By: Larry Schultz
I am taking a break from my typical anarchist message and, pleading with you to read this very personal story as a personal assessment tool. I am a fire service traditionalist to the core and my style of writing is always intended to offer an opposing (or alternative) view of what I term the “overzealous safety culture”. My issue(s) are not, nor have they ever been about safety itself, but our approach to assessing and managing risk, without using emotional coercion.
I am going to attempt to address a true risk / health and safety concern, and do so without violating my, no emotional coercion rule. It’s my personal experience and I share to give people something to consider. Before you start jumping to the conclusion that this will be an on-line conversion where I join the “I hate old-school” fan club, simmer down a minute.
My plan is to share a very personal story of cancer and how it has the potential to affect more than ourselves. I always give a shout-out at the beginning of my sermons to the person(s) who get me so twisted up about something that I have to write about it. This one goes out to two people. First is my son, who is my hero of heroes and that’s all that needs to be said about this guy. The next is one of coolest dudes I know Donnie Wedding (DLW) and a brother Traditions Training instructor. Over the past month, DLW and I have been walking through this issue (cancer) together, bouncing thoughts, ideas and frustrations off of one another. The irony of these two recipients is that in spite of never meeting one, DLW and my son Joe were cut from the same exact mold.
While the information and focus on firefighter cancer is a reasonably new topic, over the past 10 years, various studies have concluded the relationship between increasing cancer rates and firefighters. Each day, we are exposed to multiple cancer causing agents, through both inhalation and absorption of carcinogens. The exposures come from structure fires, auto fires, dumpster fires etc. This occurs not only during the incipient and free-burning stages, but well in to the overhaul stage and after. These issues far exceed exposure to carbon monoxide and smoke my friends.
The list of cancers include Testicular, Multiple Myeloma, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Skin cancer, Brain cancer, Breast cancer and a whole host of others. In fact, studies are showing more aggressive types of cancer at a younger age then the civilian population. If this isn’t depressing enough, the fact that we are regularly being exposed to multiple agents through multiple routes – multiple times a shift, we are prone to get multiple types of cancer. The hotter the environment and the dirtier we get, the greater the exposure; the lungs and dermis becoming the greatest routes of entry in to our bodies/organs.
On December 31st 2013, I was driving home from Pennsylvania to celebrate the New Years in anticipation of what promised to be “a new – new start”. About 10 minutes in to my drive, I got a phone call from my son. My boy is and has always been as steady and stoic as a man could be and never gets flustered with anything in life. In typical fashion as part of a normal conversation, he told me he was just diagnosed with testicular cancer. Unless you have experienced this, you have no idea what that feeling is like. I couldn’t even comprehend it, let alone figure out how I would tell his mother and sisters.
Like most fathers, I tend to be a ‘fixer” of things, only this time, I hadn’t a clue how to fix this. For me that means digging deep and educating myself about it, and started to read everything I could about testicular cancer. When I entered the keyword for the search, the very first link that appeared was a study on firefighters and the exponentially elevated risk they faced for testicular (and other) cancers. The more I read, the more I read. The more I kept reading, the bigger the pit in my stomach. Remember, the nexus between cancer and firefighting studies are relatively new. The fact is, that common sense always told me that the things we breathe in are pretty gnarly, but I rarely considered things like dermal absorption, post incident exposure contamination (through dirty gear, uniforms and soot) and cross contamination.
So here is my confession. Like most, I loved every part of being a “big city” fireman, most importantly the heavy workload. When I say every part, I include the persona of dirty gear and the sooty look and smell that comes along with it. It wasn’t uncommon to go to a few fires a shift, so why shower… in fact, my goal at the end of each tour-of- duty was to look like Pig-Pen (a character from Peanuts for you youngins). I honestly loved every bit of that.
My gear was always in the back of my vehicle when I left work; I would go home after being up for 24 straight and fall asleep wherever I could find a spot, still in my raunchy clothes and covered in soot. It wouldn’t be long before my little dude would wake up, come down stairs and hang out with me while he watched TV, and I snored. My uniforms, t-shirts, washed with his cloths and my shoes/boots trampled plenty of crap into the carpet that he crawled around on. I can’t tell you the number of times; I put him in to my gear. If you know me, you know I am a “good hair kind of guy” lol. Many of you can relate that for days after a good fire, you couldn’t get the stench of smoke out of your hair. You would smell like that for days at a time. My friends, this went on for years and years and I am certain, that I exposed my family selfishly and unnecessarily.
There is no history of testicular cancer in my family and my son had zero medical history as well. While there is no definitive proof that his diagnosis was caused by secondary exposure to carcinogens that I exposed him to, I know this to be true: cross contamination exposure to carcinogens is very real and those exposed are at greater risk; I exposed him and my wife (and daughters later on) to that crap for years and lastly, I will have to continue to think about this every day and wonder if I caused or contributed to his cancer.
This is where hypocrisy enters the picture. I never wore a nomex-hood in my career (stupid), in fact my crew would call it (my hood) my personal department issued handkerchief. I worked towards being the last one to have to mask-up and the first to take it off; all part of the identity. How stupid do I feel now?
You can be “salty” (yes that’s still a good thing), without “looking” the role, by simply letting your actions speak louder than your appearance or attitude. You know the right things to do (wear your mask, take a shower when you get back, wash your gear regularly, no gear in the living space and wash your uniforms separate for other items), so do the right thing for you and your family.
My son is in full remission (continues to undergo regular follow-ups) and has blessed us with our first grandchild (which was not supposed to happen as a result of his illness), a true miracle.
TT water supply article
Let’s Talk Water Supply…..A crucial Engine Co. task
Depending on where you volunteer or work, establishing a water supply can be quite simple and quick…… or it can be complicated, time consuming and require multiple apparatus. My “Small Town” fire department has both. We have areas in our municipality that have hydrants every 500’ and we have areas that don’t have any type of water source for over a mile. Either way, we have to get water to the scene and we have get it there quickly or things will not go well.
So as not to complicate things, lets break this article down into 2 parts. First we’ll talk about those areas that are fortunate enough to have reasonable hydrant spacing. The second part will talk about those areas where we have to go a long way to get the water, or perhaps shuttle it in.
Part 1: Here we will discuss establishing a water supply in areas with good hydrant spacing. We have enough supply hose to complete our own water supply.
1st Due Engine…… Lay Out, or don’t Lay Out ?
I find this topic to be one that is often debated; at least it is where I am, so I figured that it probably is for some of you as well.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the term “laying out”, it’s the act of laying a supply line in an effort to establish a water supply.
