Resources to Take Your Training to the Next Level

Issue 1 and Volume 6.

A fire department and its firefighters are only as good as their training. But training can be challenging if you’re on a tight budget or if you’re stuck in a rut, repeating the same old drills and reviewing the same old SOPs/SOGs. To remain effective, we must constantly be looking for innovations and resources that challenge our firefighters, with the mission of improving our performance on the fireground. In this article, I’ll share some of the training resources that I’ve used firsthand or seen in my travels across the country. Hopefully they give you some ideas as to how you or your department might be able to modify or enhance your training, from the basics of tactical operations to advanced levels of leadership and command training.

For volunteer and career departments, the demand for in-service, convenient, localized fire service training continues to grow. One way to provide high-quality training locally is to pool resources among several departments, using mobile props that can be grouped together to create a mobile training academy that provides training to many different departments. Following are some “à la carte” options.


One mobile training prop that’s really caught my eye recently comes from a newly formed company out of Carson City, Nev., called Fire-Vent. Firefighter owned and operated, Fire-Vent provides a mobile training prop that allows for safe, realistic and cost-effective training on tactics such as pitched roof, flat roof and gable end ventilation; forcible-entry through-the-lock techniques; and overhead door cuts.


Fireblast provides a full line of portable trainers to meet specific training objectives. Its interior live-fire training structures are self-contained with power and fuel, requiring only a water source. They meet NFPA 1001 and 1403 standards and incorporate eco-safe fuels, non-toxic smoke systems and optional reduced noise emissions from quiet generators. Special-ops props (USAR, forcible entry and flammable liquid and gas trainers) and trainers for vehicle firefighting are also available.  

PRO-SAFE FIRE Training Systems

PRO-SAFE’s mobile training units (MTU) provide realistic fire, hazmat, search-and-rescue and confined-space training scenarios for municipal, industrial, airport and marine firefighting crews while meeting NFPA performance criteria. The MTU can be set up and ready for training in under an hour. The projected life span of an MTU is 15–20 years, provided the recommended maintenance plan is followed. Tip: PRO-SAFE offers grant-writing assistance to any departments trying to win a grant to pay for one of its MTUs.

Fire Training Structures

Although not exactly mobile, Fire Training Structures provides a budget-friendly training alternative that involves “stackable” props that require only basic pillar foundations, which saves thousands in site preparation cost. The system can also grow with your budget and training needs and includes flashover simulators, multi-story systems, live-fire training towers, connected burn room structures and mobile training systems.

Also Worth Noting

An important part of any high-quality training program is the records management system you use to track who’s trained on what, when and what’s coming up next. Fortunately, there are several excellent records management systems that can help you get the job done.

Target Safety—PreventionLink

PreventionLink helps you easily maintain compliance; deliver curriculum; and track all tasks, certifications and fire/EMT training online. You can customize the system to meet your needs. Available options include the ability to record online/instructor-led/hands-on training, log drills, maintain skill sheets and core competency requirements, share files, schedule events and produce certificates for completed courses.


CertRight is great for small- or medium-sized departments. It handles most types of training information from NFPA, NFA, IFSTA, OSHA, FEMA, ISO, NFIRS, state/local health departments and state/local organizations, as well as in-house training. Available options include a training log, individual training reports, employee goals, certifications, maintenance training tracks and many different reporting options.

Also Worth Noting

Today’s firefighters must meet many specialized training requirements, from hazmat to OSHA compliance. Volunteer departments in particular struggle with how to meet these requirements; if every drill night is taken up with required OSHA training, when will the crew actually drill? That’s where online training can really help—allowing firefighters to complete required written courses on their own time and at their own pace. There are a lot of options out there, but I’ll just touch on two.

Target Safety—PreventionLink

Target Safety’s PreventionLink provides more than 200 hours of refresher curriculum, including NFPA, EMS, emergency vehicle operator, OSHA compliance and human resources courses. You can also use the system to customize content for your specific needs, or develop your own training content (videos, PDFs, PowerPoint and Word documents, etc.) or deliver third-party approved curriculum.


CentreLearn provides a comprehensive online course library of multimedia fire, rescue and EMS courses. Options include online testing, CE certificates, event scheduling, surveys, delivery of customized content, development of scenario-based training and testing, and discussion boards. You can also convert your PowerPoint presentations into Adobe Flash for more dynamic delivery, and you can hold live meetings and webinars.

The fireground continues to present us with challenges, some new and some old. Far too often we attempt to create a safer, more effective outcome by applying traditional tactics—things we’ve seen or applied in the past. I recommend these books with the idea of going against the grain of traditional tactics, looking outside the lines of past practices for a new way of doing business. Simply stated, if each of these authors causes you to pause and question the tactics we use and the decisions we make, then they’ve been successful. Critical thinking is about asking the question “why?” and each of these authors in my opinion brings that question to the forefront in both tactics and leadership.

3D Firefighting by Paul Grimwood, Ed Hartin, John McDonagh and Shan Raffel

This in-depth book examines extreme fire behavior in a practical, realistic way, then introduces the concept of 3D firefighting—fighting the gaseous phase of the fire as well as the actual burning material. Other chapters delve into the applications of 3D firefighting, such as fog attack. Throughout the book, the authors blend science with practical demonstrations—this isn’t firefighting in theory.

