I recently have had a lot of suggestions and requests to post on some volunteer, rural, combination issues that the fire service faces. I started and am still a member of a mostly rural volunteer, now combination, department. My earliest exposure to the fire service was at this mostly rural department.
We had a large majority of our fires outside of our public water area and our staffing was limited, just like it is today. Most of our trucks were single cab trucks that would seat two or three, depending on if the seats were buckets or benches. This was the fire service I was raised in. As time went on this department has become a functioning combination department.
But, it still has the same demographics of a large rural response area with the challenge of staffing after the first arriving unit gets on scene. In some cases those first firefighters will have to wait for over 20 minutes for the nearest mutual aid company. This, of course, causes issues with water supply, interior attack and other critical firefighting functions.
These are issues that the American fire service is facing all over this country. Along with the posts that I will be posting in the coming weeks, there is another great resource for rural to suburban tactics at County Fire Tactics. Be sure to check them out on their web site and on Facebook. This post will highlight some first due engine ops for water supply in the rural setting.
Some of you may not agree with all of these suggestions, but these have worked and have been tested. But, if you have a better way, feel free to share.
One of the biggest challenges for the first due engine, besides staffing, is securing a water supply. There are no hydrants and we don't always know when the first tanker will arrive. (In the Midwest we use the term tanker as a ground apparatus that carries at least 1000 gallons of water.) When operating in a response area that has public water, it is not uncommon for the second arriving unit to lay into the first apparatus from the hydrant. Our additional units are usually quicker to arrive and the fire has not progressed as far because our response times are faster. In the rural setting our response times are longer due to proximity and road miles allowing the fire to grow longer, thus consuming more of the structure.
So, we will need big water sooner than what might be required in a hydranted area. We have to prepare for this situation before the call comes in. How we carry and load our supply lines is critical. So many times our hose and the loads we use are set up for our hydranted areas; because its easy and there is a lot of information out there on how to lay into and from a hydrant. Additionally, we usually don't have to got too far to get to a hydrant. This is not usually the case when we get into the rural setting. I'm not going to tell you what you should or shouldn't do, your department has specific needs. But, I will offer some examples that have worked. When setting up your hose bed, you need to know what appliances will be used to distribute water to multiple apparatus. Have those appliances readily available and ready for deployment. Don't hide them away in the twilight zone that requires a heavy mover to get to. Make them accessible. This will speed your hose deployment and get you water faster. You need to have a good familiarity with your rural response area. Laying 900 feet of hose and still having 400 feet to the fire can cause a delay in getting water. Ideally, we want to be able to get to the fire building as the first due engine. So, you may have to be deliberate in where you lay your line. In doing that, laying away from an intersection or half way up a road or drive, leave a cone at the coupling for visibility. Have enough hose! As the first due engine dropping line can be a very smart move, if done right. When laying your line the first issue is to not take up the road or drive. Get to one side of the road or drive and lay it out on that side to allow other apparatus access. It might be worth having a firefighter follow the truck to guide the hose to one side of the road. This will pay dividends later. Doing this also gives you a guide to how much hose your laying and can relay that to the next in unit or your water supply tanker. You need to communicate to your next arriving unit what side of the road your laying, how much hose and if you reached the fire building or not. This will determine if the second unit will be your relay or if it needs to finish the lay. Depending on your department's capabilities, you may choose to lay a 3" supply line, dual 3" lines or large diameter hose. We typically will lay dual 3" lines. This takes preparation for you hose loads and can shorten your lay.
Additionally, if using LDH, a good rule of thumb to remember is that every foot of LDH holds one gallon of water. So, you see how this might be a problem in filling the line initially depending on how much water your supply truck carries. Finally, the first arriving engine needs to try to place their apparatus in a position that is conducive for additional units, access to the fire and possibly room for tankers to maneuver in and out of.
This post is very basic and only outlines an option for the first arriving engine or apparatus. We will cover more rural topics in the coming weeks. In the meantime, let us know what you want to read about. Also, share if you have tactics that you have found to be beneficial. Thanks and train hard.
Archives for administration-leadership
I recently have had a lot of suggestions and requests to post on some volunteer, rural, combination issues that the fire service faces. I started and am still a member of a mostly rural volunteer, now combination, department. My earliest exposure to the fire service was at this mostly rural department.
