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Is it time to move on ?


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No not a new job, something else.

One that I have never been come to terms with to fathom ever since I started my RDS training 14 years ago. 

It is something unique and idiosyncratic to the fire service and that is - 'Why do we train in one specific, regimented way only for that to be thrown out of the window so to speak when it comes to jobs - BA is one of them, come on let's all admit it !

The main one for me the way we do ladders.  Why do we spend all that time, pitching the 13.5 - in training, on the station yard, hours on end - yelling 'stand by to tilt' 'poles to face' etc yet never do anything like it in the real world.  Why are we still teaching ladder drills and hydrant drills from 40+ years ago? Times change and with that equipment and techniques change and evolve for the better.  Better understanding of body mechanics and lighter equipment mean we don't have put unnecessary strain on ourselves yet we still expect to walk backwards, arching our backs out of alignment to under run a ladder. 

Fire services in different countries have ladders that aren't as complex and difficult to operate than ours and are sometimes longer in length yet we are still drill by numbers with ours.  Critiquing everyone's pitch and going into a blind panic because the ladder isn't vertical when confined serves no purpose once it's used in anger.  Just get it in!

Is it a health and safety thing why we do it this way? Or is it because we've become so entrenched in a certain way of working then it must be done that way forever - it's easier and less hassle then attempting to try something else. 

The Manual of firemanship has had it's day and it dated now - the fact that it's title has the word 'F1reman' in it says it all - yet the drill book one is the same one that we still use as reference.

With modern day aerial appliances certain ladders aren't even a thought for incident commanders or operating policies. LFB have completely got rid of roof ladders on pumps as it's not a safe system of work anymore - which is great, it means questions are being asked and risks reduced.

I'm certainly not a ladder-phobe or someone who's so risk averse and thinks they should be withdrawn, there is definitely a need for them on pumps, in fact I could think of about 10 things that need to be jettisoned first - guidelines being number 1 but that's another thread.

But let's move with the times and evolve and with that introduce new ways of working that replicate the real world. Train the way you play !

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Nobody likes change or in this case been responsible for change if it all goes wrong I think would cover it.

Even more so these days where everyone gets blamed if something goes wrong.  Probably lots out there wanting change and would agree but find someone to make that decission.  

Going to the drill book back when that was written by someone in a government department these days where is all that now?

Some have removed guidelines there was a thread on here a few years back think it was H&W, probably others now, ladders, Northumberland has only just bought their first ALP!!  

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I think you're right to a point. The standard drills for example for a 13.5 (straight, confined, props to face) serve as a baseline. The adage of basics done right is where we should start in the fire service. If we can make sure that we are perfect in our basic drills, understand the How's and whys we do things in a certain way, we can look to train for for difficult or unusual pitches. 

This comes down to watches willingness, and on the watch officers, to set up drills that encourage or necessitate the crews thinking outside the box. Obviously this needs to be done in a safe manner that isn't going to end up unnecessarily damaging equipment or injuring the crews.

I feel the best for this is RTC training. A training pad with the ability to have cars positioned in all manner of ways is a god send to help train for the unlimited ways people can destroy their cars. Indeed several different techniques can be done on one side of a car, leading to multitudes of options and scenarios to train on (if you have access to cars and pads).

The worst, and not due to trainers or FRS, tends to be hot fire BA training. The requirement to ensure everyone is trained and assessed as maintaining competency means that resources end up being stretched and a mentality of ASSESS instead of TRAIN develops. In an ideal world, you would be able to rock up at a real fire training venue, ask for a specific configuration, fire load, access etc. and then allow crews to attack the fire and search however they like. By doing this, in a safe environment, crews are able to try new techniques, tactics, and fight the fire in a realistic way instead of a prescribed assessment scenario to tick a box. 

In short, I agree, but master the basics and then see how far from the gold standard you need to move away operationally to keep us as safe as possible

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It’s a great post and a matter that’s baffled me too.

Once the foundation of ladders and other skills is laid through rigidity and repeatability it should be left at Training School and then ‘Real’ situations taught too.

A classic example of where GMFRS fail to teach its recruits in real time/real conditions is the excruciating (for me) speed and precision they are taught to put a 135 up. As someone who has to perform regular assessments, I am often close to tears with frustration at this.

I have asked up the chain many times for changes but to no avail - it is not a surgeons scalpel nor does it form part of the workings inside an Omega watch yet that’s what recruits treat it as - none know how to quickly rectify a pitch if too central apart from taking it down, resighting and repitching… and let’s be honest, I and doubt others have never ever pitched one in anger into a 7ft x 5ft window either 😂

I would rather the hours and hours spent learning roof and other ladders, BA Guidelines and other relics from another era be dropped and instead the precious time spent exposing them to more smoke/hotwears, enhanced building firefighting tactics, APHLS and driving/pump operating.

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Out of interest who has the final say in what equipment we should carry on the pumps?

Is it an NFCC thing? Ministerial body? Local chief officers? Manufacturers even?

I'm aware not all services have a 13.5 and some have a 10.5 but does anyone have anything vastly different on their trucks.?

