Lessons Learned: MTI First Responder Pilot Program Results

MTI was fortunate to partner with two mid-size Fire Departments, and one mid-size Police Department in November for our First Responder Pilot Program.

We had 100 participants overall between the three departments, made up of a unit within the department or department-wide volunteer groups. The purpose of the pilot program was to determine that our back-end systems can effectively support training at the unit level, and to ascertain the interest at the departmental level in job-specific fitness programming. All volunteers were given access to the Daily LE SWAT/SRT Programming Stream, or the Daily Urban Fire/Rescue Programming Stream for one month.

Here are our major questions and potential responses to this pilot program:

Do Law Enforcement and Fire Personnel Prefer Job-Specific Fitness Programming?

  • Approximately 50% of first responder volunteers participated in our job-specific fitness programming, with overwhelmingly positive feedback.  However, training preferences vary: 64% expressed interest in diverse training plans, from strength-focused to ski-specific. Given the long careers in these fields, many first responders view fitness as a secondary activity rather than additional job-specific training.
  • Our Response: We offer a vast catalog of training options to cater to these diverse interests. Recognizing the art of keeping athletes invested and interested, our goal is to maintain engagement through a variety of general fitness and sport-specific training programs.

Challenges in First Responder Training:

  • The primary obstacle is time. Law enforcement officers, often working 10-12 hour shifts without allocated training time, and busy fire crews struggle to find time for fitness, especially those with family commitments. Equipment availability also varies widely, making it challenging to standardize training plans.
  • Our Response: Understanding these constraints, we acknowledge that not all first responders are keen on job-specific programming. Our focus is on offering flexible training plans that cater to individual preferences and available resources. We can improve prescriptions on how and when to complete programming with a more nimble approach, instead of bulldozing our way into trying to change the fitness culture of a department.

Use-Based Billing System:

  • To reduce costs for departments, we’ve introduced a use-based billing system. This means departments are charged only for the actual number of users engaging with our programming instead of an inflated flat fee. While innovative, this model might present challenges for departments needing consistent annual budgeting.
  • Our Response: Provide options to departments and units for fixed and variable cost models.

Training Oversight and Leadership Engagement:

  • We created a Leader Dashboard to give training officers and unit leaders the ability to see who is training, and who is not. Generally, there was limited interest in monitoring training frequency for operational teams. Enhancing engagement through financial incentives could change this dynamic, but is out of our purview.
  • Our Response: Ultimately, unit leaders are busy and departments don’t put a priority on fitness, so why would they keep tabs on individual training frequency? We’ve been reaching out to departments, but perhaps we should be looking at working with first responder unions instead.

Improving Delivery to Departments:

  • Effective onboarding is crucial. We aim to streamline this process with clear instructions and, where possible, personal interactions with department personnel.
  • Our Response: Our forthcoming app revamp, scheduled for March 2024, is designed to significantly improve onboarding, user experience, and ease of access to our programs.

Does your department or unit want to work with MTI? Reach out to charlie@mtntactical.com

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