Smoke Burns by John Taylor

John Taylor retired in 2004 after a 27-year career in the U.K. fire service, having served in Greater Manchester and North Yorkshire. In this book, he explains why and how smoke burns, the importance of controlling air flows at fires (air track management) and new search and rescue SOPs relating to these theories. Tip: Check out the website for additional free training resources, and watch for John’s article in our March issue!

Positive Pressure Fire Attack by Kriss Garcia, Reinhard Kauffmann and Ray Schelble

This book explains how to take positive pressure ventilation (PPV) to the next step, using it to achieve effective ventilation during fire attack (PPA). The book covers:

  • Safety considerations and limitations of PPA and positive pressure.
  • Other ways positive pressure blowers can be used to help victims and firefighters in a variety of situations.
  • Implementing PPA in a department, and how to train each engine company to become its own firefighting force that can accomplish both ventilation and fire attack.

Blue Threat: Why to Err Is Inhuman by Dr. Tony Kern

For years, many in the fire service have studied line-of-duty deaths and the events that led up to these tragic events. As a former Air Force pilot, Dr. Tony Kern provides a unique look at human error (one of the least emphasized yet most probable causes of fatal events on the fireground), how it happens and what we can do to prevent it from occurring. Having met Dr. Kern and listened to several of his presentations on decision-making and human error, I believe Blue Threat is a must read, with direct applications to the fire service.

The incident commander (IC) role requires fundamentals that can’t be provided by a software package—but once those fundamentals are managed, electronic programs can greatly enhance the IC’s effectiveness on scene, contributing to improved firefighter safety. Improved situational awareness, incident timers, electronic accountability and unit tracking, overhead photos and quick access to preplans are all critical tools immediately at your fingertips when you incorporate technology in your command operations. Here are a few options.


AIMSonScene is Incident Command System (ICS) software that’s extremely easy to use and helps you focus more attention on the incident itself. It can liberate your ICs from tactical white boards or paper-and-pencil worksheets, allowing them to easily adjust priorities when the situation escalates and keep the EOC updated. The system is NIMS-consistent and requires no typing, and it’s not just for large incidents. Features include configurable “run cards” for incident resources of any type, configurable alerts, automated PAR Check and Roll Call features, and automatic ICS form generation.

NIMS Pocket Guide App (Informed Publishing)

This app for the iPhone and iPod Touch makes NIMS information easier than ever to find and use. It provides fast access to critical information that outlines NIMS objectives clearly and concisely for responders at the local, state or federal level or in private industry. This is a great way to learn and teach NIMS.

Coordinated NIMS Incident Planner

Incident action plans (IAPs) are great, but they can be a hassle to put together, and that can make ICs less likely to use them on a regular basis. The Coordinated NIMS Incident Planner can increase compliance by making it much easier to create and use IAPs. The software combines city, county, state and federal levels with independent response organizations to create a multiple-agency plan much faster than on paper.
I’m a huge fan of simulation and what I believe it offers to the future of the fire service; I only wish every department could have a state-of-the-art simulation training program. But even if that’s not realistic for your budget, there are plenty of online and software programs that can get you started in simulations and help you better train your crew.

Fully Involved Fire

Looking for tactical simulations online? FullyInvolvedFire.com offers a subscription-based online training program that includes a number of tactical simulations for individual and company-level training. Simulations include Size-Up Challenges, where you can compare your size-up to other firefighters from across the country, and Incident Command Simulations, where you receive dispatch information and respond to a scene, maintaining command from start to finish.  

Fireground Pump Trainer

Familiarize yourself with pump panels in your fire department. The Fireground Pump Trainer for Windows can help you study hydraulics, learn basic evolutions and understand pump parameters. It’s a great tool for operator/engineer classroom instruction.

FD Training International

This is a hands-on pump simulator that uses a computer to call up many different scenarios, creating a high-stress, realistic environment in which to test and train your pump operators. You waste no water, and the prop uses only 50 feet of hose deployed from four apparatus discharges. But you can choose between 150 feet and 350 feet of hose for each discharge; the student must then supply the correct pressure.

Departments across the country are feeling the pain of budget cuts, and one training approach that can help is to share resources. If you don’t have access to a big training facility, you should look for other departments or academies within your state that may be willing to bring training to you, props, trainers and all. And if your department currently does support a comprehensive training center, you might consider ways to expand training revenue by taking your props on the road.  

Two academies that currently do this: Central Florida Fire Academy, Orlando (www.fireacademy.org/portable.htm) and Area 14 Kentucky State Fire Rescue Training (www.sfrtarea14.com/mobilefleet.php).

The Central Florida Fire Academy offers safe, reliable and realistic props and offers departments the ability to rent equipment, space and facilities. State-certified instructors work with local staff to ensure that the training follows all relevant standards. Many of the academy’s portable training facilities meet state standards for conducting Firefighter I and II training.

The Kentucky State Fire Rescue Training facility has a large mobile fleet, including an extrication trailer, firefighter survival and rescue trailer, flashover simulator, flammable liquids and gases props, a smoke maze and more. These training props provide realistic training to many of Kentucky’s volunteer departments.