Before we get into this article, let me first say that I am NOT talking about incidents such as automatic alarms but rather a reported structure fire, smoke coming from a structure, an odor of smoke inside a structure and even an appliance on fire. I think you guys get the picture. Allow me also to mention that I am a huge advocate of “laying out” for these, and similar types of incidents, with the 1st due engine.
For those who do lay out with the 1st due engine, I’ll be preaching to the choir. For those who do not lay out with the 1st due engine, I would like to point some things out and bring them to your attention. Consider:
1. What size booster tank do you have? 500 gallons is certainly the most common size in the fire service, but there are bigger sizes out there….750, 1000 and tanker pumpers with 2,500 gallons. If your first due is a 2,500 gallon tanker pumper, I can certainly understand if you don’t lay out with it and have the 2nd due engine do it for you. You have quite a bit of water in that tank to start with. But those of us with 500 or 750 gallons need to be a bit more careful.
2. Along with the size of your tank, what size attack line do you typically pull and with what type / gallonage nozzle? 1 3/4” hose is most commonly used today. A smooth bore nozzle with a 15/16” tip will flow185 gpm. There are fixed gallonage nozzles that flow 125, 150, 175 gpm and greater depending on what you purchased and at what pressure you pump them.
So what’s the point with these first two considerations? Well, you’d be surprised how many departments out there don’t know what gpm their nozzles flow. If you have a 500 gallon tank and you have a nozzle that flows 175 -185 gpm, you’ll be out of water in 2 minutes and 30 seconds! (Not every gallon of water gets out of the tank and out of the nozzle, some water is left in the line). If the 2nd due engine hasn’t laid out, broken the supply line in the hose bed, tied into themselves or your engine, connected the supply line at the other end to the hydrant and charged the supply line within that 2m 30 sec, it’s game over for a little bit until it has been done. My point here is, if you don’t lay out with the 1st due engine, you need to be knowledgable on what you have, how you’re using it and what kind of time you’re dealing with; otherwise, you’ll get caught with your pants down.
3. That leads me into how far behind is the 2nd due engine? In most smaller towns in suburban and rural areas, it’s going to be several minutes; thus, you may run out of water before that 2nd engine can establish the water supply for you.
4. What if you arrive and it’s not an 1 3/4” line fire? Maybe it’s a 2 1/2” line fire. Most departments run smoothbore nozzles on their 2 1/2” lines and, depending on tip size, will flow between 265 gpm and 325 gpm. That’ll blow through your 500 gal. and 750 gal. tank really quickly. Let’s take it a step further and say that you may actually have to hit it first for a minute with the deck gun / wagon pipe……. forget it, you’re done….out of water.
5. What’s the building stock of the area that you are responding into? Is it built with lightweight material that will burn faster and hotter, creating a ton of BTUs, thus creating the need for more gpm ?
The purpose here is certainly not to tell anyone who doesn’t lay out with the 1st due engine that you’re wrong. That’s not the purpose at all. The purpose is to make you evaluate what you’re doing with what you have available.
Personally, I cannot think of many reasons not to be proactive and lay out. The pros outnumber and outweigh the cons. The worst case scenario is that you don’t end up having an incident where a water supply was needed and you rack it back on the engine….no big deal unless you and your crew suffer from laziness. That pales in comparison to the other side of the coin; when you suspect that the call is nothing, arrive to find a working fire and run out of tank water before the next arriving engine can lay out and establish the water supply for you. Unfortunately, the latter scenario happens all too often.
I will mention one of the cons that I often hear when discussing this issue, “I don’t want to delay the 1st engine by having them stop and lay a supply line. I want them to come straight in and make a fast attack”. OK, I can understand that…. I get it. But here’s my stance on it- it shouldn’t take more than 10 seconds to stop and wrap the hydrant. Not if you’re set up for it and train on it. For example, in my department we have 5” supply hose. The last 15’ of supply line is “bundled up” with a rope around it. The rope hangs down to the back step. All we have to do is get out of the truck and run around the back of the engine, pull the rope which will bring off the 15’ of bundled 5”, open up the rear compartment door and grab the “hydrant bag” which contains the hydrant wrench, spanner wrenches and various adaptors and and away the engine goes…….We train our members on it so that it never takes more than 10 seconds. In my opinion, that is a 10 seconds well spent, to know that we are establishing our own water supply and are not dependent on the next arriving engine, which is probably several minutes behind us.
Whether you currently do or do not lay out with the 1st due engine, here is something else to consider :
1. Do we leave a guy at the hydrant to make the connection and charge the supply line? Do we not leave anyone at the hydrant, just wrap it and go and have the engine chauffeur ran back to connect it to the hydrant and charge it? Do we wrap it and go and then have the 2nd due engine just make the connection to the hydrant and charge it? The answer is certainly situationally dependent. It’s dependent on staffing. Can we afford to leave someone at the hydrant? Personally, I like to leave a guy at the hydrant to make the connection and charge the supply line. Once that is done, he can come up to the scene and fulfill the remainder of his riding assignment task.
If you’re not laying out with the 1st due engine, hopefully I’ve given you some things to consider that may have you re-thinking your position on the matter.
What are those ?
The hairs on my neck always stand up when a “Box” is dispatched in an area without hydrants. Immediately the concern of getting water to the scene is the priority. It certainly isn’t our fault that we have areas that don’t have hydrants; however, we do need to deal with it and overcome it.
The key in these areas is to have SOPs, dispatch procedures and mutual aid plans in place long before the call ever comes in.
Let’s take an area that has no water source for miles, not even a static source such as a lake. The best thing you could have done for yourself, your department and your community is to have had a “pre determined dispatch card” that has a “water supply task force” or a “tanker strike team” on it. Something at the dispatch center that gets tankers, or tenders as some areas of the country call them, coming to the scene automatically. If you don’t have this set up for yourself, please consider it.
Some thoughts to consider regarding tanker shuttles :
- How many tankers will you need? That depends on the anticipated flow that will be needed, which comes back to knowing your 1st due and your building stock. The number of tankers needed also depends on the size of the tankers Are they 2,500 gallon, 3,500 gallon?
- You’ll need to set up a fill site and place an engine there to fill the tankers up.
- Will the tankers nurse the 1st due engine or will you set up portable tanks that theydump their water into, possibly creating the need for another engine which will draft out of the portable tanks?
Now let’s look at an area that has a lake or a hydrant….but it’s 3/4 of a mile (approximately 4,000 feet) from our fire.
