top of page

Training vs Drilling

Training and drilling are not synonyms. At least they’re not in the context of preparing firefighters to safely and effectively do their jobs. For us to be good at our job, we must have the knowledge, skills and abilities that are applicable to each of our job responsibilities.

Training, or educating, is the development activity whereby firefighters acquire the requisite knowledge and skills for a particular firefighting task. This could be a classroom or online learning session about ladders, followed by the opportunity to practice the newly learned skills to a proficient level.

Drilling is a development activity that requires us to take previously learned knowledge and skills and develop mastery; that is, the ability to apply our knowledge and skills for a given situation.

Understanding this distinction between training and drilling is crucial for the fire officer who’s looking to develop meaningful drills for their personnel. Conducting training with firefighters who’ve already mastered the knowledge and the skills for a topic will likely result in bored firefighters who are disengaged.

Conversely, running a drill with firefighters who’ve not yet mastered the knowledge and skills will likely result in firefighters who are frustrated by their inability to get it right. This scenario can also result in a firefighter injury or worse, especially if the firefighters have not mastered the safety aspects.


1. Every Drill Has A Plan

Athletes at all levels don’t go into a game without having standard plays that they’ve practiced over and over. That practice ensures that everyone knows their part and how all their individual actions, if done correctly, will result in success. We manage our incidents using an incident action plan. So, manage your drill using a drill action plan. Your DAP should address the what, why and how of the drill.

2. Review Firefighting Videos

Not every day is great for getting outside for drill activities. Be proactive and plan for drills that can take place indoors, and still provide the opportunity for firefighters to apply their knowledge and skills to situations that will develop their abilities. There are thousands of videos of firefighting operations posted online. Apply L.O.G.I.C. ( Listen-Observe-Gauge-Inquire-Conclude ) to any and all information you find in videos, books or magazines ( or other firefighters ). Not all new information is good information.

3. Drills For Getting There

The most important job function for the apparatus driver is getting their crew to the scene and back again safely. This involves knowing the streets and roads in their response area like the back of their hand.

4. Drills For Operational Preparedness

These are some key areas that you can design drills to address this.

· First, research the hydrant locations in our response districts and what kind of water flow can they deliver.

· Second, what occupancies in our response districts will require long hose lays? Don’t think only of long water supply hose lays, but also handline stretches for structures like apartment and condominium complexes where our pre-connected fire attack lines will not reach.

· Third, do we have buildings under construction in the district? These buildings provide great opportunities to see modern building construction techniques and discuss how fire impingement will affect structural members and structural integrity.

Conduct on-site visits and take plenty of photographs to use in creating future training and drilling sessions when the weather prevents you and your crew from venturing outside.

· Fourth, where are the big-box structures in our response districts? Identify those structures that have a footprint greater than 20,000 square feet in dimension. Like those apartment complexes, reaching interior portions of such structures will require stretching supply lines that can be gated down to 1¾-inch fire attack lines.


With a little effort and imagination, you can create drilling and training that will both educate and engage your Team.

Lean in and get on it.

211 views0 comments


bottom of page