Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Technical Response: Building a foundation: Key principles for successful technical rescue training

By Chad Roberts   

Features Training Week canadian firefighter firefighter training First Responders training

Where you train can be made simpler, to make the sessions quicker on those busier days. Photo: Chad Roberts

It’s the beginning of your shift. You’ve come in to work, checked your gear and the truck. Your regular routine is complete, and you’re about to roll into the kitchen roundtable, where most of us figure out what the rest of the shift is going to entail. This is where things can go really well or can be sidetracked. While you were out doing your checks, your captain got the call to report to training for the day. The first decision must be made: this captain – or those with knowledge of the training assignment – must determine how they will perceive the training and how it is verbalized and delivered to the rest of the crew. 

Far too often, I have found that this type of start to the day is met with resistance and reluctance by the crews being summoned to training. But why? We could easily sit back and blame the captain or supervisor, who may treat it with a negative attitude right from the get-go, but let’s dig deeper and get to the core issue. What have we done to make training a sore subject? This job has—and seemingly always should—thrived off our attitude towards training, whether through the specific division or with our crews. 

Take the time to explain the why, especially in the tech rescue environment.

Passion and attitude are truly the name of the game when it comes to training. While we all have our up and down days, we must remember as captains, supervisors and/or training officers that our attitude towards the job, and training specifically, remains consistent for your crews. The approach you take toward the topic and its relevance will always resonate with your people. While training can be challenging and exciting, it can also be mundane at times. Try to remember that it’s not about you. Members of your crew that day may take something entirely different from the session than you will, so try and remain consistent with your approach to the day, no matter the topic. Dissect your day with your crew and lay it out appropriately so you can achieve your training goals and still fit in anything else that members may have been originally expecting. By doing this, you can make all these achievements a reality to your crew and limit some of their hesitation. Technical rescue-specific training can require many hours in a classroom and studying various materials before physical training commences. This can be waning on a crew but try to understand the reasoning and mission behind the program. Do your best to buy into that program for the good of the people working alongside you, because they deserve that at the very least. 

Gauge your crew or the crew you are training that day. I can’t express to you how important it has been for me in my fire service and training career. They all require training, from very junior crews to a veteran group of firefighters. But how this is delivered can’t always be the same. When teaching a new skill or piece of equipment, you must be prepared to approach it differently to get the same message across. The newer members might hang on to every word and ask very few questions, whereas the older, more seasoned veterans may balk at some of this information and challenge you throughout the session. While the approach must differ, you must start by explaining the ‘why’. Why are we doing it? Why now? Why the change? Why that way and not this way? The younger generation of firefighters has come up in a world where answers are at their fingertips in seconds, so don’t assume they’ll sit back and trust your every word. As for the older generation, they need the ‘why’ to detach from previous processes or equipment and to start associating their past knowledge with the training laid out in front of them. 


More complicated scenarios can be learned at ground level before progressing.

Involvement might be the biggest gap between these two types of groups during training. We are constantly training from the moment we are hired. Your recruitment class can consist of weeks or months of training, which gives our newer members the skills they need to start their careers but also creates an expectation. These firefighters expect training and want it at a pace that challenges them at every turn. Our more experienced members may shy away from this type of training for many different reasons. Rather than writing off these select groups as untrainable, we must find a way to engage them. In tech rescue training, rather than breaking into a full-scale at-pace evolution, take it slow and get members involved. Fire training happens at a much different pace than service calls, and you need to walk before you can run. Taking it slower will allow everyone to learn together and bring up valuable information that the more experienced members can offer. Foster this and build it into a technical rescue response that works for the crew, then add a faster pace. 

When training for technical response, we must first teach the skill at the most basic level in a classroom environment. Once a basic understanding of the skill and its terminology is established, we can then start learning hands-on at a slow pace—like mentioned previously—until roles and responsibilities are understood. Once the skills can be perfected in a real-world scenario, only then can we introduce new problems to the crews. Adding problems to our members any time before this can create training scars that will halt their passion for training. Issues will come up in the real world during technical rescue incidents, so we must ensure they are brought up and addressed with every firefighter involved beforehand. This will foster that problem-solving mindset that most of our members thrive off of. 

Keep everyone involved and engaged in full-run scenarios.
Photo: Chad Roberts

Training in the tech rescue world takes time and patience. But more importantly, it takes the right attitude and passion to endure the time needed for all our members to be brought along equally. Everyone has different learning styles and paces when it comes to training, which needs to be understood and utilized when gearing our training plan for the day. Getting everyone to this level of effectiveness is vital to introduce problems and avoid the dreaded training scars that continue to plague fire department training. 

Chad Roberts is an Acting Captain on a Heavy Rescue in Oakville, Ont. He is a member of the Oakville Extrication Team and Vice President of the North American Vehicle Rescue Association. He also instructs at various colleges throughout Ontario and is a current member of the Canadian Motorsports Response Team. Contact Chad at

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