is aligned with the preplan, formulating a solid tactical plan for our troops to mitigate the hazard.
From an operational standpoint, we must obtain
consistency with our standard operating procedures
(SOPs) and our training to be effective. The two go
hand in hand. We support our firefighters by creating
a clear and concise framework in which to operate.
The training that is drilled becomes the tasks that
are performed on the fireground. The service that is
delivered to the customer is the final product. If our
service is not aligned with the policies and procedures, the outcome would be less than desirable. If
our training supports the SOPs and in turn delivers
excellent customer service, we have a predictable
outcome and we are fully aligned.
How about addressing our community’s needs? It’s
safe to say that most of us identify the target hazards
in our district and come up with a solid incident
action plan to deal with an emergency as it arises.
Well let’s take it one step further and target our community as a whole. How can we properly address how
we are going to defend our community from a major
event if we have not preplanned the event that is in
the back of everyone’s minds? Unfortunately, when
the wildland season is on us, that is when our customers start paying attention to the WUI environment
This is an excellent opportunity to engage in public
education through prevention on a neighborhood
scale. Train around community member homes,
preplan strategies and tactics around developments,
triage structures, triage streets, and triage whole
neighborhoods. Identify Look Outs, determine existing Watch Out situations, and preplan existing Safety
Zones. By getting out there and training, you will
engage the community in what you are doing.
When your department is out walking around
neighborhoods and talking with homeowners about
significant hazards that can be remedied, the homeowner becomes your best champion for making your
work environment safer to operate in. Rather than
telling your community in a public meeting what
defensible space means, show them how by practicing and training on site. A simple demonstration on
reducing ladder fuels and showing what a three-foot,
noncombustible space around the home means will
help you and your customer become more aligned.
The key is getting out there and doing it. Don’t tell
people how to do it; show them how it’s done. Showing the training and capabilities that your fire department possesses, how that training relates to how the
work is done, how the work is influenced by the
environment it is being performed in, and how that
environment can be made safe is full alignment.
Now, the customers we have been working so hard
EDUCATION IN SEASON
with can lead the way for others to follow. That same
family can influence their neighbors to be better
stewards of the WUI community. It is not as easy as
chalking up a win when one homeowner creates 30
feet of defensible space around the home. One house
on Anyroad, USA, that is defendable does not mean
the whole subdivision is. The road, street, or cul-de-
sac must be defendable. It is not reasonable to think
that we will commit to one street that has most of
the homes that are not defendable because of many
wildland hazards when one home has a safety zone,
defensible space, and excellent landscaping that is
conducive to slowing down a wildland fire. We must
look at our community with a much bigger lens to
be ready. We must preplan our neighborhoods. The
community needs to realize that one engine cannot
defend 10 homes (although sometimes possible).
They need to understand our honest capabilities.
They need to be shown how they can set us up for
success—not move obstacles in our way.
Unfortunately, the best time to do this is during
wildland season. It’s when the public is overloaded
with wildfire news that our customers are paying the
most attention. They want to know how they can
help. Show them. Show them you care. Show them
how they can be safer to help you operate safer. The
customer becomes the mitigator, the champion, the
teacher for others to follow.
The firefighters’ training supports the SOPs, the
SOPs support the chief’s mission, the mission
supports excellent customer service to our customers,
our customers support our community, and our
community supports the fire department. We can
predict the behavior of our firefighters, fire department, and community. We can have a predictable
outcome, a safer place for our customers and the fire
Seth Barker is a captain and training officer for the Big Sky (MT)
Fire Department. He is a state fire instructor for the Montana Fire
Service Training School and a state lead EMS instructor. Barker
holds a Blue Card Instructor certification, is an ISFSI instructor, and
is a logistical coordinator for FirefighterCloseCalls.com. He is one
of the scholarship recipients to the Tampa 2 Summit held by the
National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Barker is a contributing
author for FireRescue and sits on multiple wildland-urban interface
committees. He has taught for the Fire Department Instructors
Conference International, delivering multiple topics on preparing
communities in all-hazard disciplines. Barker is one of the Principal
of Modern Fire Attack instructors and instructor trainers. He has the
live fire instructor certification and the training officer credential
through the International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI).
Barker was elected director at large for the ISFSI. He has fire officer
and chief training officer designations from the Center for Public