In my Department’s “Rookie Book” process, probationary firefighters have a 6-month series of monthly tests. These tests consist of written questions & knowledge and skill-based material. The goal of course is to insure and guide their growth after the fire academy, so that when they come off probation they are well versed in “fire department life” and well capable on the fireground.
The 1st month evaluation is conducted by the rookie’s battalion chief. There are 18 questions and 8 skill categories, with several skills per category. The rookie must be able to answer any questions and demonstrate any skills that the battalion selects. The BNC selects a minimum of 5 questions and 3 skills, but has the discretion to select as many more as he likes.
Yesterday I watched 4 of our rookies be evaluated, but I got to watch one rookie’s eval from start to end. This battalion chief decided he would ask every question and cover every skill. He challenged his probie and made him work for it. And when the rookie did well, he had earned it.
The Chief did not do this because the rookie had been doing poorly, quite the opposite. Though it might not have been directly said, I could tell that the Chief did this because that was his standard.
When a firehouse receives a new rookie, probie, whatever you call it – it is as if that firehouse has just adopted a new puppy. As those of you who have raised a puppy know, the puppy is not just the responsibility of dad (captain), mom (engineer), or big brother (senior man). The entire crew must chip in to watch the puppy, raise the puppy, and train the puppy to the house’s standard.
So let me ask you this – if 6 months after you get him, your new puppy (rookie) walks in and craps on the carpet, who’s fault is that?
It’s not the puppy’s.
In watching the growth of a rookie, and their evaluation, the standard of that company, battalion and shift is clear and evident. Is mediocrity accepted? Is meeting the “minimum” the goal? The training and performance of a company’s rookie is just another clear indicator of what can be expected on the fireground. I can tell you that yesterday I watched the faces of this rookie’s crew just as much as I watched the rookie. And what I saw was pride, investment, and family. These guys were pulling for their new man, proud of him, but unwavering in their expectation to uphold the family (company) name. When I saw that, I thought “bingo”. So I can’t pinpoint which part I’m more proud to see.
So for those of you raising a new puppy, remember – that puppy’s performance is a direct reflection of your family, and your family’s standards. Raise the puppy right.
Posted by administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership | Posted on 16-09-2015| Posted in
Recently, while teaching a hands-on-engine class in Delaware, my younger and wittier teaching companion Roger Steger found it was time for our traditional protein bar and Monster (drink) run. As he headed out the gate, he stopped and asked me if I needed some Metamucil to go with my Ensure. This was his not-so-subtle way of reminding me that I am old. It was day two of running long-lines, pushing in with large lines and box-alarm drills, and on top of that it was 97 degrees. I needed no reminders. As I get ready to cross the threshold into my 38th year in the fire service I can honestly say that I have seen the ebbs and flows of change; some good, some bad and some outright failures.
For those of you who will be quick to judge me as a Neanderthal, opposed to any form of change, do your homework. One of the most fundamental beliefs I have is that we should always challenge ourselves to find better ways to do our jobs; we owe that to the communities we serve and our membership. The key word here is BETTER.
During my weekly perusing of youtube fire videos, I came upon what I will say is one of the most tragic and disturbing videos I have ever seen. I will spare the details, not because I am against calling this department out, but because I believe this incident will likely end up in a court of law with the charge of malfeasance. This was just one in a series of several hundred (no exaggeration) horrible fireground operations that I have viewed in the past year; each one leaving me more and more at a loss for words. I have been spending a tremendous amount of time trying to figure out how we got so far of track.
This is the first of a three part blog where I will share my personal opinions on the possibilities. It’s fair to assess that this deterioration is a result of many issues; however, I have chosen to focus on what I perceive as the top three: New Deal, Raw Deal or the Wizard of Oz, The 9-11 Infatuation, and It’s All About Me.
As I watched that video I quickly digressed to an article that I had recently read where the author wrote “too much change can result in confusion, disorganization, and lack of competence.”
My friends I am telling you, as a whole, we have lost our way (mission confusion) and as a direct result have seen a growing decay in job performance and competency at every level.
In the early 1980’s, many great thinkers in the fire service hypothesized that if the fire service didn’t create a new mission and completely overhaul the fire service we would quickly lose our relevancy in the community and become extinct. They deduced that fires were quickly becoming a thing of the past and so would the fire service as a whole if we didn’t become more agents of change. This led to formation of fire service think-tanks filled with progressive change agents.
These think tanks began proposing a host of schemes and ideas intended to transform us from a vanishing, outdated government service straight to the top of the Forbes 500 list. Higher education emerged as one of the cornerstones of the future. Transforming ourselves from a blue collar workforce to a white collar establishment was key. Higher education was proposed as the way forward and mastery of skill and experience was staged on side Charlie.
Promotion exams and executive job descriptions were rewritten, placing emphasis on educational accomplishments over past achievements, hard work, competency and job knowledge. In fact, those who lacked a formal degree were often viewed as outdated; stuck in the past and an obstacle to creativity and change.
The list of progressive leaders began to grow and so did the number of think-tanks. There was a rush to see who would have the honor of sitting at the right hand of Ben Franklin as they rewrote fire service history. Some executives showed just how progressive they were by trading in their work uniform for a three piece suit. The demolition of the traditional service had begun.
Taking a page from President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1933 New Deal, Fire Chiefs everywhere began reengineering the fire service through countless experimental projects and programs, most (not all) of which had little to nothing to do with delivery of basic services.
I suppose this could have all worked out great except for one minor issue; the demands for our basic services (the preservation of life and property and helping those who are sick or injured) never went away and in fact have continued to increase exponentially. Many departments around the country are seeing record increases in service demand. It wasn’t the New Deal, it was the Raw Deal.
Today, we are the lynch pin holding the EMS system together, we regularly respond to fires, we are involved in technical rescues and have taken a lead role in issues of homeland security and emergency management. What do all of these services have in common? They each require a workforce, that is highly skilled at operating in the most stressful and dangerous environments with the greatest degree of competency, professionalism and compassion. Any of that sound familiar to you? It’s like the scene from the Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy clicks her heel three times and discovers “there’s no place like home”.
Today, we look at the rising level of incompetency and point the finger at things I call “modern excuses”. This list includes things such as; modern fire behavior, wind-driven fires, new construction, workforce generational differences, safety first etc. While each of these are worthy of greater discussion, none of them are acceptable excuses. Quite honestly, the public doesn’t care about any of these issues. They expect a timely, professional and compassionate response to a 911 call and quite frankly, that’s what we should expect of ourselves.
The fact is we (the fire service) allowed ourselves to be bamboozled into redefining our mission, purpose, and focus. We took a noble mission and viable service (which for more than 200 years our communities overwhelmingly valued) and attempted to redefine it; based on what we thought was best for us (fire service). In doing so we broke the cardinal rule of public service which is – doing what’s best for the community ahead of doing what’s best for us.
