According to 2021 research from the academic journal Earth’s Future, both the intensity and frequency of natural disasters are increasing at a dramatic rate. In the U.S. alone, more than 32,000 fatalities have taken place due to natural disasters over the last half-century. This is alarming—and impossible for first response training instructors to overlook.
As tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and wildfires continue to escalate, it’s vital for first responders to be sharp in the field with the most effective, up-to-date training courses to improve their skills. If you are a first response instructor, here’s how to deliver a classroom experience that holds your trainees’ attention, increases their knowledge base, and equips them to take decisive, competent, life-saving action in the throes of an emergency.
1. Facilitate learning conditions that feel innovative and exciting.
First responders are used to intense, fast-paced situations, so asking them to sit in a classroom and learn from a textbook or PowerPoint slides won’t keep them focused. You have the raise the stakes and facilitate the type of environment that spurs them into action. Any training course can offer the bare minimum accreditations for first responders to meet their state and national continuing education requirements. But this doesn’t mean they will be motivated to actually absorb the content. As a trainer, it’s your job to structure the class and present the material in an innovative way that’s both new and exciting—not one-note or routine.
2. Offer multimodal lessons to improve retention and application.
One strategy to infuse more excitement into your first response training course is to use a multimodal approach. Basically, this means you combine all three of the main learning styles—visual, auditory, and kinesthetic—into the curriculum. This allows everyone to interact with the information you’re teaching based on how their brains are uniquely wired. For instance, if a first responder learns by doing, create tactical scenarios to run through. Or if another first responder learns by seeing, incorporate digital media to help them visualize the instruction. Connecting the material with the senses promotes successful retention and application.
3. Use immersive simulators for a realistic, hands-on experience.
In the thick of a crisis, first responders won’t have time to evaluate the logistics and carefully formulate a plan. They must be able to trust their instincts and choose the right action at a moment’s notice. These high-stress realities of the job cause the adrenaline to spike and heart rate to increase, so first responders must be ready to act on reflex and muscle memory. That’s where a simulator comes in—this immersive form of training will mimic the potential real-world emergencies a first responder might encounter in the field. This helps them acquire hands-on experience in how to de-escalate that situation while in the line of duty.
4. Strike a balance between continuous training at a flexible pace.
The demanding nature of their job means first responders can’t always carve out a week in a classroom to meet continuing education requirements. But in this life-saving work, it’s essential to hone their skills as much as possible. So how can you provide consistent, comprehensive training in a limited time frame? Allow your trainees to learn at their own pace with flexible curriculum they can access both anytime and anywhere. Virtual e-learning platforms are ideal for this—just film each lesson, then first responders can login to view the instruction when they’re off the clock. They can even refer back to it for optimal retention.
Improve Your First Responder Training for Maximum Safety and Success
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), awareness, knowledge, and preparation are among the most valuable qualities first responders need in emergencies. When they know what’s expected of them and how to react, first responders can think clearly under pressure, adapt when necessary, and make vital decisions in real-time.
Their actions can minimize safety risks and protect human lives, but to cultivate and maintain these skills, first responders also need access to effective training methods. So incorporate the strategies above to facilitate an exciting, interactive, real-world applicable training course that first responders will actually want to participate in.