Getting the Job Done
By Ricky Riley
On more than one occasion, I have heard firefighters complain about SOP’s, specifically how they can’t be written for every situation and or you are putting us in a box. This could not be further from the truth. What we are doing, is establishing a game plan for specific incidents and the operational concerns that they pose. In recent years, dedication to getting the job done correctly and doing so while operating within the SOP has shown me the great ingenuity and decision making skill that our company officers possess. This is directly opposes the notion, that SOP’s in anyway, takes away the Officer’s ability to make decisions.
An example that I want to share was a recent house fire in Washington DC. The District has some of the most comprehensive SOP’s that I know of and on a daily basis, the unit officers ensure they are followed with great consistency. Regardless of the type or size of the structure, DC sends a standard compliment of suppression apparatus to the scene. Each unit, based on dispatch order, has an assigned geographic area that they are expected to cover, ensuring at least two independent water supplies are established and supplied as well as ladder coverage on all sides of the building. Assigned tactical expectations confirm, attack lines are properly positioned to contain the fire and control extension and primary and secondary searches are completed in a timely manner.
My goal here is to show officers that by having strong knowledge of your response area, and a willing and motivated company officer. Your decision-making capability is expanded by developing and utilizing SOP’s as long as you take the time to train on them, and understand that the basis of these procedures is to set the fireground, and your company up for success. In Washington DC the 2nd due engine on the box is assigned to cover the rear of the structure. This unit is responsible for positioning the rig in the rear, or as close as possible to the rear. Providing a rear report and advancing a line into the structure at the direction of the Incident Commander.
This house fire is a two-story dwelling with the first engine and truck operating on, and through the alpha side of the structure, a standard execution of the SOP and a very simple operation to accomplish. Now the rear companies had a little more of a challenge, completing their assignment. The company took the path of ensuring that they were in the correct position and delivering on their tasks as dictated by the SOP. Rather than come up with an excuse as to why they could not complete their task, which would have been the easy route. The officer and crew had an excellent knowledge of their response area and executed their assignment without fail. They positioned on the Charlie side of the house then threw a ladder to access the rear yard due to topography ,and advanced their line to their assigned tactical position. Their task involved a number of fireground skills to be completed before they reached their objective. The success of their assignment, without fail came from training, more training, repetition and commitment to Getting The Job Done! Now ask yourself if you and your company are ready to follow the procedures by using all your practiced skills without allowing laziness or complacency creep in….
Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, Uncategorized | Posted on 13-08-2015| Posted in
Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 02-07-2015| Posted in
Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, Truck Company | Posted on 25-03-2015| Posted in
“The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” Joseph Stalin
After recently reading Dan Ariely’s book, Predictably Irrational, and his use of this quote, I pondered if this quote from the feared Communist leader Joseph Stalin could help reduce our line of duty deaths and the answer is YES! While Stalin’s quote was most likely intended for more sinister purposes it does have merit when discussing LODD’s.
First, we are provided statistics in our trade on a daily basis but usually with no associated instructions on what do with the data. Specific to line of duty deaths, we know we average approximately 100 LODD’s, we know the percentages related to what activities, age, gender, etc. are when the catastrophic incident occurred, and we are provided some general recommendations that apply to that affected fire department. But how do we curb the trend of LODD’s based on the statistics provided within our department that may be similar or, more likely, vastly different. Without having this information the line of duty deaths simply become just statistics. This noticeable gap in the equation was the catalyst for 25 to Survive: Reducing Residential Injury and LODD. We took the opportunity to interpret the data and provide solutions to overcome the identified causes in the LODD reports that may be implemented in any fire department.
When we delve into Stalin’s quote and couple it with our process of reviewing LODD reports we can begin to understand that we lose focus on the loss of one firefighter, the tragedy in this case, and focus more on the statistics. For instance, most can recite the average number of LODD’s, but if the LODD did not occur in their department, I would venture to say they couldn’t recite the name of the person who was killed. This behavior is conditioned with the vast amount of mind-numbing statistics, figures, and graphs we receive but it can be altered. Mother Theresa offered a way we can begin to change that trend when she stated,
“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” Mother Theresa
The numbers are an important metric to demonstrate if we are changing the trend for better or worse but what is important is the person. If we learn the person, we establish a connection and we will learn the story. That story will open your eyes to factors leading up to the LODD and what can be done NOW to prevent it from occurring again. Simply glossing over the numbers will not provide that connection and leads to only honoring someone after they have died which is a disservice.
