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Check your Dance Card… Part 2 “getting closer”

Dance with me?


In part one of “Check your Dance Card” we discussed a few items to take a look at before we enter the fire building and start our dance with the “beauty of fire.”  In part 2, we will discuss a few more specifics that we should note as we enter the structure.  Make no mistake, a constant review of this Dance Card is a must for all members… take mental notes of what you see.  You’re going to want to come home from your latest “dance” and tell all your friends all about this “beauty.”

“Ok, let’s move” the boss said, after what seemed like an eternity to you.  The reality, it was only mere seconds.  We all know that reality is often suspended when you are out on the dimly lit dance floor.  You, you’re an eager beaver, and chomping at the bit to get on with this next .  Your Officer is more cautious; he’s been burned by this “beauty” before.  He remembers the sting of her touch, especially if you are caught moving too quickly on the dance floor.  He is trying to show you the patience required, but you are still rather wet behind the ears and excitable…

This “beauty of fire” doesn’t make it easy; she beckons you closer with her dancing flames and warm lustrous glow.  Again, the Officer reels you back in…one more review before we hit the dance floor.

As you enter the fire building…


Generally we have 2 types of tread design (on the staircase steps) and 2 types of staircases. They are either “Open” (having no sides, walls or doors at the top or bottom) or “Enclosed” (having sides, walls and doors at the top and bottom).  Open tread and open staircases allow the passage of smoke, heat and fire to the floors above and are not friendly to our operation.  Enclosed steps and enclosed staircases reduce the chances of fire spread in the building (if the doors are to remain in the closed position).  It may be wise to announce the style and type of stairs to other units as they arrive, so that they know what to expect.  This is of particular importance when in larger multiple dwellings or garden apartments and there are isolated, wing, or multiple staircases that serve specific lines of apartments (i.e. do not transverse the entire building).  “Ladder X to Command; we have enclosed wing stairs, we will be using the A wing stairs to reach the fire apartment.”



The presence of a “Well Hole” the space created between the landing section of the stairs and the run of the steps themselves can be utilized for quick hoseline advancement.  It must be rehearsed prior with the Engine Co. to achieve maximum effect.  It reduces the amount of hose needed to be humped up the treads of the steps and around each newel post (i.e. 1-50’ length can travel vertically 5 floors in the well versus 1 length per floor if going up and around each set of steps, newel posts and associated landings).  “Engine 22 to members, there is a well” should be enough to let the members know.



A quick stop on the floor below can get you a lay of the land.  If you bypassed the lobby and forgot to count mailboxes, count the number and note location of the apartments that you see.  Remember that depending of the way the stairs run (scissor, return etc), they may be slight variations in the layout when you get on the fire floor.



What may have appeared to be a fire on the 3rd floor from the street may turn out to on the second floor depending on the buildings configuration as it relates to the street level. Some buildings have lobby entrances that are raised above street level, which may change your initial fire floor notifications.  Verify the fire floor and announce the apartment number or letter over the air, so that those who may be going above can pinpoint the direction they need to head.

Open Tread and Open Stairs

Well Hole

Enclosed Stairs

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Company News, Engine Company, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company, Uncategorized | Posted on 22-02-2012

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Firemen… and “Never Forget”

Firemen… and “Never Forget”

Lt. Douglas J Mitchell, Jr. FDNY.

September the 11th is later this week and I have found myself writing. I have been writing snippet’s down as they pop in and out of my head, emotions from the events from that day, and its aftermath hereafter.

I just can’t watch TV these last two weeks. I can’t take it, it’s just too much. Caught myself getting upset watching a special such as, (I will make something up here…but you know what I am saying) “FIRST RESPONDER HERO’S” brought to you specially by “All Temperature Cheer.”

I can’t read the papers either, thier writers and publishers, who up until this week, were bashing “Firefighter Pension’s” as cause for the downfall of our economy… and so on…. and so on…

I thought to write a little side story, reflecting back on where I was in my career as a fireman when the events unfolded, but it makes no difference. I am just one of thousands of firemen who spent time at the trade center complex, went home from time to time between funerals, memorials and benefits, and came back to thier careers at the FDNY, getting back “on the job”.

Sometimes I wish I wrote down what I did each day, the 2 years of so after September 11th 2001. Most times, I am glad that I didn’t. For my nation, my city, my fire department, my fire company & my friends, words cannot describe the pain.