One of the most challenging aspects of being an officer, leader or instructor is providing honest feedback to our crews. It sounds simplistic and most will say in response to reading that, “I am.” Well, as easy as it sounds, skimming over the “bad” stuff is easier to do because we are Brothers and Sisters and we hang out off duty or whatever.
We’re going to address this problem specifically as it relates to the training ground.
We try to involve our company officers in most all drills. The idea is that the company officer will be directing their crews on the emergency scene, making critical, real-time decisions and we want them to use drills and exercises to practice and refine those skills.
Recently we drilled on a new operational guideline that included some new equipment. We provided a video showing and explaining the new guideline and discussed the new operational guideline. The company officers were supposed to sit with their crews to watch the video, discuss the guideline then go out and get familiar with the equipment that would be used during the training evolution.
Some officers are more driven than others and some think they already know everything, and as you might guess, change is not embraced by everyone.
Ours has not always been an environment where honest, constructive feedback was accepted. Like many departments, we got by and used tactics that were taught 20-30 years old, they worked back then so why change them now?
This new guideline addressed a low frequency/high risk event and is something we haven’t historically trained on in the past. The simple fact that we were making this drill as realistic as possible was already causing some grumbling and not everyone was in favor of the new equipment and tactics associated with the new guideline.
I knew we were going to have deficiencies, after all, we want to find them during drills and training as compared to when the real thing happens.
The first two days we had to make some corrections, as was expected, and in one case the attack line had to be redeployed to make sure it was done correctly. There was constructive advise and recommendations made and good questions as to “why” we were making some of the changes. It was a positive learning experience and each person understood the correct way to operate under that guideline with the new equipment at the end of the day.
The third day was not as positive. It became apparent that one company officer spent no time with the video or his crew in preparing of the drill. This particular day I was involved in the drill and a chief officer was running the exercise.
During the drill many deficiencies were noted by assistant instructors and the guideline was not adhered to. When the drill ended, one small deficiency was noted, but everyone was told they had done a good job. Not good. I only found out about the larger, very significant problem later that day as input from the assistant instructors started debriefing me on the events.
We had to pull the deficient company officer in and explain what he did wrong and why. Since there was not an honest evaluation of the drill, he was under the impression that he did okay. This creates huge problems with credibility and trust between the trainer, officer and/or leader and crews or students.
It all worked out in the end. If we are not honest about performance and allow our firefighters and officers to believe that deficient behaviors and performances are acceptable, we are training them to fail. We must provide honest feedback, even when it’s not the popular thing to do or there is push back.
In all aspects of training, I see this regularly in the classroom and on the drill ground. When a task or skill is performed wrong or not to an optimum level, it must be addressed with respect to why and the importance of doing it right the way. However, when addressing these issues, it should be done in a constructive way as not to degrade or minimize that firefighter or officer.
Whether your in the engine house, on the fire ground or on the drilling ground, we have to be honest about our performance. Even though this can cause friction with some, it builds trust among your team because they know that your intentions are to make the team better. Don’t fail your people by letting things go, make them do it right before they leave the training ground and go back to the engine house on a positive note.
Thanks for reading and train hard. I appreciate everything that each one of you do for our fire service.
Here is a great "memory jogger" for Command Functions and Size Up from one of our instructors, Scott Hulsey.
Click the link for each and feel free to use how you wish. If you have additions and suggestions, please share.
Thanks for reading and keep training.
I always loved sports. I played just about every sport I could and eventually settled in with basketball and baseball. The coaches I had were always preaching the fundamentals and basics explaining that as players, we had to master the basics to the point that things like dribbling and passing were second nature. When those basics were mastered we were able to ascend our skill sets to seeing an open player before he is open and making moves on the fly, avoiding the defender with moves that were more challenging because we had a “feel” for the game.
The “feel” for the game allowed us to improvise and do things on the court that weren’t necessarily practiced. A defender stepping in front of us quickly, obstructing our passing lane may force us to make a behind-the-back pass. This is improvising with an advanced skill based on our most basic of skills: passing. Does the player get punished for this advanced skill? Probably not, especially if the outcome is a positive one.
When we get to an advanced level of skill sets, it typically comes from past experiences and hours upon hours of training. With that training and experience also comes the ability to recognize situations that are not typical. These non-typical situations will require us, if trained appropriately, to make the best possible decision for the best possible outcome. The mantra of always use two hands to pass and catch the ball with thumbs turned down may not work or be appropriate in a certain situation because the desired outcome is not going to be achieved.
