Repeat repeat repeat training may not prepare for what’s to come…

Live-exercise training is often the best way to prepare for emergency situations.  However, one research team has suggested that repeated training of the same scenario does little to prepare for different situations.

The research team studied civilian fire fighters, who commonly undergo training using a very small set of live-fire scenarios.  These scenarios are designed to reduce stress and encourage calm decision making skills.

Instead, the research team put trainee fire fighters through a variety of drills, repeating in two different types of buildings.  It was found that fire fighters had fewer problems when repeating scenarios, but
maintained high stress levels when undergoing new ones.  It is suggested that repeated exposure to the same scenario does not prepare fire fighters for changing situations, and that lessons learnt may not transfer to different scenarios.

“If you learn the scenario, you can predict what will happen in that one scenario, but you can’t predict what will happen in situations that look a little different,” said [the research team].  “If you learn general principles, then you can predict what is going to happen in a wide range of situations.”

An effective training programme that prepares people to handle unanticipated changes may therefore be the key to maintaining a calm team, good decision making, and preventing stress-related health issues.

Could this have an impact on training programmes in the energy and allied industries, particuarly of emergency response teams?

2 Responses to Repeat repeat repeat training may not prepare for what’s to come…

  1. But isn’t this obvious? The same is reported by front line workers routinely, at least in my industry, and I imagine it is the same in most or all safety critical industries. Is it a case of demonstrating something that is already logical and widely known at shop floor level?

  2. Wayne Perkins says:

    This is about the generalization of training. To get good generalization training should be along the relevant part of the dimensions of the problem. In this case, the types of situations fires occur in and what happens during fires. Use examples along the dimensions (concepts) of fire fighting and you get people trained to handle a wider range of fire fighting problems. The difficult thing is figuring out what the dimensions are and the range of examples to use. This also provides a good basis for teaching the application of principles of fire fighting.

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