I’ll try to let the words tell my thoughts. I have posted a few of them this week in different places, but not all together…

“Never Forget” is a well worn adage attached to the brave members of the FDNY who were killed in the line of duty on September 11th 2001. I know that I will “Never Forget,” I can’t. There are times when I selfishly wish I that I could. “Never Forget,” not one day… I just can’t. “Never Forget” is more than just 2 simple words, they means everything and yet nothing at all… depending who you are.

To some, the “Never Forget” moniker is profitable, exploitable, in merchandise, ratings and to bolster arbitrary political posturing in “I’m right and your wrong.” To me, it’s at times silent internal reflection and at others gut wrenching jolts of emotion. You know, that empty in the pit of your stomach, want to vomit… yet can’t, feeling?

Like all firemen, I know my family at home cares for me greatly. We need the support of family, it’s a tough thing… family home alone: nights, weekends, birth’s, death’s, holidays… times when only a human touch can solve a problem and your just not there, you can’t be there your at work. But, we know fire takes no days off.

As firemen, we try to insulate our families somewhat from what we see and do, day in and day out. They don’t, and can’t really comprehend what it is that we do and why it is that we do it. They can’t, because, they aren’t firemen.

As firemen we must look out for each out for each other on this job.  Only we who are firemen, truly know what the job entails.

We must rely heavily on our brothers and sisters on the job for support. That is why we show up and come out for each other in times of need. I saw it in droves after the events in lower Manhattan 10 years ago. Why did you come to NYC to help out? Why, because you are a fireman and that what we do. You saw brothers who needed support and you showed up, it was the right thing to do. I thanked every out of town guy I saw at a funeral or benefit for the support back then, and I thank you again today.

“Never Forget” the great traditions of this job, both in our successes and in our sacrifices.

“Never Forget” how we got to where we are today; in your career, in your fire company, in your fire department.

“Never Forget” the wisdom imparted by those who came before you, for they have laid the path in their sacrifices.

“Never Forget” the love of those around the table with you today, for life is fragile, and they are the present. They will carry that honor forward.

Firemen will “Never Forget” what “Never Forget” means to them, because… well, they are Firemen.

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Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Commentary, Company News, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, In the News, in-the-line-of-duty, line-of-duty, rescues, Testimonials, Uncategorized | Posted on 09-09-2011

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The word “aggressive” is getting a great deal of attention lately.  I feel as thought the word has been given the wrong connotation in the fire service. Being an “aggressive” firefighter or an “aggressive” fire company HAS NOTHING TO DO with rushing in carelessly, cowboy antics and operating with reckless abandon. An “aggressive” firefighter or fire company’s foundation is formed thru personal and company level training and a marked state of combat readiness!

Check out Merriam-Websters dictionary, 1b. insert “fire” in the sentence, an “aggressive fire fighter”.



adj \?-?gre-siv\
a : tending toward or exhibiting aggression (aggressive behavior)
b : marked by combative readiness (aggressive fighter)

Take a active role in your fire service, be a sponge….soak it all in, learn and train to be better everyday!

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Posted by | Posted in Combat Ready, Commentary, Engine Company, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, RIT / Survival, Testimonials, Tips & Skills, training-development, Truck Company, Uncategorized | Posted on 12-07-2011

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Statistics…and RIT

My colleagues and I at Traditions Training, LLC are very happy to be a part of this “blogger network” with Fire Engineering. I am hoping that this new blog will come out ok, as I am still adjusting to the format on the new FE site.

Ok, here we go… Elder Statesman Henry Clay once said “statistics are no substitute for judgement” and I wholeheartedly agree. In fact I really hate statistics (math was my worst subject in school).

Regardless of where you work or volunteer, it seems that no department has been able to shake the cutbacks and lack of support that we are facing today. Numbers, numbers, numbers…we have seen the numbers come to bite us, many times its “stats” thrown in our faces. City & Town Managers say “Do more with less, and when you are done with that…next year do more with even less.” Stats have been used to close fire companies, reduce staffing etc, etc, etc.

The bottom line with statistics, as Henry Clay said, is that good judgement should always outweigh what the numbers might lead you to believe. There is no more relevant field for this than in the public safety profession… seconds can be the difference life or death. Let’s not beat around the bush, we know that “numbers” , be it measured in seconds of time or reductions in staffing can in-fact, take civilian and firefighters lives.

