Beyond Hooks and Hoses: Incorporating Policy into Firefighter Training

By Bruce Bjorge 

Are you training on policy?

Why is this an important question for fire departments? Training on policy is an important part of organizational excellence because it helps ensure that members of our agencies are meeting organizational expectations.

Stop and think about your agency’s policy manual. Generally, most of us only interact with the policy manual three times in our career:
• When we are hired
• When we are testing for promotion• When we get into trouble (usually to find out how bad it’s going to be)

A few agencies are currently training their members on policy. But for most of us, this isn’t the case.

Firefighter training on policy - Lexipol

Image courtesy Loveland-Symmes Fire Department

Generally, we spend a great deal of time training on operational tasks because we have high expectations from the organization to perform these tasks effectively and efficiently on the fireground. But doesn’t the same expectation apply for compliance with department policy?

The importance of firefighter training on policy should not be underestimated. Members of an organization want to know what the agency expects of them and are willing to comply with policy. Generally, firefighters will not willingly violate policy. Instead, many times, policy infractions are caused by a lack of awareness of policies for a given situation or a lack of understanding of the organization’s expectations outlined by an applicable policy.

Policies are a necessary part of keeping your members informed about what they are expected to do. But policy training should do more than just expose them to the policy. It should teach them what the policy says and how to apply that policy to their work. Only when you provide the application of the policy to the work they do each day can you expect your members to fully understand and comply with the policy.

Following are a couple things to keep in mind when considering your policy training program:

What exactly constitutes policy. Lots of departments mix policies with standard operating procedures or guidelines, or standing orders. Try to filter this additional material out so you’re truly training on policy. Policies define organizational expectations; SOPs/SOGs outline tactics and operations.
The training method you’ll use. There are lots of ways to integrate policy into training. You can start each shift by reviewing a policy or a section of a policy. You can ask firefighters to review policies on a set schedule—say, five policies each month. Or you can look at creating computer-based training, employing video and audio files when applicable.
Training priorities. There’s no shortage of policy topics, so where do you start? Although training on all policies is important, it may help to start with the policies that address high-risk/low-frequency incidents. These are the ones where firefighters are most likely to get hurt or do something wrong unknowingly.

Many fire agencies today strive to achieve organizational excellence. Ensuring that regular policy training is part of your firefighter training plan and providing a high-quality policy training product to your agency’s members is a crucial step toward that goal.

Attending the ISFSI Instructor Development Conference? Don’t miss Bruce’s presentation on the topic of policy training!

Lexipol’s Fire Policy Manual and Daily Training Bulletin Service provides essential policies and an integrated training component to create the foundation for consistent, safe operations. Contact us today for more information or to request a free demo.

Bruce Bjorge - LexipolBruce Bjorge is a 30+-year fire service professional who has served with career, combination, volunteer and military fire agencies. Most recently, he served as the Assistant Chief of Training with the Western Taney County Fire Protection District for seven years before joining Lexipol LLC full time to coordinate their Fire Daily Training Bulletin program. Bruce has earned his ISFSI Training Officer and 1403 Live Fire Facility Instructor credentials. He also serves as adjunct faculty for the University of Missouri Fire & Rescue Training Institute and the College of the Ozarks Fire Science program. He continues to actively teach in his home department and regularly travels teaching various courses for MUFRTI and Lexipol LLC.

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Director Daniel Keen
Northampton (PA) Department of Corrections

“It came down to three main factors for us: safety, time and efficiency. This is a way to protect  the staff, public and inmates in the best interest of all.”

Major Jeff Fox
Vigo County (IN) Sheriff's Office

“Lexipol’s Implementation Services program was key to getting our manuals off the shelf. If it weren’t for that, we wouldn’t be implemented today. Departments should recognize their limitations and realize that they likely don’t have the resources to do it on their own. Implementation Services is key to getting it done.”

Chief Deputy Ray Saylo
Carson City (NV) Sheriff's Office

"It’s a huge priority of this administration to teach policy to our sergeants, and Lexipol’s Daily Training Bulletins help us do that. We are constantly drilling into them that policy will protect them as an individual officer. If they ensure that their people are following policy, even if they’re sued, they will be OK.”

Sgt. Bryan Ward
Cumberland County (PA) Sheriff's Office

"Calling Lexipol an insurance policy doesn’t do it justice, because it doesn’t capture the enormous power that partnering with Lexipol provides.”

Chief Deputy Klint Anderson
Weber County (UT) Sheriff's Office

“We spent a considerable amount of money and effort trying to develop and maintain comprehensive and legally based policies and procedures. Lexipol has relieved us of that burden and provided us with a policy system that we have great confidence in and that we can tailor to suit our particular goals and community standards.”

Sheriff Blaine Breshears
Morgan County (UT) Sheriff's Office

“We had a use of force lawsuit, and as soon as the attorneys discovered that we have Lexipol, they said, ‘We won’t have an issue there.’ Our policies were never in question.”

Lt. Craig Capps
White County (TN) Sheriff's Office

"I would recommend Lexipol to any law enforcement agency, whether three-person or 2,000-person—it makes no difference. The program works.”