This process, placing a name and face to the tragedy, is referred to as the “identifiable victim effect” and is utilized everyday in our society to garner your donations or solicit your support. The most notable example is the Ryan White story. While AIDS was very prevalent in the 90’s and everyone had an increased level of awareness, it was something distant and happened in a far away land. That is, until Ryan White contracted AIDS and his was someone you knew. He was an all-American teenager who everyone could associate with; he looked like your son, nephew, the kid down the street, etc.
Ryan became the poster child for AIDS in American and his struggle, and eventual death, led to the Ryan White act. This happened because the AIDS epidemic became the story about a person who you could get to know and support, the epidemic got the attention needed and continues to this day.
How do we parlay this identifiable victim effect into our trade and begin changing the trend of LODD’s in the fire service? We must learn the person. Much like the supporters of Ryan White, we must be most diligent supporters of our fallen firefighters and use the identifiable victim effect to our benefit. The easiest way to start this trend is to review the statistics but also take the time and read the story of each LODD. When you select a report to review with your firefighters take the time to learn:
- What was their name?
- What did they look like (put a name to the face)?
- Where did they work, how many years of service, etc.?
- What actions were they doing when the LODD occurred?
- What were the contributing causes to their death that you could apply to your department and operations?
- What can I do (skill, tip, technique, policy, etc.) to prevent this from occurring in my department, which would honor the memory and sacrifice of the fallen firefighter?
We know firefighters die in the line of duty driving to and from incidents, suffering cardiovascular incidents, and performing their jobs on the fireground amongst many other activities. Your goal is to match the problem or obstacle you are trying to overcome with the story of a fallen firefighter.
For example, if you are teaching new apparatus operators and want to stress the incredible responsibility with this position, pick one of the 17 firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2012 responding/returning to an incident. If you are discussing the importance of coordinated ventilation, discuss the LODD of Louis Matthews and Anthony Phillips of the DCFD at the Cherry Road, N.E. fire in 1999. The list is unfortunately vast and plentiful to choose from and each one deserves our recognition.
All the motivation you will need to make yourself, your fellow firefighters, and the future of your fire service, exists in the LODD reports. Learn their stories, share it with your firehouse family, and motivate them to prevent the LODD’s. When we can place a name and face to a cause we naturally rally together to prevent it from happening again. Make them real for the people, learn details of their lives to make more of an impression on the candidates. Saying that a certain firefighter adored only the best keychain knives, might be random but it makes the victim real in the eyes of the people. Take the LODD’s from being just statistics of catastrophic incidents that happen in a far away land and make that tragedy your motivation to help one person at a time and make that one person that firefighter that may be charging down the smoky hallway with you later tonight.
Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, in-the-line-of-duty, line-of-duty, RIT / Survival, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Uncategorized | Posted on 05-02-2015| Posted in
A fire on January 19, 2015 for the Harrisburg, PA. Bureau of Fire demonstrated some excellent teaching points for Drivers or Chauffeurs of Tower Ladders. The fire in the 300 Blk. of N. Front Street involved the top floor of a four story mixed occupancy structure. The first due truck was Tower 1 from the Harrisburg Bureau of Fire, the Driver positioned the rig with a perfect spot.
The rig is positioned on the corner of the structure with the turntable right at the Alpha/Bravo Corner. This allows for the boom and basket to reach the entire Bravo side and the Alpha side for rescues and firefighting.
The cab of the rig is angled 15 to 20 degrees out and away from the structure, thus taking the obstruction of the cab out of play for maximum scrub surface for the boom. Depending on the booms length the basket might be able to reach or see the Delta side if required, though only for firefighting and not rescue.
If you notice there is no engine in the way of the positioning of the Tower. Once again a diciplined and trained engine driver did not sucumb to temptation and park in front of the building.
