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What’s your standard? The firehouse just got a new puppy…

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 | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership | Posted on 16-09-2015

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People Trapped? Don’t Panic – Do Your JOB!

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.

#CombatReady

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Truck Company | Posted on 29-06-2015

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Combat Ready – Sheperdstown, WV

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 | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company | Posted on 06-02-2014

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Commercial Storefront FE: Don’t Just Break the Glass

These common doors may have a variety of seen or unseen reinforcements.

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.

    Even the door is telling you not to try…

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:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHwIVuKUnKc&feature=player_embedded

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpPtmHjSqC8&feature=player_embedded

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 | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Tips & Skills, videos | Posted on 17-12-2012

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Learning Moments & A Forcible Entry Challenge

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.

 

 What adds to the further uniqueness/challenge of this combination is the swing of the gates.  You can see in the pictures that in two of the apartments the lock side of the gate is against a right-angle wall.  Think for a moment about how this would impair your ability to force the door… You may think you would still be able to set the adze appropriately and crush/gap, however these gates have a strip of metal that covers the gap between the gate and the frame when closed.  This can be see in the picture below with the deadbolt extended.  That strip of metal is as wide as the throw of the deadbolt.  It’s a weak piece of metal, but to defeat it you would need to slide the adze in from the far side of the lock side of the gate, and in this scenario the wall would stop you from being successful.  Further, even if you got the adze into place, when you went to pull the fork end toward the lock side the Halligan would quickly contact the wall, reducing your leverage and drastically increasing the amount of force it would take to open the door (as a result of moving the fulcrum).

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.

 httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yy_GkPpds6k&feature=youtu.be

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 | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Tips & Skills, Truck Company, videos | Posted on 12-12-2012

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Extending Leverage on Outward Doors

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.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9lHoUc31z0&list=UUe0LpTPMR6iXJW4LDLoMBDw&index=1&feature=plcp

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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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Tips & Skills, Truck Company | Posted on 15-10-2012

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Motivation

On the truck today I have a guy who’s newer on the job and regularly assigned to an engine. After about an hour of drilling on portable ladders and forcible entry he said to me “Sarge, I just don’t wanna let anyone down…” Probably one of the best things I’ve ever heard a fireman say.

I told him “well if you start with that everyday, that will give you motivation and the rest will quickly fall in line with practice”. Sometimes it’s just that simple – his motivation inspired me.

This is a team sport. We’re all counting on you to be in the right spot, with the right stuff, and the right skills, at the right time. We can’t let anyone down.

Combat Ready.

20120314-130610.jpg

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready | Posted on 14-03-2012

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Got Stickers?

Got Stickers?

 

Firefighters, absolutely love stickers and decals.  I know that you know what I am talking about, and… it’s ok.  It is absolutely fine to be proud of who you are as a firefighter, be you a career or volunteer member.  You should be proud of your fire company and your fire department. Affixing decals and stickers to your personal property is just one way for you to show that pride to others.  I’ve seen fire department decals not only on personal vehicles, but boats, golf clubs, I’ve even seen decals on coolers… and so on and so on.
I’ve also seen some sort of decal on almost every rig I have come across.  Some are big, some are small but they mean something to the members who put them there.  I’ve seen decals with company slogans and nicknames, department mascots, company patches, memorial decals, the stickers run the gamut.  While they all serve as reminders to the members, either in memory or to elicit a source of pride, but in aiding our functionality for fireground, eh…well the decals are really just for show.
Recently, I have taken notice of a few stickers and decals on rigs and placed on certain tools that are absolutely excellently placed for OUR increased safety, and will aid our operations on the fireground.  Now, I will certainly not take credit for inventing any of them, I’m just not that smart.  I just thought that they were great ideas and they can be incorporated into most companies and departments quickly, easily and relatively inexpensively.  A sticker, believe it or not may just save a life!
Take a good look at the lead picture above and those below, courtesy of my friend Joe Brown from firehouse pride (www.firehousepride.com).  Ladder and tool wraps can greatly increase visibility of such important landmarks on the fireground.  Also, they are great identifiers for your tools and equipment.
Another useful sticker found on fire apparatus that I have seen is this RIT/FAST one.  In reality the sticker isn’t for your members, they should know where all the equipment is on your rig… its is for everyone else!  You never know when an additions compliment of RIT/FAST supplies may be needed at an incident.  With this decals placement, there is no need to “compartment hunt” looking for the RIT/FAST pack or associated RIT/FAST tools.

