When was the last time your department used the tailboard on the apparatus? – No, I don’t mean riding the tailboard to calls – which in and of itself was an art. – I mean using the tailboard for training.
Recently, I taught some evening classes with departments I work with regularly, and after the “formal” training was over, the “informal” training began with everyone sitting around the tailboard (or front bumper, or the station table) and just started talking about the last call and what could be done different; or, what’s new in techniques; or just the good old war stories from “back in the day”.
As I sat there on the tailboard of the engine after one recent evening with about a dozen or so guys having just those types of discussions it dawned on me that I don’t think we do enough of this. We were sitting there with the most senior members down to the youngest juniors and we just “talked”. Next thing you know there were tools pulled out and sitting on the table, some intense discussion on new techniques, and the good natured jokes and funny war stories. But you know what else there was – there was a lot of learning occurring.
While the formal class for the evening was over, the learning was continuing. No, this wasn’t the type of learning that will get you a piece of paper, it was the type of learning that makes you and your crew better, more well-rounded responders. This is because while formal classroom training is good, it mostly lacks character. Tailboard training is not about PowerPoint presentations. It’s not about studying textbooks. It’s not about written tests. It purely raw, simple, and honest – which is what classroom training usually is not. It is what enhances the “culture of the emergency services”.
I know that many times people’s busy lives interfere with the ability to have tailboard training. They need to be any number of other places such as with family, work, etc., but to sound a little cliché – maybe we need to stop and smell the roses once and a while. Because another thing that happens during tailboard training is many times you get to learn about your fellow responders as well. You talk about family or work and in many cases you get to learn more about and better understand the person who may have to save your life someday.
The next time you are at station with a group of your fellow responders, sit down on the tailboard and start the discussion and see what everyone might learn. It may save someone’s life, even yours.
(Just make sure you know where the equipment hand truck is – but that’s a funny war story and one that I will always remember from a tailboard chat many years ago…)