This kind of apparatus placement is a crucial element for fireground success. And the most important part it is not done by chance or luck. This ability and skill for proper placement comes from PREPARATION, PRACTICE and ANTICIPATION and a desire to deliver the best service for their Company, Department and Citizens. Great work by all the companies involved in this fire and the chance for all of us to learn.
Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company, vehicle-operations-apparatus | Posted on 20-01-2015| 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
When one of your guys crosses the line and knowingly does something wrong, the temptation is very high to try to soften the pain of discipline. That whole “looking out for your guys” instinct kicks in. As a blue shirt, I felt it was the officers duty to do whatever it took to look out for us. I’ve learned the hard way you are doing a disservice to your troops if you do that. When you do that, an unfortunate result of that type of action is this; the firefighter will feel emboldened that they were able to cross that line with no real repercussions from their wrong doing, and they will feel like they can get away with breaking the rules.
On two separate occasions in my time as a lieutenant, my lack of willingness to drop the hammer led others to do something even worse, and almost cost them their jobs. Don’t fall into this trap.
About two years ago, I promoted to captain. My welcome speech included the following… ” If you make a honest mistake, I’ll do everything in my power to have your back and minimize the consequences of it. We’ll learn from it, make sure it doesn’t happen again, and move on. However, if you make a conscious decision to do something you KNOW is wrong,and do it anyway, I will have no pity on you. If you can’t work for someone like me, feel free to put transfers in.”
Still the best job in the world,
Captain Dave Angelo
Baltimore County Fire Department
Dundalk Fire Station 06
Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, firefighting-operations, Testimonials, Tips & Skills, Uncategorized | Posted on 22-12-2013| Posted in
Small Town Volunteer Fire Department Operations
By: Tim Bautz, Erskine Lakes Volunteer Fire Department
I truly believe that having success on the fireground all starts with what we do, or don’t do, long before the station alert or paging system goes off. The focus of this first article will be on what you can do to be fully prepared for your next fire. Don’t worry, we’ll get into tactics in the second article next week.
Know your 1st due: You must know your 1st due response area. Streets, hydrants, building construction, running routes……..you name it, you need to know it if it’s in your 1st due.
Attitude and Mindset: Just because your small Volunteer Fire Department only responds to a couple hundred calls per year should not stop you from being mentally prepared all the time. I’ve heard some ridiculous excuses over the years as to why being prepared in ‘Small Town USA’ isn’t really necessary. I’ll share my favorite one with you, “ We hardly ever have fires, we only go to fire alarms”. In my opinion that means NOTHING. That fire that you haven’t had in 10 months could come tomorrow, or even tonight. Expect to go to a fire tonight !
Riding Assignments: That’s right, you read it correctly, riding assignments. Riding assignments will help your members be more prepared and efficient on the fireground. If you’re responding to a house fire, and you don’t have riding assignments, how do your members know what is expected of them and how do they know who will be doing what? I assume that the officer assigns tasks to each member while responding? So let’s take that once a year house fire with no riding assignments. You’re on the 1st due engine……you’re about 2 minutes away from arriving on scene and the officer turns around and says, “ Bob, you’re taking the nozzle and Joe, you’re gonna back him up”. Does that work?……Sure it does. But why was it even necessary? Do we not already know that we will need a nozzleman and a back-up man? Of course we do! What fire do we go to where we don’t need a nozzleman and back-up man? Why couldn’t you assign a “nozzle seat” and “back up seat” long before the call ever comes in? This way, the minute the guys are getting in the back of the engine they already know what their assigned task is. The sooner they know what their task is, the more prepared they will be and the better they will perform that task. That also makes one less thing that the officer needs to think about, so he can better focus on his job and what he’s responsible for.
My ‘Small Town USA’ fire department instituted riding assignments on both of our engines and our rescue in 2009. When we first discussed having riding assignments, it was met with some resistance. The idea only had about a 50% approval rate, with half the department feeling like it wasn’t necessary and wouldn’t work. What we decided to do was put it into effect for a 4 month trial period. We chose a 4-month trial period
?because we felt like any less time wouldn’t be enough because our call volume is so low. Four months would mean about 80 – 100 calls and would give us a good sample period to evaluate. To make a long story short, after the 4 month trial period the approval rate from our members increased to about 80%. Our members saw how it made us more prepared while responding and more efficient on the fireground. At that point the riding assignments were put into effect permanently and we haven’t looked back. Today, about 5 years later, I would guess and say that 95% of our members like the riding assignments……….an approval rating I can absolutely live with.