The service we have been delivering for more than 200 years and continue to deliver today will likely never go away. If the fire service fails or becomes irrelevant it will do so from the inside out, not the other way around. That means we created the demise, not the public. So here is my warning: Continuing down the path of attempting to redefine our mission and purpose is the greatest risk to our service. The “safety first”, “your safety is the most important” mentality not only misses the mark of achieving maximum safety, it places greater emphasis on us and less emphasis on those we are sworn to protect (just go to the video tape). Continuing to hire or recruit (career or volunteer) a workforce, that lacks a desire to help people (compassion), lacks integrity and lacks capability will assure complete mission failure. Continuing to promote officers who lack experience and skill-set or who can’t or won’t lead will result in more confusion, disorganization, and loss of competency.
Please don’t get me wrong, the “traditional” fire service was in no way perfect. In fact something’s were outright inappropriate on every level. The foundation however, provides a blueprint for what success should look like. Failing to lead and losing focus on mission and purpose has created unintended consequences. Attempting to justify those consequences by applying modern excuses is disingenuous and distracting to finding our way home.
Posted by administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership | Posted on 20-08-2015| Posted in
Last post we discussed the process of orientation for leadership development, which was essentially relying upon operational manuals or standard operating procedures as the foundation for leadership. While these documents may be necessary for building the knowledge for rank and position (remember leadership is not a given with rank!), it is not a process for developing leaders of people. This process does more to build effective managers and not leaders who must motivate and cultivate people. Orientation leaves a void in the leadership paradigm but does provide the opportunity to introduce the process of socialization for our budding leaders. Socialization is the process of learning and developing a culture that is aimed toward the common defined purpose. The overriding theme in this process is that it is centered on people and not what is printed on department documents. Fortunately, we are given opportunities to demonstrate the skills learned from socialization daily in our profession. Examples span from the challenges and adversity faced on the fireground to the relative calmness of the firehouse kitchen table.
Let’s go back to our aspiring lieutenant who has now passed his examination and is freshly promoted. He reports for his first day in his new assignment at a firehouse at which he has never worked. His brand new shift gathers around the firehouse kitchen table to have their shift briefing at 0700 hours. All 15 sets of eyes turn to the new lieutenant for his first words of wisdom and leadership.
Is this critical moment for our leader outlined in the manuals? Before this moment, he was one of those 15 sets of eyes looking at the “Loo”; Now he is the boss and he must capitalize on this first opportunity to lead. As a fire service, we must be humble enough to ask ourselves if we have prepared our new lieutenant for this initial challenge. The answer is most likely we have not, and this is where our socialization process can assist.
When the new officer has been prepared for his new role through a mixture of the core principles of the orientation and socialization processes, he is ready for this challenge and greets it as an opportunity. At his first shift briefing, he seizes that moment when all fifteen sets of eyes of his new family are staring at him and offers, “What do you expect of me as your lieutenant?” This is the perfect demonstration of socialization.
The orientation process has taught him what the organization expects of him, but did not address what his new “culture” expects of him. Sure, he could rule with the iron fist and invoke adherence to each and every procedure of the department, but his shift already knows the rules. They may test him by pushing the rules every so often, but if that is consuming all of his time, he is not truly leading, he is just a custodian of the department rules.
His new culture is this group of dedicated firefighters who yearn to be led. They will offer a wide spectrum of skills, personalities, and idiosyncrasies that he must manage and guide to the common goal he sets forth. If the culture were highly functioning and successful prior his arrival he will be greeted with utter failure if he alters it solely because he thought he supposed to as an assumed part of a requirement of being a new officer. Now that we understand the difference between our orientation process and socialization process, how do we begin the implementation process? It’s not as hard you may think and only takes a few tools properly applied. To explain this process let’s use an example most firefighters who are parents can appreciate.
On a snowy day on the east coast in February, I was with my kids in a trampoline park watching them jump up and down and realizing this is the perfect example of leadership. You, the leader who has the knowledge, skills, and abilities coupled with the socialization skills to understand you lead people who have norms, values and expectations of you, are like this trampoline park.
This indoor park is covered with a massive roof that shields us from the 10-degree temperatures outside. As a leader, you provide this shelter for your people, offering that haven to them while they hone their leadership skills. For example, when you face a crisis – a house on fire with black smoke belching out of the front door, reported people trapped, and the heat keeping you inches off of the floor, do your people follow you without doubt or do they question their willingness to follow you? It is natural human chemical reaction of our brain that people want to feel safe and that is provided by having confidence in the person providing this feeling. As a leader, you should be demonstrating this long before this fire ever occurs. You’re investing in your people; teaching, training, and giving your time to them. This does not mean any person can simply seek haven under your leadership. Only those who are accountable to their actions, compliant to the established parameters (rules, order, S.O.P.’s), and aspire for greatness will have that shelter. If you don’t follow the rules of the trampoline park, you can’t come in and seek shelter and the same is true under your leadership. This is the essence of that shared relationship that must exist between the leader and his followers.
Going back to our leadership example of the trampoline house we can see the second part of leadership being demonstrated. Now that my kids have a feeling of safety and know the basics rules of the facility, they can now jump! Is this jumping 5’, 10’, 15’ in the air safe? Nope, but they are doing it anyway because they have faith in arena they are operating, faith in their skills and are striving for greater heights. They have been given the rules of the park and now are free to demonstrate their autonomy. The feeling of safety has led them to not operate under fear of failure but rather eager to seek an opportunity to achieve new heights.
We, as leaders, must create an environment where our people feel free to seek greater heights. They must know the boundaries of the job and then they must be fostered to strive for greater heights without fear of failure. Sure failure will come, in the trampoline park it is usually a misplaced fall or failed attempt at a flip, which culminates with a laugh, and an attempt to do it again successfully. In our world, we will surely fail but wouldn’t we want that to occur in the training and not on the fireground where lives are dependant upon our precise performance? Our people must feel a level of autonomy in completing the mission along with encouraging that constant craving to achieve mastery.
As you can see there is no mention of me soaring through the air with my kids, rather me just marveling at their prudent risk-taking. I don’t do it because my knee surgeon has convinced me that it is not a prudent idea so I leave my risk taking to other arenas. Is what they are doing ‘safe’? Is what we do in our job ‘safe’? Absolutely not, and the term safe is used too arbitrarily and without attention to it’s true meaning. The Webster dictionary defines safe as free from harm. There is not one aspect of charging into a house on fire that is the least bit “safe” regardless of the level of PPE, staffing, etc. you may have with you. As leaders, we should strive for teaching our people to learn and exercise prudent risk taking. When we literally interpret and falsely attempt to portray a safe fireground, it can appear more like risk aversion than being safe. If we are leading correctly, than we have already laid the groundwork and are teaching our people how to exercise prudent risk taking and not being handcuffed by misplaced terms. This begins with the leader knowing both the orientation process and the socialization process.
The weight on a leader is immense because he or she must be a daily learner in addition to being a dedicated teacher. If we are not learning every day, then we are not leading. Take a moment and analyze YOUR leadership style, not what your organization expects of you (orientation). What do you expect of yourself as the leader, and what do your people expect of you (socialization)? Leadership is not about the number of people you leave in your wake on your ascension up the ranks, but the number of people you have brought with you cutting through the waves.