The same can be said in the fire service. In recent weeks a Philadelphia firefighter made a heroic save and was faced with a decision to give the fire victim his air. There has been a great debate over the actions. I was recently asked by Eric Rhoden on his and Ray McCormack’s radio show what I thought about the incident and the reaction that followed. What came to me was a baseball situation.
We teach our kids to get square to the ball, get our glove to the ground, field the ball in the middle of our body/stance and to turn toward our target and so on. You get the point. But that doesn’t always get the out. Sometimes the fielder has to dive for the ball, getting dirty and bruised and maybe tossing the ball behind his back to get the out. Is there less margin for error? Yes. Is it taught that way? Not usually. Is it effective in certain situations? Absolutely!
There is one important variable however. You must be highly skilled and practice daily to make plays like that. You can’t just walk out onto the field and expect to perform at that level. I don’t know the firefighter in Philly that made the save, but my guess is that he is very competent with his SCBA and has mastered the basic skills surrounding his air supply. I would also guess that he is one that takes his craft very seriously and wants to perform at a high level for incidents just like the one he performed so heroically for.
I always teach that in the fire service there are no “always” and no ” nevers” because right when you think you have every situation covered, a call comes along that you never thought about. Ask yourself every day when you walk onto that engine bay floor, “Am I ready for the worst call of my career?” The conclusion I always come to is “No.” But, I train, drill or engage myself into the fire service every chance I get, just in case that call or situation comes along that requires something a little extra of me. Hopefully I will be ready to dive for that ball to make the play.
Finally, thanks to Ray and Erich for having me on and thanks again to Fire Engineering and everyone on the site, you all keep me engaged and excited about the fire service. Take care and stay cool during this hot summer. Be ready to dive for that ball.
Take a look at the pictures and think about getting water on the fire to the upper floor and/or making rescues. This building is one that is old and not sprinklered. It sits off of the road and aerial access is extremely limited, almost ineffective.
When looking at this type of building we need to consider the construction type, occupancy, access and egress points and any special hazards. What are our initial resources and what should we have coming on the way? This building is four stories and is a dormartory at a college. The corridor length is 225 from stairwell to stairwell. As you look at the building in the picture, the stairwell on the right is more remote from a parking surface than the one on the left. The elevation that you see in the picture from this side is the same on the opposite side.
There is a basement under this building with tunnels that lead to other campus buildings with limited access and egress where kids sneak away to do what kids sneak away to do. There is a great deal of combustible storage in these basements and tunnels.
Type 3 construction is the type of building we are dealing with and the interior has been altered over the years. There is an automatic alarm system but no standpipes. Water supply is limited; the closest hydrant is approximately 300 feet from where you would likely place first in companies and that hydrant, if laid from, would severely hinder access by other units because of only one access to the campus.
So, here we go……..what are your tactics and why? Watch the video and let everyone know what you would do and why. Use this for discussion purposes and relate it to buildings that you might have in your jurisdiction. Share your thoughts and ideas.
Train hard and we hope to see most of you at FDIC 2012 next week.
A Firefighter’s Own Worst Enemy: A Synopsis
When I created this class it was in response to my own attitudes and behaviors that I had developed over a period of time. During those 18 months of “darkness” I allowed outside influences to dictate my perception of the fire service, what my job is and should be and the direction of my future. Luckily, I had other influences around me that recognized I was drifting and helped to set me back on course.
After I was re-calibrated I realized that most of my problems were of my own doing. I was allowing other’s attitudes and perceptions to affect my own. It was easy for me to buy in to the negative influences because that was popular. It is always easy to swim with the current in that regard. Instead of standing up for what I truly believed in I allowed my values and principles to be altered by the peer pressure to act and react in an appropriate manner.
When asked what my class is about, I struggle sometimes to fully explain it to others. It isn’t just about peer pressure or about keeping a positive attitude. It’s about more than getting up out of the chair and working out and training. It is about more than being a positive example to others and to not fall into the easy way out.
This topic is not a typical firefighter related class. We cannot deny that our egos and perception of what a firefighter is does not include introspection on our thoughts and attitudes and how they can affect our team. In that regard just teaching this class is sometimes a challenge knowing that many will not “get it.”
My first career firefighter job was in a small suburban department in St. Louis County. There was a battalion chief there who was an old Navy guy and had an old timer attitude but understood very well that the fire service had to progress and was a supporter of training, physical fitness and higher education. He was also an old farmer who always had a saying or euphemism for just about every occasion. As a young firefighter I didn’t truly understand those sayings nor did I try to attach them to any real meaning.