In my next article, I’ll share in detail our riding assignments, what tools go with each riding position and how that allows us to operate efficiently as both an “engine” and “truck”.
Riding assignments can absolutely work for any size fire department. You must invest the time and carefully plan out what will work for your department based on your typical staffing, resources and 1st due response area.
Setting up the Rig: Tools that are most often used must be stored and mounted so that your members have quick and easy access to them. After you determine your riding assignments, mount the tools so that they are closet to the firefighter who will be grabbing them. For example, if your ‘forcible entry’ position is the rear facing seat behind the driver, don’t have the irons in a compartment on the officer’s side. Have them located where he has immediate access to them. When setting up your rig, remember that the first priority is to respond to emergency calls, not go to parades and bring home trophies for the ‘best appearing engine’. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with trucks going to parades or showing off your beautiful new engine. You should take pride in your apparatus and going to parades and such is a great time to build camaraderie with the brothers in your department. But it should not take priority over setting up the rigs for success on the fireground. Believe me, there is a common ground. You can mount hooks and a water can on the exterior of the rig AND still have the rig looking sharp.
Also in my next article, I’ll share some ideas on where you can mount some of the tools that you will most often use and have them be easily accessible for your personnel.
Training : I can’t say enough about the importance of constant and realistic training. You can’t just talk about stretching attack lines…..you gotta get out there and do it. You can’t just talk about RIT scenarios…….you gotta get out there and practice it. Build some training props. Props will help keep up the skill level of your members. There are many props out there that you can build and keep at the firehouse. Roof props, VES props and cutting trees are rather simple to build. I’m sure just about every firehouse in the nation has a carpenter on the roster and don’t be afraid to go to the local lumber yard or Home Depot and see if they’ll donate some building materials to your department. How
often does your department go to the County Fire Academy and run drills in the burn building or smoke house. Constant and REALISTIC training is what will allow your members to operate efficiently on the fireground. It’s also what will ensure that they’ll return home to their families after each fire.
Knowing your 1st due, attitude / mindset, riding assignments, properly set up rigs and good training are 5 key components in being properly prepared for your next fire.
In the next article, we’ll dive into how to set those riding assignments up for various staffing levels, tools for each riding position and where to store / mount the tools so that you can accomplish multiple engine co. and truck co. tasks with as few as 4 or 5 men on that ‘small volunteer engine’ of yours.
Posted by administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, Testimonials, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Uncategorized | Posted on 01-12-2013| Posted in
In surfing the Internet in the morning, I saw an incident in Sharon Hill, PA. that included a well advanced structure fire, and a trapped/entangled firefighter in the basement during the evacuation of the structure by the Incident Commander.
They documented the incident on PhillyFireNews.com and I asked them to share their story with Traditions Training so we could get the word out to all our followers. So please read the narrative of the incident and the account of the firefighter in the basement. The following is their first hand account,
we greatly appreciate the department sharing the information for all of us to learn…
Around 1230 this afternoon tones dropped for Companies 09 (Sharon Hill), 05 (Glenolden), 01 (Folcroft) and RIT 19 (Lansdowne) for the working fire with possible entrapment in the 100 Block of Laurel Rd, Sharon Hill. Tele Squrt 01 under command of First Assistant Chief Carney responded with 4 followed shortly after Tower 5 and 09-2. Crews stretched multiple lines to all floors due to heavy fire conditions. Command called for manpower out of 04 (Darby Fire Company) and 42 (Collingdale Fire Company #2). On the arrival of Pipeline 04, crews from 01 entered in the rear to the basement with crews from 04. During this one F/F from Folcroft became tangled in wires that hung low from the ceiling. This firefighter is sharing his story and it is quoted below. Once the entangled fireman was free, crews regrouped outside, checked par and entered the basement again. Crews still had fire on all 3 floors and fire in the roofline. Crews worked hard and fast to get this fire under control within 2 hours.
