Out of My Mind: Investment in Training

By Richard Marinucci

As I travel around the country (and even other countries), I am impressed by the investment some organizations have made in their training facilities. Some have tens of millions of dollars in facilities and then support them with the necessary staff and materials. On the flip side, there are many firefighters who have to beg, borrow, and steal for their training opportunities. Not only are the facilities lacking or nonexistent, but they struggle for funds for staffing, backfill, and overtime. What would happen if there was a clear-cut method to measure the outcomes of sound training programs? What would result if organizations could show beyond a doubt that an investment in performance would translate into significant reductions in fire loss and improvements in all the other services provided that saved valuable resources? We should know this intuitively, but outside of the profession, how many are convinced (policymakers and politicians) that it is a “pay me now or pay me later” situation?

Investing in training across the board, facilities, and personnel has more benefits than just the improvement in performance. It sends a strong message to firefighters that training is extremely important, and they are worth the investment. It demonstrates a commitment to the community to make a difference. But, some would question to what degree this changes outcomes. One can’t help but think that those who have more opportunities to hone their skills are better at their trade. Another way to consider this is to look at how much a slight improvement changes the outcome so much more. The investments you make in training have a much higher return on the emergency scene, so every little bit will produce dividends. It is not a one for one so there has to be a different approach. Any good ways to measure this would be helpful to all. There is also a political element that some organizations have utilized for their gain. They have done what is necessary to convince those who control the funds that the investment is worthwhile.

Related to the training investment is the ability and willingness of organizations to participate in training programs outside their own jurisdictions. There is no question that the amount of information available today to the fire service is more than ever before. You can gain insight from magazines, Internet searches, and the like. But, you cannot get to the top of some of the information without participating in various training workshops, seminars, and conferences. The “granddad of them all” is FDIC International, scheduled for the week of April 7, 2019. This is the ultimate for the fire service regarding getting as much training as you can cram in on one week. Other things to consider are the host of “niche” conferences and workshops that cover special areas of the fire service. Recently I attended the F.I.E.R.O. PPE Symposium held in Raleigh, North Carolina. I was very impressed by the content, and I came away knowing how much I really don’t know and what there is to learn. You really don’t know what you don’t know until you know it! Excellent organizations know the value of conferences such as these and participate.

While driving around listening to the radio, I hear a lot of commercials. Recently I have heard more from attorneys trying to get business. The prevalent one I hear now is about Roundup from Monsanto. The ads encourage anyone who has used the product to contact the law firms to see if they are eligible to file suit as the product has been known to cause cancer. In the past, there have been similar pleas for those exposed to asbestos. With all the information being discovered about the link between firefighting and cancer, I wonder how long before we have someone making the connection. Now that municipalities and departments have the knowledge, will they be required to implement prevention programs such as clean cabs, gross decon, and other measures or potentially be subject to litigation? If you know a problem exists but choose to not take action because you don’t want it to affect your bottom line do you create liability? Just asking.

RICHARD MARINUCCI is the executive director of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association (FDSOA). He retired as chief of the Farmington Hills (MI) Fire Department in 2008, a position he had held since 1984. He is a Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment and Fire Engineering Editorial Advisory Board member, a past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), and past chairman of the Commission on Chief Fire Officer Designation. In 1999, he served as acting chief operating officer of the U.S. Fire Administration for seven months. He has a master’s degree and three bachelor’s degrees in fire science and administration and has taught extensively.

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