One of his favorite sayings was that “a firefighter is his own worst enemy.” He would say this frequently and I never really put too much thought into it until many years later after I had moved on to a different department. He never elaborated and never really preached, he just threw out these little nuggets of advice and would go about his business. Well, it finally struck me what he was trying to say.
In just about every aspect of our job we create our attitude. That attitude will dictate our course in the fire service. Those that have an attitude that the only PR we need is running calls will have to live with the results of that attitude. For those that refuse to train and do not place any emphasis on continued improvement in our skills and tactics will be forced to live with the results of those attitudes. The problem is that these individual attitudes not only have a direct impact on them, but also on those they work with and the organization.
We have to understand that our actions, behaviors and attitudes do affect more than just ourselves on a personal level. This is probably the most difficult thing to get firefighters to understand. If a guy doesn’t want to train and is not made to train, he will be inefficient and will then be the weakest link of the team. If one or more members of the team are grossly out of shape and can’t perform, then they become a liability to the team if things go bad or they go down in a fire. Your health is not only your business, it can directly affect those you work with.
Being part of the fire service is not the same as the majority of other jobs. The plumber that fixes the pipes will probably not contribute to the loss of his own life or others if he screws something up. Could there be some water damage and cost him some money? Sure! But nobody is going to die because of his lack of training or commitment to his profession. (Nothing against plumbers.)
The fire service does not have that luxury. It is cliche and to some the extreme, but if we screw up, our citizens we swore to protect, our Brother and Sister firefighters and/or ourselves may not live to see the next day. This is a fact and is one we must wrap our heads around. We need to understand that not only does every action have a reaction, but every inaction has a reaction as well and typically it’s not positive.
A lack of fitness can and will result in health problems and poor performance leading to the rest of the team having to pick up the slack; which we are good at. A lack of training will result in inadequate skills and the completion of sound tactics which, again, will put others at risk. These are real game changers and during the class we discuss some hypothetical situations where we show how this can happen.
Finally, we pass on to others what we display. If the prevailing attitude is one of working hard to get out of work then that will be what the rookie firefighter becomes. He doesn’t know any better and the circle remains unbroken. We have to break that circle and create a new environment. There is no easy way to change the culture of a company much less an entire department.
We owe it to ourselves, the citizens we protect, our fellow firefighters and our families to be the best we can be. I had a senior firefighter who has coached his kid’s athletics for years tell me we don’t need to train because we “know what to do.” I asked him how many times a week he had practice for his teams? He stated two to three times a week. I then asked if he did the same drills and concentrated on the same basic skills at every practice? The answer was “yes.” Did he make his team run or were they allowed to walk during the practices and scrimmages? Of course they had to run to build endurance and get in “game” shape. Then I asked how we were any different from those teams? Well, you can probably guess what he said……”That is different.”
That’s right, it is different. That team may lose a game if they don’t practice. We may lose a firefighter, a citizen, a building or a block of buildings if we don’t practice. It’s time to be different. It’s time to not cave into negative peer pressure and to create our own positive peer pressure that makes it “wrong” to be on the side of “inaction.” It’s time we hold what we do and love to a high standard and expect the best of ourselves and of those around us. Do the job and do it better than well. Encourage others with our actions and show the next generation what being a firefighter is about. Don’t let them be their own worst enemy.
Join me at FDIC 2012 on Friday @ 8:30 for “A Firefighter’s Own Worst Enemy.”
Hey, here are some pictures sent to me by a Brother who is going out the DOING the job. The whole job. He and his crew are getting out and checking on things. Bob gets IT and thanks for the pics. These are in his still area and these are buildlings that get inspected and then they go right back to doing this kind of stuff. We have to be prepared for everything and anything. Imagine being the RIT and forcing the back door to make access for a Mayday and dealing with the mattresses? Look at the pictures and just imagine and discuss the challenges that you would face in those situations. Not to mention patrons trying to evacuate a smoke filled building.
Stay sharp and get out of that chair. This is important stuff, don't put it off. I'm a huge proponent of training on line deployment, search, vent, and all the rest. This is just as important. Stay safe and keep training.
Thanks to Bob Tresch for the pics and making a difference by sharing.
