A Fire Company’s training program is essential to its success. Training enables firefighters to respond efficiently and gives them needed experience. With this in mind, the members of the Training Committee at Bird-in-Hand have reviewed their training program and reorganized it into cycles.
The training committee members are Ephraim Stoltzfus, Assistant Chief; Paul Fisher, Vice President; Lonnie Kauffman, Engineer Training Coordinator; and Arlan Miller, Lieutenant 3. Together they have revamped portions of the program to meet the needs of the Fire Company and its new recruits. It is important to note that every member is welcome at any of the trainings, even though some of the trainings are geared specifically to certain tasks.
The third Monday evening of the month is traditionally time for firefighter training. The committee has worked to identify valuable & timely topics and has incorporated them into a two-year cycle. Some topics are covered on a yearly basis, while others are offered every other year.
The important part of developing this cycle is that a specific topic is covered on a certain date and the firefighters know the schedule in advance. If they need more time to learn a skill or need a refresher session, they can be sure to attend. The officers who are proficient in a certain skill lead the training that evening. The benefit of this plan is that the teaching load is spread around, the training is fitted to the officers’ skill sets, and more leaders are committed to the training program.
The fourth Monday evening of the month is reserved for hands-on practice and often one-on-one training. Again, these sessions are open to all members, but are especially important for newer recruits who need to acquire these skills and gain experience.
In 2021, the last Wednesday evening of the month has been set aside for a new cycle of training. The committee has identified an area where new recruits are needed – drivers for the Fire Company apparatus. The drivers are referred to as engineers since their service involves much more than driving a vehicle, such as operating the pump on the engine.
Engineers are trained on each apparatus and their training is divided into three parts:
Squad training is January through March and requires a minimum of four hours of driving time and many hours of instruction.
Engine training is April through June and requires six hours of driving time plus instruction.
Tanker training is July through September and also requires six hours of driving time in addition to instruction.
Lonnie Kauffman is in charge of the engineer training and, along with other officers, is helping four current members and five new members acquire the necessary skills. Some of the current members have recently turned 21 and are now eligible for an engineer position. For the others, firefighters have had personal connections with them and have followed up as they showed interest in becoming engineers.
The engineers-in-training come with varied levels of experience. Some have had extensive driving experience with large vehicles in their work settings and others are relatively new to driving large apparatus. This is taken into account as the training proceeds and the participants work on their checklists of skills.
There is a final performance required to complete the training. Lonnie, as the engineer training coordinator, recommends the applicants to the chiefs and officers. Recognizing the huge responsibility that the engineers have, their evaluation is taken seriously before they are “cleared to drive.”
Both the experienced engineers and the new trainees have requested to be organized into duty crews. A Duty crew structure ensures that the Fire Company will respond to every call in a timely manner with the correct number of capable firefighters. It encourages our members to share the load and prevent volunteer burnout. Duty crews make sense for our responders because some live in the Bird-in-Hand area, but work elsewhere and others come into the area to work, but live farther away. This system is in place during the week and is divided into daytime and nighttime slots.
These new initiatives have brought fresh energy to the Fire Company. No longer are the training sessions hit or miss or last minute, but are now well organized. This structure makes the best use of everyone’s time, spreads out the workload, and gives opportunity to those with experience and expertise to teach what they know best. All the firefighters are on board with training plan and duty crews schedule, and are very supportive and enthusiastic!
More Firefighters are Needed!
If you are interested in serving your community and becoming a firefighter, please contact one of the following Fire Company Members:
President Tim Hoerner 717-917-9192
Vice President Paul Fisher 717-380-1109
Training Officer Ephraim Stoltzfus 717-397-4079
Training Committee Member Arlan Miller 717-951-2249