Chief John Defore
Hiawatha, KS

“By offering 365 daily training bulletins to my officers, I am saving far more than the cost of the software every year. In fact, I was able to show my commissioners a cost savings by utilizing Lexipol for our policy and policy training needs.”

Captain Jeff Schneider
Yakima (WA) Police Department

“KMS tracks and logs when people acknowledge and accept updates, which is very important, and it lets us track who isn’t getting the updates so we can give them the appropriate attention.”

Chief David Maine
The Village of Hunting Valley (OH) Police Department

“What we had before Lexipol had been around for years. It was like every other policy manual I had seen: It didn’t get the updates it needed. The Lexipol manual is a living, breathing document.”

Chief Deputy Lauren Osborne
Surry County (NC) Sheriff’s Office

“If there’s a change as a result of case law, or a procedure that needs to change, Lexipol does the legwork, sends it to us, we approve it and send it out to our people for acknowledgement—and it’s all documented.”

Sheriff Gerald Antinoro
Storey County (NV) Sheriff’s Office

“Lexipol is one of the best products I have seen in my 30+ years in law enforcement.”

Deputy Chief John McGinty
Simi Valley (CA) Police Department

“You get sued for your policies or you get sued for your actions, or both. You can only do so much about actions. But having Lexipol gives me confidence that if we draw a lawsuit, our policies won’t come under attack.”

Chief Kelly Stillman
Rocky River (OH) Police Department

“I can’t say enough about the positives from a chief’s perspective. I don’t know why everyone isn’t with Lexipol.”

Chief Jeff Wilson
Orofino (ID) Police Department

“The Lexipol Policy Manual is easy to use, it’s convenient and you have peace of mind knowing that you have a thorough manual that is going to stand up to any challenge the agency may face.”

Chief Ralph Maher
Oak Creek (CO) Police Department

“With Lexipol, I know our policy manual is going to be up to date. I can turn my back on it today and tomorrow there will be any needed updates waiting for me. That allows me to focus on some of the other things I have to do as a chief.”

Chief Steven Vaccaro
Mokena (IL) Police Department

“If you compare Lexipol to other policy providers, Lexipol is the only one that has policy that has been vetted by other chiefs, industry experts and lawyers. All you have to do is tailor the policies to your agency’s needs.”

Commander Leslie Burns
Mercer Island (WA) Police Department

“Lexipol provides a huge advantage for agencies pursuing accreditation. The tools take about 60% of the difficulty out of the accreditation process. If you want to be accredited, this is the way to do it.”

Deputy Chief Robin Passwater
Kankakee (IL) Police Department

“If you don’t have Lexipol, even with a full-time person dedicated to policy, there’s almost no way you can keep updated on all the laws and also have the training component. It’s an excellent system.”

Assistant Chief Bill Holmer
Glen Ellyn (IL) Police Department

“It’s a no-brainer for me. Someone is watching for changes to laws for me, and then tweaking the content based on those changes or updates in best practices.”

Lt. Ed Alvarez
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) (CA) Police Department

“I like the mobile app because it tells me no matter where I am when I have updates to complete or when people take the DTBs. No matter where I am, I have access. The officers can get real-time updates. Everything is at their fingertips, any time.”

Chief Greg Knott
Basalt (CO) Police Department

“Lexipol gives you peace of mind because the policies that you’re implementing have been reviewed by professionals in the field and by attorneys—not just your agency’s legal counsel.”

Chief Corry Blount
Bartonville (TX) Police Department

“I feel comfortable that when we issue a policy, it covers what it needs to cover. It’s the most comprehensive policy content I’ve used in my career.”

Lt. Victor Pecoraro
Auburn (CA) Police Department

“The updates are super easy because you can pop them open, see the redline versions and be able to edit it on the fly. Once I learned I could do that, I was excited.”

Chief Joseph Morris
Arapahoe Community College (CO) Police Department

“Officers are not infallible. We have limited memories like everyone else. Working under stress presents more challenges. There are times we need to access policies in the field so we are comfortable in our decision making. The mobile application has been great for this!”

Captain Jesus Ochoa
Coronado (CA) Police Department

“Knowing that Lexipol is keeping our policies current means that there isn’t something else for us to worry about. We can focus on our jobs. That definitely gives us peace of mind.”

Chief Steven Vaccaro
Mokena (IL) Police Department

“If you compare Lexipol to other policy providers, Lexipol is the only one that has policy that has been vetted by other chiefs, industry experts and lawyers. All you have to do is tailor the policies to your agency’s needs.”

Jim Franklin, Executive Director
Minnesota Sheriffs' Association, MN

"Lexipol is, indeed, ahead of the curve with their unique risk management solutions in law enforcement. The Minnesota Sheriffs' Association has been eagerly anticipating the release of the Lexipol Custody Manual. Lexipol meets the needs of law enforcement and custodial agencies by recognizing the emerging challenges facing our agencies, and providing comprehensive tools and resources to reduce liability and risk in a professional and highly efficient manner. The Minnesota Sheriffs' Association is proud of its continued partnership with Lexipol."

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