Training on a dime can be a daunting task, oftentimes, the equipment and tools need to simulate real-world operations are expensive and not feasible for smaller departments. However, there is hope for smaller departments hoping to train, they simply need to think outside of the box. Here are some helpful tips to help those departments wanting to train their personnel without breaking the bank:
- Work with your community. Many organizations and community partners are more than willing to help the fire department—it simply takes asking them. Consider your local stores, big box stores, other private agencies, and companies. Your schools and hotels often do renovations in which large amounts of material are discarded. Consider re-purposing old lumber and wires into entrapment boxes, building vertical ventilation trainers, or forcible entry trainers with old or unused building materials. Don’t forget to include these supporting agencies in your project, thank them publicly, consider offering a letter of appreciation, or publicize their contributions on social media or within local newspapers. This approach helps engage your community, allowing them to see your mission instilling greater community buy-in.
- More Do it Yourself! Even in small departments, your people are your resources! If you have a member that welds, consider prompting them to help you build a fire extinguisher trainer box, a window frame, or hose tray trainer. If you have a construction worker or carpenter, engage them to help you build a VEIS trainer or Jenga Blocks. More often than not, as-built training aids are expensive, but when you can build it yourself, through cross-utilization of materials, this is often more feasible. You likely have members within your department that would be willing to help, they just don’t know-how, work to delegate, assign, and prompt ownership within your department.
- Don’t forget about grants. There are a lot of grants available for the fire service, most of the time it simply takes someone to find these grant applications, fill them out, and apply. Having specific measurable goals, like a project you want to complete can be articulated into supplies needed. Then, with a goal in mind, the need for such supplies and materials can be articulated into an actionable project. Even private and public agencies within your community can be solicited (depending on your departmental policies) for donations.
With these three strategies, inclusive community collaboration can begin, and projects can be achieved. Although an atypical path, most small fire departments can achieve the same degree of good training props—they just simply need a bit more work! Community partnerships are important, the community itself is invested in the success of the fire department, educating the public as to the needs of that fire department can help provide a pathway towards resources. Even your construction sites often have unusable materials which could be allocated to the fire department. It’s a win-win when your community partners have waste, like lumber, wire, metal, and other materials, they have to find a way to dispose of them, their re-purposing to the fire department not only helps your department but eases their burden of having to remove or dispose of materials. Working within a smaller department often means working with less, thinking outside the box however, smaller departments can achieve like-projects to their larger counterparts, their way of getting to that same finish line is often different.