1. How many engines do we need to complete the lay? That depends on how much supply hose you carry, which may vary from engine to engine. Again, something you need to know before the call comes in.
- How many in-line engines will I need to compensate for the friction loss in a 4,000’ supply line? That’s dependent on several factors such as the size (diameter) of the supply line, the anticipated GPM flowing through the supply line (remember, the greater the gpm, the more friction loss you’ll have) and the terrain that the supply line is on. (Is it on flat ground? Uphill?)
- It will be very time consuming setting up a long supply line with the necessary in-line engines. In this situation you may want to have a “water supply task force” or “tanker strike team” consisting of a few tankers responding to give your 1st due engine adequate water while the supply line is being laid out.
- Even if you are quite efficient and quick with setting up a long supply line, those tankers may be nice to have in a nearby staging area, just in case something fails in that 4,000’ supply line. A lot can go wrong if just 1 length of supply line bursts, or 1 coupling fails or an engine develops a mechanical issue.
! To wrap up, if you don’t have SOPs regarding water supply, I urge you to consider developing them so that your crew knows the game plan ahead of time. You may be able to have just 1 SOP if your area is rather simple. If you have a complicated and diverse area, such as mine, you may need to develop multiple SOPs for various areas of your community. If you do have SOPs already in place, make sure that they still work for your department and community and that they aren’t outdated. Be certain that they will work based on your current apparatus and engine company equipment. Just because your department has had a water supply SOP in place for 20 years doesn’t mean that it’s what’s best for today’s fire.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this post, I wanted to get you thinking…What got YOU into this career of being a “Firefighter”? Was it a catchy add or employment opportunity you read one day, explaining how rewarding this career would be? Maybe a cool story you heard from your dad, or brother about a fire they went to? Now, either one of those may have led you ‘here’, but I think for most of us seeing dramatic news stories or photographs, along with watching a fire engine screaming down the street, lights flashing, ear piercing sirens blaring, and seeing fireman riding to an alarm to help people was probably more of the attention getters which ultimately led to your interest in this trade, whether it be career or volunteer.
The American Fire Service has always been a visual profession, and fortunately one that has been well documented throughout its history. From *Fire-Marks on the front of Colonial Houses in the 17 and 1800’s, to paint schemes on our apparatus, patches showing company and department pride, clean and well maintained apparatus and equipment, to the heroic images of firefighters saving lives and property from the earliest days of American Firefighting to the present. Needless to say, these images captured at those fires would breathe new life into future firefighters and also document moments in time, our history, that would otherwise had been forgotten. *(‘Fire-Marks’ were signs or plaque placed on the front of a building or residence which showed which fire company the occupant paid its fire levy tax to.)
So with those things said, imagine this profession from its formal inception in the early 1700’s to now, with no visual imagery or documentation from photos or paintings (as they did before photography around 1825). I remember vividly growing up with old paintings (re-creations of course) and photographs my dad owned hanging in our basement of fireman wearing stove-pipe hats and wool uniforms, to horse drawn steamer engines barreling down a city street. Moments in time documenting one of Americas oldest trades and professions; Firefighting.
When I joined my first volunteer fire department at 15 as a junior member, I spent a lot of time looking through old photo albums. The albums contained not only pictures of the department taking shape and helped me learn its history, but also of fires and other emergencies that they responded to throughout the years. There were also newspaper clippings and articles of calls documented by the local newspaper.
There was also a lot of time for watching all the ‘fire buff’ videos of Washington D.C., and the Fire Department of New York specifically. These video and the images captured are still engrained in my mind to this day, thanks mostly to my brother for buying them and always having them on. They would also play a major roll, even back then, towards my determination to work as a Washington, D.C. Fireman.
Several months ago I learned a neighboring fire department to mine implemented a strict policy that all personnel were prohibited from taking photos at the scene of fires and other emergency incidents. The department has even gone as far as frowning upon firefighters taking group pictures next to apparatus after fires and training, especially if the photos are shared or posted on social media sites. This seems to be happening more and more as departments try to gain control, or filter rather, what is appropriate and what is not.
Now, things have definitely changed since horse drawn steamer engines and wool uniforms. I joined the Fire Service in 1993 and it amazes me how much this profession has changed since then, especially in the past 10 years. Social Media, the internet, and the ability to share and process information happens so fast now it is almost hard to comprehend. Smart Phones and other electronic devices can instantly send a photo, documents, emails and other information to hundreds, even thousands of people instantly. So, one could see how detrimental this ‘sharing’ could be if the wrong information, or poor judgment was made posting a photo from the scene of an emergency or other public event.
However, to all but eliminate documenting our history and our profession as a whole is absurd to me, and does the Fire Service a huge dis-justice. I do understand posting photos of the public which may violate HIPPA and privacy laws obviously cannot be allowed. But keeping personnel from documenting defining events and moments in their career, and their departments history, seems crazy to me and goes against what most would consider a very traditional aspect of what we do as fireman; upholding the ‘brotherhood’ and being proud of what we do. Not to mention the elimination of capturing images of incidents that can be used towards our training, avoiding future mistakes, or having significant visual documentation should a formal investigation surrounding a close-call, death, or other event should occur.
What if no cameras where allowed back in the early 1900’s, through the 60’s and 70’s? Can you image the history, documentation and knowledge lost or not obtained? How are we suppose to come up with new training programs and learn from our mistakes, showing actual examples of the same, without visual documentation? I don’t know about you, but ‘Death by Power Point’ is bad enough…Can you imagine no photos? Im out, sorry.
The fire service as we know it today will be shaped much differently, at least from my perspective, if our history is not documented and shared. The department I am referring to is not the only organization taking these kinds of measures to limit or prohibit members from taking photos or videos at the scenes of emergencies. I’m fortunate to work in a pretty liberal Fire Department. If we grab photos at a fire (specifically) while following our written policy, members send them to our BC and Deputy Chief who will then proof the material and allow specific people to share the information and/or photos . We even have a ‘Facebook’ page and official city website sharing what we are doing in the community, job opportunities, informational and life safety videos, and yes, even showing the public some of the calls and emergencies we respond to. (Believe it or not, there are some people who still think the fire department is here for cats in trees.)