For a change, let’s use the numbers in this outline to help ourselves! I saw the statistics in the photo (above) come across my desk a few months ago. They encompass nearly 20 years worth of compiled data from the FDNY Safety Command. It provides data to key mayday stats from actual incidents. If you look closely, the numbers tell a story. For once, let’s use some stats to help us prepare to be able to save our own.

These numbers are statistical averages, an inventory of the greatest frequency of events encountered from Mayday incidents. Now, I know that we need to prepare for all types of RIT/FAST scenarios (even for those not listed or those that may happen infrequently, such as FF removal from below grade & above grade etc.). When I look at this document, I see a template to be sure that we have “nailed down the essentials” and have those RIT/FAST skills mastered, based on the frequency of them occurring at a Mayday event.

The “take home” points that I see in the document:

~ Most Maydays called near the 20 minute marker:

~Think of what happens at the 20 minute mark? Usually it’s one of two things right? Either the searches are done and fire is largely extinguished and we are mopping up **or** we are fighting an advancing fire, possibly changing operational modes and adding additional alarms. Incident Commanders should have 10-minute timers (either keyed to them from dispatch or kept on a clock @ the command post) this should keep them aware of the passing of time. Inside crews must be certain to check their air supply and NOT rely on the low air alarm to keep them out of trouble (remember it may take you more time to get out than it took you to get in!)


~1st Alarm Units removed most downed FF’s:

~While we absolutely need a well trained and effective RIT/FAST Team at the ready – While operating, be aware of the other companies at the fire with you and those working around you (i.e. on the floor above and below!). While it is imperative that you keep doing your job (i.e. operating the hoseline) if a mayday is called, you just may be the closest unit to the downed member! Always, Always Be Aware!

~Downed FF Positioning/Removal:

 ~Downed FF’s will be most likely found “out of air” (practice with your RIT/FAST pack connecting the UAC *with gloved hands!) and laying prone on the ground. There is also 50/50 shot of them having their SCBA facepieces off (practice putting a facepiece from your RIT/FAST pack on a downed FF in the dark with your gloves on!). FF’s will be most likely need to be dragged horizontally and have you can almost guarantee that thier gear will be torn in the process (practice converting the SCBA straps into to a harness, and if you have a personal harness on your pants… take the hook out and pass it thru the SCBA shoulder straps to “marry” the top half of the FF to the bottom half..it will help keep all the parts together and will help in moving the downed member) ** Stay tuned for a future blog post showing that evolution.


Use the stats in the document to your advantage. Let the numbers work for us for a change. Let us be prepared in all situations, but armed with these “numbers,” we can now form the remedies for the situations that we may face most frequently. Keep yourself and your troops “Combat Ready”.

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, fires, RIT / Survival, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, Truck Company | Posted on 08-04-2011

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The Basic Goals of RIT & Class in Bedford, VA

This weekend TT instructors Nick Martin (DCFD/KVFD), Scott Kraut (FFxFD), Chris Birch (DCFD), and Roger Steger (BCFD/KVFD) traveled south to Bedford County, Virginia.  We were being brought in to do some RIT training with the 3 departments in the county that had primary responsibilities for RIT – Bedford FD, Forest FD, and Stewartsville FD.

Class focused on two simple sets of rules.

The primary goal of the RIT should be to:

  1. Locate the downed firefighter.
  2. Keep the downed firefighter on continuous air.
  3. Keep the fire off the downed firefighter.

Most operational LODD’s result from asphyxia first and burns second.  The goal of the initial team is to create a protective envelope around the downed firefighter.  If you keep the firefighter on air and the fire away, you can work on solving any additional challenges such as collapse, etc…

Our second rule was:

Most successful rescues of firefighters are a combination of:

  1. Excellent basic firefighting skills.
  2. Basic tools and equipment.
  3. Ingenious, out of the box thinking.
  4. Communication, problem-solving, and teamwork.


There is not a one-size fits-all tool you can buy and throw on the rig to solve your RIT problems.  Scenarios are often unique and often highlight a situation we hadn’t thought of until after it occurred.  To be prepared we must first be excellent at fighting fire and PREVENTING the RIT deployment and second we must be problem-solvers with many “tools in our toolboxes” from which we can pull and generate a solution.

