Archives for May 2013

Need Help Implementing Online Training At Your Fire or Police Department?

Child Raising Hand

Learning Starts Early and Never Ends

How did you answer the question?

“Yes, we need to do something.”

“Yes, we tried, but we have to make a change.”

“Yes, we need to get started, let’s give it a try.”

“We have already started, it’s working, but we can do better.”

I recently taught a class titled, “Strategies & Tactics for Success with On-Line Training and Education.” The class focused on online training in public safety departments. The audience was Training Officers,  Directors, Chiefs, Department Budget Staff, Technology Officers, and Instructors.

Sound Familiar?

Most class attendees fell into one of the following four categories:

  1. We have been meaning to look into computer based training, but can’t seem to find the time or budget.
  2. We don’t know really how or where to begin.
  3. We need to reduce our training budget; will computer courses help me do that?
  4. Yes, we bought some on-line courses, it’s working OK, but we can do better.

NOTE: Although the class was attended primarily by fire service staff, the subject matter of Online and E-Learning could easily crossed over to law enforcement and all areas of safety training.

Why You Should Keep Reading

Attendees to the class or readers of this post (you) have an interest in learning about how to:

  1. Start using online learning courses and technology.
  2. You are in the early staging of incorporating online training and want to avoid rookie mistakes.
  3. Develop a tactical (short term) and strategic (long term) plan for using and benefiting from online learning.

Following is a summary synopsis of the class.

#1 – Start With The End In Mind

If a public safety department, police, fire, EMS, etc. is considering implementation of online learning technologies the training chief or project team leader must establish their end game goals. Using the following three principles when developing the specific goals and objectives for the project will serve as the guiding principals for the project.

  • Be specific—identify exactly what you want to accomplish with as many specific details as possible.
  • Be measurable—as the old adage says, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
  • Be realistic—set goals and objectives that reach beyond the comfort zone, but are also realistic. Be careful with this one.

#2 Establish Implementation Tactics

There are ten key implementation tactics needed for successful implementation of online learning for a public safety department; they include:

  1. Establish a project team. Include other “banner carriers” and allies.
  2. Define the vision and goals. What does a successful program look like?
  3. Define learning needs and wants. Why are we doing this and what solution does it provide?
  4. Define established technology infrastructure. What does your existing technical infrastructure look like?
  5. Define existing courseware. What do already have that can be used or repurposed?
  6. Baseline available technologies and courseware. What technology is available in the marketplace?
  7. Develop implementation and phasing scenario. What is your step-by-step approach?
  8. Develop cost budgets. Consider purchasing equipment, software, hired technical assistance, and so on.
  9. Measure and evaluate cost benefits. Set milestones that are measurable, observable, and serve as progress markers.
  10. Management buy-in and funding. Get everyone on the same page and get them to support the endeavor.

Where and How To Begin

As illustrated in the 10 implementation tactics, getting started requires considerable planning, management buy-in, technology understanding, and funding. When first staring out ask yourself the following seven questions. This a good starting point and the questions will help you to understand the full needs, impact and depth of the project:

  1. What authoring system should we use?
  2. Should we buy off-the-shelf prepackaged software?
  3. Should we develop our own courses?
  4. What type of hardware do we need?
  5. Will it keep us compliant with legal requirements?
  6. How do we track and schedule our training?
  7. What class topics will be best learned through e-learning?

This post is intended to provide a short synopsis of how to get started with implementing online training programs for your department. Again, this is just a guideline to get the ball moving.

Share Your Story

If you use computer based training what was the biggest hurdle to overcome at the beginning? For example:

  • Staff acceptance
  • Management acceptance
  • Allocating funding
  • Acquiring hardware

Leave your “biggest hurdle” comment in the comment space below.

Additional Information Sources

More Ways to Learn:

  1. LinkedIn Group – Public Safety Training Center Planning, click here to join
  2. Public Safety Training Newsletter – a monthly e-newsletter covering the top news, event and announcements in Public Safety Training. Click here and sign-up (lower right) to read the current issue and get updates
  3. Responder Gateway – A full featured First Responder news and resource hub. One Place, One Stop, One Source, Visit here and receive daily or weekly fire service or law enforcement news events, alerts or important announcements.
  4. Bill Booth Blog – Timely opinions and articles, around twice a week on issues and comments about public safety training center management, funding and operations. Click here to read and get updates.

Combined Fire and Police Training Center May Cut Costs By $300,000

The combined Fire and Police Training Center in Round Rock Texas (near Austin) may cut current training cost by around $300,000. Earlier this year Interact Business Group completed a strategic business plan for the project that took into account existing training conditions, including travel to out of area training locations, staff overtime and equipment efficiencies. The combined training center project cost estimate is $38.3 million and is being planned for voter approval on November’s ballot as a bond issue.

