Planning FIRE OPS 101

Putting on a FIRE OPS 101 event takes careful and strategic planning by the local. Deciding who to invite, when to hold the event and what messages you will choose can make all the difference for an effective FIRE OPS 101. Your local will also need to consider the details behind event planning, including location, staff, food and equipment.

FIRE OPS 101 Fundamentals

Depending on the number of participants you have, you should run three to five scenarios during your event. Keep the groups small enough so everyone can participate, but large enough to limit the number of groups. Each group will participate in a scenario and then rotate to another so that each group experiences each scenario in the circuit once. Each scenario should last approximately 40 minutes, with a 20-minute break for rest and rotation. Plan for one hour per scenario.

4 Groups=4 Scenarios
4 Groups=4 Wranglers
4 Scenarios=16 Instructors (4 per scenario area)

Plan accordingly in the early stages to run your event on time. Look at the bigger picture. The more you try to accomplish the more difficult the day will be to execute.

Getting Started

Once you’ve decided to hold a FIRE OPS 101 event, it’s time to begin planning important logistics for the event. Your first step may be to set up a planning committee, which could include your executive board, interested members and members who have good relationships with management and government officials. The committee should start planning at least four months before the tentative FIRE OPS 101 date.

Your implementation strategy for FIRE OPS 101 will contain a number of different areas for your committee to consider, including what to budget for, who you will invite and which scenarios you will run. Your committee members will be responsible for the details of the event.

The next steps are to gain approval and cooperation from management and to set a date for the event.

Getting Approval and Choosing a Day

It is important to have a working relationship with fire department management in order to plan FIRE OPS 101. You must gain approval from management to conduct FIRE OPS 101. They will pay for overtime and equipment for the event, so management must be involved from the beginning and be part of the planning team. You and your department will work together to ensure FIRE OPS 101 is a success.

Factors in Choosing a Day

  • Weather. Choose a mild day in the spring or fall, so participants do not overheat.
  • The Right Time for Your Message. Consider the current election cycle, budget cycle, negotiations and media news cycle. One local planned a FIRE OPS 101 for the spring to coincide with the budget cycle, but discovered that decision makers had already finished the budget five months earlier.
  • Schedule. If your elected officials have other jobs, you will want to make sure they can attend on a Saturday, for example).

Making Decisions

Your planning committee, with the input of the local’s leaders and department members, will make decisions on who should be invited, where to host the FIRE OPS 101 events and gathering equipment, and what message should be covered for the public.

Inviting Participants

  • Hand-deliver the invitations and explain the event. Follow up with a phone call or encourage supportive council members to make calls.
  • Make sure the media is invited — either as a participant or to report about the day — if you want to receive coverage.
  • Consider the capacity of your location, extra equipment available (boots, PPE, SCBA, etc.) and your time constraints when deciding the number of people to invite. FIRE OPS 101 events can have as few as 10 participants or as many as 30 or more participants, depending on the number of invitations and the number who accept. Consider borrowing equipment from vendors or other departments so equipment does not have to be purchased.

Once your participants have accepted, send them a confirmation letter with information about when to arrive, where to park, what to wear, what to eat, and include any medical forms you need them to fill out in advance.

Visit the Download page to view samples of invitation and confirmation letters.

Choosing a Location and Gathering Equipment

FIRE OPS 101 should be held at an appropriate fire department training facility. The scenarios you select will be based on the equipment and props you have available, and will most likely feature the training exercises commonly run at the training facility.

You will need turnout gear for each one of your participants. Send out a size form in advance to find out what you will need to provide each participant. Consider borrowing what you don’t have from other departments or even the manufacturer.

You will also need equipment for each scenario. Once you have decided which scenarios to run, you will need to locate and secure available equipment for that scenario.

Visit the Download page to get the Sizing Form for your participants.

Choosing Your Message

The messages you communicate are one of the most important aspects of FIRE OPS 101. As you choose and plan each scenario, craft talking points that your wranglers, instructors and media liaisons will pass on to the participants. Your talking points must be consistent among those speaking with the participants. Think of talking points as a script that must be memorized.

Emphasize participation over demonstration as you plan your events, so your participants will have the maximum experience.

To make an impact during each scenario, follow these steps:

  • Tell them about the exercise.
  • Let them experience it.
  • Then tell them what they experienced and why.

Visit the Download page to view a sample of Talking Points.

