Richmond Hill Fire and Emergency Services (RHFES) in Ontario, Canada, operates 24/7 to provide its community with fire suppression, technical rescue, HAZMAT, and medical assistance services. RHFES also runs Comm Division 9-1-1 dispatch for the department and five other fire departments in the region.
Chief of Training Fred Downing, who has been with RHFES for 21 years, shared how the department utilizes Vector Solutions' Learning Management System (LMS) to facilitate a robust blended learning training program for its 185 full-time staff spread across 5 divisions, 6 fire stations and headquarters locations.
RHFES implemented Vector LMS (formerly Target Solutions) in 2013. Like many departments, its previous training management process consisted mainly of paper documents, which led to many difficulties, especially when attempting to pull past records. "It was pretty near impossible to go back and track through records. If somebody did training two years ago, you literally had to pull their file and start searching through paper copies," shared Chief Downing.
Vector LMS enabled RHFES to transition to digital recordkeeping with the ability to recall any training record instantly and equipped the department with tools to deliver, track, and report on firefighter training. The platform also provides members with anytime, anywhere access to mission-critical resources and communicates important up-to-date information to members, which has been especially essential during COVID-19.
One of the biggest values Chief Downing shared of the LMS is Credentials. Custom content, activities, and built-in NFPA LMS courses are assigned to firefighters through credentials, providing members, managers, and leadership with instant insight into activity progress within a credential. The credential packages all the required courses, activities, and resources in one easy-to-assign package to simplify onboarding and recurring training. Moving from time-consuming paper records to a digital training program meant management could more easily identify who is on track and who is falling behind.
RHFES also uses LMS reports to keep firefighters on track with a monthly report delivered to members and supervisors, showing where individuals are in their training progress. "Once a month, everybody is sent a report. It shows where their progress is compared to everyone else in the department. They know if they're behind, ahead, or right in the middle," Chief Downing shared.
In addition to training credentials, the department uses the LMS to assign and track yearly and bi-yearly NFPA qualification requirements for driver apparatus (non-engine, aerial, and tanker). Although the department is not required by law to meet these standards, they have internal goals to keep up with industry standards set by NFPA.
Richmond Hill Fire and Emergency Services maximizes its use of the LMS Bulletin Board with quick links to frequently used resources and important information at the click of a button. The custom icons and organized layout make it easy for firefighters to find what they need. The department updates the bulletin board to meet its current needs, such as prioritizing COVID-19 resources at the top.
A small sample of the valuable resources accessible right from the home screen when members log in include:
Linked in the Bulletin Board, RHFES maintains an extensive Calendar of training activities for their live and online trainings.
"We use the calendar to display what training is coming up on the next shift so firefighters can easily view it from their phones."
Chief Fred Downing
All training is input into the calendar. Since the platform is web-based, members don't have to wait until their next shift to see what training is coming up.
Calendar details can include a due date, location, time frame, and other relevant information, like the ability to enroll (if set up) or add the event to an external calendar. A look at the department's monthly view displays upcoming events, such as HAZMAT, Water Rescue, Live Fire Training, and Tanker Ops. RHFES also posts time-sensitive online assignments with due dates, including COVID-19 Medical Operation Changes, NFPA 1021 Level 1, and Crew Changes.
Also linked in the Bulletin Board is RHFES' Return to Work Program. Set up to assist firefighters who have taken an extended leave of absence to reacclimate, the Return to Work Program helps speed up the process of bringing back firefighters by providing the ability to complete required training, including policy and procedure updates and current COVID-19 requirements in advance from home.
When it came to the impact COVID-19 has had on the department's ability to provide training, Chief Downing recalled how a possible COVID-19 exposure during a recruit training class proved the value of having the online training platform. "We had a recruiting class going on when we had a COVID-19 scare. For three weeks, the recruits were at home, so we did a lot of our training through Vector Solutions," he shared. "Vector Solutions allowed us to keep going. Without it, we probably would have had to shut our class down."