Wouldn't surprise me if folk still think there's a JDDC office somewhere in the UK

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What is carried on appliances up and down varies massively by each area, you would be surprised.

Essex or Cambridge or might be both their retained dont carry a 135 as no time to train with them or sometimes the crew to use is safely so all have 9 or 105 is one example.

PPV, stirup pumps, amount of hose, size of hose, are just a few points off the top of my head, some are on electric RTC gear some still on the old stuff, branches another example.

You could put 10 appliances next to each other and all would vary massively.

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Biggest differences when I went from LFB to WMFS

- Hose not Dutch rolled (I actually hate this. Let me Dutch roll the hoses... its better!)

- PPV, VLPP, Full sized holmatro spreaders, cutters and ram on every appliance 

- more equipment for getting a water supply, practices of pump operation different and and methodologies of fire attack different.

Those are the main changes, there's thousands more. Standardising everything across the UK would be a nightmare. Hence train with you own kit, know how to use it properly, then start thinking of ways to have fun with it in different ways!

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I definitely agree that the whole approach to training needs an overhaul.

My rather controversial view is that regulatory fire safety  and community fire safety part of the job be completely separated from Ops and even hydrant work be carried out by support staff.

Ops staff would spend all their time on training and response preparation (testing kit etc). 72ds and other response prep visits would be included

The shift system and crewing levels will allow for staff to attend off station courses monthly

I honestly do not think op staff are adequately prepared for the high risk tasks they may have to perform. To send a crew to fit a SD in someone's home at the cost of the loss of training is a poor practice but it happens

Many years ago, the HSE accepted the idea of the 'Safe Person Concept' in the fire service. This recognises that unlike other employers, FRS cannot control the ops crew's working environment but they do have control over their staff.  So the SPC would intensively train staff (until they bleed🤔) in safe systems of work and identifying risk

Its my view that numerous political changes - from the successful delivery of community fire safety, to the reduction of personnel, stations and appliances has watered down training and destroyed much of the safe person concept

It is time for a change , indeed its massively overdue 

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On 12/10/2023 at 09:40, Percy said:

I would rather the hours and hours spent learning roof and other ladders, BA Guidelines and other relics from another era be dropped and instead the precious time spent exposing them to more smoke/hotwears, enhanced building firefighting tactics, APHLS and driving/pump operating.

TBF, having recently passed out of GMFRS training: out of the 16 weeks we spent about 45 minutes on guidelines, perhaps an hour on roof ladder. There was a decent amount of smoke & hot. Quite a lot of pumping. Driving is a whole other kettle of fish, tried to get us to do it on top of initial training and chasing us more now we're on station, I understand it's mandatory in the current course but not timetabled? Not sure about that.

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Short term making probies do their driving quals isnt great, cause you should be in the back learning the basics. 
long term making probies drive is a great idea and I fully support. I started GMC in 2017 since then it’s been back to back courses 300+ probies came through the door. Imagine if they all done their driving at training school, Where we would be now? You could share driving shifts through the watch. Manage it so your younger firefighter are in the back as often as you can, We wouldn’t be in the situ, where drivers are literally (just driving)on some watches cause we are so short. 

Also it’s the best part of the job. 

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On 13/10/2023 at 09:24, Matt said:

Essex or Cambridge or might be both their retained dont carry a 135 as no time to train with them or sometimes the crew to use is safely so all have 9 or 105 is one example.

Essex allocate 105 ladders to all single appliance stations.  Two appliance stations have one with a 105 and one with a 135.  Same whether they are WT or On Call. Regardless of station, all firefighters are taught to pitch both ladders.

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It was in the 1980's that some services decided that all their pumps should be identically equipped as WRLs.     The rationale was that mobilising was simpler, send the nearest because they are all the same; all personnel are trained to use all the issued equipment and on the fireground you could readily grab kit off the most convenient pump. Standard stowage of course.

Some, including North Wales still do it today.


Forgot to mention the ladders on all pumps - 6.5m, 9.5m ( to match the ladder carried by the L4Ps ) and 13.5m.

All 3 Welsh FRS now use the same chassis, body and standard equipment.

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I've been banging on about this for years. Especially so since I moved brigades.

Everybody says yeah great idea, you're definitely on the money. Then nothing happens.

It just goes onto the too difficult pile but it really isn't that difficult when you break it down to the root causes and look at how to address them.

I won't go on as its far too long a discussion to have on a forum but i agree wholeheartedly.

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Amen to that !

No one wants to ultimately put a name and sign off on new equipment or training or tactics in case something goes wrong, an investigation gets launched and someone has to be blamed for it.

Potential banana skin and loss of pension - it stalks every service up and down the country.

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The whole training methodology needs a revamp in most places.

You can't go from strict p&p and protocols pre 2014 to NOG the last 8/9 years and still train the same way. The prerequisites for the kind of firefighter each one requires are too far apart but that's exactly what some brigades are doing.

