Oklahoma City Battalion Chief Mike Walker on ‘The Front Seat’

The Front Seat’s latest guest is Chief Mike Walker from Oklahoma City discussing training to an acceptable level of performance. Tune in.

Ray McCormack once wrote that there are three R’s needed for successful training. The training must be Relevant, Realistic and Repetitive. As you think about that statement, think about the last drill period you were involved in. Did you take anything away from it? Do you practice an evolution until you couldn’t get it wrong?

With all the emphasis on training there needs to be an honest evaluation of just exactly what goal we are training toward. Training for the sake of marking down “2 hours of company drill” is clearly not an acceptable goal. Colonel David Hackworth, in his book “About Face”, talks about training replacement troops during the Korean War. He talks about how, as they were advancing over previously occupied positions, they would drill the troops on attacking bunkers, hitting the ground, pinning down the enemy with suppressing fire, flipping grenades….over and over until it was second nature. Their reasoning was that the replacements needed to become proficient in these skills if there were going to be a benefit to the unit, and stay alive on the battlefield.

If the fire service were to take a page from this, our training would consist of a constant review of the basics. Not talking about them, or watching videos, but actual hands on. Hand line techniques? Park the engine, call the stretch, stretch the line, flake out the extra…..and then charge it. Practice moving forward. Practice backing up the nozzleman. Finished with that? Do it again, over and over. Is it a lot of work? Absolutely. But after a while it will become second nature. Company Officers will get an idea of how long this evolution will take. Pump Operators will be able to gauge when to charge the line. The nozzle team will become comfortable with stretching and operating the line. Mistakes will be made, but they will be made when it is OK to make them, during training. Corrections can be discussed and then the evolution can be repeated.

If we trained like this, there would be little chance of mistakes on the fire ground. In a day an age where we are responding to fewer fires, this is an appreciable goal. In a day when we are responding with less manpower, this is crucial.

Now imagine if we did this with other tasks. Roof ventilation. Searching for victims. After a while we would have proficient firemen capable of accomplishing the “routine” tasks seemingly without thinking. This would allow them to focus on the situation at hand. It would allow them to have better situational awareness, because they didn’t have to focus on the basic skills. Our firemen would be better able to read the building, the smoke, the heat and hopefully be better prepared to avoid getting into situations that kill and injure our brothers.

On Wednesday June 8th, “The Front Seat” on Firefighter Netcast will have Battalion Chief Mike Walker from the Oklahoma City Fire Department as a guest. Battalion Chief Mike Walker has served with the Oklahoma City Fire Department for 21-years. Prior to his promotion to Battalion Chief, Walker was a Station Officer at Oklahoma City’s Technical Rescue Station and Haz-Mat Station. He served as a Training Officer within the department for 3-years. Chief Walker is a Task Force Leader for Oklahoma Task Force-1.

When not working with OKC, Walker is an Assistant Coordinator at Eastern Oklahoma Fire Training Center in Choctaw Oklahoma. Chief Walker has been a fire service instructor for approximately 18-years and has taught at FDIC, Wichita HOT and other venues.

Chief Walker will discuss training to an acceptable level of performance as well as some additional training methods and ideas he has been working with. “The Front Seat” will also review several Firefighter Near Miss Reports and try and identify some common themes among them and ways to try an avoid the mistakes made. The Near Miss Systems contains a tremendous amount of material and information, but it can be difficult sometimes to extract the salient points. Hopefully by discussing these reports in the Netcast format the “nuggets” contained within these reports can be more easily reviewed.

Hope to see you Wednesday.

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