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Calling the Mayday

What are the Mayday decision parameters for firefighters? How do we teach the Mayday decision-making process? How much Mayday practice do firefighters need? This online course focuses on the ins and outs of firefighters calling a Mayday.

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Wildland Training for Structural Firefighters: Skills Crosswalk

The rapid expansion of human development into previously wildland areas has increased the need for and the complexity of rural fire protection. More and more, wildland fires threaten structures and other human development areas. Whether on public or privately owned lands, rural, volunteer and other local firefighters are often the first line of defense.

Safe and effective initial response to wildland fires requires basic training in wildland firefighting, such as wildland fire behavior, suppression methods, tools, safety and communications. Wildland firefighting skills training is managed by state and local agencies, which often use or adapt courses developed by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG). The current wildland firefighting training standards do not adequately recognize the experience and qualifications of local, structural firefighters. Before the development of the Skills Crosswalk, no national system existed to help structural firefighters identify and target wildland fire training needs, while recognizing skills developed through structure fire training standards.

Skills Crosswalk, to be referred to as simply "Crosswalk", identifies critical wildland firefighting skills that structural firefighters need to be safe and effective in an initial attack on a wildland fire in their jurisdiction or when working with state and federal wildland firefighters. Designed to reduce course content redundancies between wildland and structural fire suppression training, the Crosswalk details additional skills structural firefighters need to achieve equivalency in the NWCG wildland fire training system.

Crosswalk provides a performance-based methodology and a learning resource guide for qualified structural firefighters to develop wildland firefighting knowledge and skills in a focused and time-efficient format. Structural firefighters with wildland skills work more safely and effectively on initial and extended attack operations. Cooperative firefighting efforts with neighboring jurisdictions and with federal wildland firefighters are enhanced.

Crosswalk was developed by analyzing and comparing NFPA structural firefighting standards with NWCG wildland firefighting Position Task Books. The resulting Crosswalk identifies wildland skills and knowledge that qualified and experienced firefighters would not already have acquired through their structural firefighting training. By incorporating a structural firefighter’s existing fire suppression knowledge and skills, use of Crosswalk reduces required classroom hours, minimizes curriculum redundancies, and makes efficient use of limited training hours. Currently the Crosswalk is limited to Wildland Firefighter 2, Wildland Firefighter 1, Engine Boss and Strike Team Leader (Engines).

Computer-Based Firefighter Trainer

The most effective method for learning how to fight fire is to fight fire. This, however, is expensive and particularly dangerous for the trainee. Further, due to safety considerations, "live fire" training can not provide the wide range of fire conditions that firefighters must be prepared for in a real world fire, such as the effect of high wind conditions on a structure fire. Other fire situations and scenarios that must be trained for, such as a large two story house with vaulted ceilings and real furnishings, are too large and dangerous to re-create in a training setting involving real fires. In addition, environmental concerns limit the amount and kind of live fire training available in many areas across the nation.

As a result, methods are needed to allow firefighters to gain valuable experience using virtual reality techniques already applied in other fields such as aviation, military combat, and law enforcement. Virtual reality training will effectively teach firefighters about fire behavior and the impact of firefighting tactics on a fire without the possibility of harming themselves or others. In addition, virtual reality training is an extremely cost effective training method alternative.

Based on this need, USFA began working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop a computer-based firefighting training tool based on science, as implemented by NIST's Fire Dynamic Simulator (FDS), to improve training opportunities while lowering the cost and risk of death and injury. The development of the training tool will be divided into the following three phases:

In Phase I of the project, the early development of the trainer began using FDS and Smokeview (software tools developed by NIST for modeling and visualizing fire and smoke flow) and was validated against several repeatable fire experiments in a "flashover simulator" as well as "wood fired" and "propane fired" training towers that were representative of firefighting training exercises. These fire experiments were instrumented to record changes in fire conditions in the training structures due to changes in ventilation and suppression tactics and were compared with FDS/Smokeview simulations of the training structures. The output of the project's first phase was two-fold. First, it provided the fire service temperature and heat flux data for the "typical" training environments (see the report Fatal Training Fires: Fire Analysis for the Fire Service, PDF, 466 Kb. Second, it validated the trainer in a "controlled" environment.

During Phase II, which began in 2008, an interactive computerized trainer module illustrating various venting strategies and suppression effectiveness for a single family residential structure will be created using the validated trainer modules from Phase I and by inputting into FDS the data collected during other projects that have been conducted at NIST over the past couple of years.

The overall goal of the project's three phases is to develop the trainer for environments that are more representative of fire ground conditions which can not be safely achieved or are undesirable in typical live-fire training.

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