Here is a quick look at a building that offers more than one considering in regards to construction characteristics. The building in the photos is currently a resale shop. This building has been a tack shop, lawn equipment, sold boats and trailers. If you look hard at the front, it has been added onto.
The right side of the building was the original and the left was an addition. The front and side walls are wood frame with a brick veneer. As you can see, there is a parapet wall on three sides of the building. Both sides have been rearranged multiple times on the interior to accommodate the occupant of the moment. The original roof was flat.
This side view shows some exterior doors and the brick veneer. We can also see the electric service and a boarded up window. This two doors lead to different areas of the building and are not adjoining. You can also see that the parapet wall appears to be very tall and of combustible material.
This is the rear view and the most telling about this building. We can see that the back wall is different from the other three walls. The back wall is of block. We can also see that the roof is a lean to type of construction and knowing the history of this building, it is a “rain roof” or “roof over” that covered an old flat roof.
We can also see the parapet wall is brick on the two side walls with support ties. We know that those connections are very likely going to fail during a fire. There is a lot of void space that could be difficult to get to due to the “rain roof” and early collapse of the parapet wall should be expected.
In addition, the importance of the block wall in the back is important for orientation as well. If we get inside and get to a wall that is block, we have a pretty good idea of where we are. We only would know this by pre-planning and/or doing our 360.
These are just a few of the considerations you must think of when presented with this building or one like it. Discuss this with your crews and identify buildings that are similar in your response areas.
Train hard, stay safe, and remember those who have fallen for the lives of others. Please especially remember the families of Chief Kyle Ienn, Firefighter Doug Haase, Chief David Flint, Fire Lt. Kevin West who all left us this week.
Here is a short video that you can use for a drill or training night. Feel free to use however you like. This is from a recent basement fire and what was looked for and what was done. There are some considerations to think about. This is not everything for all basement fires. Just a simple tutorial. Feel free to add your experience and ideas to this video.
I’ve done it and you’ve done it. It is going to happen again and it’s going to happen soon. With every line of duty death the Monday morning quarterbacks come out and tell us all what they should have or should not have done. We preach and teach to learn from these tragedies by understanding the circumstances surrounding the incident. But, what are we doing to make sure that this doesn’t happen?
Our job is dangerous. Worcester Fire Department is a highly trained department and according to some reports I have gotten, fight these types of fires every year. There are some additional factors like high winds and possibly illegal renovations that compromised the structural integrity of the building. Neither of these two factors can be anticipated or controlled. We have a job to do and when we are told that someone is in a building, we do what we can to get to them. As I write this I have not heard confirmation that there was or was not a victim found.
I have no doubt that we could dissect and scrutinize what happened and we would have done this or that differently. We will hear how simplistic it should have been and others pounding the table that we don’t enter buildings that are compromised. Guess what? As soon as that building catches fire it is compromised!
What frustrates me more is that in the fire service many are real good at solving problems after the fact and few try to identify and solve them before they are actualized. It’s not just judging the YouTube video or a line of duty death, no, it’s many things. “That guy doesn’t know what he’s doing.” “That guideline is outdated and inefficient.” “That small time volunteer fire department doesn’t know what they’re doing.” Of course, most of these “kitchen table experts” have no desire to be proactive or to put themselves out there to take the lead on a project to make a positive change.
Sometimes, and I’m not saying this is the case yet, things are not preventable. Sometimes we are going to lose. We hope not, but we are running into burning, compromised buildings to save lives and property. When someone comes to us and is telling us someone is in the building, if we can make a push, we will and we should. This is what we do and why we are here. There is no time to run down a check list to determine if a certain profile is met. We don’t have time to switch our size up decision making. We have to consider the situation presented to us at the time and use our training and experience to do our best to attempt a rescue.
But, if we do want to be Monday morning quarterbacks I suggest a different approach. Take your expertise and knowledge to some less fortunate departments in regards to resources for training and teach. Share your experience and knowledge with these departments and individuals to keep bad decisions being made on the fire ground. I believe that this is the best way to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for others. Whether there were mistakes or not, we can help to prevent those who don’t have resources to perform appropriately on the fire ground.
We recently did a class in a remote part of our state and had two firefighters arrive with some hand-me down gear and SCBA. Neither had worn the gear before and neither had ever had on an SCBA. They stated they had been fighting fire with self purchased boots, gloves and helmets. That’s it. Nothing more. This is still happening. We had to pull these two firefighters aside and walk them through some basics about gear and SCBA operations. We took extra time with them just to teach them basic firefighter skills. They were more than willing to learn and were eager.
