At the Clayton Fire Department (CFD), we try to have the best training possible for each of our firefighters. While on a work shift, the goal is for personnel to get at least 2 hours of training each shift (sometimes a training day is all day). Some of the training is pre-scheduled and other times it is company-based for specific crew needs. Our personnel are required to do 240 or more hours of training each year, among a variety of topics including fire company operations, incident command practices, driver operator, medical, supervisory, haz-mat, technical rescue, etc. We make this easily obtainable by doing training sessions on each work shift, with monthly, quarterly, and annual sessions for certain topics. With all of these opportunities to train, getting your hours done is simple.
All CFD personnel are certified Level II Firefighters through the North Carolina Office of State Fire Marshal. This certification is over 400 hours long, and depending on our hiring processes, we may require this certification prior to being hired or we may conduct our own certification series "Academy". Even if the firefighters we hire are already certified, personnel go through a trainee period when certain tasks and skills are done and checked off through a career development process. During the Firefighter certification process, you learn the basic stuff to become a firefighter, from how to use your gear to how to put a fire out. There are several classes involved in this process. Once you have completed the basic firefighter skills, you have a choice to make. You can either remain with just your Firefighter certification or you can continue your education and obtain different certifications. We prefer that you continue your education and obtain your Technical Rescuer certification(s).
The Technical Rescuer certification training is something that we pride ourselves on here at Clayton Fire. The initial certification consists of a "Technical Rescuer" (Rope Rescue Technician objectives) certification course and is 120 hours long. Per the North Carolina Officer of State Fire Marshal, students must obtain the initial "Technical Rescuer" certification in order to get any of the other specialty certifications. The other rescue topics that are available are Vehicle Rescue (48 hours), Water Rescue (48 hours), Agriculture/Machinery Rescue (60 hours), Confined Space Rescue (64 hours), Trench Rescue (64 hours), Collapse Rescue (88 hours), and Wilderness Rescue (60 hours). As you see, earning these certifications requires a lot of time and commitment. There is also annual training that comes along with these advanced certifications. Not everyone has to have these, but if you want to be part of the Special Operations Group (or assigned to the Rescue Company), you are required to have one of these Special Certifications.
Throughout the year, we do a variety of refresher drills dealing with technical rescue, as these incidents are classified as "high-risk, low-frequency," meaning they don't happen often, but when they do, there are significant risks that personnel are exposed to, so our personnel have to stay prepared. Rope rescue is the "foundation" of technical rescue incidents, and even useful for certain firefighter emergencies (downed firefighters, bail-outs, etc). To ensure technical rescue skills are up to par, each Thursday is typically set up as "Tech Rescue Thursday," and some sort of rescue skill is practiced. For more involved drills, other days, weekends, and evenings are also used throughout the year.
Once you finish your Technical Rescuer certification, you can then choose to move on to driver training. The driver has one of the most important jobs in the fire service, keeping personnel safe during travel to and from incidents, training, daily tasks, etc. Driver training consists of a Driver Operator certification course through the North Carolina Office of State Fire Marshal and is 150 hours. Following the certification training, department-specific training is done which consists of 30 hours of driving training (district road courses, cone course, etc) and 30 hours of pump training. New drivers are also observed on a set number of incidents prior to being "fully released" as a driver. For annual con-ed training, all drivers must show 12 hours of specific driver training throughout the year.
In addition to the above training processes, other certifications are obtainable (and sometimes required, depending on position). These certifications range from Instructor levels (Level 1 to 3 and Qualification processes - to teach and test certification classes), Officer certifications (Fire Officer 1 to 3, Fire Chief 101, etc.), Inspections 1 to 3, Fire Investigator, etc. Depending on certain positions, various hours are required throughout the year, and this is managed through the department's training officer.
Anytime you come up to the Clayton Fire Department, you will more than likely see the guys doing some type of training. We pride ourselves on our training. We always say, "Don't train to get it right. Train until you never get it wrong." Our jobs are very important, and we have to work together as a team to ensure the safety of the great town in which we live!