Workshop: What fire departments can learn from ants

One of the workshops at our CIP Conference 2017 on 16 June 2017 at University of Lisbon – Faculdade de Psicologia.

In Belgium fire departments have no idea how to help their own people if things go wrong. We found this unacceptable and since 2012 with a group of firefighters we started to build a specific training program. The project is called Brandweerman In Nood. With the Brandweerman In Nood project (Firefighter Mayday project) we have chosen to train the whole critical mass. The other option, used in the USA, chooses to train a few to be excellent. We believe that having a couple super excellent teams, super strong, also make you immensely vulnerable. These strong teams are an organization biggest weakness. It makes you dependable. Therefore we have chosen with BIN to train all the firefighters so that they become one big strong team. Compare it to a colony of ants. Together they can overcome almost every challenge.

We have achieved our first goal the past year: all firefighters will be trained in the first years to come. The program is running. Our next goal and challenge is to start moving up the chain of command. In a way this is a unusual method to implement a new concept. We work bottom up.

We are also noticing that the program is being picked up in other countries. With little changes it can be implemented in Holland, France, Germany,… These conversations are ongoing. Therefore we want to come up with a draft procedures. Documents with the fundamentals ready, but the details to be filled in by the local organizations. How do we train people is this? How do we help people in these complex, very stressfull, chaotic and rapidly changing situations?

In short: how do we link up the firefighters skills & training with the procedures that are needed to be implemented by Incident Command Systems. And opposite: how can the procedures incorporate the knowledge and skills of the critical mass?


Pieter Maes
Firefighter – EMT – Instructor Brussels Fire Department

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