The point is this: let’s put our efforts into training and teaching firefighters to operate safely instead of beating up departments, officers and firefighters after the fact. Can we learn from these tragic events? Absolutely! We should learn lessons in a constructive manner from not just tragic events, but from every call we run. There is always something to learn whether things went well or not so well.
Train, be tolerant and make a difference in a positive way. Stay safe and thanks for reading.
This is a very simple post but one that I am finding is ever more important. Take a look at the picture and what is the first thing that you think of? What do you see? We've all done this drill or scenario and we have all at one point or another felt the anxiety of being "stuck" in a box, tube or tight spot. Some may have had instructors that guided us through and others may have been screamed at they needed to get out or they were going to die in there.
The main purpose of this post is to find out what we are trying to accomplish. It is more than just getting through the prop. We want to emphasize calm and deliberate actions. I like to point out the small things. Calm breathing and think one step ahead. What is at the other end and how should I prepare my next action accordingly? Is there a drop off? Is there a tighter space? I also like to practice getting to my pockets. Whether I actually need to or not, if I get into a position that I would need them, I have practiced that. I will be confident that I can reach my wire cutters in a tight spot. The same with my flash light; can I turn it on? Do I have an extra one I can get to?
Can I reach my radio? Can I reach my PASS device? I like to feel the space I'm in with one hand and arm to determine what the shape of the space I am in. It may just help me with placing my tank. It's not always on the bottom corners. There could be debris or the opening may be wider at the top. Feel the shapes and contours.
I know this sounds simplistic and time consuming. It is! But, if we do it over and over again, we will be better and faster at it. With these drills it's not always about speed. Creating good habits that will be easy to recall in a crisis situation just may save your life.
Here is a quick video that uses a unique perspective to shine a light on leadership and followership. I really enjoyed the video and I think the message is perfect. A great picture of leadership in action; in a little different setting. I hope you enjoy and learn something from it. Thanks for humoring me.
As you may know, I am playing with a different format. It wont be all of the time for every blog, but something a little different. So, here is one based off an article that I did. Please be patient as I work with this. Hopefully, it will enrich your blog reading.
Thanks, and let me know what you think.
This past week I had the pleasure to present for future, current and past company officers in Atlanta. As always, I learn something new from the great discussions and comments during and after the classes. I also am one who tweaks my classes up to the last minute. Good, bad or indifferent, new ideas and different ways to present an issue will enter my mind and I will make the change.
During discussions in one of the classes I asked two very simple, but far reaching questions to the class: What are you going to do today? and What have I done today?
Simple enough, right? This is a technique that I like to emphasize for company officers, and even chief officers. We all have meetings and appointments and the routine things that we do each day. But, the questions are broader than that.
The company officer has to know what to do that day to make the organization, his company and himself better for that day, and in that order. Some things that are accomplished may cover all three at the same time. This is a very dynamic topic, but simply put, he has to have a path and using these questions provides as a daily guide.
So, company officers, what have you done today? Also, ask this of your crew too. You might be surprised what you have or have not accomplished.
This is from the class “Rule of 90′s: A Guide for Success for the Company Officer.”
Sorry for being gone a while, it has been crazy! Stay safe and train hard.
I understand that all buildings, for various reasons, will not get a 360 performed on it during a fire. But, for those that we do get to job around, we need to understand what we are looking for.
I recently spoke with an acting officer and asked him what he was looking for when performing a 360. His answer was "fire." I asked what else? The answer came, "ways in." We need to make sure we are taking advantage of the information being made available to us while we are circling the building.
This post is going to focus on some basement indicators. The pictures shown below are just examples of things you might see when making the round. Keep in mind that at night you need to take a hand light. For example, the wood behind the basement windows below may not be noticeable with shining a light in the windows on the way around.
We must pay attention to what we are looking for when conduction the 360. As you can see, we may be faced with some very challenging situations. Not only do we need to be aware during the initial arrival, but the RIT will need this information as well.
As always, follow you own operational guidelines and train hard.
Check the upcoming radio show tomorrow night on "Taking it to the Streets" with Chris Naum. It is sure to be a great show and a good time. Here is some more information:
Please call in with your questions and get involved in the online discussions that always are part of the shows.
Stay safe and keep training hard.