One thing I have heard since joining my first volunteer fire organization is that we as a Fire Service do a poor job of letting the citizens and governing officials (you know, the ones who approve our financial and budgetary needs) know what we do to keep them safe, and what we will continue to need when doing so. Visually expressing what we do, and having photos documenting incidents is a powerful tool justifying the “Why?”. We could tell someone stories and share experiences all day long, but, like the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
One of the most successful volunteer fire departments in the world, the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department, was one of the first departments I can remember having a professional website online, displaying their department pride, brotherhood, all while sharing images of fires and other significant events the department responded to through out its history. Now, this fire department responds to a lot of fires and ‘working’ incidents. By visually documenting the responses to these calls, as well as sharing training and leadership tips, they continue to excel and add new membership. Pretty easy concept, huh?
And, because of strong leadership and respect, the department does not post or display anything with a possible privacy concern, or things that could be taken as tasteless.
Now, I do realize most of the photos we see from almost 100 years ago were taken by the public and journalists, not by ‘on duty’ firefighters like we see today. I also acknowledge that social media did not exist and access to any photos of fires and incidents would have been limited to a select audience where a newspaper would be available. But, the fear of possible opinionated backlash or the typical “we don’t want to get sued” response cannot be the motivating factor behind implementing policy. I believe organizations residing on the side of “no photos at all, bottom line” should instead look into what can be gained not only through educating its members, but also marketing their organizations and showing the public they serve what they actually do. Including a filtering process through chain of command is essential and should be included as well. Members should always present themselves as Combat Ready Firefighters, and display professionalism at all times, even during those crew shots when the fire or incident is over.
It would be disheartening for us as a Fire Service to look back 5 years from now and say, “Wow…We have nothing to show our new firefighters, or the public we serve what we have done or accomplished, and have no visual documentation of our history as a department.” Through policy, good leadership, and strong expectations there can be a happy median reached, so we can continue to keep our profession, and its traditions alive and respected.
Consistency, Visual Cues & Options
I’m a hose load junky, I said it. Every time I travel to another department, or see pictures on the internet I always look at how the hose is loaded. You can tell a lot from hose loads, if it’s neat and meticulous I tend to find the crews operate in a similar manor. There is one thing more important than how the load looks, it’s how it pulls. If given a chance I will often ask “how does this hose load work” and I’m surprised to find many crews have no idea. Either it’s “loaded by another crew” or “it just looks pretty”. Beyond how it physically deploys, or how it looks it only really “needs” to do one thing, deploy easily and effectively for the majority of the fires that crew will face. There is no room on the engine for “parade loads” that look good, or “convenience loads” that just get thrown on to get a rig back in service.
For my crew, and the types of fires my engine fights, the gold standard is at least 50 feet of working line. The working line needs to be placed in close proximity to the entry point, flaked out in a manner that it can be fed easily by our 3 person attack crew (plus MPO)…..and we have to be able to get it in service fast. We also need the ability to get that hose into place through and across neglected yards and to deal with houses converted to rear entrance duplexes or large garden style apartments in our first due. Finally we needed a way to make sure our 2.5 deployed just as smooth and met the same standards as our 1.75 line deployment. Much like any problem, we set down and came up with a list of goals and set about finding a solution. We didn’t have to “invent” a new way, we just needed to adapt those lessons learned from within and outside of our department and apply them. Two of the keys we found to success were “Consistency” amongst our hose loads, and the use of “visual cues”. I think no matter what kind of hose load you use incorporating these things into it can help your crews be better at getting that first line in place.
The consistency component seems the easiest; just load the hose the same way for both 1.75 and 2.5 lines. The reality is we will pull the 1.75 line the most often. Whether it’s training or at fires, the ratio of pulling the 1.75 vs. 2.5 is probably 10:1. Obviously we would like to pull the 2.5 more, but it’s not likely, and by loading the 1.75 and 2.5 the same way we compound our training. If I pull the 2.5 tomorrow the muscle memory takes over and I even though this may only be the 3rd time I’ve pulled it this month, it’s the exact same motions as the 30 times I pulled the 1.75 line and my comfort level should be the same. The difficulty with consistency between loads is can the different size hoses be loaded the same way on your rig, in our case that was a “maybe”. Our crews had relied on transverse mounted pre-connected 200 foot hand lines that made loading of 2.5 and 1.75 lines the same way difficult (it also limited our deployment options as discussed below). We did come up with a load that could be accomplished three wide (1.75) and two wide (2.5) and deployed the same way using the help of Visual Cues. We used these as a stop gap until our new rigs arrived that moved the deployment back to rear hose beds with static attack lines. With the rear static hose beds we are now able to load and deploy the lines identically.
Here you can see rear static hose bed with the 2.5 and 1.75 hoses loaded side by side in the same manner and visual cues laid out identically.
Visual cues became one of the biggest keys to the success of our hose deployment. We did not invent using visual cues to deploy our hose lines, we adapted it from places like Chief Dave McGrail’s highrise system. Basically we decided to mark the halfway points on our hose like we had with our highrise packs (paint or colored tape) and use those visual cues along with tails (a.k.a. loops) and the couplings to make sure our hose always deployed the same. By using the visual cues my crew can walk up at the start of the shift and in a glance know that the hose is loaded correctly and quickly deploy it, conversely they can take a quick look and know if they need to pull it off and reload the hose, there is no “I think it’s loaded ok”.
Here you can see the standard pre-connected load. The long tails on the right side of the stack indicate the “working bundle” of line, the single loop on the left side of the stack is the “drivers loop”. The nozzleman can easily see his bundle and throw it on his shoulder and take it to the fire as an intact 50 foot section. Also visible is the blue “half way” markers in the sections. When the nozzleman approaches he can drop the bundle at the door grab the half way mark and walk it back completing the stretch, he can also drop the bundle short and grab the nozzle and coupling walking it up if the stretch dictates. The “drivers loop” is the visual indicator for the MPO, Layout man, or if needed the nozzleman to grab and clear the remaining line in the hose bed with no wasted effort.
Here is the hose in the static beds, as you can see the nozzle and coupling are loaded at the end along with all the halfway points. Just like the pre-connected lines, the nozzleman knows exactly where his section of working line is. He can drop early and grab the nozzle and coupling walking up to the entry point; or he can drop at the entry point grab the halfway marks and walk it back.