Posted by administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, Incident Command, news | Posted on 10-10-2014| Posted in
TT water supply article
Let’s Talk Water Supply…..A crucial Engine Co. task
Depending on where you volunteer or work, establishing a water supply can be quite simple and quick…… or it can be complicated, time consuming and require multiple apparatus. My “Small Town” fire department has both. We have areas in our municipality that have hydrants every 500’ and we have areas that don’t have any type of water source for over a mile. Either way, we have to get water to the scene and we have get it there quickly or things will not go well.
So as not to complicate things, lets break this article down into 2 parts. First we’ll talk about those areas that are fortunate enough to have reasonable hydrant spacing. The second part will talk about those areas where we have to go a long way to get the water, or perhaps shuttle it in.
Part 1: Here we will discuss establishing a water supply in areas with good hydrant spacing. We have enough supply hose to complete our own water supply.
1st Due Engine…… Lay Out, or don’t Lay Out ?
I find this topic to be one that is often debated; at least it is where I am, so I figured that it probably is for some of you as well.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the term “laying out”, it’s the act of laying a supply line in an effort to establish a water supply.
Before we get into this article, let me first say that I am NOT talking about incidents such as automatic alarms but rather a reported structure fire, smoke coming from a structure, an odor of smoke inside a structure and even an appliance on fire. I think you guys get the picture. Allow me also to mention that I am a huge advocate of “laying out” for these, and similar types of incidents, with the 1st due engine.
For those who do lay out with the 1st due engine, I’ll be preaching to the choir. For those who do not lay out with the 1st due engine, I would like to point some things out and bring them to your attention. Consider:
1. What size booster tank do you have? 500 gallons is certainly the most common size in the fire service, but there are bigger sizes out there….750, 1000 and tanker pumpers with 2,500 gallons. If your first due is a 2,500 gallon tanker pumper, I can certainly understand if you don’t lay out with it and have the 2nd due engine do it for you. You have quite a bit of water in that tank to start with. But those of us with 500 or 750 gallons need to be a bit more careful.
2. Along with the size of your tank, what size attack line do you typically pull and with what type / gallonage nozzle? 1 3/4” hose is most commonly used today. A smooth bore nozzle with a 15/16” tip will flow185 gpm. There are fixed gallonage nozzles that flow 125, 150, 175 gpm and greater depending on what you purchased and at what pressure you pump them.
So what’s the point with these first two considerations? Well, you’d be surprised how many departments out there don’t know what gpm their nozzles flow. If you have a 500 gallon tank and you have a nozzle that flows 175 -185 gpm, you’ll be out of water in 2 minutes and 30 seconds! (Not every gallon of water gets out of the tank and out of the nozzle, some water is left in the line). If the 2nd due engine hasn’t laid out, broken the supply line in the hose bed, tied into themselves or your engine, connected the supply line at the other end to the hydrant and charged the supply line within that 2m 30 sec, it’s game over for a little bit until it has been done. My point here is, if you don’t lay out with the 1st due engine, you need to be knowledgable on what you have, how you’re using it and what kind of time you’re dealing with; otherwise, you’ll get caught with your pants down.
3. That leads me into how far behind is the 2nd due engine? In most smaller towns in suburban and rural areas, it’s going to be several minutes; thus, you may run out of water before that 2nd engine can establish the water supply for you.
4. What if you arrive and it’s not an 1 3/4” line fire? Maybe it’s a 2 1/2” line fire. Most departments run smoothbore nozzles on their 2 1/2” lines and, depending on tip size, will flow between 265 gpm and 325 gpm. That’ll blow through your 500 gal. and 750 gal. tank really quickly. Let’s take it a step further and say that you may actually have to hit it first for a minute with the deck gun / wagon pipe……. forget it, you’re done….out of water.
5. What’s the building stock of the area that you are responding into? Is it built with lightweight material that will burn faster and hotter, creating a ton of BTUs, thus creating the need for more gpm ?
The purpose here is certainly not to tell anyone who doesn’t lay out with the 1st due engine that you’re wrong. That’s not the purpose at all. The purpose is to make you evaluate what you’re doing with what you have available.
Personally, I cannot think of many reasons not to be proactive and lay out. The pros outnumber and outweigh the cons. The worst case scenario is that you don’t end up having an incident where a water supply was needed and you rack it back on the engine….no big deal unless you and your crew suffer from laziness. That pales in comparison to the other side of the coin; when you suspect that the call is nothing, arrive to find a working fire and run out of tank water before the next arriving engine can lay out and establish the water supply for you. Unfortunately, the latter scenario happens all too often.
I will mention one of the cons that I often hear when discussing this issue, “I don’t want to delay the 1st engine by having them stop and lay a supply line. I want them to come straight in and make a fast attack”. OK, I can understand that…. I get it. But here’s my stance on it- it shouldn’t take more than 10 seconds to stop and wrap the hydrant. Not if you’re set up for it and train on it. For example, in my department we have 5” supply hose. The last 15’ of supply line is “bundled up” with a rope around it. The rope hangs down to the back step. All we have to do is get out of the truck and run around the back of the engine, pull the rope which will bring off the 15’ of bundled 5”, open up the rear compartment door and grab the “hydrant bag” which contains the hydrant wrench, spanner wrenches and various adaptors and and away the engine goes…….We train our members on it so that it never takes more than 10 seconds. In my opinion, that is a 10 seconds well spent, to know that we are establishing our own water supply and are not dependent on the next arriving engine, which is probably several minutes behind us.
Whether you currently do or do not lay out with the 1st due engine, here is something else to consider :
1. Do we leave a guy at the hydrant to make the connection and charge the supply line? Do we not leave anyone at the hydrant, just wrap it and go and have the engine chauffeur ran back to connect it to the hydrant and charge it? Do we wrap it and go and then have the 2nd due engine just make the connection to the hydrant and charge it? The answer is certainly situationally dependent. It’s dependent on staffing. Can we afford to leave someone at the hydrant? Personally, I like to leave a guy at the hydrant to make the connection and charge the supply line. Once that is done, he can come up to the scene and fulfill the remainder of his riding assignment task.
If you’re not laying out with the 1st due engine, hopefully I’ve given you some things to consider that may have you re-thinking your position on the matter.
What are those ?
The hairs on my neck always stand up when a “Box” is dispatched in an area without hydrants. Immediately the concern of getting water to the scene is the priority. It certainly isn’t our fault that we have areas that don’t have hydrants; however, we do need to deal with it and overcome it.
The key in these areas is to have SOPs, dispatch procedures and mutual aid plans in place long before the call ever comes in.
Let’s take an area that has no water source for miles, not even a static source such as a lake. The best thing you could have done for yourself, your department and your community is to have had a “pre determined dispatch card” that has a “water supply task force” or a “tanker strike team” on it. Something at the dispatch center that gets tankers, or tenders as some areas of the country call them, coming to the scene automatically. If you don’t have this set up for yourself, please consider it.
Some thoughts to consider regarding tanker shuttles :
- How many tankers will you need? That depends on the anticipated flow that will be needed, which comes back to knowing your 1st due and your building stock. The number of tankers needed also depends on the size of the tankers Are they 2,500 gallon, 3,500 gallon?
- You’ll need to set up a fill site and place an engine there to fill the tankers up.
- Will the tankers nurse the 1st due engine or will you set up portable tanks that theydump their water into, possibly creating the need for another engine which will draft out of the portable tanks?
