Optimising training: What does it really take to provoke operationally relevant experiences?

Because the detail lessons of reconnaissance, search & rescue and firefighting cannot be carried out in parallel in the railway training tunnel, a training concept for a maximum of 16 participants per standard railway course was initially developed. Thus, all lessons could be carried out in two days in the sense of experiential learning. However, one problem remained: Especially for the training drills, groups of up to 24 participants had proven themselves in all other courses of the International Fire Academy. Now the challenge was to redesign the course so that 24 places are available in the future and the relevant experiences are still provoked.

Determine a suitable requirement level

Practising experiential learning means providing students with realistic conditions in which they can experience the challenges of deployments with all their senses. This is the guiding principle for the training at the International Fire Academy. The training tunnels and the Tactics Centre are therefore of central importance as learning and experience worlds.

Simultaneously, it does not always make sense to design all the details close to the deployment right from the start. Challenges that are too big can distract from the core experiences. For example, during the reconnaissance detail lesson in the railway course, breathing apparatuses are not worn in order to reduce strains for the participants. They should concentrate their mental and physical resources on the central task fulfilment. As the course progresses, more is demanded.

Provoking relevant experiences

When designing a course, the question thus arises: What does it take to provoke the relevant experiences in each case? It turns out that it does not always have to be the training tunnel facility where students can gain experience. What this means in concrete terms becomes apparent in the newly designed lesson reconnaissance & communication.

At the beginning of this lesson, the course participants walk through the railway training tunnel. They gain an impression of the length of the paths, the multitude of impressions and information in the railway tunnel and the possible reconnaissance assignments. In a subsequent communication exercise, specially taken photos from the training tunnel are sufficient to provide the relevant experiences. In order to improve the handling of a thermal imaging camera, it is even possible to use props that have no direct connection to a tunnel, but which make it possible to impressively experience how the thermal imaging camera works.

Enabling new operationally relevant experiences

The conception is thus based on relevant experience. It is based on the question: Which experiences should the participants have with which

  • situations,
  • tasks,
  • skills or
  • aids

that are relevant in the field and are not yet familiar to most participants.

24 participants in the standard railway course

The reorganization of the lesson reconnaissance & communication enables it to be carried out in a 90-minute detail lesson parallel to the other detail lessons search & rescue and firefighting. This reduces the number of detail lessons on the second day of training and makes an additional training drill possible.

Before the new training was put into practice, all full-time instructors tested the concept. It was then run through with all the instructors during the annual qualification training course. The new training was implemented, after the tests were successfully completed. Since then, 24 places have been available in the standard railway course.