Alachua County Fire Rescue provides fire and EMS coverage for areas outside of Gainesville, Florida, including Hawthorne, Archer, Waldo, and Alachua municipalities, and EMS coverage for Gainesville. With 15 stations spread across the county's 900+ square miles, operating 14 rescues, 11 fire apparatus, and a 5-unit Peak Load Division, the department has relied on Vector's online learning management system (LMS) since 2012 (formerly TargetSolutions) to centralize its training program for its 260 full-time career firefighters.
Pulling firefighters from their stations for classroom training could potentially leave fire and EMS coverage gaps for their communities when crews are spread out over 900+ square miles. "It's very hard to get together all the time to conduct training because of coverage issues. If I pull a unit out of Hawthorne, then there's no coverage for Hawthorne," said Assistant Fire Chief of Professional Standards Michael Vogel. "We had to come up with something that allows us to deliver the required training so that they can get their CEUs for their fire, paramedic, and EMT certifications. Vector Solutions gave us that ability."
The platform's built-in course libraries designed specifically for fire and EMS enable Alachua's firefighters to complete their EMS CEU hours required by the state and national registry, and their fire and HAZMAT CEUs required by the state, from anywhere on any web-enabled device. Chief Vogel shared how the firefighters like how easy the LMS is to use, "The members are comfortable with it. They can go in and get all their CEUs done through Vector Solutions, which allows us to maintain coverage and protect our district." While the LMS provides valuable pre-learning and mission-critical continuing education, it does not replace the need for live drill yard training; it complements it. "We still go out and get hands-on training, but they can get the basics out of Vector Solutions," he reported.
Alachua County Fire Rescue also loads videos into the LMS to create department-specific Custom Activities. Their Truck Company Operations videos cover topics such as setting ladders, forced entry, and completing searches. Firefighters watch assigned videos and associated PowerPoint presentations loaded into the platform and use that valuable pre-learning to perform live skill assessments during a three-hour block at the nearby ACFR Loften Training Center.
Firefighters can access the LMS digital repository File Center at any time to review a host of videos along with other important presentations, forms, and documents. The department is building out a comprehensive video library, including a collection for their EMS Critical Care Division, which meets quarterly and gets paid overtime to do hands-on activities with a doctor. Videos will include valuable lectures administered by the participating doctor, such as a one-hour in-depth presentation on the 12-Lead Cardiac Monitor.
Tracking all firefighter certifications through the LMS helps Alachua County Fire Rescue keep firefighters compliant with the help of automatic notifications alerting individuals at set intervals of upcoming certification renewals. Alerts are set to deploy at 90, 60, 30, 15, 5, and 3 days before a certification expires. "Vector Solutions allows us to track all credentials and make sure no one goes out of date on their certifications," said Chief Vogel.
Beyond tracking just training hours, credentials in the LMS can be set up to keep track of any piece of information. Like many states, Florida mandates valid driver's licenses are required to operate a department vehicle, so Alachua County Fire Rescue set up a Driver's License credential to track expiration dates and alert members when renewals are coming up.
Another valuable use the department is finding with their LMS is managing their Level-Up program. Custom credentials track firefighters' professional development, with established required training for achieving the next firefighter level, which comes with a pay raise. For example, to go from Firefighter Level 1 to Firefighter Level 2, members need to have one year at Level 1, complete ICS 100, 200, 700, 800 courses, earn their S-130/S-190 Wildland Firefighting Certificate, and complete the ACFR Task Book. All of these tasks are detailed and tracked in the Level-Up Level 2 Credential. Chief Vogel explained, "It's all in Vector Solutions, so they can go in and see what they have to do to get to the next level."
With the convenience of digital recordkeeping, once all tasks are completed, leadership is notified that the criteria for the next level have been met, and a request is sent to payroll for the appropriate pay increase. Credentials in the LMS make leveling up fair and straightforward, and every firefighter knows exactly where they are in their professional development trajectory and why.
Preparing the next generation of firefighters is a focus for Alachua County Fire Rescue. The AC Fire Rescue Cadet Program is a state-wide youth outreach program that provides teenagers with valuable first-hand firefighter experience, including training on fire suppression, CPR, apparatus use, and HAZMAT mitigation.
Although the cadets do not access the LMS themselves, the department tracks all training activities they can complete as cadets on the platform, such as FEMA NIMS 100, 200, etc. Chief Vogel proudly reported four current cadets have applied for open firefighter positions with the department, and several past cadets are currently firefighters with Alachua County Fire Rescue. With historical training records maintained on the platform, future firefighters are starting their careers off right.