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Developing a Fire Simulation Training Program

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The following article was prepared by and submitted to Firegeezer by the staff at Fire Engineering Magazine:

How to Develop a Fire Simulation Training Program
for Your Department

A fire simulation training facility is an invaluable tool for training both the firefighters and the commanding officers in virtually every situation that can occur on the job. Whether it is a residential or commercial fire drill situation, a chemical exposure, or a multi-casualty disaster from an explosion, the simulator can create the proper training environment. To create a facility for your department can be challenging but the end results are well worth the effort. Researching these firehouse drills and other training information on sites such as Fire Engineering Magazine could also connect you with a wealth of additional resources.r

The Challenges

There are two basic obstacles to overcome in order to create the perfect firehouse drill environment. The first is finding the proper facility. Without a facility there is no simulator. Once found, the second challenge is to obtain the funding. It is helpful to contact other fire companies who have successfully implemented the program to find out what funding tactics worked for them. Remember that a working model created from whatever begged and borrowed materials you have will work better than a great idea spoken at a council meeting. You may attempt to raise the funds privately through fund raising, ask for taxpayer funding or both. If you are a municipality with a relatively small team it might be of benefit to work with other municipalities in sharing the facility and splitting the cost.

Columbia County FRD photo

Creating the Facility

It is paramount that the facility gets used very frequently by as many members as possible. Therefore when it is created it must be designed to train firefighters within a situation, officers working from a command central outside the facility, and also provide optional functions for police and EMS also. Reality is the key to creating the successful program. Effects like surround sound are excellent in conveying the challenges of communication within a burning building. The absence of ambient light creates a blind rescue environment that firefighters will inevitably face one day. The Houston Fire Department when creating their facility painted the entire inside black to prevent any reflected outside light. Smoke machines are also an important part of the makeup.

Utilization

Once created it is important to utilize the facility as much as possible. There must be a comprehensive training plan in place that conveys the message that this is not a game but a potential life and death situation. All issues regarding every possible situation must be addressable, like ventilation and water mitigation, not only search and rescue. This makes the operation cost effective and avoids scrutiny. The entire community needs to realize the benefits by increased training of local emergency personnel.

The Results

A simulation training facility will condition all members of the firefighting company to be prepared for any fire, explosion, natural disaster or chemical mishap. Personnel through trial and error will already know what works in every situation and know what is expected. Commanders will understand the abilities and limitations of their personnel and will make decisions accordingly. With the presence of a simulation training facility in the community the potential for protecting life and property increases significantly.

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About the Authors:
For over 133 years, Fire Engineering Magazine has provided training, education, and management information for fire and emergency services personnel worldwide. Articles are written by experts in the fire service and focus on lessons-learned.

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