Now let’s look at an area that has a lake or a hydrant….but it’s 3/4 of a mile (approximately 4,000 feet) from our fire.
1. How many engines do we need to complete the lay? That depends on how much supply hose you carry, which may vary from engine to engine. Again, something you need to know before the call comes in.
- How many in-line engines will I need to compensate for the friction loss in a 4,000’ supply line? That’s dependent on several factors such as the size (diameter) of the supply line, the anticipated GPM flowing through the supply line (remember, the greater the gpm, the more friction loss you’ll have) and the terrain that the supply line is on. (Is it on flat ground? Uphill?)
- It will be very time consuming setting up a long supply line with the necessary in-line engines. In this situation you may want to have a “water supply task force” or “tanker strike team” consisting of a few tankers responding to give your 1st due engine adequate water while the supply line is being laid out.
- Even if you are quite efficient and quick with setting up a long supply line, those tankers may be nice to have in a nearby staging area, just in case something fails in that 4,000’ supply line. A lot can go wrong if just 1 length of supply line bursts, or 1 coupling fails or an engine develops a mechanical issue.
! To wrap up, if you don’t have SOPs regarding water supply, I urge you to consider developing them so that your crew knows the game plan ahead of time. You may be able to have just 1 SOP if your area is rather simple. If you have a complicated and diverse area, such as mine, you may need to develop multiple SOPs for various areas of your community. If you do have SOPs already in place, make sure that they still work for your department and community and that they aren’t outdated. Be certain that they will work based on your current apparatus and engine company equipment. Just because your department has had a water supply SOP in place for 20 years doesn’t mean that it’s what’s best for today’s fire.
Posted by administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Engine Company, firefighting-operations, Testimonials | Posted on 07-07-2014| Posted in
Consistency, Visual Cues & Options
I’m a hose load junky, I said it. Every time I travel to another department, or see pictures on the internet I always look at how the hose is loaded. You can tell a lot from hose loads, if it’s neat and meticulous I tend to find the crews operate in a similar manor. There is one thing more important than how the load looks, it’s how it pulls. If given a chance I will often ask “how does this hose load work” and I’m surprised to find many crews have no idea. Either it’s “loaded by another crew” or “it just looks pretty”. Beyond how it physically deploys, or how it looks it only really “needs” to do one thing, deploy easily and effectively for the majority of the fires that crew will face. There is no room on the engine for “parade loads” that look good, or “convenience loads” that just get thrown on to get a rig back in service.
For my crew, and the types of fires my engine fights, the gold standard is at least 50 feet of working line. The working line needs to be placed in close proximity to the entry point, flaked out in a manner that it can be fed easily by our 3 person attack crew (plus MPO)…..and we have to be able to get it in service fast. We also need the ability to get that hose into place through and across neglected yards and to deal with houses converted to rear entrance duplexes or large garden style apartments in our first due. Finally we needed a way to make sure our 2.5 deployed just as smooth and met the same standards as our 1.75 line deployment. Much like any problem, we set down and came up with a list of goals and set about finding a solution. We didn’t have to “invent” a new way, we just needed to adapt those lessons learned from within and outside of our department and apply them. Two of the keys we found to success were “Consistency” amongst our hose loads, and the use of “visual cues”. I think no matter what kind of hose load you use incorporating these things into it can help your crews be better at getting that first line in place.
The consistency component seems the easiest; just load the hose the same way for both 1.75 and 2.5 lines. The reality is we will pull the 1.75 line the most often. Whether it’s training or at fires, the ratio of pulling the 1.75 vs. 2.5 is probably 10:1. Obviously we would like to pull the 2.5 more, but it’s not likely, and by loading the 1.75 and 2.5 the same way we compound our training. If I pull the 2.5 tomorrow the muscle memory takes over and I even though this may only be the 3rd time I’ve pulled it this month, it’s the exact same motions as the 30 times I pulled the 1.75 line and my comfort level should be the same. The difficulty with consistency between loads is can the different size hoses be loaded the same way on your rig, in our case that was a “maybe”. Our crews had relied on transverse mounted pre-connected 200 foot hand lines that made loading of 2.5 and 1.75 lines the same way difficult (it also limited our deployment options as discussed below). We did come up with a load that could be accomplished three wide (1.75) and two wide (2.5) and deployed the same way using the help of Visual Cues. We used these as a stop gap until our new rigs arrived that moved the deployment back to rear hose beds with static attack lines. With the rear static hose beds we are now able to load and deploy the lines identically.
Here you can see rear static hose bed with the 2.5 and 1.75 hoses loaded side by side in the same manner and visual cues laid out identically.
Visual cues became one of the biggest keys to the success of our hose deployment. We did not invent using visual cues to deploy our hose lines, we adapted it from places like Chief Dave McGrail’s highrise system. Basically we decided to mark the halfway points on our hose like we had with our highrise packs (paint or colored tape) and use those visual cues along with tails (a.k.a. loops) and the couplings to make sure our hose always deployed the same. By using the visual cues my crew can walk up at the start of the shift and in a glance know that the hose is loaded correctly and quickly deploy it, conversely they can take a quick look and know if they need to pull it off and reload the hose, there is no “I think it’s loaded ok”.
Here you can see the standard pre-connected load. The long tails on the right side of the stack indicate the “working bundle” of line, the single loop on the left side of the stack is the “drivers loop”. The nozzleman can easily see his bundle and throw it on his shoulder and take it to the fire as an intact 50 foot section. Also visible is the blue “half way” markers in the sections. When the nozzleman approaches he can drop the bundle at the door grab the half way mark and walk it back completing the stretch, he can also drop the bundle short and grab the nozzle and coupling walking it up if the stretch dictates. The “drivers loop” is the visual indicator for the MPO, Layout man, or if needed the nozzleman to grab and clear the remaining line in the hose bed with no wasted effort.
Here is the hose in the static beds, as you can see the nozzle and coupling are loaded at the end along with all the halfway points. Just like the pre-connected lines, the nozzleman knows exactly where his section of working line is. He can drop early and grab the nozzle and coupling walking up to the entry point; or he can drop at the entry point grab the halfway marks and walk it back.
I know that “options” and “consistency” seem a little contradictory but not in the context of this discussion. There are many different hose loads out there, and many are good…for one type of stretch. We wanted something that could be used on small single family residences, garden apartments, 3 story walk-ups, varying setbacks and diverse approaches; our answer was going back to the static rear hose beds. Now it doesn’t matter if the setback is short or long, or if the plug is before the residence or down the street. The nozzleman can take his bundle and head to the entry point and stretches his line; everything else is handled by the officer, layout man and MPO. If the set back is long the officer estimates the stretch and the needed line is pulled; if the plug is at the end of the street the MPO continues onto the plug to catch his hydrant once the bundle is pulled off the hose bed. Keeping the working line deployment simple can be important since often the Junior guy is on the nozzle where the officer can directly supervise. The positions that take care of the remaining hose (MPO, Officer, Layout) are typically more tenured and can overcome the small obstacles that increase the complexity of completing the stretch. The last option we built into our system was the ability to “stretch forward” or “stretch away”. We found if we set the hose up with the coupling and nozzle on the end as a visual indicator most of the time the nozzleman could lay his bundle down and grab the nozzle/coupling and walk up to the entry point for an effective stretch. Unfortunately some yards or apartments made it difficult to drop early and perform a forward type stretch. We overcame this by making sure all the halfway point visual indicators were lined up at the nozzle end as well. Now if the nozzle needs to be dropped at the entry point the halfway points are grabbed and walked straight back making for a virtually identical result.
