Training fire department staff is essential to saving lives, and this training requires everything from new recruit training and recertification to Haz-Mat, incident command, and other specialty training. But when you have emergency personnel leaving their stations to drive to a central hub for training, this can leave your city unprotected.

Think about this conventional approach to training for a moment. Everyone at the station is required to attend a mandatory training at a location that is several miles away. Meanwhile, during training, an emergency call in your jurisdiction comes through. Who is available to respond?

Some cities will have stations cover for each other – one station attends training, and another station provides backup emergency response coverage. And in some cities, training may be split up into shifts in which the morning crew will attend and the afternoon staff will provide temporary backup coverage. Then in the later hours, the afternoon staff will attend and the morning crew will cover for them.

In either of these scenarios, a backup skeleton crew is needed. As a result, the community is put at risk for slower emergency response times that can cost lives.

Efficiency is the key

Many fire departments in cities throughout the U.S. realized that their trainings were not only inefficient but were also contributing to unnecessary resource costs. Time traveling to and from the trainings, higher fuel expenses, and additional wear and tear on fire department vehicles are just a few of the costs incurred.

This ultimately led to fire stations seeking a more efficient way to deliver training. Take the Edmond Fire Department in Oklahoma as an example. The city of Edmond is approximately 100 square miles, and the population is about 90,000 or so residents.

There are five stations with a total of about 120 members, which includes the prevention division, EMS and training division, and the administrative and suppression staff who are fielding the emergency calls. There are also several volunteer departments outside of Edmond in which they provide mutual aid for, especially during wildland fires.

Edmond fire stations looked at video conferencing as a solution to help streamline and improve their training efficiencies. In the past, they used to bring all five stations to a centrally located station in Edmond.

They realized that bringing all five stations in at once wasn’t feasible as it was leaving the city unprotected. And splitting the trainings between a morning and afternoon shift wasn’t efficient either.

By implementing video conferencing, personnel remains at their respective stations to respond to emergency situations as they normally would without having to leave and bring in additional backup resources. This also saved wear and tear on their apparatus, time traveling back and forth, and money on fuel costs.

Regarding fuel costs alone, Edmond FD saved an estimated $9,000 in fuel cost savings over one six month period.

Funding is available

In terms of how the video conferencing systems were procured, Edmond fire stations worked with a grants team to help them secure an Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) grant. This allowed them to implement a full video infrastructure deployment, which included bridging, recording, desktop connectivity, and firewall traversal. They were also able to equip a main training room and video endpoints for all stations.

Below is a video interview with Chief Elam from the Edmond Fire Department discussing fire training enhancements with the use of video conferencing funded by an Assistance to Firefighters (AFG) Grant.

When it comes to an emergency response, time is of the essence. Removing emergency response personnel to attend a training offsite can lead to training inefficiencies , and can negatively impact emergency response times.

Understanding the AFG grant is key to securing funding for video conferencing training Any Fire department interested in an evaluation and consultation on developing their own program can engage the Polycom Grant Assistance Program to kick-off an assessment.