Automatic and mutual aid meeting a special training challenge

Career, volunteer, industrial and military fire departments all have automatic and/or mutual aid agreements with their neighbors. This is a vital arrangement that can provide additional resources in a timely manner, but it is also one that presents some unique challenges. At times, departments may not even be aware of all the departments included in their agreements!

It is not uncommon that a secondary department is geographically closer to an incident than the primary department having jurisdiction and may arrive first on scene. Will this affect overall strategy and tactics? Are existing agreements and department SOPs/ SOGs compatible? Also, with training budgets already stretched to the limit, how can this necessary inter-departmental training be effectively added to the mix?

Conducting simulations, such as with SimsUshare CTC, can help facilitate this training. Scenarios can be after-action recreations of actual incidents, or specific and realistic hazards in your jurisdiction—those that keep you up at night. Simulations let you run an incident again and again, to develop consistent knowledge and skills across all participating departments. Some benefits you can get from inter-departmental training are:

  • Develop, practice, standardize communications
  • Develop, maintain personnel interoperability efficiencies
  • Familiarization with tactical worksheets
  • Develop standardized tactical worksheets
  • Develop realistic, accurate scenarios for effective after-action reviews of critical incidents
  • Develop “standard” operating practices
  • Develop, practice, standardize SOG’s
  • Build, maintain operational rapport at all operational levels: Strategic, Tactical, Task.

Furthermore, we sometimes forget that command skills—like any other skillset—are perishable and require periodic practice to keep them sharp. This is especially true in the context of working with neighboring personnel and resources. Just as we dedicate time to getting the routine down and knowing what to expect from our own personnel, we can use the simulation process to ensure we’re operating consistently with the neighbors we rely upon

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