Budget and Expenses

A planning committee should create a budget for the FIRE OPS 101 event. The local should budget for food, water and take-away items, such as helmets or T-shirts. The department should budget overtime pay for those staffing the event. Costs can be saved by staffing on-duty fire fighters. In addition, the department should budget overtime for rehearsal the night before. Your local executive board members should serve as the wranglers for the event to lead participants through each scenario.

The planning committee should prepare an itemized budget for the event to assure success without undue fiscal stress.

Choosing Take-Away Items

Take away items give the participants something to remember the event. Some locals have given away helmets or helmet shields customized for their event. Participants also take home some of the dirt and wear from their event on the helmet. Another take-home item is a t-shirt, which can distinguish participants from staff during the event. A t-shirt with an IAFF logo also works well for photo-ops. Certificates or plaques can also be presented at a future council meeting.

When conducting FIRE OPS 101, safety is the number-one priority. Some of the more difficult scenarios may require a one-to-one instructor/student ratio. The most common safety concerns include claustrophobia (confined space exercise) and slips and falls. There must be EMS personnel with a transport vehicle onsite in case of medical emergencies. All FIRE OPS 101 scenarios must follow the applicable NFPA standards (e.g., NFPA 1403 – live fire training) and participants must wear protective gear at all times.

You will also want to perform a medical check of all participants. Visit the Morning of FIRE OPS 101 section of FIRE OPS 101 Scenarios for more information.

It is recommended that each participant signs a waiver form prior to starting the event. Check with your local city/county attorney regarding appropriate language for the waiver.

A note on fit testing:

FIRE OPS 101 Events should do a qualitative fit test to assure mask fit for the participant. This test can be conducted by placing the mask on the participant then using a particular test agent that creates a subjective sensation (taste, irritation, smell) to the respirator wearer. During this process we explain that fire fighters are required to go through a more specific fit testing procedure called a quantitative fit test, due to the hazards in their work environment. This test is much more time consuming and is not feasible for a FIRE OPS 101 event.

Staffing the Event

The Planning Committee members are the event planners—they are responsible for the details of the event and the major logistical tasks.

The Incident Commander will oversee the entire event as if it were an emergency scene. He/she will make decisions and assignments based on the needs and flow of the day.

Wranglers serve as a host to the participants. They are the leaders of the groups and help communicate the talking points to the participants, represent the local and answer any questions. This is an opportunity to offer elected officials one-on-one time with a fire fighter. The participants depend on the wrangler to help them in the scenarios and lead them through the event. Learn more about talking points in the Scenario Library.

There will be approximately four instructors at each scenario who oversee the entire group at that station. They will know the talking points of the scenario and ensure the safety of the participants.

In case an emergency occurs during FIRE OPS 101, EMS staff must be on the scene. They should be ready to go and not part of any of the scenarios.

Your media liaisons will work to ensure the event is covered to its potential. Consider using press passes to allow access to the event. Make sure the media liaison knows all the talking points so they can answer any questions. Having a photographer from your local ensures you get the shots you want and that you have a stock for your web site or future publicity. It is important to document this event for any future FIRE OPS 101 your local may organize. Consider making a DVD of your photos for members, records or to send to participants after the event.

You will need support staff to help register participants, work at the rehab stations, help with preparing the meal and other odd jobs throughout the day. It’s important to have staff greeting participants and preparing them for the day. Whether lunch is catered, provided as brown paper bag lunches or prepared by fire fighters at the academy, you will need workers to help. You will also need people to coordinate and purchase the food and water for the day.

Visit the Download page to view samples of agendas.

Fine Tuning Your Plan

Conduct a walk-through the day prior to the FIRE OPS 101 event. Put yourself in the boots of the participant: When will they need more time for an event or extra rest? What might they be afraid of or worried about? Where can extra instructors ease the concerns of the participants or the flow of the day?

Consider having someone coach your wranglers on their talking points, in addition to the scenarios. For example, in a PPE demonstration, the coach can monitor how much is demonstration or participation, make suggestions and anticipate what questions participants may have. Hands-on instruction is much more effective than show-and-tell. The coach serves as the eye for the participants and ensures they are getting involved and hearing the key points.

Remember to plan for after the event. Encourage wranglers to bring their calendar in case participants are interested in a ride-along. Follow-up FIRE OPS 101 with a photo or certificate for the participant. Have the participant’s wrangler deliver it to them or present it at an upcoming meeting.

Visit the FIRE OPS 101 Scenarios page for more information about the day of a FIRE OPS 101 event.