Here you can see the same line stretched both ways. The straps on the left indicate the line was dropped at the entry point and “stretched away” and the picture on the right shows the bundle was dropped away from the entry point and “stretched forward”.
As you can see our deployment is a constant evolution, and through trial and error I feel we were able to meet our goals. Hopefully by sharing what we have found to other crews they can use similar methods to improve the deployment of their hoselines.
Posted by administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, Testimonials, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Uncategorized | Posted on 23-05-2014| Posted in
At every teaching opportunity, I make it a point to spend plenty of time talking about risk assessment and risk management. For the sake of discussion lets focus strictly on fireground operations.
My concern is and continues to be a growing and unashamed trending towards total risk aversion. I have theorized that there are many reasons for the rapid expansion in “risk avoider” cliques, some of which includes: wanting to be “progressive” fire department, a desire to be a “great fire service leader”, an inability to manage your members, ineffective at making your point through discussion and dialogue with others equally as intelligent as you are, fear of what other “great fire service leaders” might think of you if you don’t join the club and last but not least an inability to strategically and logically think through all aspects of the complexities of fire suppression and fireground management. If you get where I am going, this list could go on forever.
To be clear, my issue is not with defensive operations my stance on that is clear. We must always operate in the correct strategy (Offensive or Defensive), 100% of the time, once a PROPER risk assessment is completed (which needs to occur throughout the incident not just at the beginning). My issue is that many have gotten caught up in the emotions of death and injuries, causing them to lose their abilities to detach themselves from the feelings; long enough to have a discussion(s) based on logic, contemplative thought, competing believes, debate and yes even science. Some are even being dishonest brokers, using emotional warfare as a tool to cover for an inability to manage people and organizations.
Example: If we cant enforce the policy for our drivers, to stop at every Stop Sign and red lights (as they MUST), while maintaining full control of the vehicle at the legal speed; or we have promoted people who cant or wont enforce policy, then it becomes much easier to simply coward under the auspice of “safety” by moving to all cold responses. That certainly is one way of gaining compliance and reducing injuries. Hey here is another thought:
• Train your drivers adequately
• Promote people who will enforce rules and regulations
• Validate compliance through the use of vehicle cameras and speed analysis
• Hold both driver and officer accountable for failing to follow policy, every person every time
• Conduct annual drivers license checks
Oh Schultzy, we can’t do that, it’s much easier to just avoid accidents all together. Ok then lets just be honest with the public and tell them we are going to send a FD vehicle (preferably an electric vehicle so we avoid toxic emissions) with one person, for every 911 call, to make sure it is in fact an emergency, then and only then are we willing to out our people at risk by allowing them to all come together on the fire truck. Let me know how that works out for you will you?
If we can’t get compliance from firefighters and fire officers to follow standard operating procedures on the fireground or our people are incapable of executing core basic skills without getting themselves hurt or killed; or if our Company Officers and Incident Commanders lack the ability to do a proper risk assessment, then lets just stop letting them go inside burning buildings. Hey, here’s another thought:
• Develop a comprehensive set of SOG’s
• Train your people on them and test them to make sure they know them
• Make them aware of the consequences for not following them (I know, I’m just mean like that)
• Hire capable thinking firefighters
• Once again, promote Officers who can enforce policy
• Make your people train every day
• Test them on core capability
• Confront fireground problems, each and every one of them, every single time.
• HOLD PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE
There you go again Schultzy. I know, it was a momentary lapse in judgment. I was exhausted after a tough day at work (maybe I should stop working, its dangerous to think while your tired). It’s much simpler to just avoid the possibility of injury all together. Hey I’m ok with that if you’re honest and upfront about saying so. Not just in a blog, but to the public as well. Lets remove the part of our organizational mission statement, where we regurgitate our commitment to “protecting property” and just tell people, this is what we will do for you. If your house catches on fire and if you can guarantee us (with 100% certainty) that your family member(s) is still inside of your burning home, then and only then, will we expose our people to risk. If not, we are likely not to enter your home. The good news is we will work hard to extinguish the fire, by depositing thousands of gallons of water, through your roof until either the fire goes out or the water reaches the roofline, which ever comes first. Don’t forget; let me know how that works out for you.
I was recently reading a Forbes Magazine article on the 10 most dangerous jobs. You know which job doesn’t make the list? Well these did:
• Fisherman/Fisherwoman – I think we can all agree, it is senseless for people to die so we can eat seafood. I know an easy fix, criminalize fishing.
• Logging Workers – Is it ok for someone to be killed so we can have a new home or so our kids can do homework? Absolutely not, lets stop all logging activities and simply wait for the trees to fall down on their own. Oh wait, better not, at the rate we burn homes down, it creates supply and demand.
• Aircraft Pilots – Really? Allowing someone to lose his/her life just so you can vacation? I think not. Get those planes out-of-the-air immediately. Unless we need them to run water drops on that next Warehouse fire.
• Refuse Workers – How would we ever justify telling a child that their Dad died while picking up our trash. No more thrash collection. From here on out everyone has to burn his or her own trash. P.S. don’t burn to close to the house. The house may catch on fire and there wont be any planes to do air-drops, refuse workers to pick up the debris, loggers to cut wood for the new house or any seafood available to celebrate after you move in to your brand new home.
I hope you get the point. Using fear as a tactic to disguise an inability to think critically or to manage properly is just as ridicules as the ideas above. Its time to get serious, engage in dialogue, discussion and debate in a logical and professional manner and really figure out how we can do this most noble work in a manner that is both safe and effective.
Posted by administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Commentary, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, fires, Testimonials, Uncategorized | Posted on 26-03-2014| Posted in
I was on the Internet this morning and saw this picture posted on Facebook. It was bad enough that someone posted it, but the number of likes was even more disturbing. I will preface the rest of this blog with that I AM A REFORMED FIREFIGHTER. I was not always Combat Ready and I used many excuses to justify to myself my BAD habits and complacency.
None of those excuses were valid and they were just my attempt to place the blame on inanimate objects and conditions. To change my ways and to make me a better firefighter took a good company officer, someone to ensure that I was fully protected when entering our incident scenes, regardless if we had fire and smoke conditions presented upon arrival. That same company officer would make sure the company would be at the top of their game every run. This covered from the preparation put into the call even before it happened, preparing us for that incident through developed good habits on every call and anticipating that every sparking outlet or odor of smoke was a real fire.
No Internet site or picture should encourage our firefighters to not be fully prepared for each incident, and even worse not taking FULL advantage of the state of the art Personal Protective Ensemble that is afforded to today’s firefighters. The duty of the Company Officer or the person riding the right front seat is to champion the Combat Ready attitude and the donning of all PPE.
Do the right thing even when no one is watching, or in this case when someone important is not on the scene.
Posted by administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, firefighting-operations, Testimonials, training-development, Uncategorized | Posted on 15-03-2014| Posted in
To-Go-or-Not-to Go (Part Two)
In continuing from last week’s blog, I wanted to provide a few strategic and tactical considerations to consider when dealing with “known abandon buildings”. Even now, I hate playing the classification semantics at the risk of making things too simple. One thing I have learned over the past thirty years, the longer I am in the business, the less black and white things become; that quite frankly pisses me off. I am far more comfortable in the black and white with the grey area making me feel like I’m becoming more indulgent in my old age.
The fact is, much of what we do requires spending time in the grey area. That’s doesn’t have to be a bad thing unless you are one of those “pick a side” firefighters. Those are the ones who hope that you wouldn’t think for yourself and expect you to blindly believe what ever they advocate at any cost. In that world all things fit neatly in to the risk aversion box and do so equally as nice as the “balls – plus water – and the fire goes out” box. Sorry guys it isn’t that simple. The fact is, there is no way of escaping educating yourself on the issue and then using your own brain. By all means, you should be listening to many different opinions, but at the end of the day, you are going to have to use your brain.
In my last post, I proposed for the sake of discussion that we walk away from the terms, vacant, abandoned, derelict, and blighted and every other name we can come up with for the sake of have the discussion strictly based on risk assessment. The reason is simple; whenever we discuss this issue (which need to occur and at greater frequency) we lose all focus on risk and the attention quickly turns to either “property is never worth risk” or “there could be squatters in there” debate never making it to the greater discussion of best strategy and tactics.
We lose sight of the goal, which is a safe and effective operations based on risk as opposed to classifications of potentially unoccupied buildings types. Please don’t get me wrong, I see little to no value in taking unnecessary risk in vacant/abandon buildings but acknowledge that there will be times, when the fire is manageable enough to allow us to make the push, perform a search and extinguish the fire in a reduced risk manner. Ironically for those of us that have been IC’s for a season or two, we have had to navigate the very same type of assessment in occupied structures with the possibility of victims trapped. This gets me back to my main point which is its not right or wrong, its both right or wrong depending on the incident.
My friend and co-instructor Fireman Donnie Wedding (Fredricksburg VA Fire Department & Traditions Training) sent me his account of an incident he experienced while working a couple years ago.
“On our first day back after break, we (the truck co) were dispatched to assist the city police department in the morning, with gaining entry into an ‘abandon’ building after they received reports of seeing people in windows on the second floor. The house was an old (probably 1950’s era) balloon frame that had been converted into a duplex, with an identical house sitting next to it in the same block. The house was boarded up on the first floor only.
Due to known people being inside and not knowing what exactly the circumstances were and why people were occupying the house, we gave the police a quick ‘how to’ and let them take care of it. They found several people inside after gaining entry, and we watched them as they brought them out. I never found out whether they were arrested or just told to leave.
When we got back to the station, my Sergeant sent out an email to everyone in the department making them aware that people were occupying those houses, if we were called back there.
4 days later (last day of our tour before break) were dispatched around 12am for a reported fire in the 200 block of Ford St., where these houses sat. They were the only address in this block actually.
Before we left the station we all quickly acknowledged to the engine which route we were taking and reminded them that there were known people staying inside.
Entering the block from the D side of the building, we found fire-consuming most of the rear on both floors of the C and D side, with fire venting from several windows on the second floor in the Charlie Quadrant.
We only had a 3 man truck that night, so while the truck driver placed the Tower, me and my officer placed a couple ground ladders and began opening up the ‘HUD’ covers and plywood which luckily were only on portions of the first floor. While the Engine Co. stretched a line, I was able to make a quick search of the first floor, which had surprisingly good visibility due to the floor/ceiling above being burned through in the rear.
We then entered through the front making our way to the second floor to complete a primary search and open up, and met up with the first due engine who was making a good knock of the fire upstairs.
After searching this side of the duplex, we assisted another company with opening up and clearing the adjoining residence of the house/duplex. The fire was knocked down and all the searches were negative.
Apparently the people occupying the house had somehow placed a spacer in the electric meter (which had been pulled/disconnected since it was vacant) giving power to the house, which ultimately led to the cause of the fire.
Needless to say our actions and operations that night were based on knowing we had confirmed people previously occupying the home days earlier. Maybe you could say we got luckily having the heads up. But, had we not been there 4 days earlier, I wonder what the actions might have been”.
DLW (as he is known on twitter) provides a real example of what is involved in making strategic and tactical decisions based on a risk assessment processes. If you remember from the previous post, risk assessment must include: knowledge of fire behavior, knowledge of how fire/smoke acts in the five building types, critical factors (which include occupancy, occupied vs unoccupied and condition of structure to name a few) and available resources. During his previous tour, one of the critical factors that became a “known factor” is that the building had a history of squatting. It would be inappropriate on any level, to discount that factor (occupied by squatters) solely based on the fact the building was considered abandoned or vacant. This certainly could have occurred if our default training and mentality is “we risk nothing for property” which may have occurred if this very important factor was not earlier understood.
On the other side of the coin you need to sit down and spend some time reading through the Firefighter Steve Solomon (Atlanta Fire Rescue) LODD report. Doing so should cause you to rethink the “get some” mentality.
So lets get at it! The members of the Fredricksburg FD knew what they knew from being out on the street, paying attention on all runs and knowing the buildings in their district. They took advantage by identifying critical factors of specific buildings; ahead of those building’s catching fire. Get out there in your box-alarm districts and identify those building which have added risk before you figure it out the hard way. In-spite of all we have discussed, the fact is, there will be clear and unmistakable buildings in your community that are vacant, abandoned, derelict, blighted or whatever. We should identify them beforehand and make other responders aware of them as well (just as the Sergeant did). This could be anything from an email to all Officers in the Battalion, an entry in the Critical Incident Dispatch notes section of the CAD or a unique building placarding system.
Once identified the next step is to focus on developing an SOG for dealing with fires in these types of buildings. Here are a few simple steps to help slow everyone down and take a few extra seconds to size-up the risk:
• When dealing with abandon known buildings consider having all units with the exception of the first engine and truck, stage in-line of approach and remain on the apparatus until they are given direction by the IC. This will keep things from unfolding ahead of an appropriate strategy.
• First arriving resource should provide a detailed on-scene report including:
o Corrected address (if need be)
o Height of building
o The fact that the building is or appears to be abandoned, vacant or whatever the appropriate nomenclature is for your department.
o Conditions evident
o Water supply
o Status of doors and windows (boarded-up, bars, HUD covers)
o Obvious structural integrity concerns.
• Initial company should declare the operating strategy (offensive/defensive)
• When selecting a Defensive strategy
o Establish a collapse/isolation zone
o Use master streams when possible can alleviate members creeping in to the collapse/isolation zone as they often do with handlines.
o There is no value in pulling covered windows or any other coverings if it places your personnel within the collapse zone. It will eventually open itself up.
