The Palatine Fire Department’s Training Division is responsible for the overall training of the Department. In cooperation with the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) coordinator, heads of the specialty teams, and all the shift officers, training is provided for the Department members from the entry level academy subjects to the upper command and administration level. Our training is accomplished with in-house instructors and by utilizing various outside training agencies. All training activities are coordinated and scheduled by our Training Officer, Division Chief Paul Wallis.
All members start their career by going through a regional fire academy, where they attain Firefighter II and Hazardous Materials Operations certifications through the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal (OSFM). When they return from the academy they get a short course on Palatine specific practices. We next focus on getting them certified as a paramedic; for this they will attend the paramedic school at Northwest Community Hospital. Some members come to us already state certified through other hospital systems and go through a short class to update them on our system policies and protocols.
With the first two big hurdles behind the new firefighter the member begins to get additional training under the watchful eye of their company officer. New firefighters work toward Firefighter III certification within the company environment. This allows them to draw from the experience of their Lieutenant and senior firefighters. In a sense therefore, everyone is involved in training at Palatine Fire Department.
After members who have achieved their Firefighter III certification they can move along to different areas of involvement. There are many classes available for each of the specialty teams that the Department maintains. The member can choose from Apparatus Engineer, Technical Rescue Team, Dive Team, Hazardous Materials, or Officer development. Each area has a State Fire Marshal certification program that Palatine participates in. To be fully certified in most areas requires approximately 200 hours of class time in addition to demonstrating a practical proficiency. Officers (ranks of Lieutenant and higher) also must attain Fire Officer I and Fire Officer II certification through the State Fire Marshal, a total of 360 hours of classroom training, followed by an on-the-job training aspect ensuring they have at least one year of practical experience as a company officer (for F.O. I) and an officer over multiple companies (for F.O. II).
Many members also have the opportunity to attend seminars to keep current in the various areas. A number of these seminars are presented locally through the various training associations, to which we belong, thereby helping us to keep our costs down. We also regularly send personnel to regional and state training facilities, such as the Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI) at the University of Illinois in Champaign for their annual Fire College and to other higher-level training including Smoke Divers (Breathing Apparatus Specialist), Fire Attack and Suppression Techniques, and First-In Officer, among others.
Each week we schedule some type of training for all the firefighters on shift. This can range from polishing skills to rolling out a new policy or procedure. Almost all of this training is done with Department personnel who have an interest and additional training in the subject they are presenting. We routinely use more than a dozen different instructors in any year, which is indicative of the commitment and quality of our people. Recent training has included topics as diverse as Incident Command and communications, weapons of mass destruction awareness, structure fire scenarios including live fire and smoke, confined space rescue, vehicle extrication, roof ventilation, ice rescue, and many others. We believe strongly in scenario-based, in-context practical training. To make training sessions as realistic as possible, the Training Division maintains a number of props and supplies, including things such as theatrical smoke machines and specially-built rescue manikins. These manikins are in adult, child and infant sizes and allow us to practice rescue techniques from situations such as fires, trenches, underwater or in ice, or confined spaces. We also have a number of medical training manikins ranging from basic CPR props to advanced airway and cardiac simulation manikins. When available, and with the consent of the property owners, we make use of structures slated for demolition and junk vehicles to make our training even more realistic and relevant.
The Northwest Community EMS System (NWCEMSS) provides monthly refresher training and recertification for all our paramedics in addition to our in-house training. Our personnel in 2008 averaged, throughout the organization, 36.9 hours of total training per man per month. Through the year, training was documented in 250 different subject areas.
The Department feels that as a result of a strong commitment to new and ongoing training we can and do "Provide Exceptional Service."