Label your RIT/FAST compartment


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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, RIT / Survival, Tips & Skills, training-development, Truck Company, Uncategorized | Posted on 14-02-2012

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FDIC 2012: COMBAT READY Firefighting (lecture)

**This week we are featuring a short run-down of each of the programs that our staff will be presenting at this year’s FDIC in Indianapolis**

Thursday, 130p-315p – COMBAT READY Firefighting

TT’s Nick Martin will be presenting this engaging, interactive presentation on the cornerstone belief of Traditions Training – bringing a combat ready attitude and skill set to the fireground.  We’ll talk about things you can do to prepare yourself, your equipment, and your apparatus to be at the top of your game.  Full of actionable ideas that you can take back to the firehouse.

Course Description:  The objective is to motivate firefighters to recognize complacency, how it can cause errors to creep into your operations (“error creep”), and how it can snowball on the fireground and possibly lead to catastrophe. Interactive activities and multimedia presentations illustrate how and why we must combat it. Tips on attitude and readiness will be offered for the engine and truck companies, rapid intervention team, and the incident commander. Scenarios focus on near-miss fireground incidents and show how the presence or absence of a “combat-ready” mindset influenced their outcomes. You will be challenged to rethink what it means to be “ready.”

 

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Upcoming Classes | Posted on 01-02-2012

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New UL Study Reinforces Sound Old Fire Tactics

I can be a pretty skeptical guy when it comes to new studies and ideas in the fire service.  That’s because it seems that lately our profession tries to solve “hands-on problems” with fancy new catch-phrases rather than firefighting skill.  So when I read and watched the recently released “Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction” released by Underwriter’s Laboratories I was on watch for what “zany solution” they were going to have for our “modern fire problem”.  I was pleasantly surprised.

The study was released in December 2010 and I’ve heard quite a bit about it in the background of the fire service.  This study has been referenced in a lot of circles recently.  One “fire chief” tried to even use it to say we shouldn’t fight fires interior anymore (he must’ve not read the same piece I read).  Not wanting to remain uninformed, I took a look…  For all those who don’t like reading 400 page reports, I suffered for you.  And here’s the FIREMAN’s version:

Summary:

The study compared a series of residential fires in a 50’s-60’s construction style 1-story house of 1,200 square feet with a “modern” 3,200 square foot 2 story house.   These are those new houses we hear about being so different in “today’s fires”, referenced by many who advocate we completely change our approach to firefighting.

Now I was not one of the scientists on the study, but I did look at it fairly closely and here are my take home thoughts on what it means for fighting fires in “today’s fires”:

  1. Coordinate ventilation with hoseline advancement, including forcing doors that feed the fire area.
  2. Get a hoseline on the seat of the fire quick.
  3. VES is a great technique.
  4. Closing interior doors saves civilians and firefighters.
  5. No smoke showing means NOTHING.

That’s it?  Yeah – pretty much, at least from my perspective.  Now there’s a lot of “why” that supports those conclusions.  But what shocked me there is – did you hear anything NEW?  I didn’t.  No new safety vests, no blitz-fires, no buzz terms.  Coordinate engine & truck work, get a line in place fast, and use good techniques to isolate and rescue.  Sounds like the same things the “old school” fire service has preached for decades!

So what’s the problem?

