This series on training hopes to answer the following question: what makes for the most effective safety and rescue training? As we introduced in the first entry, at DEUS Rescue we have an approach to training that is built around six distinctly different but inter-related areas: Decision-making, Concepts, Skills, Repetition, Testing and Recertification.
Missed our previous entries in this series on The Effective Training Program?
In our last entry, we addressed decision-making and concepts. Decision-making is about working to avoid injury through preventive action, and being prepared to act with contingent actions when something goes wrong. They represent the mental aspect of our training – the “what” we want you to learn.
Now let’s look at Skills and Repetition in training – the “how” of our training. Here we address the best methods for ensuring that the methods and approaches to rescue and escape are truly learned. These two aspects of our training approach are closely related, as you’ll see…
Getting your hands dirty “on ropes” is the best way to develop the physical skills to safely perform escape and rescue techniques. Talking about it and watching videos – basically, using a classroom and lecture approach – is no substitute for the real thing when lives are at stake. Using sandbags or dummies is not truly effective either. DEUS training includes lots of hands-on time performing specific escape and rescue techniques.
With hands-on training, we aim to build fundamental skills so they become second nature. During emergency situations, two attributes become the enemy: panic and acting too slowly. Practice and confidence are the antidotes. Confidence is the result of really knowing what to do rather than wondering if you can do something, and practice is the best way to really know.
A few actual escape and rescue skills can be learned with sandbags or dummies, but not many. The only way to know that you can slither over the edge of a wind turbine with a rope is to do it. The worst time to discover that you don’t have that skill is when the turbine you’re working on catches fire.
For some techniques, there is simply no way to demonstrate or learn the skill with sandbags or dummies. Absolutely the only way to learn the skill is to do it yourself. An example is evacuation from a “floating edge” using an anchor that is at the level of your feet. Sound difficult? That because it is – but you can learn it through effective training and practice.
So ultimately, learning skills – whether they are fundamental or advanced – is ultimately about practice. The goal with practice is to turn new skills into learned behavior. The key is practicing the particular maneuvers or techniques over and over again. In other words – the key is repetition.
You’ve heard the old joke – what’s the best way to get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!
No one learns to play the piano by listening to a lecture or watching YouTube videos. Are escape and rescue techniques like playing the piano? Absolutely!
If you expect to do things quickly and without mistakes, you have to learn the skills taking the same approach as a pianist…or a golfer learning to hit the good shots out of the sand…or the marksman hitting the target. Any skill is learned through good old fashioned practice. That means doing it over and over again until you know it, and then continuing to do it over and over again until it is second nature.
Repetition builds muscle memory (as well as confidence), which is the basis of a behavior or task being “second nature.” In emergencies, muscle memory allows you to get past the nerves, heavy breathing, elevated heart rate and the harsh conditions of fire, smoke and height. It allows you to do complex tasks correctly and quickly because you do not have to stop and think things through. You can just act.
Fortunately, at DEUS, we also design our controlled descent devices to be simple to operate, even under the stress and harsh conditions of emergency use. This way the behavior learned through repetitive training is simple, which also helps reduce the risk of mistakes and slow movement during rescue.
In our next and final entry in this series we will address the “insurance policy” aspects of our training approach - Testing and Recertification. These steps help to ensure that the training actually produced the result sought – a skilled worker.