Firefighting and primary search is a form of combat, so unless we train for it in realistic environment, we will likely be shocked by the conditions of real fire and will fail, sometimes suffering unacceptable losses. Here is a list of things I include in the idea of realistic training:
- As I have explained before, zero visibility and unknown layout should be your training and operational norm. Prepare for the worst, enjoy the best!
- All training should be done in full gear, and that involves breathing from SCBA, wearing full protective ensemble, which, by the way, includes hood and gloves. If you skip on any of these things because “c’mon, it’s just a drill, why be tough, I’m sweating in this hood now”, when the time comes to fight, you will either forget to put some of those things on (and yes, this includes forgetting to go on air, it happens a lot!) or you will be so uncomfortable in these gloves or mask that in the slightest distress you will instinctively ditch them – with horrible consequences. The only way to counter this instinct is to develop the opposite and correct instincts of trusting you gear, being comfortable in it and being accustomed to performing various tasks in it.
- Your training should start with explaining the methods of search, then progress to the supervised practice sessions in which isolated tasks are perfected within the team with fully obscured masks and finally culminate in full combat scenarios that include involvement of multiple search teams operating in zero visibility coordinated by the IC, who also should be selected from the students, not from the instructors. During the practice sessions instructors should help the students correct their mistakes, but in combat scenario play instructors must limit their involvement to only ensuring physical safety of the blindfolded teams. A word of warning: you should not use any form of combustion while conducting an isolated primary search training, this is reserved for comprehensive firefighting drills involving fire suppression teams and search teams that have completed their primary search training already. It is so important that we will talk about this requirement more in the next section.