Here is the incident from the eyes of the entangled firefighter;
“I am the firefighter that was tangled in the basement of the Sharon Hill fire. I was with the interior crew of 01 and 04. We had a good knock on the fire in the basement, smoke was not an issue, neither was heat, we received the order to evacuate the structure per command, Sharon Hill Assistant Chief T Macann 04’s Chief Caruso and M. Carr, assisted in cutting wires and helped me free myself. What happened was that on our Thermal Imagining Camera (TIC) there is a D ring that clips to our gear. Wires made their way around the D ring but the D ring is so small a gloved hand is unable to open it. The D ring has already been replaced since today’s fire with a new small but easily opened D ring with a fire glove. M. Carr and I used my knife from my pocket to cut the wires. I will also be getting a set of wire cutters for this very instance. I just wanted to pass along this information as a learning tool for all. Always watch for obstructions and have something that will cut with you.”
Assistant Chief Frey
Posted by administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, Commentary, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, fires, news, RIT / Survival, Testimonials, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Uncategorized | Posted on 25-11-2013| Posted in
By: Larry Schultz, DCFD (ret.)
As a recap from last months blog, I continued to encourage readers to be more critical in thought, when identifying the real issues associated with low performing fire grounds, firefighter injuries and line-of-duty deaths. I alluded to the fact, that it has become much easier for leaders to take the easy way out and blindly use scientific research to make far-reaching assumptions in how to improve their performance, finally finding a hope of getting their people under control. By failing to take an honest assessment of their organizational problems and mustering up the courage needed to address the “real problems”, these efforts will fail at every level, never succeeding at truly changing culture.
The first suggestion, was to have the audacity to be brutally honest, regardless how difficult that might be, in assessing the current state of your department, by identifying and addressing the true root causes of poor performance on the fire ground and refusing to obfuscate the tough issues. It was then recommended that we develop competency-based benchmarks for operational performance, training our members to achieve excellence in performance of our core basic skills and doing so in a timely manner. To be clear, this is a long and taxing journey, requiring strong leadership and requires relentless follow-through and follow-up (I call this the Riley Factor not to be confused with the O’Reilly Factor)
Today, we will take a look at developing a set of core basic skill benchmarks, that every engine company crew must be able to master in an errorless and timely manner in order to be part of a high performance fire ground. Remember this critical fact, real fire ground safety comes, when and only when, we achieve high performance on the fire ground.
The performance of the first arriving engine will set the tone for the operations on the fire ground. The primary role of the Engine Company is to extinguish the fire. When this occurs as quickly and effectively as possible, our risks begin to decrease. In order to perform the engine company responsibilities with excellence, every person must know what is expected of them and must be able to perform them with minimal error and in a timely manner. As Firefighter Andy Fredericks (FDNY) would say “ good engine companies are aggressive but also disciplined. They take an extra 30 seconds to properly position the rig and estimate the stretch. They chock doors. They chase kinks. They see the big picture. Disciplined engine companies are deliberate patient and professional.” At the end of the day folks, there is no escaping the fact that it all boils down to competency and timeliness.
As I said, if you have the will, desire and courage to really improve your firegrounds, you must know up front that it doesn’t come easy. You must move past the excuses of money and time, as neither of those issues is insurmountable. In the D.C.F.D., one of the largest departments in the country, we managed to have a robust “back to basics” program, doing so with very little extra funding. The key then, as it is today, is to select the right people, provide them with a set of core competencies to be measured and turn them loose to do their job. As for cost, take a minute to look at the Facebook Page of the Manassas (VA) Volunteer Fire Company web site. Once there, you can scroll down to see pictures of the variety of training prop’s that they built as a department. These props focus on achieving excellence of core basic skills. Visiting this site will give you an idea, of what can be accomplished with few resources, hard work, some great people and a real desire to be high performers.
Below is a basic list of core competency benchmarks for the Engine Company. It assumes a minimum crew of four, which based on your department, may be excessive or understaffed. Remember, these are basic competencies, which we do not have the luxury of changing based on staffing. The time it takes to complete them may very well change, but the need to achieve the benchmark will not.
