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.
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Posted by administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership | Posted on 16-09-2015| Posted in
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….
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Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, Uncategorized | Posted on 13-08-2015| Posted in
- Who is the author?
- What department are they from?
- What is that department’s reputation?
- What kind of / how much work do they do?
- What is their position in the Department?
- How does that position relate to what they’re talking about?
- How much time on do they have?
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Posted by Blog, Combat Ready | Posted on 06-07-2015| Posted in
In general, a report of “victims trapped” should not cause any major changes in your initial operations. They may cause slight alterations – like where you take your line, which window you VES, etc. However your plans/SOGs should already be setup assuming there are persons trapped. When added information increases the likelihood of entrapment, we should be doing what we always do – just harder and faster!
Remember, all tasks work in support of each other on a fire. Abandoning one will reak havoc on the others. The results do not improve the victims chances, and put us at greater risk. I have seen many incidents quickly go south when everyone “loses their cool” after a report of entrapment. Things later water supply, ventilation, and fire attack are abandoned because we all think we’re just going to dash in and “save the baby”. When this happens we are often unsuccessful in our firefighting efforts, the victim usually perishes, and we frequently hurt firefighters due to our scatter-brained actions. By cutting corners we LOSE, and often then find out there wasn’t anyone trapped!
As was the case last night, reports of a victim do not mean there IS one. And no reported victims (or reports of “everyone’s out”) do not mean there ISN’T one. Deploy in response to conditions and always give any known OR unknown victim their best chance. Don’t guess on “survivability” from the front yard – you don’t know what you don’t know. Our job is to react to conditions, not guesses, and give them a chance. As I was once taught by a veteran truck officer, they are not out until our searches SAY they are out.
Posted by Nick Martin on Monday, June 29, 2015
Great job by Columbia Fire Department 2nd shift crews last night. They demonstrated the effectiveness of these thoughts and made a rapid knockdown alongside rapid searches.
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Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, Truck Company | Posted on 29-06-2015| Posted in
Last weekend I was invited to present “Combat Ready Firefighting”to the firefighters of Jefferson County, WV. After a great class, the more than hospitable members were eager to show me their firehouses and apparatus. The pride in their departments and history was obvious (good thing!).
Sheperdstown Engine 3 stood out to me, outfitted for down & dirty firefighting. In the suburban and rural environment. Some things I noticed:
- Low hosebed & crosslays, near shoulder height, for rapid deployment of hoselines. Should we really need a ladder to lay supply line or pull the attack line?
- Versatile hose bed with various sizes, nozzles, hoseloads, and options for water supply and fire attack.
- Three (3) hard suctions, which I’ve learned in the rural environment are very important!
- Ladders easily deployable off the side rather than hidden in some compartment or on some rack.
- FRONT INTAKE! How did these become so rare? With the soft sleeve pre-connected, by the way… Great for sleeving hydrants or nose-in drafting.
- Functional front bumper line – who says you can’t fight fire off of a bumper line? If it’s spec’d right…
Probably one of the most important attributes – PRIDE. These members were proud of this apparatus because they knew it was functional. There was 2 feet of snow on the ground and this rig glimmered in the apparatus bay (clean).
Was there a ton of compartment space? No not a ton… But rather than a jack of all trades and master of none (don’t we see a lot of those apparatus these days?), this rig was ready for engine company firefighting with enough room for the extra essentials.
Is your rig COMBAT READY? If so, how? If not – WHY NOT?
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Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company | Posted on 06-02-2014| Posted in
We all love going to fires. We’d all agree we learn something at every fire we go to. So how do we track what we’ve experienced and what we’ve learned? If we don’t track this, how can we know where to focus for improvement? As a company, most of us keep log books, Firehouse Software reports, NFIRS reports, or other official documents. These track the official details of how our organization deployed at an incident. But what about you personally? Where is what you’ve done and how you’ve evolved tracked?
About a year ago, I began informally tracking the incidents to which I responded. Using Evernote, a simple piece of free software that I can access on any computer or my phone, I began quickly keeping some personal notes after any significant incident I went to. As the training chief for my Department, my initial goal was to have a system to track incident actions and trends and to over time be able to identify any recurring gaps between our expectations and performance so that we could address them through training or guidelines.
It worked, but I also began to find that I also tracked what I had done personally. Since on the scene I function as any other battalion chief would, where was I falling short personally? If I was the IC did I manage the scene well? Communicate well? Did I miss something important in my size-up? Did I have a mis-step with my PPE? Was there an SOG I wasn’t fully up to date on? In addition to tracking performance at the Department level, I quickly found that I was identifying gaps in my own actions.
What to track? As much as you can I suppose… As soon as the incident is over, I brain dump my thoughts into a note in a bulleted list – you can always come back later and add to it, or clean it up. The nice thing about Evernote is that I can easily access it on my phone, so I can often start this brain dump while still on scene. I’ll add a picture of the scene or any important action areas so I can recall the situation later. If I was the IC, I’ll scan in a copy of my tactical worksheet. Later I can attach parts of the incident audio.