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Last year I put up a 135 on an incident. The crew was myself at 5 years in, a 25+ year FF, and two fresh out the box probationers from different stations. We were pitching to a balcony on fire, so needed urgency. The pitch had to be a confined pitch, navigating many low branches, and needed the ladder the be extended fully. We nearly dropped it twice as the experienced FF just started putting the ladder up with no commands (which is fine with an experienced crew), the two probies were desperately clinging to drill by numbers, and I was doing a bit of both. 

Thankfully, with BA, we teach by the book at the start, then start teaching more 'real world'. Our BA training on station is far more flexible. We are encouraged to 'treat it as you find it' and just be hot on radio messages if you go off piste a bit. In debriefs we'll be asked questions about missed door procedures etc, and as long as you explain your rationale and it was sound, then there's no issues.

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On 19/10/2023 at 11:10, WTTJ said:

We nearly dropped it twice as the experienced FF just started putting the ladder up with no commands

maybe I’m just being a bit obtuse, but even fresh out of training school I think you should be able to throw up a 135 without someone telling you commands. 135 drills are drilled into you for 11 straight weeks, it should be second nature. 

that being said I’ve never put a 135 up in anger at a ‘proper’ job, maybe 7/8 times on non time critical jobs. I’ve never seen nor myself been close to dropping a ladder however.

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That's the issue though, the new recruits drill by numbers for weeks and weeks then come to station and in some brigades all they do is more drill by numbers. Their entire perspective around firefighting is based around drill. When they eventually go out on incidents they expect to see things proceed like a drill whichit doesnt, as if it did you'd be in trouble and you're not gonna have a great operational response.... Although some genuinely do expect incidents to look like the drill yard. I assume that's down to inexperience but who knows.

Is being good at drill really a good measure of competency? I don't think so. The Day you leave training school is probably the best you'll ever be at drill but its also the worst you'll ever be as a firefighter. You've done drills for months straight, you can drop the head of a 13.5m ladder on a tuppence....... But does it make you a good firefighter? Not at all. Does it instill you with any of the typical skills you'd expect a firefighter to possess? No it doesn't.

Thats why some firms have moved away from drill by numbers and focused on training to be good at what we actually do. I dunno why others haven't, maybe it's just too difficult or there's a lack of new ideas but it's kind of important to move with the times, otherwise you get left behind, or people get hurt. Or you lose property or life that was otherwise saveable.

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I remember when I was a volunteer firfieghter (15 years ago), lots of our training was "by the book". Not too much time to drill, so we have to do the minimum.

Now, I am a wholetime Ff (for 3 years). I had to do another recruit training, 4 months long. But this time it was different. Of course, the beginning was stil "by the book", but quickly switch to "as real as possible" trainning. Most of our trainers, got  rid of the old fashion way, to be close of what happens on the field. The officer give you an order, but you are free to execute it the way it seems to you the best. To learn to be autonomous and not following strict commands. And it was a successfull trainning.

Even during our watch drilling session, we are still acting like how it will be on the field.

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at the moment with recruits having multiple formal assessments you could actually be making it harder for them if you significantly deviate from the drill book for their first 18 months. If I have a recruit on duty when we’re training I’ll do it by the book a few times and then throw some problem solving pitches in at the end. Same with BA and pumping. It could just be through “what if?” questions or running through the scenario again allowing for efficiencies to be made by the team where it’s safe to do so. ultimately it just increases the work load as you try to get them through both their apprenticeship while also developing them into capable firefighters. 

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I'm on the fence, I totally understand where you're coming from with forward thinking and adapting to our ever changing environment. (Totally agree guidelines are also outdated, especially as PPVs have been in circulation for X amount of years now, and that no gaffa currently serving will have the stones to commit a crew on guidelines anyway) 

But I do like the idea of going back to the very basics sometimes. The military do it with the way they drill too, it just keeps those standards alive, let's face it, whilst they work, they're not going anywhere. 😋

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The military is a unique one but no different. When I was in we hammered our drills repeatedly and standard things like section/platoon attacks over and over. But when done right, it was a foundation for the next exercise where it was non standard and curveball thrown in left right and centre to make you think and challenge ourselves like in real life. 

The fire service should be no different. Drill until you get it right, then use those foundation skills and bench out to round out your skills. It's a much  more holistic way of training

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On 19/10/2023 at 23:46, Lumie said:

maybe I’m just being a bit obtuse, but even fresh out of training school I think you should be able to throw up a 135 without someone telling you commands. 135 drills are drilled into you for 11 straight weeks, it should be second nature. 

that being said I’ve never put a 135 up in anger at a ‘proper’ job, maybe 7/8 times on non time critical jobs. I’ve never seen nor myself been close to dropping a ladder however.

I just wrote a long response before realising it was a load of waffle. In short, not enough time spend doing it on training school, school was too big for the number of FFIDs so lots of standing around waiting for your turn, before joining a watch that, due to retirements, was desperately prioritising specialist training for the new additions (non-FFID) over basics to provide the bare minimum of response if required. 

There were other swiss cheese factors that I could go into, but certainly not the FFIDs fault at all, just another example of why 10 years of not recruiting was a bad idea.

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