Add any critical benchmarks, specific to your building stock and community risk that may not be included in the list of position specific benchmarks
Based on your staffing levels, using a group of high performers, create an acceptable performance based time standard on achieving each individual competency. Remember, todays fire behavior is so time sensitive, that we have very little discretionary (time to screw up) time in order to recover from mistakes, before conditions rapidly deteriorate. Have your crews establish a “baseline” set of times to achieve each task PROPERLY. Know this, it doesn’t matter how fast you can complete each task; it’s how well you achieve them. The goal is to constantly work towards achieving greatness.
Focus a minimum of one day a week, every week for a period of 90 days and simply focus on these skills. The goal is not to achieve greatness in 90 days; the goal is to begin to build muscle memory. I know there are several competing training topics that must also be completed. After the 90 day’s are up, begin to sow in some other training as needed, but continue to evaluate your ability to maintain excellence in meeting or exceeding these benchmarks.
• Knows most direct running route to incident with at least one alternative
• Secures a continuous water supply source (if available) through the use of straight lay, split lay, reverse lay, securing their own hydrant (Engine attached to the hydrant by no more then 50 ft. of supply line) or by Tanker.
• Position Engine (different then parking) pulling past or stopping short of the address, leaving room for the Truck (hose bends, ladders don’t)
• Assist with stretching the initial hoseline, chasing kinks from the Engine to the threshold of the structure
• Once continuous water supply is established and all hoselines are charged and stretched free of kinks, look for opportunities to provide support such as: laddering a window, bringing a “rack” to the front door in the event the stretch is short or a burst section of hose, place a couple of hooks at the front door for quick access etc. Do not let these duties distract you from making sure all water supply systems are functioning properly.
• Provides water supply location via radio
• Identifies all critical factors on arrival
o Building factors – size, height, construction type, occupancy, interior arrangement, access and exposure
o Fire behavior factors – size of fire, extent of fire, location of fire, direction of travel and time of involvement
o Life hazard factors – location of occupants, survivability, fire control required for searches
o Resource critical factors – Water supply, staffing, responding resources, response times and tactical reserve available
• Provides complete on-scene report (succinct compilation of critical factors)
o Water supply location
o Height of building
o Type occupancy
o Type construction
o Conditions evident
o Strategy (investigating, offensive, defensive)
o Establishing/Passing command (optional)
• Implements appropriate tactics based on risk assessment
• Establish collapse/isolation zone
• Selects appropriate water delivery system (handlines vs master streams)
• Conducts 360 (if there is no SOG in place for other companies to do this)
• Provides a Situation Update (result of 360) report – fire conditions evident from other sides of the building, height of rear side of building, presence or absence of basement and presence or absence of basement access.
• Select appropriate line
• Assist with the stretch by either chasing kinks or assisting with shoulder loads of long-lines (unless you have an abundance of resources, the officer should not be advancing ahead of the stretch)
• Validates that all members, as well as themselves, have full PPE (including hoods, earflaps and chinstraps) on and all portable radios are on correct channel
• Provides Command with CAN (conditions actions needs) Report upon making entry in to structure, upon reaching fire area and at regular intervals
• Maintains full accountability (sight, touch voice) of his/her crew
• Complete PPE (including hood, earflaps and chinstrap)
• Radio on appropriate tactical channel
• Monitors all radio reports while enroute to scene
• While dismounting the apparatus views as many sides of the building as possible
• Correctly pulls and advances attack line (chocking while making the push)
• Maintains enough of the shoulder load to reach the seat of the fire
• Extends line using “racks” when appropriate and without delay in zero visibility environment.
• Selects appropriate nozzle pattern and uses stream effectively.
• Uses hydraulic ventilation to support Truck Company
• Complete PPE (including hood, earflaps and chinstrap)
• Radio on correct tactical channel
• Monitors all radio reports while enroute to scene
• While dismounting apparatus views as many sides of the building as possible
• Responsible for chasing all kinks from structure threshold to the fire area
• Chocks any unchocked doors
• Always maintains a position of one obstacle (turns, stairs, doors) back from nozzleman
• Always maintains at least 10 ft. of excess hose
Last word, regardless of how determined you are, to force operational changes down the throat of your organization in the name of safety, or how progressive you desire to be; there is no way of arriving at real fireground safety without also taking the time to address the issue of skills competency in your members.
Be Safe and Be Competent