Seeing this information all in one place makes it easy to reflect on later. As you build up a list of incidents, you can look back on them and see what keeps popping up. Maybe your companies need to work on deploying more ground ladders. Maybe YOU need to work on how to speak on the radio more clearly when wearing an SCBA. One of the benefits of this system is that it’s private. We’ll all naturally be a little more candid when we know it’s private – we’ll particularly be more honest about our own shortcomings. And even that private acknowledgement that we have an issue will help drive us to fix it.
The benchmark for a good job is not “the fire went out and everyone went home” – that’ll happen even if we don’t show up. The details are what matter. By tracking those details we can see where we need to improve. Whether you are a backstep firefighter, company or chief officer, keeping track of your performance on incidents over time will help you identify where you can improve.
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Posted by Blog, Combat Ready | Posted on 18-11-2013| Posted in
We have been leading up to our dance with this “beauty of fire” in both Part 1 and Part 2 of “Check your Dance Card.” Feel free to go back and take notes as we journey closer and closer to this ‘beauty.’ We have discussed cues and clues to help us not get burned, things to note… both outside the fire building and on our way up to the fire floor.
Now is the moment we have been waiting for. It is time to dance… this “beauty” can wait no more, it’s time to find her. Excited? Yes, but we have prepared, practiced and anticipated this event for some time now. This isn’t the time to be posting about it on FB or squeezing 140 characters out on twitter… we can do that later.
We need to make our move out onto the dance floor and get into the fire apartment. As we move in with cautious rapidity… keen up your senses.
LOOK: What are we looking for? We are looking to find the seat of the fire and also locate trapped civilians. With obscured vision from smoke conditions in the apartment, we may have had an opportunity to get the layout of it from a quick glance on the floor below or may get information down the road from those who may go to the apt. above. Inside, look for layout clues, sometimes smoke movement causes a brief layer of clean air to develop low… you may just be able to make out the room/hallway and/or see that lovely ‘glow’ in the distance. Do not get tunnel vision or be put blinders on, keep your head on a swivel, up/down/left/right. Thermal imagers can assist us, but we must know what we are looking for … they are a tool to ASSIST us in the search. Electronics are fallible, our preparedness, training and search techniques should not be.
LISTEN: We never seem to listen close enough, often it’s the sense we often shut off when under stress. We must be diligent, occasionally even force ourselves to stop and listen. Use a 30-10 or similar technique (search 30 seconds, then pause, remain quiet for 10). Listen to whats going on around you. You may hear a human life, the crackling fire, hoseline movement, water flowing, windows breaking, etc. Listen to what is going on around you, they should be familiar sounds. Don’t forget the ‘2 ears, 1 mouth’ saying…
FEEL: On the dance floor, the fire apartment… we are covered head to toe in PPE. As such, this is the way we must train ourselves to ‘feel.’ We must adapt ourselves to recognize clues in this encapsulated environment. Residential recognition…with gloved hands take a second to feel the flooring you are on (tile, carpet, wood), feel and decipher the furnishings of each room you pass through. Using the inferred info gathered from what you feel, you may have a better idea of where you are operating. For example, tile floor, cabinets, countertop (kitchen). Another example, large radiator, couch, TV (possible exterior wall in living room).
“Check your Dance Card.”
Your dance with this particular ‘beauty of fire’ is now over. You have been a great student over these last 3 lessons, learning at each step… the steps building up to the next, closer and closer we came to the beauty. Today we got our dance, yet we were prepared, practiced and had anticipated the outcome.
You leave the dance floor sweaty, exhausted but still wanting more.
Time to tweet and FB post this ‘beauty’ so that others can see what we did and didn’t do, to make us that much better at the next dance. But please, be humble, be respectful and be aware that your dance only came from someone else’s tragic misfortune.
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Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, Truck Company, Uncategorized | Posted on 04-01-2013| Posted in
While it can safely be said that every response area in this country has unique challenges, the commercial storefront is one that is present in almost all areas. Forcible entry into these buildings is not necessarily difficult, but present some unique considerations and thinking points.
Just break the glass. That seems to be a lot of firefighter’s first thought on getting inside. This simplistic approach will certainly create an opening from the outside to the inside, but not necessarily the way we want. Consider the following:
- It may not be glass. In many areas it will be Plexiglas, lexan, plastic, or similar materials.
- It may be reinforced by either impregnated or aftermarket “chicken wire”, have metal strips spaced across, or have other security measures to prevent you from getting in even if the glass is broken.
- You still have to content with the crossbar or panic bar, which adds additional time and can be more difficult to remove than it looks. You will likely end up having to contend with the scenario of eager FF’s wanting to crawl in under the panic bar – an obvious FF safety concern.
