Firefighter Drill for Improving Concentration

firefighter bucket of nuts drill

By Blaize, FD Hacks

Concentration. Cooperation. Remaining calm. These are critical skills for all firefighters. Here is a drill that trains firefighters on all three skill sets simultaneously. 

Bucket of Nuts (And Bolts) Race

The overall objective of this drill is to sort through a bucket/bowl and match nuts and bolts while wearing firefighting gloves, all with an elevated heart rate. The primary goals of this exercise are to improve concentration, cooperation, strategic thinking, and to develop the firefighter’s ability to operate under stress. The secondary goals are to increase competence operating while wearing firefighting gloves, as well as improve physical endurance. Boo-Yah.

Here is how the drill works. 

Preparation: Set chairs around a (few) tables. Place nuts and bolts of various sizes into bowls. The number of bowls depends on how many firefighters will participate. Note: ENSURE that nuts and bolts actually match prior to starting the drill. Set bowls up so two firefighters can sit and work together on one bowl. 

  1. Break firefighters up into teams of two.

  2. Give instructions. Gloves are required for this drill.

  3. All firefighters perform an aerobic activity to increase heart rate for 5 minutes. Examples include:

    • Sprints

    • Pushups and jumping jacks

    • 5 minute run

    • Hauling hose or dragging a dummy

    • Note: Consider doing a bit of a warm-up first.

  4. Firefighters head to their seats. Two firefighters work on one bowl.

  5. Once all are seated (which should happen quickly), start the timer and give the “GO.”

  6. Firefighters work in teams of two, with gloves on, to sort through the bowl of nuts and bolts (as well screws and other objects you add to increase the challenge).

  7. Time stops for each team when they successfully match and screw together all of the nuts and bolts in their bowl. Continue the clock and record times until the last team is done - make them finish it!

A Few Extra Thoughts

During the exercise, ensure someone observes the firefighters being timed, paying attention to the firefighters’ ability to work together and remain calm under stress. After the training exercise is complete, have a group discussion to highlight the strengths and weaknesses observed. Please folks, always do this in a constructive manner. Also ask firefighters about working together, operating with an elevated heart rate, and the concentration required to complete the task. Relate the skillset to recent or educational examples of rescue operations, extrications, or firefighting scenarios. 

Repeat the drill a few times. It may be worthwhile to switch up teams so firefighters can practice working with one another. 

Final Thoughts On This Drill

Many variations of this firefighting drill exist. Feel empowered to take the concept and apply it to something that will work well with your group. For example, there’s plenty of flexibility in the objects that firefighters have to sort through and assemble. This drill is simple, effective, and fun. It’s also a good filler for a rainy or wintery day. And remember:

“Learn something everyday. Get better everyday. There is always something you can improve on.” - Chief Devon Wells, Hood River Fire & EMS.

What do you think? Have you done a drill like this at your fire department? Do you have any suggestions? Let us know in the comments or please, contact us! We love to hear from our readers. If you have a drill idea you love, share it with us


Disclaimer: You must always consider your own personal safety, as well as department policies and procedures. Always wear full PPE. For informational purposes only.