On-call firefighters play a vital role in keeping communities across the country safe.
Sometimes called retainer firefighters, they usually hold down an entirely different full-time job but commit to being on-call to respond to firefighting emergencies on a part-time basis when needed.
They undertake the same training as full-time firefighters and attend the same incidents, including fires, road traffic collisions, animal rescues, water rescues, chemical incidents and flooding.
Precious training time
But while full-time firefighters have the whole working week to fit training around responding to incidents and other activities, on-call firefighters are only at the station for their drill night one evening a week. For the rest of their on-call time, they go about their business and are called in when required for duty. That means cramming all the training their full-time colleagues undertake in a week into two or three hours on a weekday evening.
Now, if you had committed to leaving your day job at a moment’s notice to run into a burning building, you would probably want to spend your drill night readying yourself for dealing with the burning building scenario. And if you were responsible for sending another person into that burning building, you’d probably want them to be fully prepared for what they might encounter.
That’s certainly how Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) felt. In Nottinghamshire, 16 of the 30 fire engines operating across the county are crewed by on-call firefighters, so they represent a key part of the service as a whole. NFRS didn’t feel that on-call firefighters were being best served by frequently spending their weekly drill night undergoing compulsory theory-based refresher training.
Paid remote learning
Using the Totara Learn platform we created for use by all its staff, NFRS trialled a programme in which on-call firefighters used the e-learning platform to undertake theory training away from the fire station. That freed up their weekly night at the station to take part in practical exercises that help to maintain their competence in the dangerous activities they undertake.
The scheme proved such a success that it has now become mandatory. All on-call firefighters are given additional paid hours to complete e-learning courses remotely. Drill nights are now spent getting to grips with equipment and the physical aspects of firefighting.
That has benefits for the on-call firefighter and for NFRS, who are also able to track each firefighter’s progress through Totara’s reporting system and pay them based on completion of the mandatory e-learning courses.
Learn more about Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service’s e-learning platform.
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