- You will still have the lip of the door frame around the opening. This will likely still contain glass shards that can easily rupture a hoseline. It can also create a trip hazard that may delay rapid egress should conditions deteriorate. This occurred in a similar scenario recently resulting in critical burn injuries to several firefighters who were unable to quickly exit when a “dog pile” occurred at the exit.
For all the discussion points on the potential hazards and pitfalls of “just breaking the glass”, probably the most compelling reason not to break the glass is just that if you have practice and plans in the proper techniques it is simply faster and easier to just open the door. Take a look at the following videos:
It’s easy to see that whether you want to cut the lock or go through-the-lock, either are quite fast and eliminate all of the possible problems of breaking the glass. Consider these options next time you are presented with the glass commercial storefront. Discuss this issue with your crew members and practice on the techniques for defeating the “Adams Rite Lock” both manually and with a saw. Stay safe, and stay Combat Ready.
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Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, Tips & Skills, videos | Posted on 17-12-2012| Posted in
One of the things we always talk about regarding staying “combat ready” is using every opportunity as a learning/teaching moment. We have an opportunity on every routine run to look at the buildings in our response area and size-up their challenges. This allows us to think about solutions in advance. The more of these ideas (tools) you have in your brain (toolbox) makes it more likely you’ll have the “right sized wrench” to fit the problem when you encounter it in stressful conditions during a fire.
During a medical run on the engine is exactly when we noticed these doors in an apartment building. Neither the gate or the door is atypical for our area, but the combination of the two inside the building is unusual for us. These gates are typically found on either the front or rear doors of many of our residences, but to find them inside an apartment building with enclosed stairs is unusual. The gates themselves are not difficult to force, they are secured by a standard deadbolt with about a 1 throw. Under normal circumstances, setting the adze above or below the lock and first crushing up and down then pulling the fork end out toward the lock side generally opens these fairly quickly. However many firefighters still like to approach these with a saw, which obviously would not work well inside the building under fire conditions.
So what would you do? My approach would be the hinges. I’ve found the hinges on these types of doors to consistently be a weak point. There is usually enough space between the frame and gate to just place the adze enough without even striking the Halligan so that a gapping (up/down) force can be applied to the hinge. This typically breaks the welds and maybe with a little outward pull on the fork the hinge is done. Work from top to bottom, see the video below.
Rocket science? Absolutely not. When you see this in plain daylight and have a clear moment to think about the challenges and solutions, the door’s weaknesses are easily found. But this is the importance of taking the time after routine runs, during on-the-air inspections, or otherwise to have a teaching/learning moment. Talk these ideas out with yourself, your crew. The more time you spend preparing for the fire, the better you’ll perform at the fire.
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Posted by Blog, Combat Ready, Tips & Skills, Truck Company, videos | Posted on 12-12-2012| Posted in
It’s common that residential buildings will feature mostly inward opening doors, while commercial buildings will feature more outward opening doors. While the the technique for outward opening doors may be, I won’t say easier but more straightforward than an inward door, they may actually require a little more “force”. Outward doors on commercial buildings are likely to be set in brick or concrete, consist of strong metal doors and frames, and may have multiple or higher security locking devices.
The “power position” on an outward door comes when you set the adze fully BEHIND the door. It’s the same idea as wrapping your fingers around something fully, you’ll get the most pull. Getting the adze behind the door gives you a few advantages:
- 180-degrees of leverage, provided there are no obstacles.
- In addition to pulling outward, you can work up and down using the adze to crush the door and reduce the depth the lock is set in it’s keeper.
- You can perform several “tricks” to extend your leverage.
It is also important to set the adze FULLY behind the door – as deep as you can get it. This moves the fulcrum closer to the door and makes causes the firefighter to do less work to exert more leverage.
There are several methods to extend leverage on an outward door, but one is well illustrated at this box alarm in Prince George’s County, MD. In the rear of this commercial building, firefighters encounter a metal door in metal frame, set in brick with a couple locks. The irons firefighter from TL-33 (Kentland VFD) has already properly set his adze fully behind the door but more leverage is needed. A few things are worth noting here:
- The irons FF does not “spin wheels” – after a few tries he quickly realizes that plan “A” isn’t working and that we need to try something else.
- The irons FF does not panic or get frustrated, I’ve seen frustrated FF’s in this scenario pull the bar completely out of the door which of course is in no way helpful.
- Note the fluid teamwork with minimal communication between the members of company 33 an 37 (Ritchie VFD). Due to previous inter-departmental training, they know what to expect of each other. The left hand knows what the right needs before it even asks.
Just like many forcible entry skills, this option is not available to you if you haven’t purchased the right equipment, prepared it properly, and trained on it -not just as an individual, but as a crew. If your partner doesn’t know what to do your knowledge is useless. We shouldn’t have to have a lesson at the fire door – we should be able to resort to what we’ve always trained on.
In forcible entry remember – we can’t do anything else until we get inside. Keep your skills sharp, have multiple plans, and DON’T GIVE UP!
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