Regular readers will have noticed that the last two issues of Asia Pacific Fire have featured two of the new, state-of-the-art training centres in the region and that not an issue goes by without an article on training.
Emergency services around our region and the world at large purchase many millions of dollars worth of equipment each year, some high tech as well as many basic items. They also spend millions of dollars on people, career and volunteer, to use this equipment. As well as the internal purchases, they invest millions in community education to ensure the community is prepared and resilience in the event of a disaster.
Our people need to be skilled in the safe use of this equipment and engaging with communities to undertake their role in the event of an emergency.
In most post disaster enquiries, you will inevitably find comments relating to issues of training that contributed to problems during the event. The fact that every incident we attend and every public education program we facilitate is different, shows that there is no one answer to anything encountered by emergency service workers. We must be trained to a high level, to understand and gain skills to manage the many permutations we confront.
Like learning to play a musical instrument, you start by learning about the instrument before a note is played (equipment familiarization), then you practice simple tunes from a music book and slowly improve knowing how to use the instrument (SOPs). As your skills improve you can work with a group reading music written for the group (team work and scenario training). At this stage you are skilled enough to write your own music (vary to meet the situation). When you get to the stage of conducting (team leader) you not only read the music but you can interpret what must be played for the different audiences you encounter.
The conductor also depends on all the team members to be experts in their chosen instruments, it is no use playing Chopin if the string section is not up to it. The final level that we all should be training for in this analogy is where all team members can come together at short notice with the skills to jam together and create great music. At this equivalent stage you, as an emergency service worker, can handle any situation thrown at you.
That last level in this analogy is what should be aimed for every time a new piece of equipment is purchased, new technology is developed, a prevention program is launched and a new person starts in the organisation.
Training and education is not only about operational skill, it should penetrate deep into the organisation and cover all the skills needed to manage in, what is now becoming an increasingly complicated world. If you don’t give training the highest priority in your organisation I cannot see how you can succeed in meeting your organisations objectives.
What should you take out of this?
Training and education is fundamental to the success of your organisation, if not done correctly you will have ill equipped and possibly dangerous people in the field, you will have managers without management skills. This must be one of the highest corporate risk areas in your organisation. So why in this day and age do I still see training departments as poor cousins of the human resources department, part of the operations directorate (it is more than operations) or worse still split between a number of corporate units.
In my view if training is not reporting in its own right to the organisational head you are not giving it the true value.
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Image courtesy of Hong Kong Fire Service