Scenario-Based Simulation Training Helps Firefighters See ‘the Big Picture’



Blog by Joe Pronesti
Captain with the Elyria Ohio Fire Department

In almost 25 years in the fire service, not a single day has gone by in which I didn’t thank the Lord for my blessings. But I’ve come across a few who weren’t as grateful. The types who come in at 8 a.m., or whatever time their shift begins, and are simply there just to collect a paycheck.

If you are a company officer or a command level officer in a small- to mid-size department and you haven’t seen a ton of fire, I have one word of advice: Beware. The easily contracted disease of complacency can reach out and infect you. Its important you don’t let this happen.

My recommendation is to keep your head in the books. Study video, audio and constantly challenge yourself to be ready to face a fire or emergency, no matter how long it’s been since your last one.

Be prepared so you will always have the capability to see the big picture. Never stop studying and analyzing fire, smoke behavior tactics and strategy. People who have been married a long time say the key to a successful marriage is being able to put forth an effort every day to your spouse. The same holds true in firefighting. Put forth an effort — even when you’re off-duty or not in the station — and you will have a successful and happy career.

Keep in mind, almost everything we do at a fire impacts the safety of other firefighters, as well as the success of the operation. Fortunately, technology is here to help us prepare, including software for simulations. Consider picking one up in an effort to help with bell hits.

One of the greatest things about these simulators is their ability to localize simulations. All you need is a camera to get out of the station and take some pictures of your buildings.

To help you get started, below is a template of a scenario you can incorporate into your own simulation training.

Simulation Training

Here’s the scenario: A call comes in around 7 p.m. on a hot summer night. Dispatch states police officers are on the scene. There is a working fire in a truck parked between an occupied multiple-family dwelling and a long time vacant. Upon arrival, this is the only information you have.

You can incorporate any questions you want, but below are some standard ones to help you get started:

1. Do you need more help?
2. Where would you spot first engine and truck?
3. How does the construction involved effect fire spread?
4. First line position/size?
5. Second line position/size?
6. Search to start where?
7. Would you start search ahead of line(s)?
8. Ventilation issues/profile?
9. Additional thoughts concerns, etc.

Now in this particular simulation, I used nine questions, but you may want to follow a known fire service acronym, like COAL WAS WEALTH, for example. Use your imagination and remember, keeping your skills sharp is critical to success.

So next time your crew is sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee, instead of talking about city politics or the state of your department, put a picture of one of your buildings on fire on the table for everyone to analyze. I guarantee you will generate excellent banter, leading to knowledge. The end result will be a more educated, safer department, more prepared to see the big picture.

About the Author
Joe Pronesti is a 24-year veteran of the Elyria Ohio Fire Department where he currently serves as a shift captain. He is a certified fire instructor and teaches at the Cuyahoga Community College Fire Academy near Cleveland. He is also a graduate of the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Executive Fire Officer Program Class VI.


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