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.