If you’ve spent time studying for promotional exams over the course of your career, you’ve likely studied various personnel management concepts. Theory X, Theory Y, Management by Objectives, Management by Walking Around, Total Quality Management, and other similar theory types are often the subject of test questions, but certainly aren’t overly exciting things to talk about. However, I often joke with the brothers in my company that when it comes to first-due district familiarization, I’m a practitioner of the theory of “training by walking around”.
Although quite a simple concept, we spend a fair amount of time with our apparatus parked in a central location in our downtown district as we walk the blocks in the area. We’ll grab “to-go” coffees at the local coffee house and pick a block or two area for the day to walk and talk about fire operations. Topics of conversation typically include forcible entry challenges, building construction type/age/advantages/disadvantages, access points, FDC locations (as well as checking the swivels for operability and debris), closest hydrant locations, apparatus placement options, and myriad other operational and logistical challenges the come up as our conversation progresses about each building.
This isn’t formal pre-planning or a series of focused fire inspections; just simply enjoying some morning coffee with the crew while we all bounce tactical ideas off each other as we wander around in our first-due. It’s both a team-building social activity and highly beneficial training event at the same time. We always stay in-service and available for incidents, and never wander too far (more than a couple blocks) from our apparatus. The time spent simply “training by walking around” has paid dividends on multiple incidents, and has also become a source of pride for my company members as they’ve realized how well they know their dense and complicated first-due area in comparison to their peers at other companies. We’ll often drop in randomly during our walks to chat with building maintenance personnel at the different high-rise towers, just to build (or continue) a positive relationship. They’re typically more than happy to take us briefly to the fire pump room, elevator room, roof, or anywhere else we’d like to take a quick peak at that day because it pertains to the tactical conversations we’ve been having.
We try to make it a point to get onto the roof of every major high-rise building downtown at least once a year. Even in response districts outside of the urban core, companies can park and walk the residential neighborhoods to practice “house reading” with the members of the crew, looking for the tell-tale cues of stairwell location, bedroom/bathroom/kitchen windows, and multiple dwelling indicators.
Regardless of the character of your first-due, get out of the firehouse, grab some coffees, and partake in some “training by walking around”. You’ll have positive crew interaction, more than likely make some positive citizen connections along the way, and be able to log an easy half-hour of training for your members.
I’ll leave you with a snap shot of the best-ever multiple dwelling indicator we’ve found so far while “training by walking around”.