ISFSI Member Spotlight: Orange County Fire Rescue Department

1. How many members do you have in your department? Do you represent career, volunteer, or a combination of both?

The Orange County Fire Rescue Department has 1400 personnel that serve the residents and visitors of Orange County, Florida.

2. How many are assigned to your training division?

Currently, there are 30 personnel assigned to our training section. Our training section is led by Assistant Chief Michael Howe. He manages the department’s training section as well as special operations. Under the training section, there is a Battalion Chief and a Captain who provide support to the Chief of Training. There are 2 Lieutenants assigned to Multi-company training as well as 2 Lieutenants assigned to recruit training. In addition, two Lieutenants are assigned to driver training and assessments. There is one Lieutenant assigned to EMS recertification and training. A host of supplementary personnel are a signed on a temporary basis to aid in the delivery of these programs.

3. Tell us about a project or training accomplishment that your department considers to be the most significant.

Over the last two months, our department has conducted Active Shooter Hostile Event training. The significance of this training is that we collaborated with other municipalities within our district as well as multiple law enforcement agencies. After several planning meetings, we were able to conduct three 8-hour drills in which participants were given an overview lecture, skills stations to practice team formations and patient care and then a final scenarios to put it all together. With the combined efforts of all agencies involved, the drill was a success. Opportunities for future training sessions also availed themselves.

4. What legacy would your department like to leave behind regarding the training of your members?

As members of Orange County Fire Rescue, we would like our current and future personnel to know the Professional Development and Training Program is dedicated to providing the most updated skills, competency, and professional development services to our OCFRD members. It is our goal to continue to develop members so that they are continuously enhancing their skills, perfecting their performance, and delivering high quality professional services to our community.


5. What is the biggest change your department has noticed in the fire service?

We have noticed a greater need for Behavioral Health Awareness training.

“Behavioral health issues have plagued the fire service for years, but the stigma associated with this sensitive topic has prevented many of us from reaching out for help, in attempts to maintain our pride and our culture. Unfortunately, this is NOT working for us. The fire service is losing more firefighters and dispatchers, both active and retired, to suicide than Line of Duty Deaths and this must change. Once we admit there is a problem, we can start fixing it."

~ Lt Claudia Fernandez, Orange County Fire Rescue

Due to recent events occurring outside our scope of work as well those from within, first responders are in need of programs that can provide assistance to them as well as their families in a time of need. Although we have many tools in place to offer that support, the need to restructure components of the program was acknowledged.

To enhance our behavioral health model, we have implemented a 24/7 peer support hotline. For Suicide Awareness month, we provided a 3-day suicide worship and included a work out challenge for those that wished to honor a loved one they loss to suicide. Furthermore, we conducted our first multi-company training dedicated to Behavioral. We received positive feedback from those who attended.

We hope that sharing these tools can provide aid to others that would like to enhance their behavioral health programs.


6. What advice would your department share with others regarding the training of firefighters?

Training should be relative to the job and best practice. When you can apply formal training to an actual incident, it solidifies its value and promotes buy-in from your personnel. Often, training is dictated by a standard or a mandate but may not address the core issue. The most appropriate training either encompasses both the standard and the issue or permits time to address them.

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