Class on Saturday started with a 4-hour seminar on RIT essentials and team formation.  In the afternoon we worked on practical skills focusing on:

  • locating the firefighter and use of search-rope kits
  • troubleshooting and resolving SCBA emergencies
  • packaging and moving the downed firefighter

Sunday was entirely hands-on scenarios.  We demonstrated the reality that a 4 firefighter RIT is NOT likely to last long enough to complete an entire rescue. Students overcame scenarios involving missing firefighters, a catastrophic floor collapse, burned through stairs with members trapped above, and firefighters through a hole into the basement, among others.  The staff of TT was constantly impressed at the skill, ability, and attitudes of the members from Bedford County.  All scenarios were successful and much was learned by both students and instructors.

What was the last RIT training you did?  Was it realistic?  Was it based on the rules above?  Remember – no one is coming in for us, but US.  Stay COMBAT READY.

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Company News, RIT / Survival, videos | Posted on 07-04-2011

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"Standby to Copy…" – Making the Window a Door

Turning the “window into a door” is an important operational and safety concept that we preach every chance we get.  A few more seconds at the window can drastically increase ventilation and provide an egress point that will allow a firefighter to get himself out of trouble. In this edition of “Standby to Copy”, Chief Kelleher discusses the need to make the window into a door.

"how am I supposed to get out?"

“Standby to Copy” is an informal newsletter produced by TT instructor Chief Tony Kelleher of the Kentland VFD, providing operational tips to companies that operate in the Prince George’s County Fire Department.  While some of these tips reference things that are specific to the operations of PGFD companies, they share some great thoughts that are easily applied to any department.  They’re a great quick read and good for a conversation starter around the kitchen table.  As such, we’ll be cross-publishing these newsletters here for your enjoyment…

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Commentary, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, RIT / Survival, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 19-12-2010

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Watch Your Step on the Roof!

Nighttime operations on the rooftop have many inherent dangers.   With smoke perhaps even further reducing our visibility, we must use eve more caution.  This photo is of the top floor roof area between two rowhomes in DC.

Note the gap between the two houses.  Remember that while the fronts are often even, the backs are often staggered.  WATCH YOUR STEP.  Carry a big light, and have it on.  Check the area you’re about to step on with your hook BEFORE you commit your weight to it.

Remember – you can’t un-fall.

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Commentary, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 17-12-2010

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It's in the Basement!……but where is the Basement?

Uh, what the *%#$? Are you flexible enough to get to the stairs, good luck making the push down them to fight fire.

“It’s in the basement” can be a frantic transmission heard on the fireground.  Often, it’s one that heightens our awareness and can trigger the myriad of tactical decisions that are imperative for basement fire success.  Basement fires can be some of the most dangerous and challenging fires we face.  In the residential structure they can be especially dangerous, all you have to do is review many recent “close calls” and several line of duty deaths.

The run-of-the-mill basement fire possesses enough challenges for the Combat Ready Company, day in and day out.  Some of  these challenges include:  the presence of lightweight components (eager to fail and drop you into the basement), the task of finding and maintaining control of the basement door, and the absolutely essential coordination of multiple hoselines to extinguish the fire.

Imagine if you added to the litany of issues in the challenge of finding a basement / cellar door.  How long do you think that we would be searching for the steps that are located behind the storage doors of an entertainment center!

We recently discovered this “cosmetic covering” of a basement stair entrance during a walk-through of a local assisted living residential facility.  This would certainly only add to the complexity of a basement fire in this structure.

As pictured below, the basement entrance appears to be part of the entertainment center.  It only becomes obvious when you open the door.  There are no indicator signs to what is behind the door.  Imagine a firefighter attempting to enter and descend these stairs.  Compounding this downward obstruction is the cheap construction of the open wooden steps that lead down, certain to fail quickly in fire conditions.

To be Combat Ready we must:

  • Identify these areas in our response areas.
  • Share the information with our fellow firefighters who may respond with us.
  • Prepare for how we will overcome this obstacle and do your job – get to the seat of  the fire!

Thanks to the firefighters at Fairfax Firehouse 10 for spotting this during a routine medical local call.

A view down the rickety steps

Looks like an ordinary run of the mill entertainment center....

