Creating Firefighter Training Lesson Plans, Safety Plans, and Standard Operating Guidelines

A Miami-Dade (FL) firefighter undertakes training in an acquired structure. Still courtesy Miami-Dade (FL) Fire Rescue

By William Off

When you become a company officer, your first duty is to provide effective training for your firefighters. To build an effective team, training must be created for them to perform, for you to know the strengths and weaknesses of your members. This is a guide to get started on company drills and training.

All drills should have a lesson plan created before performing the drills. There can be preplanned lesson plans and stored in a database with your department. Drills such as hoseline pulls, ladders, and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) donning can be treated more as proficiencies but still need a lesson plan. They can be printed out and used for the drill that day. Lesson plans give a complete list of equipment needed, what is to be performed, and references of resources. When performing a new drill or one that is not on file, create a lesson plan for it. Some fire departments require permission to perform a drill; they will ask for a lesson plan.

Parts of a lesson plan to include:

  1. Date and time
  2. Locations
  3. Equipment
  4. Drill tasks
  5. Personnel
  6. References

Some key considerations for the above:

  1. The date and time are estimated. Training might be delayed due to weather or a call may come in. The date and time can be adjusted, and gives the estimated time allowed for the drill.
  2. The location can be at your station, location with a hydrant, location of a lake or river, location for confined space, etc. This allows the department to know where their company is going to be located for that time period.
  3. The equipment being used for the drill. For example, are you performing ladder operations or extrication training? List everything. This also enables your crew to get familiarized with the equipment.
  4. The drill section will give the training officer and battalion chief an idea of what tasks are being performed. This can help with smaller drills. A more complex drill can incorporate the use of smaller drills. Perform the smaller drills first and then build up to the more complex drill.
  5. The personnel needed for the drill are, of course, the firefighters, but also include an instructor, safety officer, and EMT in your lesson plan. Cover yourself for what may go wrong while performing the drill.
  6. The reference section is one of my favorite sections of a lesson plan. Where did you get all your information for this drill? Your more basic drills can be found in a Firefighter I book. The next source is your department’s standard operating guidelines (SOGs). Other resources I like to use are the Fire Engineering website and YouTube videos. There are hundreds of resources for firefighting, rescue, and hazmat training online. If you’re using them or got your idea for a drill from them, provide the source.

An Example Training Drill

February 18th, 2022



Location: Station 259


  • Hallway/door simulator
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) with SCBA
  • Attic ladder
  • Tarps
  • Fog machine
  • Thermal imaging camera (TIC)
  • Irons
  • Hook and can
  • Radio


  • Coming off the engine with the proper equipment (SOG 706)
  • Wearing the proper PPE for a residential dwelling (SOG 710)
  • Perform a primary search for victim.
  • Use thermal camera for search.
  • Perform a CAN report (Conditions, Actions, Needs)
  • Perform an “Urgent” once victim is found.
  • Perform a Mayday (SOG 702)
  • Using an attic ladder and use of thermal camera to search for fire into a ceiling.
  • Practice radio communication between the firefighter and officer.


  • Officer
  • Instructor
  • Safety officer
  • EMT
  • Firefighters


WTFD SOG 102 Residential Structure Fire Response

WTFD SOG 702 Mayday Procedures

WTFD SOG 706 Riding Position Engine/Squad

WTFD SOG 709 SCBA Use/Inspection

WTFD SOG 710 Personnel Protective Equipment

Aggressive and Practical Search: It’s Still About the Victim

Search Mission Prep: Size-Up, Methods, and Tools

Mayday Monday: TIC and Search Operations

This example is for a more complex drill using props, various pieces of equipment, and having multiple tasks to be performed.

The Training Safety Plan

Include a training safety plan along with your lesson plan. Have this on hand before and while performing the drill. A copy of this form can be with the training officer, at headquarters, and with the battalion chief. This is like condensed version or overview of an OEM Emergency Action Plan for your drill. I received this from Captain Bill Gustin of the Miami Dade (FL) Fire Rescue Training Center.

