Firefighter Communication Training increases safety, security in Quad Cities
June 27, 2013
EAST MOLINE, ILL. (June 27, 2013) -- Quarterly training conducted on Blue Card communication techniques gathered firefighters from the Rock Island Arsenal and other fire departments around Quad Cities in East Moline, Ill.
"The Blue Card training standardizes communication and puts everybody on the same page," said Joe Heim, deputy fire chief Rock Island Arsenal Fire Department. "The theory is high repetitions then standard conditions, equal standard actions, equal standard outcomes; if everyone talks the same and everybody understands the same, then it makes the incident run smoothly."
"The training is designed to streamline communication and to make big incidents into routine incidents," said Robert DeFrance, fire chief, East Moline Fire Department. "All the steps are the same from a small incident like someone stubbing their toe to the larger scale events such as a four-story building fire. Everything is the same, everything is streamlined."
According to its website, the Blue Card Incident Commander Training and Certification program, commonly known as Blue Card training, is based on Fire Chief Alan Brunacini's Fire Command and Safety textbooks, which have been used globally in the fire service for more than 30 years.
The training is designed to manage local National Incident Management System type 4 and 5 incidents. These incidents make up 99 percent of a fire department's incident activity. NIMS type 5 incidents are small-scale events such as single vehicle accidents, car fires, missing person search, a limited hazardous materials spill and a police traffic stop. The only NIMS position required is the Incident Commander.
NIMS type 4 incidents are larger than type 5 incidents.
Type 4 incidents include structure fires, protest rallies, a barricaded suspect, an incident requiring a multi-agency response and significant HAZMAT spills. The IC may activate the command and general staff if they feel it is necessary but not required. The Type 4 and 5 incidents are normally complete within one operational period. An operational period is a predetermined amount of time established by the responding units or by prior doctrine.
"The training is normally three consecutive days," said Heim. "This time we are doing three days of day one, then the next week three days of day two and the final week three days of day three. Everyone will have an opportunity to train without sacrificing the mission and saving on the budget and manpower."
"Each day is a different type of structure or type of incident," said Heim. "Day one begins with residential structures, day two commercial buildings and strip malls, and day three big box buildings. The third day we also move the firefighters out of the office and into the command van. We normally use our HAZMAT trailer to get them to another vehicle, since the incident has escalated to a larger size and to get a bit further away. Larger incidents mean more people, more supplies, but also more dangers."
"The training is a communication drill," said Heim. "It helps limit the amount of people talking and getting the incident to a manageable level. When new units arrive, at an incident, they are assigned to a specific staging area and they answer to whoever is in charge of that area. If the IC needs something from that area, they talk to who is in charge. We use this format to make the IC job a whole lot easier. It also makes it easier to attack the fire and to take care of your people."
Firefighters from Rock Island Arsenal, East Moline, Moline, Rock Island and Silvis Fire Departments, took part of the training.
"We have done this training five times since May 2012," said Heim. "There is a 50-hour online training program that must be completed before the classroom portion of the training. Once the training is complete, the firefighter receives a three-year certification that can be updated using continuing education courses. "
"This is great for career enhancement and just making you better at your job," said Heim. "RIAFD sends all the members of its command staff to this course. Each fire department makes its own decision on who they send to the class. In some cities, insurance carriers will reimburse the city half the cost of the classes due to the firefighters attending. It reduces risk, liability and adds safety to fire response. It also gives the cities an incentive to provide these classes for their fire departments."
The day two training was conducted by RIAFD firefighters at a firehouse in East Moline, Ill., on Feb. 19-21. The day three training was a simulated fire at Glenville Middle School in East Moline, Ill., on June 25-27, with DeFrance serving as the proctor for the exercise.
"The training put everything that the firefighters learned in the classroom in to practice," said DeFrance. "The firefighters were able to practice entering and clearing procedures when entering the school. The unit first on the scene put on their bunker gear and entered the building to clear and search for any casualties. They were in constant communication with their command units outside of the building. The IC was in communication with the different units and as they arrived assigning them to different sectors. Each day the training got a bit sharper and the firefighters operated in a safer and more efficient manner. The communication also became more efficient and effective."
The exercise normally ends with an after-action briefing in which the firefighters gathered around the proctor of the exercise.
"At this time is when we go over what happened, what went right, what went wrong and how can we fix or adjust the issues we found and what we need to sustain the good actions," said DeFrance. "It was also a good time for the firefighters to get together and discuss how they did certain things and why."
More information about the Blue Card Training and NIMS can be found at: