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
In reviewing all the procedures and policies related to Mayday incidents, we have to remember the actual call itself from the trapped or lost firefighter. Does your department have a standard information set that needs to be transmitted out to the Incident Commander or the dispatch center. This is a crucial script that needs to be practiced by your crew members during weekly or monthly drills. This skill set must be able to be transmitted quickly and contain all the information desired by your department or company. In most cases of a Mayday call, the firefighter or officer is under extreme conditions and stressors. This may also be the only radio transmission that you will receive from them, so the practiced information should contain the basics to get the RIT moving under direction from command. How you or your department lay this information, and the procedures following the Mayday should fit your department. But basically it should start with:
1- MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY
2- WHO – Who is calling the Mayday?
3- WHAT – What is the problem?
4. WHERE – Where are you located in the structure
After this quick transmission, depending on local radio systems the pressing or activation of the emergency button on the radio could be added. With all the technology that is available to us through the new radios that are being manufactured, we must UNDERSTAND all that technology and ensure it works with our Mayday procedures. After this transmission the IC can then try obtaining further information by using the LUNAR acronym. Location, Unit, Needs, Air and Resources.
We will post a copy of some Mayday procedures at www.traditionstraining.com on the Resources Page. Please remember to DRILL, DRILL and DRILL some more on this procedure.
Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Incident Command, RIT / Survival, technology-communications, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics | Posted on 13-10-2014| 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
Leadership is a quality we seek and desire in every level of our trade. Most of us are fortunate to be exposed daily to leadership models through our mentors, books we read of leaders from all walks of life (military, religion, politics, etc.), and the challenges we face in our own lives. Inherently, the more inspired, driven, and dedicated individuals are, they typically seek and find more opportunities to reap the rewards of leadership lessons than their more passive counterparts. This does not mean that individuals who are more passive or who may not have access to mentorship should be admonished from leadership positions. Additionally, we cannot limit individuals who are unsure of how to seek out a mentor and now may feel unqualified to take on a leadership role. Lastly, individuals who may work with a micromanager who stifles his co-workers’ autonomy should not be denied entry to the leadership club because of their boss’s shortcomings.
As an aspiring leader, when you look at your organization, firehouse, shift, company, etc., what kind of leadership development do you see? Does your department reward only the hard workers and dedicated individuals with their time? Time is that one irreplaceable gift that cannot be taken back and has an endless value. If you give someone your time in the form of mentoring and teaching, that is eternal and will never be forgotten. On the other hand, perhaps you have timid & passive individuals, or those who have been conditioned that low performance is the standard, and are most likely given less time and opportunities to learn leadership lessons. Your department may operate as one of those listed, a combination of both, or just lacking a plan all together. The solution to this problem is the crux of the leadership question: Do you breed your leaders through an orientation process or a socialization process?
When I attended the West Point Leadership Course for public safety a few years ago we analyzed the foundation of this question. The orientation process is what we see occur most every day in the modern day fire service. An individual has the desire to move ahead in their career and advance to the next rank. The firefighter submits for the lieutenant’s exam and will receive a list of approved texts that will compose the forthcoming promotional exam. The list will most likely encompass all of his organizations’ personnel and operational manuals covering all of the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to achieve the next level of “leadership” to become an officer.
While it is necessary to evaluate one’s ability to recite proper handling of personnel issues and proper application of strategies and tactics, it is not the sole means of leadership development! I would liken this process to a person who reads a cookbook minutes before walking in to teach a cooking class. They can recite the proper ingredients and may even sound confident, but they do not know the trade as well as the seasoned chef. The level of mastery they will exhibit will be limited to their short-term memory of reciting what they just read. In the orientation process, we have provided the manuals that outline the skills and define the expectation that the individual will go execute them perfectly. This approach may work for some, but for most, it is a recipe for disaster given we have an expectation that this execution will occur in the toxic and chaotic environment known as our fireground.
A brand new fire officer will not arrive at his first house fire, stop in the front yard, retrieve his “house fire” manual from his pocket, review the correct tactics, and then communicate his orders (or at least we hope not!). The testing process and the development and implementation of manuals are all necessary tools to aid and evaluate our leaders. These documents are the infrastructure that builds the figurative out-of-bounds lines for our operations leaving the field of play yet they leave out one vitally important part of the leadership equation. WE LEAD PEOPLE! Not apparatus, hoselines, ladders, etc., etc. People must apply the strategies and tactics outlined and they are the most important assets we deploy on any fireground. They are irreplaceable and yearn to be led. So, how do we make this change in leadership development that can blend the needed foundation of knowledge with teaching how to lead people and exercise sound judgment? And what is that change called? In our next post, we will discuss the Socialization process for leadership development.
Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, firefighting-operations, Incident Command, Uncategorized | Posted on 01-08-2014| 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
Take a look at this Fire Engineering drill by our own Donald Wedding…
Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, RIT / Survival | Posted on 30-06-2014| Posted in
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this post, I wanted to get you thinking…What got YOU into this career of being a “Firefighter”? Was it a catchy add or employment opportunity you read one day, explaining how rewarding this career would be? Maybe a cool story you heard from your dad, or brother about a fire they went to? Now, either one of those may have led you ‘here’, but I think for most of us seeing dramatic news stories or photographs, along with watching a fire engine screaming down the street, lights flashing, ear piercing sirens blaring, and seeing fireman riding to an alarm to help people was probably more of the attention getters which ultimately led to your interest in this trade, whether it be career or volunteer.
The American Fire Service has always been a visual profession, and fortunately one that has been well documented throughout its history. From *Fire-Marks on the front of Colonial Houses in the 17 and 1800’s, to paint schemes on our apparatus, patches showing company and department pride, clean and well maintained apparatus and equipment, to the heroic images of firefighters saving lives and property from the earliest days of American Firefighting to the present. Needless to say, these images captured at those fires would breathe new life into future firefighters and also document moments in time, our history, that would otherwise had been forgotten. *(‘Fire-Marks’ were signs or plaque placed on the front of a building or residence which showed which fire company the occupant paid its fire levy tax to.)
So with those things said, imagine this profession from its formal inception in the early 1700’s to now, with no visual imagery or documentation from photos or paintings (as they did before photography around 1825). I remember vividly growing up with old paintings (re-creations of course) and photographs my dad owned hanging in our basement of fireman wearing stove-pipe hats and wool uniforms, to horse drawn steamer engines barreling down a city street. Moments in time documenting one of Americas oldest trades and professions; Firefighting.
When I joined my first volunteer fire department at 15 as a junior member, I spent a lot of time looking through old photo albums. The albums contained not only pictures of the department taking shape and helped me learn its history, but also of fires and other emergencies that they responded to throughout the years. There were also newspaper clippings and articles of calls documented by the local newspaper.
There was also a lot of time for watching all the ‘fire buff’ videos of Washington D.C., and the Fire Department of New York specifically. These video and the images captured are still engrained in my mind to this day, thanks mostly to my brother for buying them and always having them on. They would also play a major roll, even back then, towards my determination to work as a Washington, D.C. Fireman.
Several months ago I learned a neighboring fire department to mine implemented a strict policy that all personnel were prohibited from taking photos at the scene of fires and other emergency incidents. The department has even gone as far as frowning upon firefighters taking group pictures next to apparatus after fires and training, especially if the photos are shared or posted on social media sites. This seems to be happening more and more as departments try to gain control, or filter rather, what is appropriate and what is not.
Now, things have definitely changed since horse drawn steamer engines and wool uniforms. I joined the Fire Service in 1993 and it amazes me how much this profession has changed since then, especially in the past 10 years. Social Media, the internet, and the ability to share and process information happens so fast now it is almost hard to comprehend. Smart Phones and other electronic devices can instantly send a photo, documents, emails and other information to hundreds, even thousands of people instantly. So, one could see how detrimental this ‘sharing’ could be if the wrong information, or poor judgment was made posting a photo from the scene of an emergency or other public event.
However, to all but eliminate documenting our history and our profession as a whole is absurd to me, and does the Fire Service a huge dis-justice. I do understand posting photos of the public which may violate HIPPA and privacy laws obviously cannot be allowed. But keeping personnel from documenting defining events and moments in their career, and their departments history, seems crazy to me and goes against what most would consider a very traditional aspect of what we do as fireman; upholding the ‘brotherhood’ and being proud of what we do. Not to mention the elimination of capturing images of incidents that can be used towards our training, avoiding future mistakes, or having significant visual documentation should a formal investigation surrounding a close-call, death, or other event should occur.
What if no cameras where allowed back in the early 1900’s, through the 60’s and 70’s? Can you image the history, documentation and knowledge lost or not obtained? How are we suppose to come up with new training programs and learn from our mistakes, showing actual examples of the same, without visual documentation? I don’t know about you, but ‘Death by Power Point’ is bad enough…Can you imagine no photos? Im out, sorry.
The fire service as we know it today will be shaped much differently, at least from my perspective, if our history is not documented and shared. The department I am referring to is not the only organization taking these kinds of measures to limit or prohibit members from taking photos or videos at the scenes of emergencies. I’m fortunate to work in a pretty liberal Fire Department. If we grab photos at a fire (specifically) while following our written policy, members send them to our BC and Deputy Chief who will then proof the material and allow specific people to share the information and/or photos . We even have a ‘Facebook’ page and official city website sharing what we are doing in the community, job opportunities, informational and life safety videos, and yes, even showing the public some of the calls and emergencies we respond to. (Believe it or not, there are some people who still think the fire department is here for cats in trees.)
One thing I have heard since joining my first volunteer fire organization is that we as a Fire Service do a poor job of letting the citizens and governing officials (you know, the ones who approve our financial and budgetary needs) know what we do to keep them safe, and what we will continue to need when doing so. Visually expressing what we do, and having photos documenting incidents is a powerful tool justifying the “Why?”. We could tell someone stories and share experiences all day long, but, like the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
One of the most successful volunteer fire departments in the world, the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department, was one of the first departments I can remember having a professional website online, displaying their department pride, brotherhood, all while sharing images of fires and other significant events the department responded to through out its history. Now, this fire department responds to a lot of fires and ‘working’ incidents. By visually documenting the responses to these calls, as well as sharing training and leadership tips, they continue to excel and add new membership. Pretty easy concept, huh?
And, because of strong leadership and respect, the department does not post or display anything with a possible privacy concern, or things that could be taken as tasteless.
Now, I do realize most of the photos we see from almost 100 years ago were taken by the public and journalists, not by ‘on duty’ firefighters like we see today. I also acknowledge that social media did not exist and access to any photos of fires and incidents would have been limited to a select audience where a newspaper would be available. But, the fear of possible opinionated backlash or the typical “we don’t want to get sued” response cannot be the motivating factor behind implementing policy. I believe organizations residing on the side of “no photos at all, bottom line” should instead look into what can be gained not only through educating its members, but also marketing their organizations and showing the public they serve what they actually do. Including a filtering process through chain of command is essential and should be included as well. Members should always present themselves as Combat Ready Firefighters, and display professionalism at all times, even during those crew shots when the fire or incident is over.
It would be disheartening for us as a Fire Service to look back 5 years from now and say, “Wow…We have nothing to show our new firefighters, or the public we serve what we have done or accomplished, and have no visual documentation of our history as a department.” Through policy, good leadership, and strong expectations there can be a happy median reached, so we can continue to keep our profession, and its traditions alive and respected.
Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Commentary, fires, Testimonials | Posted on 01-06-2014| Posted in
As with every class we teach, we urge all our students to read and study Line of Duty Death Reports. Please click on the link below to go to the report from the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Commentary, in-the-line-of-duty, Incident Command, line-of-duty, rescues, RIT / Survival, Testimonials, Training Resources, training-development, Uncategorized | Posted on 21-05-2014| 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.