Prepare for Success Before Training
Vol 21 No 3
Last issue we discussed the NFPA 1081 standard for training. We will revisit this in more detail later. Since last issue, I've had an opportunity to do some training around the country for Emergency Response Teams in the Industrial Setting and Academy training for Municipal Firefighters. I observed some things that merit discussion.
Many industrial settings have emergency response teams. As with almost anything, there isn't a one size fits all solution for training emergency response teams. While it is commendable that most organizations endeavor to do training; in some aspects, organizations can sometimes bite off more than they can chew. According to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.38: "The effectiveness of response during emergencies depends on the amount of planning and training performed."
Similarly management must show its support for plant safety programs and the importance of emergency planning. If management is not interested in employee protection and in minimizing property loss, little can be done to promote a safe workplace. It is therefore management's responsibility to see that a program is instituted and that it is frequently reviewed and updated. The input and support of all employees must be obtained to ensure an effective program. The emergency response plan should be developed locally and should be comprehensive enough to deal with all types of emergencies specific to that site.
There are a number of important points to take away from this:
? Management support for an emergency response team is crucial in order to achieve operational readiness and most importantly to maintain and assure competency.
? Prior planning for ERT training is perhaps the most important component necessary to ensure the long term viability of an ERT team. This cannot be overstated, if your organization does not know what an ERT team should be capable of performing consult the OSHA regulations and above all else consult training experts who can discuss your training needs and develop a training plan customized to your needs. To illustrate this, an organization deems that its ERT team should be able to perform High Angle Rescue. While this is laudable, it merits detailed planning to determine the costs and feasibility of operating such a team. Competency in high angle rescue training is lost within days if continuous training is performed. I have unfortunately seen on numerous occasions organizations that say they have Trench Rescue Teams, High Angle Teams, Hazmat Teams etc. and when asked to produce training logs the classic deer in the head lights look takes over. Asked when they last did training, many ERT members refer to annual training at XYZ training school or a company who came on site years ago. This is a recipe for disaster.
? Many would-be rescuers have been seriously hurt or killed because they have been inadequately trained or have not participated in an organization's in-house drills or refresher training on a regular basis. It also allows for complacency. On one of my recent training exercises I encountered an "expert" who had persuaded everyone on the ERT that using a secondary system for high angle rescue was redundant and unnecessary. Allowing this to permeate a team is a sure fire way to get someone killed, either in training or a real-life rescue. Needless to say, I put a stop to cutting corners. Do it right or don't do it all is my motto.
? Regular training does not constitute annual training at XYZ fire school. As I mentioned in a previous column, it is imperative that emergency response teams train regularly. High Angle, Hazmat and fire responses are going to become more complicated, not easier.
Another thing I observed in my travels almost goes without saying. When you are going to conduct live-fire exercises, make sure that the event is pre-planned. Without question, things will go wrong if this not done. I recently did some training at a fire academy that was not my host academies UNR or MS State. Since I was the guest instructor leading the flammable liquids/propane burn class I assumed that the props would work. Wrong. Don't assume that because things worked 'last time' they will work the same this time. This facility rents its LPG simulator and Christmas tree from an outside company; needless to say the contraption didn't work. Nothing is more embarrassing than being geared up ready to fight fire, and have to cancel the class due to corroded valves and an in-experienced operator fueling the props. Lesson learned.
Comments? Questions? Is there an Industrial Fire Training topic you would like to see covered in this column? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Attila Hertelendy is an instructor with the University of Nevada, Reno- Fire Science Academy and President and CEO of Great WhiteEmergency Medical Solutions, Inc. a training and emergency response planning company.