I have to admit that I am a proponent of safety. I believe in wearing seat belts. I believe in wearing all of your protective gear and equipment. I believe in being healthier. I believe in doing a 360 and situational awareness. These are just a few of the safety issues that I believe in.
What I will never understand is a statement that puts us, the firefighters, above the victim that could still be saved. This is not new but something that I just have to get off of my chest.
I recently wrote an article "Techniques for VES". The beginning of the article specifically states that two firefighters are always ideal for operating. With that being said, I understand that there will always be those that disagree with things that I write, and I'm fine with that. What I am not fine with is the recurring theme of "never" do this and "never" do that.
When I instruct I am very careful about not using "never" and "always." We know that in our business those two words can come back to haunt you. Although the article was about VES, I know that that is a hot button topic. What prompted the article was a training I attended and questions about the tactic.
The fact is that we train for ideal conditions and we want to always have a 2 in 2 out situation. But, we know the real world is not always so kind. Statements like, "Safety of your crew and yourself always come first, no matter what the situation" are troublesome to me. Where does this leave the people in the burning building or under the debris?
Text books are great and operating in this manner is great. But, what if you are the one checking the windows in the rear and you see a hand on the glass? Your by yourself and your equipped to make a quick grab from the window. Do you wait for three more people? Or, do you take a calculated risk and perform VES that you have trained for? I for one am going to do what I can to give that person every opportunity to live. This falls in the same category of an officer that told his guys to "never" search without a hose line. Is that really the case? We know that it's not.
Out of the norm tactics are dangerous, but not necessarily reckless. There is not nor should there be a "cookie cutter" way of doing things in a figurative sense. Our job and environments are dynamic. Should we have standards and guidelines based on best practices and methods that have worked for decades? Absolutely! But, we should not be so entrenched in our own ways as not to perform to what situation we are faced with at the time. The only way to be able to do that is to train for those situations and in order to train for them you must believe that those situations can happen.
All fire ground activities are best performed in teams. Is it possible that one firefighter may need to make a save utilizing VES? Yes. Is it dangerous? Yes. So, it lends itself that if is is possible, dangerous, and we could be placed in that situation, that we should train for it.
I just don't see our profession and our tactics in a "black and white" world. I see the need to adapt and overcome. But to do that we must expect these situations and train for them.
We know the importance of inspections and identifying hazards in the buildings that we serve and respond to. This is just a simple reminder of one hazard that depending on it's location in the building, can be missed.
Combustible storage under stairs or in the stairwell can cause some serious problems. Even in sprinklered buildings this is a hazard.
The pictures you seeshows a pile of combustible storage in the stairwell and under the stairs in a hotel. You can also see that this is in the means of egress area next to the exit door.
Smoke from a fire from these combustible materials can make the use of the stairwell almost impossible and access for firefighters difficult. Occupants are expected to use the stairs during a fire and a large mass of people filling a smoke filled stairwell is disastrous.
This building also is equipped with standpipes in the stairwells, so making that connection would be difficult for fire crews trying to make the connection.
Keep an eye on your buildings and explain this situations to your crews to impress the importance of inspections and mitigating these hazards before they become problems.
Train hard and stay safe.
We have all been taught to control the door. I have watched countless firefighters try to kick in doors, bulldoze their way through them along with every other tactic that does not include a set of irons. Here is one reason why control in forcing doors is so important.
This door is in a city hall that my son was practicing in. The area that the door is in used to be a balcony that goes all the way around the gym with two doors that lead to the main floor of city hall. Over the years, as they ran out of space, they began to make office space on that balcony.
The door is almost always locked and access to this area is likely to be searched during a fire. The hazard here is obvious, but the lesson for any situations: control.
By using proper forcible entry techniques with a set of tools, you can control the door and be cautious about what is behind it. A fall from this door could be disasterous. We have to be ever diligent to master the basics. A lack of basic forcible entry skills could result in a Mayday and RIT situation which makes a hazardous situation even more so.
Be smart, know your area and train hard. Master those basic skills and require it of your crew if your the boss. Stay safe and thanks for reading.
Engine House Training, LLC is a new training group based in St. Louis, MO. We have been doing training together for a long time and finally decided to do something formal with it. As much as we like to train, we are great friends and have a blast with what ever we are doing.
The web site and blog site are not fully operational yet, but blogs should be coming in the next day or so. In the meantime, we have launched our Facebook page and would really like to have you check it out. We have already posted a great deal of material to the page and some of it you have seen before from this site. You can also follow us on Twitter.
