…become better firefighters individually, and as a department.
All new members start with a six month probationary period, during which they are required to complete several online classes, as well as complete a check list of required skills which they must become proficient with in order to be safe and effective firefighters. Basic firefighting skills, operating our fire engines and various pieces of fire and rescue equipment, how to safely use their protective gear, and much more is included. After their six months are concluded, and their checklist complete, they take a final test to be sure they have actually learned those things that were marked off. Those three things mark the end of their probationary period, but are really just the beginning of learning to be an effective firefighter.
The department has three regularly scheduled meetings each month. Meetings start with a brief business meeting, some cleaning and chores, and then involve a couple of hours of training. The first two meetings each month focus on fire and rescue training, and the third on EMS continuing education (CE), so that all members should get enough recognized CE hours to easily be able to recertify in EMR or EMT every two years. Some of our training events are opened up to outside departments when the topic is one that would lend itself to larger groups, or to training with neighboring departments. All members are expected to participate in all regularly scheduled meetings unless they are required to work, are ill, or are out of town.
In addition to regular meetings, we periodically schedule special training events, provide opportunities to attend regional fire schools, specialized training, and so forth. We have hosted two different National Fire Academy courses in-house, and several members have attended NFA regional deliveries as well as on-campus NFA courses in Maryland. BTFD has several detailed training props, built by members, to simulate entanglement in an attic, a collapsing floor, a chimney fire, rescuing a firefighter or victim from a window in tight quarters (known as the “Denver Drill), and more. We also have a two story, live-fire training building. BTFD was the first fire department between Salina and Topeka to have a live-fire burn building. It is used several times during the year for in-house training, and neighboring departments are invited to utilize it as well.
All members are encouraged to earn EMR or EMT certification, Firefighter 1 and 2 certification, and wildland firefighting certifications. Opportunities are provided whenever possible to obtain these credentials, and we have hosted several of these classes for members of any area fire department to attend.
We place a high value on providing the best equipment and facilities we can for our members and our community, but we recognize that even more critical is to have well-trained members. The best fire engine in the state is useless if members cannot use it efficiently. For that reason, we will continue to place a high priority on providing the best training we possibly can for our members.