The problem is the same thing I started this article with:  these days we’d rather get a new colored vest, or practice taking blood pressures, or use some fancy multi-syllable phrase than do what this study supports:  GET GOOD AT OFFENSIVE FIREFIGHTING.  What do I mean?  Here are some buzz-words I think we ought to be practicing, and this fancy 400-page study supports:

–  “Running Hoselines” – that’s a geographical term in my area for stretching and operating interior attack lines.  How often to your firefighters pull lines?  I’d bet you many firefighters haven’t pulled a line off in a “non-parking-lot” scenario in the past year.  THAT’S A BREAD & BUTTER SKILL!  Do they just know the crossly or can they extend and adapt to various scenarios with the precision of a offensive football line under the 2-minute warning?  What is your fire department’s benchmark time for:  from arrival having to firefighters stretch a 1.75″ line to the front door and be masked up and ready to enter the fire area?  Based on a survey of YouTube I don’t think many departments have ANY such benchmark.  This study says you have between 100 and 200 seconds to get water on the fire after ventilation occurs.  That means you ventilating, or the fire ventilating the windows for you.  How good are your back up firefighters?  How well do you chase kinks?  Poor performance with either of those will drastically delay your fire attack and your flow.

You have 100-200 seconds after ventilation to put the fire out or suffer rapid fire growth.

–  “Coordinated Ventilation” – a concept that many departments struggle with.  This was a no-brainer “back in the day”.  We need to spend more time training on coordinating the location and timing of ventilation.  This study clearly showed the impact of ventilating in the wrong time or in the wrong place.  Ventilation should be timed with the knowledge that you only have 100-200 seconds after to get water on the fire before the fire will rapidly grow.  The best way we can do this is “run scenarios”.  Look at fire pictures with your crew.  Where would you ventilate? When? What would be the challenges?  How about coordinating with the line?  You can just wait and see what happens when you get a fire, or you can take a few minutes to TALK FIRE and PREPARE so you’ll KNOW what’s going to happen.

– “Vent, Enter, Search” – this study also clearly showed that these fires were survivable for civilians who were laying on the floor in just about every room of the house except for the fire room.  Closing the door made things even better.  Keeping this in mind, along with the rapid growth of fire if water is not supplied, further supports the efficiency of Vent, Enter, Search technique in rescuing civilians. Particularly where a larger square foot home delays searches done with the conventional “left right” patterns.  Some advocate it should be “Vent, Enter, Isolate, Search” – maybe, but when I first learned VES, and every time I’ve taught it, closing the door has ALWAYS been the first action after you enter.  Maybe some people were just teaching it wrong…

–  “Isolate and flow water” – In trouble?  Either get out, isolate yourself (close a door), or flow water.  This study supports the tenability of firefighters when we knock down fire with a hoseline or isolate ourselves from the fire until the fire is knocked or we can obtain an exit.

– “Nothing Showing Means Nothing” – Among others, I’ve said it for years.  Three of the worst fires of my career started out as “nothing showing”.  That’s when everyone let’s their guard down, doesn’t want to lay lines, leaves their tools behind, and moves slow.  When you have fire showing – you know its a fire.  When you have nothing showing – THE FIRE WILL CATCH YOU OFF GUARD.  This study reinforces that with our modern construction, it is quite likely that a good fire will show nothing to the outside until it is ventilated.  KEEP YOUR GUARD UP – IT’S THE FIRE OF YOUR CAREER UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE.

In Conclusion:

There’s a lot more to it than that, and if you’ve got about an hour the video on it is worth watching.  But the take home here is NOT that we need to re-invent the fire service.  It seems to me that often we’d rather float lofty ideas in the air conditioning then get out there and WORK at improving our bread & butter firefighting skills.  Not running much fire?  The need is even greater.  We need to go back to practicing the tried & true skills of coordinated engine/truck work, rapid hoseline advancement, and targeted search.  Stop creating fancy buzz terms and get out their and train.  Think fire, talk fire, run through scenarios.  Stay sharp.  Stay COMBAT READY.

Referenced Study information:

UL | Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction

Video Summary of Report (70 minutes)

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, Truck Company | Posted on 29-11-2011