1. Describe your department; How many members do you have in your department? Do you represent career, volunteer, or a combination of both?
The Covington Fire Department is a full career, two station, all hazard department. We have fifty-five members, fifty-four uniformed and one civilian. We run two engines, one mid-mount platform, and one heavy rescue. We run approximately 3000 calls a year of various types. The Department has been internationally accredited since 2003, something we are very proud of. We serve an area of approximately 15 square miles and a population of 14,391. We have a lot of industrial areas within the city that make products that are used around the world like General Mills cereals, Valspar paint, Bridgestone golf balls, and Goodyear tires to name a few. The City of Covington is known as the Hollywood of the south. The city is home to Cinelease Studios that has produced TV shows like the Vampire Diaries series, In the Heat of the Night, Sweet Magnolias, and movies such as Goosebumps, Flight, My Cousin Vinny, and Sweet Home Alabama.
2. How many are assigned to your training division?
There is one member in the Training Division currently. We rely heavily on the expertise of our operational personnel to assist with instruction and course development. We send members of our department to conferences and classes all over the country to learn from the best in the industry.
3. Tell us about a project or training accomplishment that your department considers to be the most significant.
In the past three years the department has been on a mission to eliminate our risk to the NIOSH five. We have a new P25 radio system being installed currently. We moved to Lexipol to strengthen our policies and procedures. The most important step of this process has been training. Over the last three years we have sent six senior personnel to obtain their Blue Card instructor certifications. Once we had an instructor core we have trained and certified all members Engineers and above which totals twenty-nine personnel. The Blue Card command system has strengthened incident command, risk assessment, accountability, and communications throughout the department.
4. What legacy would your department like to leave behind regarding the training of your members?
The legacy we would like to leave with all we encounter is that professional development is a lifelong process. It involves training, education, experience, personal reflection, and constructive criticism. The fire service is always evolving. There are new studies, best practices, new construction methods, and advances in technology daily. When you take your oath to protect and serve your community you commit to a lifelong process of learning and adapting to the constant changes in our communities that may pose a risk. It is our responsibility to be on the front edge of these changes and be flexible enough to adapt our strategies and tactics to mitigate these new risks.
5. What is the biggest change your department has noticed in the fire service?
One of the biggest changes we have seen in the fire service is evidence/researched based tactics finally winning over traditional fire control methods. This could be for one of three reasons. First, the fire service traditionalists are retiring from service. Second, the education/training is finally making its way down to the company level, and finally today the educational methods used; webinars, online, and hybrid classes are more widespread and reach more firefighters throughout the world.
6. What advice would your department share with others regarding the training of firefighters?
First, do your research; the best method is not always, “this is how we have always done it”. There is so much knowledge to be gained from so many great instructors across the country.
Second, take the time to make sure your firefighters fully understand why we do the things we do and how important it is. The fire service is not just a job, it is a time-honored, respected, and loved profession. Everything we do is for the betterment of others. Firefighters are selfless professionals willing to sacrifice themselves to save others. This is truly the best job in the world, and if you do not think so, you are in the wrong profession.
Finally, lets change the stigma around training. Training is all about professional development. We should go into each training session with the mindset that we are making ourselves better, our crews better, and our departments better so we may be proficient in protecting the lives and property of those we serve.