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London Fire Brigade uses e-learning to improve training and cut costs

30th Aug 2011
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The vital role the London Fire Brigade plays was brought into sharp focus recently when its 999 control officers answered 2,168 calls in a 24-hour period at the beginning of August and attended over 100 fires during the four-day period of unrest in the capital.

Each of these incidents will be fully reported, and learning points and observations recorded to help prevention or to improve the quality of response in future. Training needs will be assessed and incorporated into procedures, Phil Evans, head of e-learning at the London Fire Brigade, tells our sister publication,  Maintaining a motivated and highly-professional fire-fighting force requires a continuous training programme. However, this must be balanced with the need to maximise the availability of firefighters ready and able to respond to incidents. It’s an issue that I will be exploring further at the World of Learning conference in September.  To address this need for balance, the LFB station training support and performance team has introduced a blended training programme, which includes e-learning and classroom training. It has not only managed to improve the consistency and quality of its training, but also increased the availability of frontline staff and saved the force £700,000 each year.  Prior to the introduction of the computer-based training, a quarterly printed news bulletin entitled 'Operational News' was distributed to all of the stations with a set of overhead projector foils for use by watch managers. However, the LFB has over 100 stations based across the capital with four watches at each station, thus creating the potential for over 450 different versions of training on the same subject. A move to e-learning  But a move to e-learning has enabled training to be embedded within the organisation. It is now possible for the training team to evaluate requirements and rapidly develop a new module to address this or update existing materials in order to communicate recommendations across the entire LFB.  Courses are hosted online and made accessible to all staff so that the board can be assured that the latest information is always available. As each learner studies anew module, their individual training record is dynamically updated. In this way, the LFB can disseminate safety and mission-critical information to 5,000 staff within 12 weeks.  E-learning capabilities were introduced two years ago in the shape of the Seminar authoring tool from Information Transfer. The offering enabled the LFB to include line drawings, animations and videos in order to make its  resources highly visual.  Since the product's introduction, the LFB has produced 75 modules in just two years. E-learning has became the core of a blended strategy incorporating both individual computer-based training and group classroom training.   Blended approach  A major cost saving has been achieved by adopting a blended approach to the supervisory management course, which is completed by all watch managers and crew managers selected for promotion.  Traditionally, the course has been delivered through three weeks of classroom training and one week at the Fire Services College. But removing firefighters from the station for four weeks had a major impact on operational efficiency. Relief staff can be required to cover their jobs and there is a risk that a fire engine might not be able to respond because of a crew shortage.  Candidates now complete an e-learning training programme at their own speed before classroom training takes place. This accelerated learning means that much of the course material has already been covered and so the trainer can focus on more advanced issues. The learner gets greater value from the classroom session, which has improved overall training quality.  Additionally, reducing the classroom time for each course has improved the availability of frontline staff as employees can now study in half-hour slots instead of needing five days away from the station. Introducing e-learning really has helped the LFB to improve its training provision across the brigade while also lowering costs.

Philip Evans is head of e-learning at the London Fire Brigade. He will discuss how learning and development teams can deliver more in less time and on reduced budgets at the World of Learning Conference & Exhibition at the end of September.

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