This page highlights how new survival training equipment was bought with a grant awarded to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. This page is intended for fire departments and nonaffiliated Emergency Medical Service organizations (EMS).
AFG Grant Provides Funding for Ground Survival Training in San Diego
Due to increased foreclosures, declining property tax revenue, reduced staffing and issues of “brown outs,” San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFD) had recently found itself in a long-term negative fiscal pattern that had not aligned with the department's needs. Although the department is classified as a high risk urban area and qualifies for some funding, awards are usually weighted in favor of law enforcement and infrastructure programs. Fortunately for SDFD, they were approved for a 2012 AFG Grant for $1,036,173 that provided intensive survival training.
Thanks to the AFG Grant, SDFD was able to secure the following: “Train the Trainer” courses in the IAFF Fire Ground Survival (FGS) Program for 46 instructors; three sets of props and visual aids; mandatory overtime for 781 fire personnel during back-to-back days of training; 36 two-day training sessions; six instructors for each day of training; and an FGS Program Manager position and backfill. The FGS curriculum was so successful that it is now incorporated into the basic fire academy and includes an annual refresher course as part of the in-service training program. The FGS training facilitated the creation of a Mayday checklist tracking form and helped to reinforce the importance of having all PPE available in a state of readiness.
“The department never had a formalized Mayday policy or procedure with all firefighters trained,” said David Pilkerton, SDFD’s Battalion Chief. “This specific training program was the first training focused on firefighter safety.” Pilkerton also noted that the overall situational awareness was increased to the highest level and an air management policy was also created.
“Since the incorporation of FGS, SDFD has had two actual Mayday calls where our training set in and policy was followed to allow clear communications and to rescue the downed firefighter,” he said. Pilkerton says this is far more advanced than the previous method of merely communicating “Mayday” over the radio in a somewhat disorderly manner.
The grant was award in April 2013 and the FGS Program Manager started in September. The FGS class props were delivered to SDFD for assembly at the beginning of November 2013 and those classes were completed by the end of the month. In January 2014, the 5-month FGS rollout training program began. That training came in handy when in June 2015, two firefighters were stabbed on a medical incident. The call had the same priority as a Mayday call and dispatch was able to move all medical aid traffic to another channel.
“In this case, the FGS and Mayday communication procedure was effectively applied, demonstrating that this training was influential beyond firefighting operations,” said Pilkerton. “This resulted in effective and efficient teamwork from the FCC based on the quick decision of the supervisor.” Pilkerton said that despite having previous communication procedures in place for firefighter safety, it was the pre-planning and reinforcement emphasized in the training that will now keep all personnel in a state of readiness.
Pilkerton says without the grant, the situational awareness for all personnel, whether someone at risk or someone receiving the call, would not be as efficient. He even remarked that a 34-year veteran said to him: “This was the best training ever implemented by our department in my career.”