A training safety plan should include:

  1. Date, time, location, and instructor
  2. Type of training
  3. Drill objective (list of National Fire Protection Association objectives)
  4. Description of training (brief explanation of the evolutions)
  5. Department Related SOGs (List numbers and names)
  6. PPE/equipment required
  7. Hazards and control measures
  8. Accountability, In case of emergency
  9. Communication (ie: designated frequency)
  10. Resources assigned (company, rescue units, and specialty units)

Download an example of an Miami Dade Training Safety Plan (PDF, 229KB)

Working with SOGs

The SOGs of your department should be your first resource when creating a lesson plan. What if your department does not have a SOG for a drill you want to perform? You can create your own SOG and submit it to the training officer. I could not see why a chief or training officer wouldn’t appreciate the help with creating guidelines for your department. This is where you can get started. Reach out to mutual aid departments, since the fire departments operating in your local are a good source of information. They are most likely to have a similar response area, buildings, farms, railroads, etc. The next source can be books or online resources. A great example is Fireground Operational Guides by Frank Viscuso and Mike Terpak. Locating online resources for SOGs requires a simple Internet search for “firefighting SOGs.” If any of these resources do not help, take one of your deparment’s SOGs and build your own by researching the equipment, tactics, or strategy you are trying to create. Try to keep your SOG to one or two pages.

The Simple Approach to Writing Effective SOPs

SOGs should include:

  1. Scope
  2. Purpose
  3. Policy
  4. Operations


SOG Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) Proposal                                                                                                  

Scope: Your fire department

Purpose: To provide uniform guidelines for RIT assignment operations at structure fires in single-family dwellings.

Policy: Incident commander (IC) shall establish a RIT at any incident where personnel are required to operate in an immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) environment and other incidents that present a high risk. The number, size, and location of RIT teams at the scene should be flexible based on the incident’s size and complexity. After evaluating the scene, the IC shall provide one or more RIT teams based on the risk presented.

Once the “all hands” is declared, a RIT will be assigned. (SOG 120)

Operations: To establish initial RIT with a primary task to rescue firefighters.

The RIT officer will meet face-to-face with the IC to receive a briefing on the incident. The briefing should include the following information:

  • The incident action plan (offensive or defensive operations)
  • Significant events that have occurred
  • How long crews have been operating in SCBA?
  • Location(s) of crews
  • Scene size-up

The RIT is expected to perform an initial and ongoing size-up. RIT size up should be based on firefighter survival; on what may cause firefighters to become trapped or lost or go missing inside the structure, and how RIT can facilitate their escape or rescue.

The company officer and an additional firefighter will perform a 360° size-up of the structure, to identify:

  • Hazards that will block or slow firefighter building evacuation
  • Building construction, size, and occupancy
  • Location of windows and doors

The company will stage in the area of the “A/B” side of the structure if practical and remain in contact with the operations officer. The position of the unit will be to facilitate equipment deployment, but not to interfere with suppression operations.

The RIT will bring the following equipment up to the scene:

Irons, water can, sledge or maul, search rope, box lights, TIC, RIT pack, pike poles, salvage tarp for staging, portable saws, oxygen/EMS equipment, Stokes basket, extra SCBA cylinders, webbing, and ground ladders. Based on a size-up by the RIT officer, other equipment needed may be required, including but not limited to: ladders, saws, rescue harness, or any additional equipment needed along with preplan of the building, if available.

RIT Activation: RIT shall be activated at any time a firefighter(s) is reported to be lost, trapped, or unaccounted for and if a Mayday is called.

The RIT shall deploy from the known or suspected last location of the firefighter(s) in distress with appropriate tools and equipment for the situation. The IC shall initiate actions for rescue of lost/trapped firefighters.

Response to lost/trapped firefighter:

  • Verify to IC on fireground channel entry location and conduct personnel accountability report (PAR)
  • Bring equipment for rescue and victim access.
  • Provide CAN reports to IC, as needed.
  • Locate, assess, and remove lost/trapped firefighter.

The importance of SOGs is something that I feel is missed by most departments. Officers should have the capabilities of creating and submitting SOG proposals at a minimum of once a month. These are guidelines that are just that—a guideline for one best way to do something. Great officers can adapt and adjust when the real job is being performed. The guideline should be the best way that was found to accomplish a task or how to use a tool. Departments and firefighters can share information, and one great source of information is networking. Get yourselves out there and gather as much as you can from other enthusiastic firefighters in your area and beyond. Use what best fits your department’s needs and otherwise adjust accordingly.

Until next time, keep training!

William Off

William Off has been in the fire service for more than 15 years and works as a nurse at Virtua Mt. Holly Rehab. He began his career with the Hammonton (NJ) Fire Department and is a firefighter with Winslow Township Fire Department and Winslow Office of Emergency Management (OEM). He has served as an emergency medical technician in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and in addition to his New Jersey practical nursing license holds a number of certifications in fire, EMS, and OEM.

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