This is actually the entrance to basement.

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, fires, RIT / Survival, Tips & Skills | Posted on 19-08-2010

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Another Great Weekend in Maine! RIT, Officer Skills, & Box Alarm Drills…

Nick reviews putting a facemask on a downed FF...

Nick reviews putting a facemask on a downed FF...

For the 3rd year in a row, TT instructors Nick Martin, Doug Mitchell, Danny Doyle, and Mike Stothers headed flew into Portland and made the drive northwest to Farmington.  Our previous classes included “Firefighter Survival” and “First-In Engine/Truck Operations”.  On the calendar for this year’s program was a mixed bag…

On Friday evening we held a 3 hour course on company-officer essentials including “command presence”, size-up, on-scene / situation reports, and tactical decision-making.  Saturday was all about Rapid Intervention; we focused on techniques to locate the downed firefighter, manage SCBA emergencies with various RIT-Pak assemblies, and removal techniques.

Sunday brought Traditions Training’s trademark “Box Alarm Drills”…  Scenarios were setup at an acquired building simulating various structural fires and students had to respond with skills gathered over the past 3 years, from engine/truck company work to rapid intervention to incident management.  Scenarios were conducted at full speed with the most realistic conditions.  Not only did this allow firefighters to practice their skills but it also helped identify challenges that could occur on a real fireground, so that they could be prepared for or addressed in advance.

IMAG0024 IMAG0019

On Saturday night, the fellas held a cookout for the instructors and class, featuring a cooler full of lobsters (of course), steaks, and more.  Thanks again to Chief Bell and Lt. Hardy for inviting us back and for the excellent hospitatlity!  We look forward to seeing everyone again.

To learn more about hosting this or similar programs at your department, please contact us

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Company News, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, news, RIT / Survival, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics | Posted on 26-05-2010

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Back from Indianapolis, FDIC a great success!

If you noticed things on the site have been quiet, it’s because we spent last week in Indianpolis at Fire Engineering’s Fire Department Instructor Conference (FDIC).  TT instructors Nick Martin, Dan Shaw, and Doug Mitchell were thrilled to be invited to speak at the largest fire department conference in the world.  Over the week we had the oppurtunity to network with some other great figures in the fire service, attend some great training, as well as deliver FIVE of our own programs!

  • 2010-04-23 07.45.30On Monday morning, Nick Martin presented “Single Truck Company Operations” – which focused on making maximum use of minimum manpower and equipment to accomplish essential “truck” tasks during the ATTACK PHASE of a structural fire.
  • On Monday afternoon, Dan Shaw & Doug Mitchell gave their “25 to Survive” presentation on the top 25 things that firefighters can do to improve their operational readiness and safety at residential fires.  Nationally, residential fires kill about 80% of civilians and 70% of firefighters.
  • Thursday afternoon had Dan & Doug talking about “Fighting fires in the Attached Garage”.  This common construction feature brings uncommon fireground challenges.  Doug & Dan discussed these issues and presented multiple options for engine and truck related considerations.
  • Friday morning, Nick Martin talked about “Recognition & Attack of Basement Fires”.  Citing the fact that many FF deaths are attributed to what was ultimately a basement fire, Nick drew on some his own personal experiences with these difficult fires.  Multiple options for fire attack and size-up / recognition were discussed giving students plans A, B, C, D, etc for their next basement job.
  • Also on Friday, Doug & Dan talked about “Modern Engine Company Essenitals” which covered the mental and physical conditions nessecary to be an effective engine company in today’s fire service.  They covered teamwork and problem solving in everything from the hose stretch to water supply.

2010-04-19 13.33.43 imagejpeg_2-1

A special thanks goes out to Chad Cox and the boys from Wichita Fire Department, who despite being involved in significant car accident on the way to FDIC, STILL MADE IT TO OUR CLASS ON MONDAY MORNING!!! Thankfully the boys were ok and their efforts only go to further demonstrate the deep commitment to training that they embody.

It was a great week celebrating many fire service traditions, from having a few with our brothers from around the country in the evening to sharing and learning great training tips in the morning.  We’re looking forward to seeing everyone at FDIC 2011!

If you couldn’t make it to FDIC this year and are intersted in hosting any of these programs at your Academy or Department, please contact us!

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Company News, Engine Company, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, news, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 27-04-2010