I know that “options” and “consistency” seem a little contradictory but not in the context of this discussion. There are many different hose loads out there, and many are good…for one type of stretch. We wanted something that could be used on small single family residences, garden apartments, 3 story walk-ups, varying setbacks and diverse approaches; our answer was going back to the static rear hose beds. Now it doesn’t matter if the setback is short or long, or if the plug is before the residence or down the street. The nozzleman can take his bundle and head to the entry point and stretches his line; everything else is handled by the officer, layout man and MPO. If the set back is long the officer estimates the stretch and the needed line is pulled; if the plug is at the end of the street the MPO continues onto the plug to catch his hydrant once the bundle is pulled off the hose bed. Keeping the working line deployment simple can be important since often the Junior guy is on the nozzle where the officer can directly supervise. The positions that take care of the remaining hose (MPO, Officer, Layout) are typically more tenured and can overcome the small obstacles that increase the complexity of completing the stretch. The last option we built into our system was the ability to “stretch forward” or “stretch away”. We found if we set the hose up with the coupling and nozzle on the end as a visual indicator most of the time the nozzleman could lay his bundle down and grab the nozzle/coupling and walk up to the entry point for an effective stretch. Unfortunately some yards or apartments made it difficult to drop early and perform a forward type stretch. We overcame this by making sure all the halfway point visual indicators were lined up at the nozzle end as well. Now if the nozzle needs to be dropped at the entry point the halfway points are grabbed and walked straight back making for a virtually identical result.
Here you can see the same line stretched both ways. The straps on the left indicate the line was dropped at the entry point and “stretched away” and the picture on the right shows the bundle was dropped away from the entry point and “stretched forward”.
As you can see our deployment is a constant evolution, and through trial and error I feel we were able to meet our goals. Hopefully by sharing what we have found to other crews they can use similar methods to improve the deployment of their hoselines.
As with every class we teach, we urge all our students to read and study Line of Duty Death Reports. Please click on the link below to go to the report from the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office.
At every teaching opportunity, I make it a point to spend plenty of time talking about risk assessment and risk management. For the sake of discussion lets focus strictly on fireground operations.
My concern is and continues to be a growing and unashamed trending towards total risk aversion. I have theorized that there are many reasons for the rapid expansion in “risk avoider” cliques, some of which includes: wanting to be “progressive” fire department, a desire to be a “great fire service leader”, an inability to manage your members, ineffective at making your point through discussion and dialogue with others equally as intelligent as you are, fear of what other “great fire service leaders” might think of you if you don’t join the club and last but not least an inability to strategically and logically think through all aspects of the complexities of fire suppression and fireground management. If you get where I am going, this list could go on forever.
To be clear, my issue is not with defensive operations my stance on that is clear. We must always operate in the correct strategy (Offensive or Defensive), 100% of the time, once a PROPER risk assessment is completed (which needs to occur throughout the incident not just at the beginning). My issue is that many have gotten caught up in the emotions of death and injuries, causing them to lose their abilities to detach themselves from the feelings; long enough to have a discussion(s) based on logic, contemplative thought, competing believes, debate and yes even science. Some are even being dishonest brokers, using emotional warfare as a tool to cover for an inability to manage people and organizations.
Example: If we cant enforce the policy for our drivers, to stop at every Stop Sign and red lights (as they MUST), while maintaining full control of the vehicle at the legal speed; or we have promoted people who cant or wont enforce policy, then it becomes much easier to simply coward under the auspice of “safety” by moving to all cold responses. That certainly is one way of gaining compliance and reducing injuries. Hey here is another thought:
• Train your drivers adequately
• Promote people who will enforce rules and regulations
• Validate compliance through the use of vehicle cameras and speed analysis
• Hold both driver and officer accountable for failing to follow policy, every person every time
• Conduct annual drivers license checks
Oh Schultzy, we can’t do that, it’s much easier to just avoid accidents all together. Ok then lets just be honest with the public and tell them we are going to send a FD vehicle (preferably an electric vehicle so we avoid toxic emissions) with one person, for every 911 call, to make sure it is in fact an emergency, then and only then are we willing to out our people at risk by allowing them to all come together on the fire truck. Let me know how that works out for you will you?
If we can’t get compliance from firefighters and fire officers to follow standard operating procedures on the fireground or our people are incapable of executing core basic skills without getting themselves hurt or killed; or if our Company Officers and Incident Commanders lack the ability to do a proper risk assessment, then lets just stop letting them go inside burning buildings. Hey, here’s another thought:
• Develop a comprehensive set of SOG’s
• Train your people on them and test them to make sure they know them
• Make them aware of the consequences for not following them (I know, I’m just mean like that)
• Hire capable thinking firefighters
• Once again, promote Officers who can enforce policy
• Make your people train every day
• Test them on core capability
• Confront fireground problems, each and every one of them, every single time.
• HOLD PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE
There you go again Schultzy. I know, it was a momentary lapse in judgment. I was exhausted after a tough day at work (maybe I should stop working, its dangerous to think while your tired). It’s much simpler to just avoid the possibility of injury all together. Hey I’m ok with that if you’re honest and upfront about saying so. Not just in a blog, but to the public as well. Lets remove the part of our organizational mission statement, where we regurgitate our commitment to “protecting property” and just tell people, this is what we will do for you. If your house catches on fire and if you can guarantee us (with 100% certainty) that your family member(s) is still inside of your burning home, then and only then, will we expose our people to risk. If not, we are likely not to enter your home. The good news is we will work hard to extinguish the fire, by depositing thousands of gallons of water, through your roof until either the fire goes out or the water reaches the roofline, which ever comes first. Don’t forget; let me know how that works out for you.
I was recently reading a Forbes Magazine article on the 10 most dangerous jobs. You know which job doesn’t make the list? Well these did:
• Fisherman/Fisherwoman – I think we can all agree, it is senseless for people to die so we can eat seafood. I know an easy fix, criminalize fishing.
• Logging Workers – Is it ok for someone to be killed so we can have a new home or so our kids can do homework? Absolutely not, lets stop all logging activities and simply wait for the trees to fall down on their own. Oh wait, better not, at the rate we burn homes down, it creates supply and demand.
• Aircraft Pilots – Really? Allowing someone to lose his/her life just so you can vacation? I think not. Get those planes out-of-the-air immediately. Unless we need them to run water drops on that next Warehouse fire.
• Refuse Workers – How would we ever justify telling a child that their Dad died while picking up our trash. No more thrash collection. From here on out everyone has to burn his or her own trash. P.S. don’t burn to close to the house. The house may catch on fire and there wont be any planes to do air-drops, refuse workers to pick up the debris, loggers to cut wood for the new house or any seafood available to celebrate after you move in to your brand new home.
I hope you get the point. Using fear as a tactic to disguise an inability to think critically or to manage properly is just as ridicules as the ideas above. Its time to get serious, engage in dialogue, discussion and debate in a logical and professional manner and really figure out how we can do this most noble work in a manner that is both safe and effective.
