Tunnel training for fire services from Portugal's «Island of Tunnels»

Those who want to get to know many different tunnels in the smallest of areas can do so on the Portuguese island of Madeira. In 2020, there were 127 road tunnels on the island. More will be added through the expansion of the motorways. In order to prepare firefighters for operations in road tunnels, all instructors of the São João da Madeira Fire Training Centre participated in the first intensive road tunnel course on behalf of the Escola National de Bombeiros (ENB) in Sintra, Portugal, in 2023. In addition, eight trainers from the Autonomous Region of Madeira and one trainer from Lisbon travelled to Switzerland.

«Learn to teach» hones observing skills

The Portuguese instructors observed very closely how the instructors in Switzerland taught them their Tunnel Firefighting Procedure. During the introduction, it was clear that they could quickly link what they had learned with their experiences. This left plenty of time for in-depth professional exchange and hands-on training.

Questions as a benchmark of prior knowledge and knowledge transfer

It became clear from the questions of the course participants that they were already thinking about the practical implementation of what they had learned in their courses at home during the training. In the exchange with the instructors, detailed questions were also asked about the tactical procedure. For the instructors of the International Fire Academy, the questions asked by the participants are an essential benchmark for recognising what prior knowledge the participants have and how well the knowledge transfer works.

How valuable feedback is becomes apparent in the next drill

Acquiring practical, operational experience in the training tunnel was the focus of the three training days. Short feedback after each drill focussed on a few key points. The next drill immediately showed how valuable and effective these feedbacks were for the participants. The participants from Portugal each successfully implemented the suggestions for improvement, proving not only that they could follow the lessons in English well but especially that they are excellent firefighters.

A backpack full of experiences

With many new experiences, the course participants were able to travel back to Portugal after three days of training. Numerous drills and an intensive exchange with their Swiss colleagues are now behind them. With this, the Swiss Tunnel Firefighting Procedure can now also be promoted on the «island of tunnels», which the travel guide mentioned at the beginning, also called the «Swiss cheese island» because of the many «holes» in its volcanic rocks.