• When selecting the Offensive Strategy
o No one should enter the structure until every window and door is open and completely free of plywood and or bars. This means you will need to assign more then normal resources to do this since it will still need to be done in a timely manner.
o Consider (1) Engine (1) Support Service going as a team, while others stand fast outside of the IDLH. No one else enters without specific direction from the IC (controlled deployment)
o As engines makes the push the support service branches off for searches maintaining a position behind the line. With the strong possibility of opened walls, floors and ceilings (holes) this is no time to get caught working above or behind hidden fire.
o Engine companies should sweep the floor ahead of advancement with a straight-stream. This not only helps identify holes, breaches etc., it also allows for any debris including needles and other forms of potential communicable disease vectors.
o The use of TIC’s should help in identifying openings in floors, walls and ceilings as well as hidden fire.
o This is a slow push folks simmer-down.
o IC should consider a Division Supervisor on each exterior side of the structure. You can’t do yourself any harm with 8 more eyes on the building.
This obviously is not a comprehensive list of considerations for dealing with vacant buildings, which was never my intention. The goal was to have a discussion focused on risk, which looks deeper, then homelessness and risk aversion.
Posted by administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, firefighting-operations, fires, Testimonials, Uncategorized | Posted on 05-03-2014| Posted in
One of the many challenges that smaller volunteer departments face is the lack of adequate manpower and resources on the scene early enough to coordinate an efficient fire attack – efficient being the key word.
Our brothers who work or volunteer in the urban areas of the country are usually fortunate enough to have the Engine Companies and Trucks Companies arriving on scene, one on top of another, giving them multiple units and plenty of manpower early on. They have dedicated Engine Companies and Truck Companies to handle and complete all of the necessary tasks on the fire ground. Those on the Engine Company will only need to worry about establishing a water supply and stretching and advancing their attack line. The Truck Companies are responsible for forcible entry, searches, ventilation, opening up the ceiling and walls and placing ladders for egress, etc.
Those of us in the smaller suburban / rural communities do not have this luxury. Most of us who volunteer in these types of communities do not have “dedicated” engine and truck companies. Many of us, including my own department, don’t even have a “ladder truck” in our apparatus fleet. Without a “dedicated” truck company, how are we supposed to complete those “truck company” tasks? The first arriving engine may only have 4 or 5 men on it. The 2nd due engine will often be arriving 3-5 minutes after the 1st arriving engine. How can those 4 or 5 men on that 1st arriving engine stretch their attack line, force entry, search, open up to check for extension, place ladders and ventilate?
I’ll share some ideas for you to consider. Let me first start by saying that what works for one department may not work for another. What the brothers do in Chicago or Boston will most certainly not work for my department and vice versa. Some of the ideas that I will offer may seem out of the norm, and quite different than what some of you are used to. They are, however, tried and true; and many departments have been successful using them, my fire department being one of them.
Let’s take a look at what tasks will always need to be done, or have the probability of needing to get done, within the first few minutes of being on scene.
1. Stretch the initial attack line…I’m certain we can all agree on that.
2. Forcible entry…perhaps you may get to the front door and you find it to be unlocked, terrific; however the task of forcible entry still needs to be assigned so that we arrive at the front door with the appropriate F/E tools. We don’t want to have to go back to the engine and grab the irons. A delay in forcible entry results in a delay of the line getting to the fire.
3. Primary search…my rule of thumb is that the building is occupied until WE search it and prove otherwise. I do not take the word of the Police Officer, a neighbor or even a resident telling me that “everyone is out”. It’s occupied until the search crew tells me “the primary is negative”.
4. Ventilation…getting the appropriate windows taken out to assist in the advancement of the line and to assist the searches. Remember, we need to coordinate the ventilation and time it properly.
5. Ladders…having ladders placed for egress.
6. “Hooking the fire area”….once the fire is knocked, it’s not time to dish out high 5’s, it’s time to get the ceilings and walls opened up and check for extension.
One thing that is important for us, and when I say us, I’m referring to departments similar to mine, is to multitask. In order to multitask, your engine needs to be set up properly, the most important being your attack lines. Having your lines racked so that they come off smoothly and with minimal manpower is key.
Here is how our riding assignments are set up:
4 Person Crew:
Driver – drive safely, operate the pump, place ladders for egress / ventilate once the attack line is charged
Officer – Tools : Hook, hand light, radio?Task : Communicate with the driver to be sure the proper “running route” is
being used, look up the closet water source in the “1st due book”, supervise and direct the stretch of the attack line, assist with flaking out
the line if necessary, supervise the fire attack and provide the Incident Commander with updated CAN reports, open up the fire area to expose extension using his hook.
Nozzleman – Tools : Attack line, hand light, radio?Task : Stretch and advance the attack line, extinguish the fire
Back-up – Tools : Appropriate forcible entry tools, hand light, radio?Task : Assist the nozzleman in stretching the attack line, flake out attack line,
Forcible entry, assist with the advancement of the attack line, primary search of the fire area / areas immediately adjacent to the fire area as long as he is able to be in verbal communication with the officer.
Granted, this 4 man engine crew is taxed to say the least, however it is feasible and does work.
5 Person Crew:
Driver – drive safely, operate the pump, place ladders for egress / ventilate once the attack line is charged.
Officer – Tools : Hook, hand light, radio?Task : Communicate with the driver to be sure the proper “running route” is
being used, look up the closet water source in the “1st due book”, supervise and direct the stretch of the attack line, assist with flaking out line if necessary, supervise the fire attack and provide the Incident Commander with updated CAN reports, open up the fire area to expose extension using his hook.
Nozzleman – Tools : Attack line, hand light, radio?Task : Stretch and advance the attack line, extinguish the fire
Back-up – Tools : Appropriate forcible entry tools, hand light, radio?Task : Assist the nozzleman in stretching the attack line, flake out attack line,
forcible entry, assist with the advancement of the attack line, primary search of the fire area / areas immediately adjacent to the fire area as long as he is able to be in verbal communication with the officer
Control – Tools : Hook, hand light, radio?Task : Assist nozzleman and back-up man in stretching the attack line,
assist with flaking out the attack line, assist in the advancement of the attack line, primary search of the fire area / areas immediately adjacent to the fire area as long as he is in verbal communication with the officer, assist with opening up the fire area to expose extension using his hook.
The 5 man engine crew is similar to the 4 man crew. The addition of the “Control” firefighter make everyone’s job a little easier and the operation becomes more efficient. He adds one more man to help with the line, search and open up.
6 Man Crew :
Driver – drive safely, operate the pump, place ladders for egress / ventilate once the attack line is charged
Officer – Tools : Hook, handlight, radio?Task : Communicate with the driver to be sure the proper “running route” is
being used, look up the closet water source in the “1st due book”, supervise and direct the stretch of the attack line, assist with flaking out line if necessary, supervise the fire attack and provide the Incident Commander with updated CAN reports, open up the fire area to expose extension using his hook
Nozzleman – Tools : Attack line, hand light, radio?Task : Stretch and advance the attack line, extinguish the fire
Back-up – Tools : Hand light, radio?Task : Assist the Nozzleman in stretching the attack line, flake out attack line,
assist with advancement of the attack line Search – Tools : Appropriate forcible entry tools, hand light, radio
Task : Forcible entry, primary search of the fire floor, provide the Incident Commander with updated CAN reports
Search – Tools : Hook, water can, hand light, radio?Task : Assist with forcible entry as necessary, primary search of the fire floor, open up the fire area to expose extension.