I was on the Internet this morning and saw this picture posted on Facebook. It was bad enough that someone posted it, but the number of likes was even more disturbing. I will preface the rest of this blog with that I AM A REFORMED FIREFIGHTER. I was not always Combat Ready and I used many excuses to justify to myself my BAD habits and complacency.
None of those excuses were valid and they were just my attempt to place the blame on inanimate objects and conditions. To change my ways and to make me a better firefighter took a good company officer, someone to ensure that I was fully protected when entering our incident scenes, regardless if we had fire and smoke conditions presented upon arrival. That same company officer would make sure the company would be at the top of their game every run. This covered from the preparation put into the call even before it happened, preparing us for that incident through developed good habits on every call and anticipating that every sparking outlet or odor of smoke was a real fire.
No Internet site or picture should encourage our firefighters to not be fully prepared for each incident, and even worse not taking FULL advantage of the state of the art Personal Protective Ensemble that is afforded to today’s firefighters. The duty of the Company Officer or the person riding the right front seat is to champion the Combat Ready attitude and the donning of all PPE.
Do the right thing even when no one is watching, or in this case when someone important is not on the scene.
To-Go-or-Not-to Go (Part Two)
In continuing from last week’s blog, I wanted to provide a few strategic and tactical considerations to consider when dealing with “known abandon buildings”. Even now, I hate playing the classification semantics at the risk of making things too simple. One thing I have learned over the past thirty years, the longer I am in the business, the less black and white things become; that quite frankly pisses me off. I am far more comfortable in the black and white with the grey area making me feel like I’m becoming more indulgent in my old age.
The fact is, much of what we do requires spending time in the grey area. That’s doesn’t have to be a bad thing unless you are one of those “pick a side” firefighters. Those are the ones who hope that you wouldn’t think for yourself and expect you to blindly believe what ever they advocate at any cost. In that world all things fit neatly in to the risk aversion box and do so equally as nice as the “balls – plus water – and the fire goes out” box. Sorry guys it isn’t that simple. The fact is, there is no way of escaping educating yourself on the issue and then using your own brain. By all means, you should be listening to many different opinions, but at the end of the day, you are going to have to use your brain.
In my last post, I proposed for the sake of discussion that we walk away from the terms, vacant, abandoned, derelict, and blighted and every other name we can come up with for the sake of have the discussion strictly based on risk assessment. The reason is simple; whenever we discuss this issue (which need to occur and at greater frequency) we lose all focus on risk and the attention quickly turns to either “property is never worth risk” or “there could be squatters in there” debate never making it to the greater discussion of best strategy and tactics.
We lose sight of the goal, which is a safe and effective operations based on risk as opposed to classifications of potentially unoccupied buildings types. Please don’t get me wrong, I see little to no value in taking unnecessary risk in vacant/abandon buildings but acknowledge that there will be times, when the fire is manageable enough to allow us to make the push, perform a search and extinguish the fire in a reduced risk manner. Ironically for those of us that have been IC’s for a season or two, we have had to navigate the very same type of assessment in occupied structures with the possibility of victims trapped. This gets me back to my main point which is its not right or wrong, its both right or wrong depending on the incident.
My friend and co-instructor Fireman Donnie Wedding (Fredricksburg VA Fire Department & Traditions Training) sent me his account of an incident he experienced while working a couple years ago.
“On our first day back after break, we (the truck co) were dispatched to assist the city police department in the morning, with gaining entry into an ‘abandon’ building after they received reports of seeing people in windows on the second floor. The house was an old (probably 1950’s era) balloon frame that had been converted into a duplex, with an identical house sitting next to it in the same block. The house was boarded up on the first floor only.
Due to known people being inside and not knowing what exactly the circumstances were and why people were occupying the house, we gave the police a quick ‘how to’ and let them take care of it. They found several people inside after gaining entry, and we watched them as they brought them out. I never found out whether they were arrested or just told to leave.
When we got back to the station, my Sergeant sent out an email to everyone in the department making them aware that people were occupying those houses, if we were called back there.
4 days later (last day of our tour before break) were dispatched around 12am for a reported fire in the 200 block of Ford St., where these houses sat. They were the only address in this block actually.
Before we left the station we all quickly acknowledged to the engine which route we were taking and reminded them that there were known people staying inside.
Entering the block from the D side of the building, we found fire-consuming most of the rear on both floors of the C and D side, with fire venting from several windows on the second floor in the Charlie Quadrant.
We only had a 3 man truck that night, so while the truck driver placed the Tower, me and my officer placed a couple ground ladders and began opening up the ‘HUD’ covers and plywood which luckily were only on portions of the first floor. While the Engine Co. stretched a line, I was able to make a quick search of the first floor, which had surprisingly good visibility due to the floor/ceiling above being burned through in the rear.
We then entered through the front making our way to the second floor to complete a primary search and open up, and met up with the first due engine who was making a good knock of the fire upstairs.
After searching this side of the duplex, we assisted another company with opening up and clearing the adjoining residence of the house/duplex. The fire was knocked down and all the searches were negative.
Apparently the people occupying the house had somehow placed a spacer in the electric meter (which had been pulled/disconnected since it was vacant) giving power to the house, which ultimately led to the cause of the fire.
Needless to say our actions and operations that night were based on knowing we had confirmed people previously occupying the home days earlier. Maybe you could say we got luckily having the heads up. But, had we not been there 4 days earlier, I wonder what the actions might have been”.
DLW (as he is known on twitter) provides a real example of what is involved in making strategic and tactical decisions based on a risk assessment processes. If you remember from the previous post, risk assessment must include: knowledge of fire behavior, knowledge of how fire/smoke acts in the five building types, critical factors (which include occupancy, occupied vs unoccupied and condition of structure to name a few) and available resources. During his previous tour, one of the critical factors that became a “known factor” is that the building had a history of squatting. It would be inappropriate on any level, to discount that factor (occupied by squatters) solely based on the fact the building was considered abandoned or vacant. This certainly could have occurred if our default training and mentality is “we risk nothing for property” which may have occurred if this very important factor was not earlier understood.
On the other side of the coin you need to sit down and spend some time reading through the Firefighter Steve Solomon (Atlanta Fire Rescue) LODD report. Doing so should cause you to rethink the “get some” mentality.
