Fire Fighting in Canada

Trainer’s Corner: Working together for a common goal

March 4, 2020 
By Ed Brouwer

Imaginative drills are a great way to engage your firefighters and help them become better communicators and problem solvers.

OBJECTIVES: Review donning and doffing of PPE and SCBA, team building, problem solving, communication.

PROPS: One basketball, one garbage can, six raw eggs, two traffic cones.

As strange as this practice outline may sound as you read it, the results were very positive.

Due to the weather, we held our practice in an empty bay. After firefighters split into groups of three, I outlined the “rules of engagement”. As firefighters stood side by side (shoulder to shoulder), the two outside firefighters were instructed to place their hand on the middle firefighter’s shoulders. This contact must be maintained throughout the entire drill.


To help you picture this, consider you are looking at the three firefighters, “A’s” left hand is on “B’s” right shoulder. “C’s” right hand is on “B’s” left shoulder. Clear as mud, right?

The firefighters were told the firefighter in the middle could change positions with either teammate on the outside as long as contact was kept. Let the firefighters figure it out. “A” places free right hand on “C’s” left shoulder. Then “A” removes left hand from “B’s” shoulder. This puts “C” in the middle.

Teams were told that the middle firefighter could only use both his/her hands when donning or doffing gear. All other objectives were to be met by the outside firefighters using their free hands. Each team set their PPE and one SBA unit in front of them. They were then instructed to don their PPE.

It was really interesting watching the teams work together, communicating clearly as they problem solved. Once everyone in the team had geared up successfully (complete PPE), I threw another problem at them. One firefighter in the group was to don SCBA. Again, teams surprised me as to their successfully working together for a common goal. When teams were successful in donning SCBA, I challenged them to score a basket. The middle firefighter was handed a basketball and when they were ready, he/she held the ball out in front while the outside firefighters used their free hand to hold the ball. They were given three attempts to toss the ball into a garbage can set 20 feet away (sounds easy, but isn’t). Remember each firefighter is in full PPE including gloves.

The next team challenge was to transfer raw eggs from one traffic cone to another placed 40 feet apart. Teams were instructed to pick up an egg from the top of a traffic cone by using gloved palms (no fingers). The two outside firefighters worked together to pick up an egg and carry it to the second traffic cone. The second cone had an egg on it already, so the outside firefighters had to give the egg they were holding in their palms to the middle firefighter. They then picked up the second egg and transferred it into the hands of middle firefighter, then retrieving the first egg they placed it on the cone. They then took back the remaining egg from the middleman and transferred it back to the first traffic cone, placing the egg on the cone. (Remember outside firefighters are only allowed to use gloved palms, no fingers). When these two challenges were completed the teams were instructed to doff their BA, and PPE.

No baskets were scored – but no eggs were broken (well not until this morning’s breakfast that is). When everything was placed properly in front of them the teams were released from their contacts. A quick debrief brought some very positive comments. All in all, I was impressed that this simple drill was so successful.

I was pleased to see the cohesion of our crew grow as they engaged in this drill and will definitely use it again. I encourage you to use your imagination and develop some drills for your department. All we as training officers can do is our best in hopes to engage our members to become better at communicating, and problem solving. Remember my friends to train like lives depend on it, because they do.

Ed Brouwer is the chief instructor for Canwest Fire in Osoyoos, B.C., and deputy chief training officer for Greenwood Fire and Rescue. Contact Ed at

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