ISFSI Member Spotlight: Arjan Bruinstroop

Tell us about yourself and why you decided to join the fire service

Through friends I ended up at the voluntary fire brigade. I was very happy that I could follow my basic training as a fire brigade. I started my fire service career at the voluntary fire service in Krimpen aan den IJssel, a beautiful small municipality close to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. I thought it was nice to be able to mean something for the municipality, for others with a great group of people. And of course, also tough to be able to work with the various tools and techniques in the most challenging situations. The best thing you can do is to turn your hobby into your profession. I was hired by the career fire brigade in the city Rotterdam, where I enjoyed working for years at the fire station as a firefighter. I had the opportunity to go to the fire academy and get my officer training. I have now been with the fire service for 24 years. At the moment I work as Sr Advisor and Instructor with the specialty of structural firefighting at Schiphol Airport Amsterdam The Netherlands. With 5 colleague instructors, we train and educate the fire and rescue crew on different topics, such as Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF), compartment firefighting, Hazmat, and technical rescue.

Who or what has inspired you as a fire instructor?

In my career I have been able to work for 3 beautiful organizations and meet a diversity of people. Some encounters are short, but they will last a lifetime, especially if you meet people during firefighting or rescue work. But also during work at the fire station or training location you meet great people. Everywhere you go there is togetherness, we are all firefighters. And that really inspires me, if we have to, we are all there for the job, we laugh, and we work hard. I was allowed to follow a training abroad or participate in a congress several times, you also meet real professionals there and make some new friends where we can learn from and talk about worldwide fire fighter issues during a good dinner or with a good foreign beer.

The most that inspires me as an instructor is when you hear or read a message from one of your students that actually made the difference during an incident in a fire or in rescuing a person in a car accident. That gives me a good feeling, that's what we do it all for!

What are some things you are working on in your department and how can others learn from that?

At our airport we try to approach "train as you fight" as much as possible during training. We have purchased special training vehicles which are exactly the same as the first line trucks and based on incidents and evaluations we work on realistic training scenarios on our real-life training aircraft and during our real-life fire compartment training sessions. In addition to the real-life fire training courses, we also use other options such as our virtual systems. We have had the airport terminals inside and out and the airport area in a virtual world, this is a great tool for training our Incident Command Teams during various scenarios. It is precisely the various different training options that make a positive contribution to the craftsmanship of our firefighters and incident commanders, I think.

Tell us about a project or training accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career

I worked together in a project team for the purchase of 18 new ARFF crash tenders for 3 airports and the transition to fluorine-free extinguishing foam. The basis for these changes has been laid by the people who really work with them, so from the workplace. We have also been able to create the possibility to purchase 3 training vehicles so that they can really be used for training and the airport operation is not disrupted. We have been able to test a lot in this process and have learned a lot from it. And we made real physical improvements to make the work safer and more effective with the new vehicles and the new extinguishing foam.

What do you hope to accomplish as a fire service instructor?
a. When you are gone, what do you want people to remember you by?

My goal as an instructor is to contribute to the development of my colleagues as a firefighter by helping them in their development. So that colleagues can really make a difference at the right time during firefighting. The training should not only be useful, effective, but also fun to do and also make learning fun; and also conveying the passion for the profession, eager to learn, and help people to jump into something they never done, and also helping people with their personal development.

What is the biggest change you have noticed in the fire service since you started?

Within the fire service in the Netherlands, hard work has been done to make the fire service sector safer and to prevent accidents involving firefighters. Precisely by conducting a lot of research and, based on these studies, adjusting and improving our working methods, but also learning from others such as our foreign colleagues. Especially in the present time it is much easier to share knowledge and experiences from all over the world with each other. It is precisely because of this that we have a better picture of why fires develop in a certain way and what we can do against it; a good example is the application of anti-ventilation and the ability to provide sufficient cooling power to the seat of the fire, which is not always standard anymore with the indoor attack. Our way of working has changed, and our procedures and techniques are much more supported by knowledge instead of that we always do. 

What is something that most people don’t know about you?

In addition to my fire brigade passion, I have another passion and that is photography. A few years ago, I went to the photography school, and since then photography has been a great hobby. I especially like to photograph my daily environment and the special places I visit, for example when traveling with my family. I did a photo project this year, took a photo every day, and posted it on instagram. 2020 could have been a great year with some beautiful trips and special encounters. Unfortunately, these beautiful trips through COVID were canceled.

If you could choose your title (other than the generic Training Officer or Firefighter) that uniquely describes you in your position, what would it be and why?

I'm not a fan of titles, people just know me by name and that already gives a nice unique image of me :-)

And finally, what advice do you have to give another instructor or to somebody who is just starting out as an instructor?

As an instructor you are only human, someone who makes mistakes and does not know everything. Every day you can learn something new, learn from your students, learn from incidents, but also from the experienced colleagues in the fire station. Be curious about new developments, keep thinking for yourself and be able to challenge your own beliefs, and just be yourself and enjoy the ride!

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