So lets get at it! The members of the Fredricksburg FD knew what they knew from being out on the street, paying attention on all runs and knowing the buildings in their district. They took advantage by identifying critical factors of specific buildings; ahead of those building’s catching fire. Get out there in your box-alarm districts and identify those building which have added risk before you figure it out the hard way. In-spite of all we have discussed, the fact is, there will be clear and unmistakable buildings in your community that are vacant, abandoned, derelict, blighted or whatever. We should identify them beforehand and make other responders aware of them as well (just as the Sergeant did). This could be anything from an email to all Officers in the Battalion, an entry in the Critical Incident Dispatch notes section of the CAD or a unique building placarding system.
Once identified the next step is to focus on developing an SOG for dealing with fires in these types of buildings. Here are a few simple steps to help slow everyone down and take a few extra seconds to size-up the risk:
• When dealing with abandon known buildings consider having all units with the exception of the first engine and truck, stage in-line of approach and remain on the apparatus until they are given direction by the IC. This will keep things from unfolding ahead of an appropriate strategy.
• First arriving resource should provide a detailed on-scene report including:
o Corrected address (if need be)
o Height of building
o The fact that the building is or appears to be abandoned, vacant or whatever the appropriate nomenclature is for your department.
o Conditions evident
o Water supply
o Status of doors and windows (boarded-up, bars, HUD covers)
o Obvious structural integrity concerns.
• Initial company should declare the operating strategy (offensive/defensive)
• When selecting a Defensive strategy
o Establish a collapse/isolation zone
o Use master streams when possible can alleviate members creeping in to the collapse/isolation zone as they often do with handlines.
o There is no value in pulling covered windows or any other coverings if it places your personnel within the collapse zone. It will eventually open itself up.
• When selecting the Offensive Strategy
o No one should enter the structure until every window and door is open and completely free of plywood and or bars. This means you will need to assign more then normal resources to do this since it will still need to be done in a timely manner.
o Consider (1) Engine (1) Support Service going as a team, while others stand fast outside of the IDLH. No one else enters without specific direction from the IC (controlled deployment)
o As engines makes the push the support service branches off for searches maintaining a position behind the line. With the strong possibility of opened walls, floors and ceilings (holes) this is no time to get caught working above or behind hidden fire.
o Engine companies should sweep the floor ahead of advancement with a straight-stream. This not only helps identify holes, breaches etc., it also allows for any debris including needles and other forms of potential communicable disease vectors.
o The use of TIC’s should help in identifying openings in floors, walls and ceilings as well as hidden fire.
o This is a slow push folks simmer-down.
o IC should consider a Division Supervisor on each exterior side of the structure. You can’t do yourself any harm with 8 more eyes on the building.
This obviously is not a comprehensive list of considerations for dealing with vacant buildings, which was never my intention. The goal was to have a discussion focused on risk, which looks deeper, then homelessness and risk aversion.
One of the many challenges that smaller volunteer departments face is the lack of adequate manpower and resources on the scene early enough to coordinate an efficient fire attack – efficient being the key word.
Our brothers who work or volunteer in the urban areas of the country are usually fortunate enough to have the Engine Companies and Trucks Companies arriving on scene, one on top of another, giving them multiple units and plenty of manpower early on. They have dedicated Engine Companies and Truck Companies to handle and complete all of the necessary tasks on the fire ground. Those on the Engine Company will only need to worry about establishing a water supply and stretching and advancing their attack line. The Truck Companies are responsible for forcible entry, searches, ventilation, opening up the ceiling and walls and placing ladders for egress, etc.
Those of us in the smaller suburban / rural communities do not have this luxury. Most of us who volunteer in these types of communities do not have “dedicated” engine and truck companies. Many of us, including my own department, don’t even have a “ladder truck” in our apparatus fleet. Without a “dedicated” truck company, how are we supposed to complete those “truck company” tasks? The first arriving engine may only have 4 or 5 men on it. The 2nd due engine will often be arriving 3-5 minutes after the 1st arriving engine. How can those 4 or 5 men on that 1st arriving engine stretch their attack line, force entry, search, open up to check for extension, place ladders and ventilate?
I’ll share some ideas for you to consider. Let me first start by saying that what works for one department may not work for another. What the brothers do in Chicago or Boston will most certainly not work for my department and vice versa. Some of the ideas that I will offer may seem out of the norm, and quite different than what some of you are used to. They are, however, tried and true; and many departments have been successful using them, my fire department being one of them.
Let’s take a look at what tasks will always need to be done, or have the probability of needing to get done, within the first few minutes of being on scene.
1. Stretch the initial attack line…I’m certain we can all agree on that.
2. Forcible entry…perhaps you may get to the front door and you find it to be unlocked, terrific; however the task of forcible entry still needs to be assigned so that we arrive at the front door with the appropriate F/E tools. We don’t want to have to go back to the engine and grab the irons. A delay in forcible entry results in a delay of the line getting to the fire.
3. Primary search…my rule of thumb is that the building is occupied until WE search it and prove otherwise. I do not take the word of the Police Officer, a neighbor or even a resident telling me that “everyone is out”. It’s occupied until the search crew tells me “the primary is negative”.
4. Ventilation…getting the appropriate windows taken out to assist in the advancement of the line and to assist the searches. Remember, we need to coordinate the ventilation and time it properly.
5. Ladders…having ladders placed for egress.
6. “Hooking the fire area”….once the fire is knocked, it’s not time to dish out high 5’s, it’s time to get the ceilings and walls opened up and check for extension.
One thing that is important for us, and when I say us, I’m referring to departments similar to mine, is to multitask. In order to multitask, your engine needs to be set up properly, the most important being your attack lines. Having your lines racked so that they come off smoothly and with minimal manpower is key.
Here is how our riding assignments are set up:
4 Person Crew:
Driver – drive safely, operate the pump, place ladders for egress / ventilate once the attack line is charged
Officer – Tools : Hook, hand light, radio?Task : Communicate with the driver to be sure the proper “running route” is
being used, look up the closet water source in the “1st due book”, supervise and direct the stretch of the attack line, assist with flaking out
the line if necessary, supervise the fire attack and provide the Incident Commander with updated CAN reports, open up the fire area to expose extension using his hook.
Nozzleman – Tools : Attack line, hand light, radio?Task : Stretch and advance the attack line, extinguish the fire
Back-up – Tools : Appropriate forcible entry tools, hand light, radio?Task : Assist the nozzleman in stretching the attack line, flake out attack line,
Forcible entry, assist with the advancement of the attack line, primary search of the fire area / areas immediately adjacent to the fire area as long as he is able to be in verbal communication with the officer.
