Frequently Asked Questions
The following are questions and comments frequently heard from firefighters and fire chiefs.
At what point in my career should I attend the Georgia Smoke Diver course?
We recommend that you have at least two years of experience before planning to attend the Georgia Smoke Diver course. Because this is an advanced training course any basic skills that you are not proficient in causes you to lag behind and possibly repeat evolutions because you could not meet the objectives. This makes it more difficult for you to be successful.
How do I prepare for Smoke Divers?
You need to have a desire to want to accomplish, you need to be proficient at all firefighter II level skills, you need to be in top physical condition and follow the tips, guides and recommendation found on the Georgia Smoke Diver website. The best source however is to talk to and train with those who have already completed the course.
Why is there a housing requirement during class?
The program promotes teamwork and focuses on the buddy system for 90% of all training evolutions. This is reinforced both on and off the drill yard. A large part of the mental challenges occur during the off hours with individuals making the decision whether or not they are going to return to class the next morning. Having a partner helps you cope and ensures accountability for the full 24 hours a day.
Why is physical training included in course because I would love to get the training from the drills but without the P.T.?
The purpose of the physical training is often misrepresented and misunderstood by those not associated with the course. Our training centers on being able to perform while under extreme physical and mental stress. This stress is created to best simulate the chaotic and unpredictable situations in which firefighters most often are killed or injured. Physical training is used to create physical stress and is not intended to get the candidate in shape. When the body begins to physically tire out it creates opportunities for poor decision making, a lack of situational awareness and causes a greater risk of making mistakes. If you never practice coping with this stress and exercise these skills you will not be prepared for it when it happens on the fireground. We take you to that point and allow you to understand what is going on so that you can focus and be the leader that maintains control in the midst of uncertainty.
If none of the instructors get paid to teach this class why is there a fee to attend?
It cost approximately $12,000 to support the logistics required to conduct a Smoke Diver course. The $350 per in-state student is about $58 dollars a day for your lodging, about half your food and all the consumable materials needed to give you all the training you could possibly receive in a day.
Do I need to be able to swim in order to pass the Firefighter Drown Proofing Drills?
In short, no. You will need to be able to float and the more comfortable you are in the water the easier it will be for you. We will assess your comfort level in the water prior to you entering the water with gear. Arm floaties are available for an additional charge at the gift shop!
Smoke Divers is not job related.
This is a tough one to answer because is depends on your department. If your department does not respond to fires, search smoke filled buildings, have the potential for firefighters to become trapped, doesn’t use breathing apparatus, doesn’t require critical decision making or situational awareness, doesn’t need physically and mentally strong firefighters then it may not be related. If your department does any or all of these things then it is the most realistic and relevant training that your members will ever receive.
The instructors harass the students and try to get them to quit.
All instructors want everyone that qualifies for the course to graduate; however the candidate must meet the standards and objectives that are set. Students are discharged from the course for three reasons: Drop on Request (the candidate decides to quit); Drop on Performance (the candidate could not meet the required objective); Discharge on Medical (the candidate could not continue due to an injury or medical condition). Field Performance Reports are completed on all students for both outstanding and poor performance. These performance cards are reviewed daily by the instructor staff and become part of the candidates’ course record. The majority of the discharges are “Dropped on Request” of the candidate. A comprehensive exit interview is held with every discharged candidate in both the Qualification Test and the Smoke Diver course. Since the return of the course in 2005 exit interviews and questionnaires require the candidate to state the reason that the candidate is being discharged in the candidates own words. Since the return of the program in 2005 there have been zero incidents of instructor harassment or complaints from the students. These exit interviews along with the candidates’ daily performance records are always available for review by the candidate or the candidate's fire chief.
How does a person becoming a Smoke Diver help my department?
Becoming a Smoke Diver not only makes the candidate better at many of the very difficult task level fireground functions, but we try our best to turn out the “go to guy” for your department. An individual that is highly self motivated and returns with a new confidence and willingness to pass along the knowledge that was gained in the program. None of our members are perfect but any character flaws existed long before they became Smoke Divers. The majority of members however, are the first to get promoted, take on special department training programs, assist with recruit schools, and do just about anything else you need them to do. Smoke Divers is not only about task proficiency, it also teaches leadership from the servant leadership philosophy.
Is this training applicable for volunteer firefighters?
Absolutely! As a volunteer it may take you longer to gain the experience that career members get because of the number of incidents, the availability of training, etc. For the average firefighter the number of critical fireground decisions you will make, the number of scenarios that you will encounter, the number of searches and cylinders of air you will breathe during the 6 days of training is the equivalent of 4-6 years of fireground experience.
I have heard all kinds of things about what goes on at Smoke Divers and I am not sure if I want to approve any of my firefighters for the course.
With any type of advanced training in which members are not always successful rumors abound about why. Since 2005 there has been an open invitation to all fire chiefs or their designated staff members to visit and observe the program for themselves. We have nothing to hide. We have accommodated numerous fire chief visits and some have even brought their gear and followed evolutions inside the buildings during both smoke and fire evolutions. This visit must be coordinated so that our instructor staff is not overwhelmed and can remain focused on the candidate learning and safety.
The Smoke Diver course is a rag tag bunch of ego maniacs conducting a tough man contest.
The course is all firefighter training and there is no contest, other than the Qualification Test to identify the candidates most likely to succeed, and the focus is on advanced learning and critical thinking. The course management is conducted using a NIMS Type III Incident Management Team developed from the Smoke Diver Instructor cadre. The safety of the candidates and our instructors is our number one priority. One of our goals is to add value to the fire service not only through the Smoke Diver training, but we also create opportunities for members outside our organization to shadow several of the command and general staff positions in order to gain large incident management experience and complete task books. We also share our organizational processes with training chiefs to enhance their departments recruit scheduling and training. Our training addresses the top two items listed by the International Association of Fire Chiefs Near Miss Reporting – Decision Making and Situational Awareness. You cannot learn to do these two items in the classroom. It requires realistic scenario based evolutions that require you to perform when you are hot, tired, sore, confused, uncertain and no one else is making the decision for you. While some of the Smoke Diver training methods have been around since the 70’s, recent research conducted by Dr. Gary Klien has validated that this type of methodology is essential for building experience that leads to better decision making. We are constantly changing and updating our scenarios and delivery methods to enhance learning.