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Retaining Volunteers: 5-D Training

Training is a fundamental feature of a quality volunteer program. It elevates the services provided to your community, which reflects positively on your organization and its reputation. Our purpose is to provide quality service to the community. In order to accomplish this our volunteers must perform in a safe, consistent, effective and efficient manner. Proper training and development of our volunteers is essential.

Training and development can also raise the level of commitment and dedication a volunteer member has for the organization. This is important in retaining your volunteers.

5-D Training is a foundation block in your training program. 5-D training involves cognitive, physical performance, confidence, teamwork and performing in difficult situations where problems can occur. It is important all five dimensions are woven into your training program.

Often, these five dimensions are treated as separate functions. They are not separate but must be combined together to develop volunteer personnel.

 Think about a firefighter advancing a hose line inside a structure to extinguish the fire. The firefighter needs the physical skill to advance and operate the charge hose line in a safe and efficient manner. The firefighter must have the mental ability to understand fire behavior, the structure and contents of fire and when, where and how to apply the fire stream.  The firefighter needs to have confidence in their ability and the desire to make an interior fire attack. The individual crew members must function as a team to accomplish control and extinguishment.

Think of the crew members necessary to effectively and safely advance the charged hose line. A minimum of six (nozzle, back-up, pump operator, incident commander, two on the back-up line) all acting as one team. (Additional personnel if ventilation or rescue is involved) And finally, they must be able to deal with challenging situations which may occur. What if the hose line is damaged? How do they quickly respond and fix the problem?

This is an example of the importance of all five dimensions of 5-D training coming together in the essential act of advancing a single hose line and extinguishing the fire.

Your training program must address a number of different issues and topics. Certainly, there are emergency response activities. But how about non-emergency activities such as maintaining equipment or restoring the apparatus after an emergency response?

How about such items as citizen complaints? An upset citizen comes into the station. How are they treated by the volunteers they encounter? How do you want the situation dealt with? How do you want the citizens treated by your volunteers? What is the outcome that everyone should be working toward to address and resolve the complaint?


The Five Dimensions of 5-D Training

  1. Mental or cognitive development. Most people will think about this dimension as the primary factor. This is ensuring your volunteers know what they need to know.
  2. Psychomotor skill development. The physical actions that are necessary to perform the necessary task. Ensuring your volunteers can do what they need to do. But the first two will fall short if the following three are not addressed.
  3. The Affective domain includes the emotional dimension: the confidence your volunteers have in their abilities and the desire to perform.
  4. Teambuilding is where individuals become a single force working toward the common outcome. It is working together. It is believing in each other and having confidence in each crew member to carry out their assignment and responsibilities.
  5. The ability to overcome challenges and obstacles. The “what-if’s” that can occur. What if you’re at a large fire and operating master streams?  And all of a sudden, your master stream becomes a trickle? Worse yet, the supply line from the hydrant is charged and solid. Your engine is running. The pump is engaged. In the middle of the night with a big fire raging this is not good. What would your crew do?

I have experienced this. The good news is that we had a great crew. Some of the best firefighters that I had the honor of working with in my career. (FYI- I was the Chief of the City of Milwaukie Fire Department at this time.)  The short explanation is that the large flow of water stirred up sediment in the water mains and resulted in a large amount of sediment plugging the screen on the intake line coming into the pump. The engineer and crew diagnosed the problem quickly, disconnected the line, cleared the “muck” causing the blockage, reconnected the supply line and the master stream was back in operation. (FYI- the crews made a great stop on the fire).

Where does 5-D training and development take place? It takes place in a variety of places.

·         Classroom lectures

·         Self-paced learning assignments

·         On the job training assignments

·         Simulation exercises

·         Group problem solving exercises and discussions.

A great deal of planning and work that goes into developing a quality training program. You want your personnel to perform safely, consistently, effectively and efficiently.  5-D training is a foundation block for training and developing your volunteers and aiding in retention.