You’re probably familiar with the bean-bag toss game called cornhole. Here is a firehouse variation that will improve your skills for aerial operations and bring some fun and lively competition to your crew.
We all have some type of daily, weekly, or monthly check where we put our aerial device into the air. I have seen repeatedly in my career where firefighters, myself included, go through the motions of pulling the apparatus out on the ramp, putting the aerial up, swinging it around a couple of times, bedding it, and then callimg it a day.
But here is the question: When we have to put that aerial in the air for a rescue of a civilian or a firefighter, will the conditions mimic your front apron of the firehouse? I doubt it.
The materials you need for aerial operations training activity is a piece of rope, a tennis ball and a heavy eyebolt screwed through the middle of the ball. Attach the other end of the rope to the aerial tip or bucket and have it hang down about 5 feet. Next, get some traffic cones or buckets and place them on the roof of your station on the ground. An even better idea that incorporates building familiarization, is to take your cones “on the road” to an empty strip mall or apartment building. Place your cones on these objects and let the fun/training begin.
The overall object is to have your operator from your turntable place the weighted ball on top of the cone or into the bucket. Obviously, the tip of the cone will be more of a challenge. Once the ball is on the tip, the operator goes to the next cone. You can time the evolution, or simply have your operators take their time and go to each one. Again, it’s up to your imagination for ways to challenge your crew. No matter what type of aerial you have, this game is designed for improving your operators at the turntable.
When I did this for the first time, one young firefighter told me he didn’t get much out of putting the ball on a cone. I didn’t do a good enough job explaining the point of the game. Don’t make my mistake. Explain how important it is to have competent operators. Good aerial operations can be more than just putting the stick up and flowing water! There will come a time when an operator will have to quickly maneuver the aerial device to rescue a civilian, or a firefighter who is trapped on a roof or window.
In my opinion doing the daily or weekly aerial check on the ramp isn’t going to be enough practice to help an operator succeed. Liken it to NFL teams who practice with the speakers blasting crowd noise to help create what they will face in the visitor’s stadium on a Sunday afternoon. You need to use some imagination and make training challenging. Plus, the competitive juices will start flowing when firefighters try to get the ball on the cone. Thanks to Platoon Chief Will Anderson of Euclid, Ohio Fire Department for showing me this drill.