Canadian Firefighter Magazine

StopBad: Training with a difference

By Gord Schreiner   

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In my department, we train, train and train. When it comes to training, I hate excuses.  

I have heard them all: it is too cold, it is too wet, we don’t have enough firefighters here to train, we don’t have enough money to train…forget the excuses and start training like lives depend on it, because they do! 

Every year we will be training new firefighters while also working to maintain the skills of our existing firefighters. Why don’t we develop programs that serve this balance? Once created, these programs can be easily changed to meet your current needs. 

There are several training programs we have developed in Comox over the past few years that have really made the biggest difference. 

Response Ready: This program provides recruits with the basic skills to respond safely to incidents as soon as possible. This program involves about 60 hours of practical training (evening and weekends over a few months). During this time, recruits will be asked to read chapters of their textbook and complete various assignments, in addition to viewing videos on our web site or links to other training videos. 

Once the requirements are completed, they would be deemed “Response Ready” and allowed to respond to emergencies as “exterior” firefighters. Following this training, they would proceed with completion of NFPA 1001/2.

Rapid Independent Drills (RID): At the start of the pandemic, we developed these RIDs to be done individually and with urgency. The objective of this training is learning to complete tasks safely and effectively in a timely manner. 

In the early days of the pandemic we did not want our crews training in groups, so individual or small-group drills helped us continue to train. RID was designed to enhance the delivery speed of some of the “bread and butter” tasks common at emergency scenes. 

When completed, the firefighter takes a selfie of themselves and submits this with a RID document generated from one of our tablets using QR codes. Record management systems can then be updated to credit the firefighter with this training.  

Seconds Count: Seconds Count was designed for trained firefighters to help maintain their skills. The very nature of the fire service is that we must be able to deliver fast – our citizens do not make appointments for our emergency services. Two or more firefighters can complete these drills inside or out. They can also be completed morning, noon, or night. We developed a couple dozen of these timed drills that we practice on a regular basis. These can be included in our weekly training sessions at the beginning, during or end of the session. 

During some of our training sessions we might do a series of Seconds Count drills. These drills are timed and most are less than five minutes in length. A good training session can include several of these. I have seen a huge improvement in the efficiency of our well-trained firefighters as they worked towards completing these tasks in a reasonable time while ensuring safety is still their number one priority. 

Some of these simple drills including donning your PPE, SCBA, stretching a line, throwing a ladder, setting up a fan, deploying an AED, performing VEIS and so on. These type of drills work great for training records too, as we can check off individual firefighters as they complete the various Seconds Count lesson plans.

These are only three of several training programs we have developed. All are stored on the on-board tablets in each apparatus so crews can quickly access them. This also helps with the continuity between the crews, as they are all working off the same lesson plans. 

The key to great training is to be organized and have several plans ready for each training session. These plans should also be tailored to suit the circumstances of the session. A firefighter who is participating in meaningful training is a happier and safer firefighter, and more likely to make a positive difference on your fireground. 

Remember: without effective on-going practice, you are just another civilian. Training saves lives ­— even your own.

For more information or copies of these programs please contact me at  

Gord Schreiner is the fire chief in Comox, B.C., and manages the Comox Fire Training Centre. He’s delivered countless presentations in fire stations across Canada and is available to assist yours. Email 

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