The Training of Fire Wardens Explained

Ken Walker
gaining knowledge by training hard

Training is an essential part of emergency response. It could be unsafe and very problematic to not understand your role and how to perform some of the critical activities. We will look at all aspects of providing training, firstly for those in the E.C.O. and E.P.C. and secondly for visitors and other occupants of a facility.

 Training and the EPC.

The EPC members have an obligation to provide activities and formal outcomes relating to the prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. Therefore, obtaining qualifications and competence to perform adequately is paramount.

Members are responsible for putting the emergency plans together which will include a training plan for the E.C.O. members. This plan should be specific and designed to mitigate the risk of the facility. This may include methods of first attack activities and maintaining skills relating to the operation of fire hose reels and extinguishers.

Organisations may send only one member of the E.P.C. away for training. Who would then return and provide specialist advice to the other members? If this member later leaves and organisation it could be problematic to have know one available with appropriate qualifications. So the organisation may send another person away to be trained.

Training and the E.C.O.

There are specific skill requirements of ECO members. from providing leadership during and evacuation to extinguishing a fire. These skills must be obtained so training becomes a key element of response procedures. 

Their training will include reporting and responding to emergencies, what to expect in terms of human behaviour in emergencies and other activities pre and post response. They must understand their key responsibilities all in the name of keeping occupants safe. The training will link systems and processes with activities, providing guidance for the individual which otherwise might not understand the likelihood and consequences of certain actions.

The Chief, Deputy Chief and communications officer will receive the same training as emergency wardens but will also receive further training relating to command and control, the extra responsibilities they have and effective decision making. Some specialist training in the coordination of evacuations and implementing post-emergency activities should also be included.

gaining knowledge can be helped with a workshop

First Attack firefighting.

Fire can be a complex and unpredictable emergency to deal with. Therefore, first attack training can help prepare E.C.O. members for situations where they may be confronted by a fire. It’s also important for emergency wardens to understand the limitation of such attack equipment. This can only be learned by combining theoretical and practical training. This may include understanding the classes of fire and which extinguisher is appropriate for a given situation. I.e. to use a water extinguisher on a fat fire could have devastating consequences. Furthermore, recognising that a situation is getting worse or is dangerous and the impact on evacuees. Another required competency is methods of evacuating occupants and learning how and why a decision might be made to move occupants to a secondary assembly area. I.e. during a bomb threat where a secondary device may be present.

Training of Occupants and Visitors.

Even though, such training may be very limited. Everyone within a facility has a personal responsibility to understand what to do in an emergency. Organisations also have a duty of care to make sure they are safe while at work or visiting.  A simple understanding where exits are. and what certain methods of communication mean. I.e. recognition of what an evacuation tone sounds like and the associated procedure.

Such information needs to be provided by organisations and may include induction training and a simple walkthrough so that exits and other key life safety issues can be pointed out.

Skills retention.

AS mentioned in a previous lesson. After an individual completes a course, without mentoring and other ongoing support it is likely that much of the information will be lost. Therefore, training programs must recognise this and provide the appropriate updates.

Training programs should always be related to the specific requirements of a given building or facility. Australian Standard 3745:2010 takes the potential loss of information over time and indicates that skills retention activities for the ECO members should be at intervals no greater than six months.

Training activities don’t have to always be a full-blown exercise, but they must be designed to provide information specific to the facilities risk. Many organisations have a tabletop exercise for wardens six-monthly and an exercise every 12 months for all occupants including the E.C.O.. Whenever training activities are planned there is a significant benefit in including information on policies and procedures. This will keep them at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

First Attack training.

It is essential that ECO members receive first attack training at intervals no greater than two years. This needs to be well managed. If one member misses such training then they may not be exposed to the use of such equipment for many years. Which isn’t acceptable considering the critical nature of first attack instruction.

Those ECO members that have never been trained in first attack training could be placed in significant danger during emergencies. Especially if the emergency service response is delayed.

Communication Equipment.

All ECO members must be proficient at the appropriate method of communicating a threat or message. Therefore, training in the use of communications equipment is essential. Regular maintenance and check of communications equipment should be carried out and records kept. Health and Safety inspectors may want to view them during investigations.

Training Materials.

Materials used for training should be appropriate to each persons role. Such training material and the associated format will be determined by the E.P.C.. Where colour codes are used they should be in accordance with the standard codes mentioned in previous lessons.

In conclusion.

Having a competent and well trained E.C.O is critical if an emergency response is to be successful. To only put in 50% of the required effort may place occupants and the E.C.O. in danger. Training programs form part of the implementation of effective emergency planning in facilities.

 

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