Lesson plans to teach firefighting should come with a Mission: Impossible-type expiration date. “The lesson you have just taught will violently self-destruct in 12 months.” Filing would be subject to hazardous materials regulations, which might teach a little respect for staying current with the tools of the trade.

We each have our strengths and limitations in emergency response training. Think about the training plan as a key part of your emergency response plan. When X happens involving Y and Z products or processes what skills and resources are needed for a safe and effective response? What is each responder to be able to do for the response team to be safe and effective? When, where and how can you repeatedly train to respond to different potential incidents in you facility?

The objective remains the same – safely put out the fire. However, the resources and techniques to be used constantly evolve and vary for the product or process involved, changes in facility policy and operations and other factors. Likewise, your training curriculum should be dynamic and updated.

Back in 1965, I developed the first recruit training school for firefighters available in Texas. This was back at the Texas Fire Training School in College Station, today known as the Emergency Services Training Institute.

It mightily impressed my future wife Lynn that I was putting into action what she had spent years studying in the classroom – behavior based curriculum. Simply put, I was writing each lesson plan based on what the students should be able to do when they finished the lesson. Unlike most teachers, I was not trying to impart every precious bit of information available about the subject. Nor was I trying to inform only about the newest, neatest firefighting tricks.

Behavior-based curriculum pares the subject down to essentials. The students must be able to do X. To accomplish that they must learn A, B, C and D in order to demonstrate X, Y and Z practices. The bottom line is what does your fire brigade really need to know to do their job? What are the resources accessible to you, the instructor, to achieve that end?

Too often, training focuses on the flashiest training tools, losing sight of the objective. Basic training should be done using resources that will be used in emergency response. For more advanced training, you can choose from a variety of fire schools recognized as the best in whatever specialty is required. In behavior based curriculum, learning is defined as achieving a change in behavior. That change applies to the instructors as well as the students. If the emergency response managers and trainers do not change their approach in response to the new tools available, why should the firefighters?

Stop and ask if you are using the most relevant practices and the best tools at your disposal. The challenge to leadership is being an example of what you are trying to teach your students. Are you just teaching the same lesson the firefighters have heard the last three years or are you bringing them something new that helps them perform at their best?

At the rate fire protection technology is progressing today, fire chiefs might soon have to start self-destructing these lesson plans every six months. Or three. Maybe even one.