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 Indiana Smoke Diver course?

Ideally, a candidate will have 3 to 5 years of firefighting experience but no less than one year. The candidate should be proficient in basic firefighter survival, search and rescue, and able to be a part of a team under fire conditions. Proficiency in these skills is crucial to this class. This is a class designed to enhance decision making under stress and challenged the execution of firefighting skills in hostile and stressful environments.


Why is there a housing requirement during class?

Although the course teaches individual skills, 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 (PT) included in course? I would love to get the training from the drills but without the PT

Physical Training (PT) is used to add physical stress, and not to get the student into shape. When the body tires out, it also adds mental stress which often results in poor decision making, lack of situational awareness, and often results in errors which in real world could be costly.  PT is another way to simulate the  stressful and chaotic environment that is often found in real world firefighting in a controlled manner to ensure student safety. Many firefighters never trained in such conditions, and are unable to cope with the stresses when found in real life scenarios.  We want to challenge students to manage their stress in order to make good decisions and properly execute all firefighting skills.


We are a non-profit organization, therefore the total student fee goes toward the class to enhance the students' experience. Our instructors do not receive or ask for any type of financial compensation for their time. The course fee covers consumable training materials such as straw, smoke fluid, lumber, drywall, etc. Tuition fee also covers lodging for the week  as well as meals and facility rental fees. This is one of the most economical trainings your department can fund. We do everything we can to control costs and we rely on vendors and sponsors the keep costs as low as possible.


Do I need to be able to swim in order to pass the Firefighter Drown Proofing Drills?

No but the  more comfortable the candidate is in the water, the easier the drills will be for that candidate.  You will not be required to swim to pass, but you will have to be able to float. All students will have their swimming abilities assessed at the start of the drills. We will work with you to get your comfort level high enough to pass. Instructors and divers are present in the water with the students during the pool drills to ensure the highest level of safety for the students and instructors.


How does becoming a Smoke Diver help my department?

Completing this course significantly improves confidence which makes the Smoke Diver a better all around firefitghter under realistic fireground conditions. An individual that is self motivated returns with a new confidence and willingness to pass along the knowledge that was gained in the program.  The majority of members however, are the first to 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. We expect our members to return to their respective departments ready to serve as humble leaders that will raise the level of performance within their department whenever the opportunity is presented to them.


Is this training applicable for volunteer firefighters?

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. Firefighters in this program, will experience numerous opportunities to manage many scenarios and make critical fireground decisions. The repetitions will lead to many searches and many cylinders of air used during the 6 days of training. When you leave this training, you will be extremely proficient at search, TIC use, SCBA operation, air management, and RIT operations to name a few. This training is applicable for any structural firefighter both volunteer or career.


We are asked by Fire Chief’s and firefighters from all over the country, what is the benefit of sending an out of state firefighter to an “Indiana” class.

The “Indiana” title to the program is simply taken from the Indiana Smoke Diver Association, which is the sponsoring organization that conducts the training. This is not an “Indiana” only class. We have many members from all across the country that have successfully completed the training. All aspects of our class are delivered in accordance with NFPA standards and each drill complies with those recommendations. The course is managed by using a NIMS Type III management model that covers all aspects of the program. Based on these fact alone, the class will be beneficial to any department or member that attends the program.


How do I prepare for the Indiana Smoke Diver course?

Proficiency and knowledge in practical skills of Firefighter II, being in top physical shape, and having a positive mindset to overcome adversity will be vital to your success. We highly recommend you follow the ISD physical preparation program that is made available to you once you pay the deposit for the class. We also highly recommend you go through our suggested reading list and study as many books on stress management and mental preparation as you can. Though this is an extremely physical class in nature, it is as much if not more of a mental challenge depending on your preparation. We have candidates that prepare by following other fitness, tri-athlete, and weight training programs. Many find themselves struggling physically early in the week. Those programs are great ways to stay in shape and increase your fitness level but, you need to be in firefighting shape, which means you have the ability to work in full PPE for extended periods of time at the fire ground dictated pace, and not at your pace.


What types of supplements do you recommend to take during the class.

We do not recommend any specific brand or type of supplement. You know yourself better than anyone, and anything you take should be something you have worked with for some time. Bringing a new supplement the try the week of class is a mistake. Make sure you are taking something your body is familiar with and can process. Energy drinks and pre workouts are not allowed during the week. They can have a negative physiological effect on the body that can cause a medical drop from the program. You are working for hours and not minutes. A pre workout drink you may use for a workout in the gym will not last through a several hours stint in full PPE. We encourage you to focus more on nutrition and supplementation the will aid in endurance, hydration, and recovery efforts.


What are the requirements for the program? What is the pass-fail rate for the class?

The requirements for the program are the same for each class and explained at the beginning of each drill. We do not “move the bar” for anyone in attendance to the program. If someone comes to the class and is highly prepared and can complete all drills on the first attempt, which is acceptable. We do not increase the level of difficulty for that person. The same goes for someone having trouble with a portion of the program. We will not decrease the requirement in order for someone to move through the class. This maintains the integrity of the program and ensures all successful candidates have met the same standard as past attendees. Pass fail rate varies per class and depends on the preparedness of the class. We have had rates ranging from 45% success for the class to as high as 87% success.


What happens if I am not successful, what constitutes a fail.

If you are not successful, all students are highly encourage to return to the next class, and many do to find success. There are three ways candidates leave the program. First is a DOR (Drop on Request), this is the most common exit from the program. This is where the student requests on their own to leave the training for various reasons. The instructors always encourage the student to continue but it is ultimately the students call on whether to stay or go when requesting a DOR. Second way  would be a DOP (Drop on Performance), this is where a student did not meet the standard as outlined and after working with instructors are unable to meet the standard. A performance drop is made upon recommendation of lead instructors and reviewed by the command staff before a student is performance dropped. The third way to leave the program is  MEDD (Medical Drop), this is where the medical provider on site or the orthopedic trainer determines it is not safe for the student to continue. If this happens, the command staff at the direction of the medical team will issue a MEDD. Any student that exits the program undergoes a medical and orthopedic exam followed by an exit interview with the command staff. All paperwork from the class and drop paperwork is available to the candidate or that candidates Fire Chief upon request.