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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

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Tower Ladder Class in Johnston, IA Reinforces Key Point on Knowing Your (and their) Aerial Apparatus!

Last weekend TT instructors Scott Kraut, Mike Stothers, Joe Brown, and Nick Martin headed west to the metro Des Moines area for a Tower Ladder Operations course with the Johnston Fire Department.  The two-day program brought attendees from all over Polk County to talk about truck work and the capabilities of various apparatus.  All kinds of topics were covered, from forcible entry to ventilation to designing riding assignments.  Sunday brought 40 students and 4 different styles of aerial apparatus for an awesome day of hands-on training at a great acquired building.

Click here for more photos…

One of the goals for the weekend was to allow attendees to work with and understand the various capabilities of different aerial apparatus.  While many departments only own one style of truck, it’s imperative that departments understand the capabilities and limitations of any style of aerial apparatus that might respond into their town. Rear-mount, mid-mount, tiller, tower, aerial – they all have specifics as to their positioning needs and use in various scenarios.  The time to find those things out is NOT the fireground – if you don’t know these things in advance, you can’t POSSIBLY put the rig to the best use when it gets to your fire! It was great to work with a forward-thinking, pro-active group of enthusiastic firefighters.  Thanks to the firefighters of Polk County for your hospitality and we’ll look forward to seeing you again!

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Posted by | Posted in administration-leadership, Blog, command-leadership, Company News, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, news, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 05-07-2010

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The Art Of Seeing – Making The Most Of Your Public Service Calls

With the ever changing dynamics of the fire service, firefighter’s daily functions are as vast and wide ranging as the great country in which their respective departments lie. With such duties ranging from emergency medical care and patient assists to leaking ceilings and faulty electrical outlets, firefighter’s have become the nations “jack-of-all-trades”. As responsibilities increase and time for focused fire related training shrinks, it is as important as ever to use your time wisely. With a little imagination, we can turn even the most benign public service call into a learning situation…

A "BS" run here may lead to questions such as: what length attack line?  How would we place ladders to the porch?  Apparatus Positions?  Basement access?  Utility cut-offs?

A routine run here may lead to questions such as: what length attack line? How would we place ladders to the porch? Apparatus Positions? Basement access? Utility cut-offs?

Making the most out of each response often involves little more than opening up your eyes to your surroundings. Calls that gain firefighter’s access to homes and buildings are an excellent opportunity to check out construction features and hazards that may come in handy should a fire occur. Often, homes within the same residential neighborhoods will have very similar layouts and construction types. A home you ran for a public service call last tour could be very similar to the working fire you’re now faced with 2 doors down.

Here are just a few considerations to look for that may help should a fire occur:

  • Do these homes have a basement?
  • What kind of entrance does it have?
  • Where are the interior stairs located?
  • Does the front door open in to block the interior stairs?
  • Where are the bedrooms located? Do they have windows and how many?
  • Does the pipe chase connect to the exposure home or apartment?
  • How does the layout of this home compare to its attached neighbor?
  • Where are the utility controls located?
  • Is the occupant you are currently helping able to escape a possible fire on their own?

The above list is just a small fraction of the many things firefighters should be constantly vigilant for in an effort to prepare for that next job. Involve all members of the company through simple interactions such as “do you know why the pipe chase is located here?” or “how many windows have we passed since we came in?”. Before long members will be asking questions of their own!

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Your size-up at non-fire incidents may provide indispensable knowledge at the fire later on...

The window in the picture to the right was located during a run for DCFD Truck 17 to assist a citizen back into bed. The occupant had covered the window with carpet and left a small opening at its base, which was lined with nails to discourage break-ins. This poses an obvious safety issue for the outside vent man as well as criminals. High crime areas often require low income residents to fashion a wide variety of makeshift safety features for their home. These “adaptations” can vary widely from home to home, let alone jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but are not limited to high crime areas.

The senior man right down to the newest probationer has a responsibility to himself as well as their crew to observe and question the area around them. Be prepared on every run to ask the “What if it was on fire?” question and make the most out of your time out in the field. With a little practice you and your crew can perfect “The Art of Seeing”.

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 26-02-2010

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Photos & Video from January's Truck Ops Classes

Traditions Training traveled to southeast PA twice in January, each time for  “Truck Company Operations” class.  The first program was held in Kennett Square with the Longwood Fire Company.  Two weekends later we returned to West Chester, PA for another program with the Parkesburg Fire Company and some surrounding departments…  Little did we know that one department would use some of these skills just hours later.

