At the start of 2020, our company fire department launched a classroom-based training program for new industrial firefighters. This fire department class is necessary to keep the crew up to scratch, in terms of both the number of employees and quality level. The officer in charge, Bart Boonen, has been freed up to teach his new colleagues the tricks of the trade.
Broad training package
The program is quite challenging. “In addition to obtaining the fire department certificates, they also need to know about the industry and the company emergency organization at the Chemelot site,” says Bart. “Technical assistance and hazardous materials incident management are also part of the training. To get to know the factories, we regularly organize a tour of the site led by a plant instructor. They also take a number of practical training courses. For example, they first have to get their truck driving license before they can be trained as fire department drivers. They are also trained in the proper use of gas suits. There are also courses such as hoisting, working at height, VCA and the like.”
“What really appeals to me about this job is the combination of tinkering and firefighting.”
-Bryan Vliegen, participant in the Fire Department Class
A lot of drills
Part of the training consists of theory, but the main focus is practical drills. “Ideally, we spend as little time as possible in the classroom,” says the officer in charge. “Every Wednesday we have drill day, where we translate what we have learned into practice. This fall there will also be three days of external training on the program, so that the class can train on everything we have practiced here so far in a realistic environment.”
What do the participants themselves think of the fire department class?
“At the start, I thought I would complete all the training courses here while working on the team,” says Sven Luijten. “I didn’t expect to end up in a classroom, but I like it very much.” The same goes for some of the participants who were already working before, like Christian Schneider: “The advantage of this class is that you can complete all the courses within a year. And that you start with colleagues who are at the same level as you. It’s nice that everyone learns together.” “I come from a technical background and worked in maintenance for the first three months,” adds Robin Silkens. “I was already in the volunteer fire department, so I think it’s great that I can now turn my hobby into my work.”
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