Why Your Department Should Require Training from the FM Global Fire Service Learning Network: A Perspective from Capt. Patrick O'Brien

Captain Patrick O'Brien of the Taunton Fire Department in Massachusetts first heard about the FM Global Fire Service Learning Network through the grapevine. His chief, who heard about the network from another department at a Southeastern Chiefs Association meeting, asked O'Brien to look into the online training to see if it could supplement the department's in-person training.

"I took one module and quickly saw the value in it," O'Brien recalled, "As the Training Officer, I've advocated for online learning for a long time. We use it to supplement our training evolution. Once I saw the quality and comprehensiveness of FM Global's training, I went straight to our Chief and requested that we make the Fighting Fire in Sprinklered Buildings certificate mandatory for all personnel. We could never produce anything like what's on FM Global's network, so I wanted to take advantage of it right away. Our Chief agreed. We gave our personnel 30 days to complete the certificate, print it out, and drop it off at their station. Moving forward, it's required during onboarding for new firefighters."

The Taunton FD is a career department of about 125 firefighters serving a city of 60,000 people from five stations covering 48 square miles half an hour south of Boston. Taunton is the county seat and one of the oldest incorporated towns in the United States, founded in 1637 by members of the Plymouth Colony, who purchased the land from the Nemasket. Taunton is best known as the center of the silver goods industry in the 1800s. Today, the community is urban and suburban, with a downtown, a historic district, converted textile mills, the former Reed & Barton complex, modern office buildings, and one of the largest industrial parks east of the Mississippi. To manage responding to all these different types of occupancies, Taunton FD's crews need to be prepared.

"There are many different ways people learn," O'Brien explains. "In the fire service, traditionally we use textbooks and in-person training. But industrial technology, the fire environment, and fire suppression systems are changing quickly and it's hard for textbooks and in-person evolutions to keep up with that. That's where we've found the FM Global Fire Service Learning Network to be so valuable. They've made these programs that are so thorough, well-produced, and current that it took our blended learning model to a new level in terms of quality and expertise. And efficiency too. In a few hours our personnel are learning things that would take much longer in person."

Captain Patrick O'Brien
Captain Patrick O'Brien
Taunton Fire Department
20-year Veteran Firefighter/Paramedic
Registered Nurse

Required training often causes a less-than-enthusiastic reaction. But Captain O'Brien says that wasn't the case when they required Fighting Fire in Sprinklered Buildings. "It was very well-received. We had a great participation and completion rate. The comments from our officers have been positive, particularly about how well the videos explained the basics."

O'Brien sees the training on the FM Global Fire Service Learning Network as a solution to problems every department has. "Other departments will understand you are pressed for time, money is tight, and it's hard to produce this level of comprehensive training with high quality content direct from experts in sprinkler systems," he describes. "But here it's already done for you. You don't have to do anything but require it. It's hard to train on these systems in real life. You can't just walk in someone's building. FM Global's training is the next best thing to that. Your personnel are going to get a baseline level of knowledge so when they go to calls and see the things they learned in the module, they know what they are and can tie it all together. It's also great for our pre-planning officers. We get a formal walk through at higher hazard locations and sometimes the facilities people talk over our head. But now with this training we know more and we can ask better questions about that location."

This pre-planning need is critical because of Taunton's diverse property base, a situation many communities face as old industrial buildings convert to new uses and large modern facilities are built. Chief O'Brien's thinking about that, too. "I'm excited about the two new advanced pre-planning modules that have just come out," he says. "We've been revamping at our pre-planning process. We're changing to a computerized system encompassing dispatch, run records, and modules to gather property information. I'm interested to see how these two new modules on the FM Global Fire Service Learning Network can inform what we're doing to improve our pre-planning process." The two modules he's referring to are Advanced Pre-Planning for Complex Properties and Why Advanced Pre-Planning is Important: A Greensboro Case Study. They are free and available now.

Overall, Captain O'Brien strongly believes in the importance of online training in the mix of learning methods he oversees for the Taunton FD. "Having FM Global offer this online training is invaluable and makes our job easier and safer as firefighters," he says. "As a training captain, it really helps me personally and professionally to offer quality training and education I know is accurate. Our job is to prevent loss of life and property. There's so much out there and the fire service changes so quickly that we need the kind of updated training that the FM Global Fire Service Learning Network offers."

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