Granted, this 4 man engine crew is taxed to say the least, however it is feasible and does work.
5 Person Crew:
Driver – drive safely, operate the pump, place ladders for egress / ventilate once the attack line is charged.
Officer – Tools : Hook, hand light, radio?Task : Communicate with the driver to be sure the proper “running route” is
being used, look up the closet water source in the “1st due book”, supervise and direct the stretch of the attack line, assist with flaking out line if necessary, supervise the fire attack and provide the Incident Commander with updated CAN reports, open up the fire area to expose extension using his hook.
Nozzleman – Tools : Attack line, hand light, radio?Task : Stretch and advance the attack line, extinguish the fire
Back-up – Tools : Appropriate forcible entry tools, hand light, radio?Task : Assist the nozzleman in stretching the attack line, flake out attack line,
forcible entry, assist with the advancement of the attack line, primary search of the fire area / areas immediately adjacent to the fire area as long as he is able to be in verbal communication with the officer
Control – Tools : Hook, hand light, radio?Task : Assist nozzleman and back-up man in stretching the attack line,
assist with flaking out the attack line, assist in the advancement of the attack line, primary search of the fire area / areas immediately adjacent to the fire area as long as he is in verbal communication with the officer, assist with opening up the fire area to expose extension using his hook.
The 5 man engine crew is similar to the 4 man crew. The addition of the “Control” firefighter make everyone’s job a little easier and the operation becomes more efficient. He adds one more man to help with the line, search and open up.
6 Man Crew :
Driver – drive safely, operate the pump, place ladders for egress / ventilate once the attack line is charged
Officer – Tools : Hook, handlight, radio?Task : Communicate with the driver to be sure the proper “running route” is
being used, look up the closet water source in the “1st due book”, supervise and direct the stretch of the attack line, assist with flaking out line if necessary, supervise the fire attack and provide the Incident Commander with updated CAN reports, open up the fire area to expose extension using his hook
Nozzleman – Tools : Attack line, hand light, radio?Task : Stretch and advance the attack line, extinguish the fire
Back-up – Tools : Hand light, radio?Task : Assist the Nozzleman in stretching the attack line, flake out attack line,
assist with advancement of the attack line Search – Tools : Appropriate forcible entry tools, hand light, radio
Task : Forcible entry, primary search of the fire floor, provide the Incident Commander with updated CAN reports
Search – Tools : Hook, water can, hand light, radio?Task : Assist with forcible entry as necessary, primary search of the fire floor, open up the fire area to expose extension.
As you can see, there is a big difference in how we operate with 6 men on the engine. The back-up firefighter’s job becomes a lot easier and there is a dedicated search crew to search the entire fire floor, rather than breaking a member or two off the line to search the fire area.
Again, some of this may seem quite odd to many of you, especially with what we have our back-up man doing on the 4 and 5 man crews. There are 2 main things that we do which make stretching our lines rather easy for just the nozzleman, thus allowing the back up firefighter to have those irons, or other appropriate F/E tools, in his hand coming off the engine, and they are both key:
1. Our lines are racked so that the nozzleman can pretty much make the stretch by himself. We rack our lines in a modified minuteman load. The nozzle firefighter takes the 1st load on his shoulder. The 2nd load can either stay in the bed and it will peel off nicely without anyone touching it, or the nozzleman can pull the bottom ear of the 2nd load and dump it on the ground and drag it with him. This is key for us because it frees up the back-up firefighter a little bit. The 1st responsibility of our back-up man is to assist the nozzleman. However, when he get off the engine he takes the appropriate forcible entry tools with him. He will carry the irons in one hand while assisting the nozzleman by flaking out the attack line with the free hand. This may sound strange, but it works. Once the back up man flakes out the line and while the line is getting charged, the back up firefighter assesses the door and, if necessary, will force the door using the tools that he brought with him as he got off the engine.
2. Because we have no ladder truck, we position the 1st due engine to make the stretch of the attack line to the front door, or whatever the point of entry will be, as direct as possible and with as few obstructions as possible. We have no ladder truck that we need to leave the front of the building for, so we are able to do this with no issues.
One other key point, when we have a 4 or 5 person crew on the engine, we usually put the most experienced firefighter on the back-up position. We do this because of the important tasks that he will be expected to complete, pretty much by himself.
Allow me to also say that what is outlined above is certainly not all that needs to be done on the fire ground. When the 2nd due engine and the Rescue arrive, we are stretching back-up line, searching the floor above the fire, placing additional ladders for egress, etc, etc. The purpose of this article is to show one way you can accomplish “engine and truck” tasks with 4-6 men early on into the incident.
This is a little insight as to how my “Small Town Volunteer Fire Department” operates. When we first started to reconstruct how we operated on the fire ground, it took a lot of planning, thinking, talking and mostly training. We didn’t just whip this out overnight. It was a process and I can’t stress that enough. We talked to the entire Department of what our plan and goal was. We trained hard for many months until all of our members became efficient and understood the tasks and expectations. Once we got to that point, then we instituted the changes permanently…and as I said in a previous article, we are operating smoothly and efficiently and we haven’t looked back since.
Hopefully I have given many of you some things to think about and perhaps bring back to your Officers for their consideration. If any of you have any questions or need more clarity on what i have written about and explained, please feel free to contact me.
I’m looking forward to writing the next blog article in a couple weeks. In the mean time, stay safe and train hard.
When one of your guys crosses the line and knowingly does something wrong, the temptation is very high to try to soften the pain of discipline. That whole “looking out for your guys” instinct kicks in. As a blue shirt, I felt it was the officers duty to do whatever it took to look out for us. I’ve learned the hard way you are doing a disservice to your troops if you do that. When you do that, an unfortunate result of that type of action is this; the firefighter will feel emboldened that they were able to cross that line with no real repercussions from their wrong doing, and they will feel like they can get away with breaking the rules.
On two separate occasions in my time as a lieutenant, my lack of willingness to drop the hammer led others to do something even worse, and almost cost them their jobs. Don’t fall into this trap.
About two years ago, I promoted to captain. My welcome speech included the following… ” If you make a honest mistake, I’ll do everything in my power to have your back and minimize the consequences of it. We’ll learn from it, make sure it doesn’t happen again, and move on. However, if you make a conscious decision to do something you KNOW is wrong,and do it anyway, I will have no pity on you. If you can’t work for someone like me, feel free to put transfers in.”
Still the best job in the world,
Captain Dave Angelo
Baltimore County Fire Department
Dundalk Fire Station 06