“This is looking at the future of not only the police officers safety, but the citizens safety,” said Round Rock Police Training Sgt. Sean Johnson. “As we grow (population of more than 100,000), we need a training area to allow our officers to be the best that they can get.”


See the Sgt Sean Johnson interview and XKAN news report

Most, if not all, training would be done right on site, eliminating travel costs and time. It would also cut the cost of officers and firefighters being away from their regular posts.

It’s not just a dollar issue for the city’s emergency responders. “There are (high risk calls) that don’t happen in the real world every day,” Johnson said. “So, if we don’t practice those skills, it’s a perishable skill, then we’ll lose that skill set.”

The strategic plan identified several key factors in the analysis:

  1. What are the current and future training needs? 
  2. What are the training need priorities?
  3. What will it cost to build the facility?   
  4. What are the preliminary site plans and equipment requirements? 
  5. What will it cost to annually operate the facility?
  6. What are the potential revenue opportunities from outside users?
  7. Are there possible partnering arrangements with other area departments?
  8. What is the cost benefit of a facility over existing conditions training?

A key training hurdle facing the departments was finding local public spaces for repetitive training. For example, fire trucks are forbidden from doing repeated driver exercises on open parking lot areas. That’s because the 80,000 pound vehicles tear up the pavement there.

“Having an area that’s designed specifically for that is going to be valuable,” said assistant chief Billy Wusterhausen.

Sandy Hook is an example of a mass casualty incident where first responders would be more effective if they had repeated training with other departments.

 “As we grow out to that 250,000 population and we’re still the second safest city in the United States, we will have done it right,” Sgt. Johnson said.

Fire Chief David Coatney said depending on what Round Rock voters agree to, the build-out could happen in stages to spread out the cost over several years.

Some training elements being considered for the combined fire and police training center include:

  • Firearms Complex
  • Urban Training Area
  • High Speed Driving Center
  • Driver Avoidance Pad
  • Live Fire Burn Training Rooms
  • Multi-Story Tower
  • Outside Training City Grid
  • Technical Rescue Props
  • Swift Water Rescue Prop
  • Wildland Fire Training Area

Local Round Rock firm KAH Architecture and Interior Design assisted Interact Business Group in the development of the training center site layout.

To read more about similar police and fire department training center projects and more details about Strategic Business Planning Process follow the links below

  • Public Safety Training Newsletter – a monthly e-newsletter covering the top news, events and announcements in Public Safety Training. Click here and sign-up (lower right) to read the current issue and get updates.
  • Responder Gateway – A full featured First Responder news and resource hub. One Place, One Stop, One Source, Visit here and receive daily or weekly fire service or law enforcement news events, alerts or important announcements.
  • Bill Booth Blog – Timely opinions and articles, on issues and comments about public safety training center management, funding and operations. Click here to read and get updates.

Click HERE to read more

On-Line Courseware Trends and Evaluation Study

On Line Learning Fire and Police Departments

On Line Learning Fire and Police Departments

There has been widespread research by academics, corporations and scientists on the effectiveness of e-learning. The overarching result of all the recent studies has been that pure online learning is as efficient as pure face-to-face learning and can be better in some cases where the student has no time limitation. It has also been found that classroom learning enhanced by some online learning is the best approach to education. Last month I listed the seven how first responders learn and assimilate information. These seven guidelines further validate a study I conducted on the status and condition of on-line leaning in the fire service. The study included the independent evaluation of several common topics of study that are currently being offered for sale to the fire service by private courseware providers. Using a national group of fire service professionals active and retired, from large metro departments, volunteer departments, academia we audited and evaluated courses based on 14 predefined criteria.

Statement of Situation

Within the public safety sector, in-particular to this assessment, the blended learning requirements of theoretical and practical fire services training activities coupled with dramatic budget constraints are creating challenges to agencies nationwide. While distance education formats have been embraced, the breadth of offerings available, the lacking mechanisms to assess quality and value, along with burdensome subscriptions costs and disconnected Learning Management Systems were identified in the study.

The Intent of the Study

  • Identify the macro trends of distance education and the associated market impacts to the public safety communities.
  • Secure and evaluate common training course modules from leading content development companies.
  • Define a course utilizing an established evaluation criterion assessment matrix and weighting system.
  • Establish an independent evaluation panel from both academia and Training Directors from notable fire service agencies/organizations.
  • Provide a summary of findings and recommendations.

Click on this link to read and download the full report. On-Line Courseware Trends and Evaluation Study, Fire Service Training