Thanks to members of each department for these photos from the classes:

On Sunday evening after the class, members of the Honey Brook Fire Company responded to a fire in a motel.  Deputy Chief Dan Brooks sent us the following account:

“Sunday night while recovering from the weekends class we were hit out for full company assist on the working Motel Fire. Members who attended the training, working with those who didnt, forced 10+ doors on rooms and provided ventilation and primary searches of the entire building mostly under poor to zero visibity. Using the skills we learned and reinforced, things went VERY well. THANK YOU!!!”

Nothing could make the staff at Traditions Training happier than to know that we might have provided even the smallest tip that helped someone do their job at the fire. Thanks to the members of Longwood, Parkesburg, Honey Brook, and the other department’s that attended January’s classes!

Fore more information on our Truck Company Operations, or other, programs – please contact us!  Also, be sure to check out our past blog posts on Truck Company Operations.


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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Company News, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, fires, news, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company, videos | Posted on 17-02-2010

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Vent Challenges with Metal Awnings

photo

Side A

Last week I responded to this fire on the 2nd due truck company.  First arriving companies reported fire coming from the roof and subsequently a cockloft fire in a 2-story end rowhouse (flat roof).  Riding our “hook” position my first assigned task was to ladder side C and horizontally ventilate.

I quickly sized up my target window.  You can see the window I chose in the picture ( below right) – the 2nd floor middle window.  My plan was to vent this window and then my ladder would already be in a good place to vent the two adjacent windows.  As you can also see, these windows have metal awnings that are securely mounted to the house and come down to about the level of the window sash (middle cross-bar)…

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, fires, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company, videos | Posted on 19-01-2010

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Training tips through the eyes of the outside vent man: Helmet cam footage with voiceover training tips

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBTjoCvok5w

The above video features helmet cam footage from Traditions Training Instructor Joe Brown as he operates as DCFD’s Truck 17 outside vent man. Watch through his point of view as firefighters battle a fire on the 1st and 2nd floors of a 2 story single family home. The video features some voice over training tips to help viewers identify with what is going on. The video is meant to initiate a discussion within your firehouse on your departments procedures and individual responsibilities on the fireground. Hopefully it will create a starting point for interactive training in your response area. We hope this video may help you on your journey to becoming a better firefighter. Please feel free to share your thoughts, tips and comments with us in the comment section. Enjoy.

 For a more detailed description of the fire visit http://www.30engine.com/fullstory.php?98903

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, fires, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 13-01-2010

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Video of Truck Ops Class from Millwood, NY

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Just a little video compilation from some of the Truck Company Operations class in Millwood, NY a couple weekends ago…  Thanks again to Chief Joe Rod and his guys for having us up.

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Company News, Truck Company | Posted on 09-07-2009

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Video Tip: Entering the window for VES

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKpBVZnIC8g

Entering the window of a fire building from a ladder can be trecherous if not executed properly. In the above video, Mike Stothers, a senior instructor for Traditions Training and fireman at F.D.N.Y.’s Tower Ladder 13 offers some tips for safely and effectively “controlling the sill”.

This is an excerpt from Mike’s VES presentation at a recent Truck Company Operations class and picks up after we’ve sounded the floor…

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Tips & Skills, Truck Company | Posted on 06-07-2009

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Truck Company Operations with Millwood, NY

Last weekend, Traditions Training headed north to Westchester County, NY for a Truck Company Operations class with the Millwood Fire District.  This 16-hour class included some non-traditional truck company items – such as some basic rope-rescue evolutions.

Some of the topics covered included:

  • The “Two-Team” Truck Company
  • Vent, Enter, Search
  • Aggressive Primary Searches
  • Portable Ladder Tips & Skills
  • Apparatus Positioning
  • Low-Angle Belay Evolution
  • Basic Knots & Stokes Lashing
  • “Ladder Slide” from a roof top.

Instructors for the class included: Doug Mitchell, Nick Martin, Mike Stothers, Scott Kraut, and Joe Brown.

For more pictures, follow the break.  To learn more about hosting this class or others, please contact us.

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Company News, Truck Company | Posted on 03-07-2009

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One Trapped on the Second Floor!

vesHere’s a situation…you respond to a working fire on the first floor.  On arrival there is such a heavy body of fire on this first floor, it’s blocking the main building entrance as well as any chance to find the interior stairs.  Neighbors are reporting someone trapped on the second floor!  You are on the first responding Truck Company. What would you do? 

Now we all know that we’re involved in an opinionated service and that this scenario could be discussed for days!  Well, that being said… this is the perfect scenario for:

Vent Enter Search 

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Tips & Skills, Truck Company | Posted on 10-02-2009