In my last blog I briefly touched upon the importance of a cyclic approach to Firefighter Education & Training to allow less experienced rescuers to develop. Becoming a firefighter/rescuer is a huge undertaking requiring a vast amount of knowledge to be gained in a relatively short space of time. In 2018 a person embarking on such a career must learn a far broader range of skills than I did as a probationary firefighter in 1992. Back then it was mainly fires and road traffic collisions we prepared for and our role in water or rescues from height were still some years away.
Of course, there is no expectation for anyone to become competent and confident overnight and I am sure your organization has processes in place to develop you. But is there a need to go beyond the information supplied to you by your own rescue service? Do you need to obtain a broader depth of knowledge? And as a ‘new’ rescuer, where should you start?
Invest in yourself
Let me answer the initial question first; is there a need to obtain wider information to enable your development? Well, quite simply, yes there is. Some would say that this is not (and should not be) the case and your organization should supply all the relevant information and training to enable you to do your job. Whilst I agree with that notion in principal, my experience tells me this is not the case and likely never will be. I have spent many hours of my own time enhancing my skills in technical rescue and the associated medical skills required to deal with road traffic collisions. Not only was this in my own time (outside of my operational duty hours) but also generally cost me money to do it as I sourced my own training and volunteered for roles that would massively enhance my skills and knowledge. In short, to be the best you can be, you must invest in yourself. Of course, that is not to say that the training you receive is ineffective; it is not, but it does have its limits and as we have discussed is generally cyclic. In addition to this, training generally does not keep pace with the environment in which you work (e.g. new car technology). This is difficult to achieve when an organization may have to train a few hundred or a few thousand people; it is not realistic.
So where do you start?
Well, in relation to vehicle extrication, technical and medical rescue are both ‘sexy’ subjects and there is lots of information available online, but as I have already stated (in a previous blog), the internet is a minefield of misinformation and disinformation which, for an inexperienced rescuer, can be more damaging than helpful. Of course, I can recommend ‘Vehicle Extrication Techniques’ as a starting point (whether you are experienced or not) and from there I would suggest talking to the key people in your organization who may be able to offer advice and signpost you to relevant and reliable information. Up until very recently there were very few medical courses available for technical rescuers, but this has changed with many open courses available that provide a high level or pre-hospital trauma care. I can give you more information on this!
Firefighters and rescuers around the world are generally very well trained to an extraordinarily high standard and organizations invest huge sums of money ensuring you can operate safely and effectively. However, my view is that we must also take responsibility for our own development and unfortunately this may mean giving up your own time (and maybe your own hard-earned money) to go the extra mile.
By Ian Dunbar