank and fill, establish water supply to engine.

Skill Level:  Driver operator, tender

Time:          15-30 minutes

Equipment: Tender, portable water tank, 10 feet of hard suction, engine

Personnel:  2-3

Water Supply, Tender Operation

Refill tender at a hydrant.

Skill Level:  Driver operator, tender

Time:          15-30 minutes

Equipment: Tender, hydrant, 2 ½-inch or large supply hose

Personnel    2-3

Driver Training

Experienced driver training to enhance existing skill; make five left and five right turns going forward; complete five right and five left turns going; both scenarios are completed using a road approximately 16-feet wide.

Skill Level:  Apparatus driver

Time:          60 minutes

Equipment: Engine, aerial, tender, rescue, brush rig

Personnel:  1

Driver Training

Experienced driver training to enhance existing skill; make five left and five right turns going forward; complete five right and five left turns going; both scenarios are completed using a road approximately 8-feet wide.

Skill Level:  Apparatus driver

Time:          60 minutes

Equipment: Engine, aerial, tender, rescue, brush rig

Personnel:  1

Command Size up Simulation

An officer shall communicate a size up of a specific structure within the first-due response area, completed on five different structures. The size up shall include all elements of size up in existing policy and procedures. The commander shall assign incoming companies and consider staffing, time and weather problems. The incident action plan shall cover the first 15 minutes of operations.

Skill Level:  Officer

Time:          15 minutes per scenario including post-exercise review

Equipment: 5 photographs of existing structure in first-due response districts or simulation software.

Personnel    1

Ground Ladders, Second Floor

Deploy a 24-foot ladder to the second-floor window.

Skill Level   Firefighter I

Time:          15-30 minutes

Equipment: 24-foot extension ladder

Personnel:  2

Ground Ladders, Third Floor

Deploy a 32- or 35-foot ladder to the third-floor window.

Skill Level   Firefighter I

Time:          15-30 minutes

Equipment: 32- or 35-foot extension ladder

Personnel    2

Forcible Entry

Force entry into a residential structure with both swing out door and swinging in door.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          15 minutes

Equipment: Forcible entry prop, halligan bar, flat head ax

Personnel:  2

Light the Scene

In accordance with local policy and procedures, deploy equipment to provide exterior lighting to all sides of a residential structure.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          15-30 minutes

Equipment: Generator, portable lights (electric or battery)

Personnel:  2

Physical Fitness, Stair Climb

Wearing full PPE and on air, climb 3 flights of stairs.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          30 minutes

Equipment: PPE, SCBA, equipment to assess heart rate, blood pressure and respiration before and after completion of skill

Personnel:  1

Physical Fitness

Wearing full PPE and on air, complete firefighter fitness drill: using a step box for 3 minutes, using a sledge hammer, move a telephone pole 24 feet, walking 100 yards, and pulling two 50-foot roles of 2 ½-inch hose 100 feet.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          30 minutes

Equipment: PPE, SCBA, equipment to assess heart rate, blood pressure and respiration before and after completion of skill

Personnel:  1

Salvage

Deploy salvage covers in one room of a residential structure.

Skill Level:  Firefighter I

Time:          15 minutes

Equipment: Salvage covers, furniture or equipment to cover

Personnel:  2

Near Miss

Review one assigned near miss; prepare a lessons-learned to deliver as a tailboard training topic.

Knowledge: This training will demonstrate the lesson learned from others that can have a positive impact on your department and your firefighters.

Time:          10 minutes

Equipment: Near miss reports

Personnel:  2

NIOSH LODD Report

Review one assigned NIOSH LODD report; prepare a lessons-learned to deliver as a tailboard training topic.

Knowledge: This training will demonstrate the lesson learned from a NIOSH LODD report that can have a positive impact on your department and your firefighters.

Time:          20 minutes

Equipment: NIOSH LODD reports

Personnel:  2

Complete UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute, Basement Fire

Review technical report and complete online training program for basement fires,

https://ulfirefightersafety.org/docs/Understanding_and_Fighting_Basement_Fires.pdf

https://ulfirefightersafety.org/research-projects/understanding-and-fighting-basement-fires.html

Knowledge: Many firefighters have been injured or have died while trying to extinguish a basement fire or a fire on a level below them. Fire experiments underway as part of a collaborative effort between the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute and the International Society of Fire Service Instructors seeks to reduce the high risk to firefighters. Research indicates the tools that firefighters have traditionally used to determine the structural integrity of the floor are of little value with lightweight construction. Prior experiments in small basements have indicated that the most effective method of fighting a basement fire may be on the exterior of the building.

Time:          4 – 6 hours

Equipment: Internet access to UL, computer

Personnel:  1

After-Action Review

Complete fire hero learning network online training.

https://www.fireherolearningnetwork.com/Training_Programs/Everyone_Goes_Home__After_Action_Review.aspx

Time:          2 hours

Equipment: Internet access, computer

Personnel:  1

Company Officer Health and Safety Responsibilities

This self-paced program helps company officers understand their leadership role in the fundamentals of firefighter health and safety. These fundamentals include: personal commitment to health and safety, peer to leader transition, SOP enforcement, crew resource management, Everyone Goes Home and the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives, Courage to Be Safe, LACK, mental health and Stress First Aid, health and safety aspects of operational decisions, and After Action Review. This program is a “survey course,” meaning it discusses a wide range of topics at only the awareness level. For many topics,    further training and resources are recommended. For new company officers, this training is part of navigating the transition from firefighter to company officer. For existing company officers, this training may be undertaken at any time during their tenure.

This program is designed to be taken in tandem with the program “Communication & Mentoring for Company Officers.”

https://www.fireherolearningnetwork.com/Training_Programs/Company_Officers_Health_Safety_Responsibilities.aspx

Time:          2 hours

Equipment: Internet access, computer

Personnel:  1

Communications and Mentoring Responsibilities

This self-paced program helps company officers understand their interpersonal communication and mentoring responsibilities. Knowing how to effectively communicate priorities, understand and respond to problems, and handle difficult or awkward situations at all these levels is key to being an effective officer. Mentoring is an important aspect of communication especially critical to career and personal growth. This program is an introduction to the communication and mentoring topics for company officers, meaning it discusses these topics at only the awareness level. Company officer should seek out further training and resources. This is designed to be taken in tandem with the program “Company Officer’s Health & Safety Responsibilities.”

https://www.fireherolearningnetwork.com/Training_Programs/Communication_and_Mentoring_for_Company_Officers.aspx

Time:          2 hours

Equipment: Internet access, computer

Personnel:  1

Review Yellow Ribbon Report

The Yellow Ribbon Report developed by the Volunteer and Combination Officers studying behavioral wellness. Read the material and develop one action that your local department could use to improve.

Time:          2 hours

Equipment: Report

Personnel:  1

Review Lavender Ribbon Report

The Lavender Ribbon Report developed by the National Volunteer Fire Council and the Volunteer and Combination Officers studying how to reduce exposure to carcinogens. Read the material and develop one action that your local department could use to reduce exposure to carcinogens.

Time:          2 hours

Equipment: Report

Personnel:  1

Introduction to Strategic Community Risk Reduction

Introduction to Strategic Community Risk Reduction is an online self-study course that teaches what constitutes strategic community risk reduction. Students explore the history and evolution from fire prevention into all-hazards risk reduction. In addition to identifying the core components that build an effective CRR strategy, students learn how the process can help foster safe, healthy, prepared and resilient communities. This introductory level course will be a prerequisite course for entering the National Fire Academy’s CRR program.

TimeL         5 hours

Equipment: Internet access, computer

Personnel:  1

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