As you can see, there is a big difference in how we operate with 6 men on the engine. The back-up firefighter’s job becomes a lot easier and there is a dedicated search crew to search the entire fire floor, rather than breaking a member or two off the line to search the fire area.
Again, some of this may seem quite odd to many of you, especially with what we have our back-up man doing on the 4 and 5 man crews. There are 2 main things that we do which make stretching our lines rather easy for just the nozzleman, thus allowing the back up firefighter to have those irons, or other appropriate F/E tools, in his hand coming off the engine, and they are both key:
1. Our lines are racked so that the nozzleman can pretty much make the stretch by himself. We rack our lines in a modified minuteman load. The nozzle firefighter takes the 1st load on his shoulder. The 2nd load can either stay in the bed and it will peel off nicely without anyone touching it, or the nozzleman can pull the bottom ear of the 2nd load and dump it on the ground and drag it with him. This is key for us because it frees up the back-up firefighter a little bit. The 1st responsibility of our back-up man is to assist the nozzleman. However, when he get off the engine he takes the appropriate forcible entry tools with him. He will carry the irons in one hand while assisting the nozzleman by flaking out the attack line with the free hand. This may sound strange, but it works. Once the back up man flakes out the line and while the line is getting charged, the back up firefighter assesses the door and, if necessary, will force the door using the tools that he brought with him as he got off the engine.
2. Because we have no ladder truck, we position the 1st due engine to make the stretch of the attack line to the front door, or whatever the point of entry will be, as direct as possible and with as few obstructions as possible. We have no ladder truck that we need to leave the front of the building for, so we are able to do this with no issues.
One other key point, when we have a 4 or 5 person crew on the engine, we usually put the most experienced firefighter on the back-up position. We do this because of the important tasks that he will be expected to complete, pretty much by himself.
Allow me to also say that what is outlined above is certainly not all that needs to be done on the fire ground. When the 2nd due engine and the Rescue arrive, we are stretching back-up line, searching the floor above the fire, placing additional ladders for egress, etc, etc. The purpose of this article is to show one way you can accomplish “engine and truck” tasks with 4-6 men early on into the incident.
This is a little insight as to how my “Small Town Volunteer Fire Department” operates. When we first started to reconstruct how we operated on the fire ground, it took a lot of planning, thinking, talking and mostly training. We didn’t just whip this out overnight. It was a process and I can’t stress that enough. We talked to the entire Department of what our plan and goal was. We trained hard for many months until all of our members became efficient and understood the tasks and expectations. Once we got to that point, then we instituted the changes permanently…and as I said in a previous article, we are operating smoothly and efficiently and we haven’t looked back since.
Hopefully I have given many of you some things to think about and perhaps bring back to your Officers for their consideration. If any of you have any questions or need more clarity on what i have written about and explained, please feel free to contact me.
I’m looking forward to writing the next blog article in a couple weeks. In the mean time, stay safe and train hard.
Posted by administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Engine Company, Testimonials, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics | Posted on 02-03-2014| Posted in
By: Larry Schultz
If you are in to fire porn, then there is an unlimited supply to be found on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook these days. I would surmise that if you have an ounce of fire service passion left in you, then you too are a fan of fire porn. Over the last several months, I have watched many videos of fires where the fire was located in the attic area and more obvious in the void spaces of the knee-walls.
As I always say, it is ridiculous that we reinvent how we deal with these fires over and over in spite of the fact that they are very predictable in how they are going to behave and what needs to be done to deal with it.
Here are just a few reminders for company officers and IC’s to consider.
For the sake of the article, I will clarify a few terms so that we are all on the same page. It doesn’t particularly matter what terms we use as long as we understand a few back principles. The first and most important one is that these fires (attic’s and knee-walls) are very predictable in how they behave and even more predictable based on the type of structure involved.
When I use the term attic, I am speaking about the space under the roof of a house, where that space is large enough to be used as a livable space or as a storage area. This space will have access via interior steps. This is different then a cockloft which I would describe as the small space (non-livable) that lies above the top floor and below the flat roof, commonly found in a rowhome.
When I talk about “knee-walls” I am talking about a constructed wall of 2-4 feet, constructed in the “A” framed area of the attic, built primarily to keep you from smacking your dome on the ceiling (see picture above).
There are some pretty common signs that a fire has moved in to the attic/knee-wall area, most notably smoke and fire pushing from the dormers and gable ends. Interior environments where you are experiencing high levels of heat, but cant locate the fire can be indicative of fire concealed in the walls as well.
There is good opportunity to make an aggressive push on this fire if you can beat the fire to “flashover”. Generally speaking, this is a doable scenario if you remember a few basic things (always goes back to core basic skills).
• Starts with a good stretch using an appropriate sized line. Remember, you need enough water to out perform the heat release rate not blow the roof off. You will likely be stretching up at least two flights of steps including in to the attic. Avoid the absurd “big fire big water” mentality and go for maneuverability.
• Good stretch means, chasing kinks, using the well of the stairway properly, tying off the hose when needed (keeps you from constantly having to hump line) and knowing how to quickly remove the balusters if necessary (limits wasted hose length)
• Stretch the line dry until you get to the point where you need to mask-up.
• The Engine Officer should report the conditions (smoke, heat, fire, clear) as soon as they cross the threshold and provide the same report for each ascending floor.
• Once you’re ready to make the push, this is the perfect time to ditch the “pistol grip” (just kidding). Get that nozzle out in front of you and use good nozzle pattern selection.
• If the roof is not vented then flow your line from the steps or consider the attack from the underside (pulling the ceiling from the floor below the attic).
• Remember, hood on, collar up and flap’s down
• Start venting the easy stuff first, dormer windows and gable vents. In order for the engine company to make the push, you need to get that roof opened up. This is the one scenario where you do not always need to get to the highest point of the roof. When dealing with knee-walls make your cut dormer level high. Don’t forget to punch through the drywall.
• Empty your ladder bed.
• The livable space of the attic must be searched. Do so, only after the line has advanced in to the area.
• Walls and ceilings must come down, aggressively and completely. Fire in the walls, open up the ceilings, fire in the ceiling open up the floor above. Keep going until there is no more fire or you can see the sky, which ever comes first.
• When space and visibility inside is limited and your dealing with wood frame construction, consider open up, from the outside in. Take the siding and lapboards from the outside will provide you the same access often times quicker then from the interior.
• When dealing with knee-walls remember that the attic stairwell walls will allow you access to the void area behind the knee-wall. This allows good access for water application.
• Validate that upper level windows are fully cleared and ladders are in place.
• Remember that stairwells are likely to be overcrowded with people and hoselines. Look for alternative points of ingress and egress.
• Have a chainsaw available and ready to go in order to expand window openings
• Control the number of hoselines going up the stairs
• Have 2nd in hoseline maintain a position at the bottom of the steps until requested. Have the Company Officer help in keeping the stairway clear
• Pay attention to the vent work
• Watch smoke behavior, it will tell you how well things are going or not going.
• Don’t play catch up with Truck’s; always have one in staging ready to go.