The primary mission with Engine House Training, LLC is to give firefighters the tools they need to survive each and every call. Although our curriculum is based on self survival, Mayday, and RIT, we place a heavy emphasis on basic skills that will hopefully keep firefighters from needing to use the techniques that we teach.
Here is a quick list of our instructors and their backgrounds:
We have all heard the same statement, " the department starts and ends with the company officer." Whether you agree with this statement or not, we cannot deny the profound affect, both negative and positive,that the company officer has on our companies and ultimately our department.
How we operate and how we train will be dictated by how the company officer lays out his expectations and how the daily routines are performed. When a company officer during a training evolution makes a broad statement to his young crew that "we never enter a building without a charged hoseline", we know what the ramifications will be for the members of his company and the people they are supposed to protect. These attitudes and beliefs will be perpetuated, making our job even more difficult.
It is easy to see how the long term attitude and beliefs will be affected one way or the other by the example set by the company officer. Lazy company officers have lazy crews and working company officers have working crews. I don't know when this got so complicated.?
When the backstep pulls the line off of the rig inadequately and the officer jumps his shit, we have a problem. Is it not the job of the company officer to make sure his crew is ready? Is it not the officers job to ensure that the guys on his truck are proficient at the tasks as simple as pulling a line? Sure the backstepper has a responsibility, but that company officer has a problem with the wrong guy. If that company officer drilled regularly, any deficiencies would have been identified and remediated before they became a problem. It's called knowing your crew.
The way that we get to know our crew is to get to know your crew. That means you, as a company officer, have to invest in your people. You have to "work" with them. That means actually doing things around the fire house and talking. That means eating together and doing regular training drills. It is a relationship and you have to put "quality" time into it. You cannot expect to come in, run a few calls and go home and expect to know who your working with.
In most parts of the country we are fighting less fires. This is dangerous and makes it even more important to drill regularly. The officers of the past had years of actual firefighting experience to lean on and pass on. We are losing that experience and that requires us to train as a crew in order to know what is expected, what our company capabilities are based on available resources and to create those "experiences" that are hard to come by. It all falls on the company officer.
If you ask most companies and officers, there are a few things that really brings a crew together. One, obviously is a good, working fire. Everyone comes back and is pumped up and the stories begin. Second is meaningful training that is inclusive, well planned and relevant. Third is doing projects in the house. No matter what the work is, the crew talks, interacts and generally has a good time while doing work together.
We can't allow our comforts of the job to override the mission. Stay safe and train. Hey, maybe today take off the hand tools and give them a good sanding and cleaning. Oh, and do it as a crew.
We have changed our Events page. We wanted a way to post the events that we will be instructing at. Most are local, but some will be in different areas and conferences. We may post other classes for other groups or instructors if appropriate.
It’s hopefully a way to provide you a list of training opportunities for you to take advantage of. If there are events that you want us to post or add, feel free to provide us the information and we will try to get up in a timely manner.
In addition, if you are interested in what is available in the training arena from us, our core group of classes is attached Class Offerings for 2011.
Thanks for all of your support and stay safe.
Every winter for the last 29 years firefighters from all across the state of Missouri have gathered to attend classes by well know state instructors as well as highly regarded national figures in the fire service. This year, the 30th year, is no different.
The annual Winter Fire School opens with a large exposition and registration on Friday afternoon that lasts into the evening. This is a great time to network, get a look at apparatus, tools and other fire service equipment. This is usually one of the more popular parts of the weekend besides the drinks and story telling at the local establishments. (Tiger, you need to get down here sometime and collect a lot of story telling stuff.)
This year’s events begin February 4th and wind down on the 6th. They even allow me to instruct there, that’s how kind they are and their willingness to throw a guy a bone.
In the past Chief Billy Goldfeder, Chief Alan Brunacini and Dave Dodson have instructed at this conference. This year’s line up is just as good including Chief I. David Daniels, Chief Smokey Dyer, Lt. Mike Wilbur, Chief Alan Brunacini, Glenn Gaines, Tim Sendelbach, Chief Clyde Pfisterer and more.
With these lineups the Missouri University Fire Rescue Training Institute offers some of the best classes and instructors from all over the nation. If your close or looking for something to do, you need to get here to experience the networking and Brotherhood that this conference has to offer. Look me up, we can get a drink; or two.
Stay safe and we would love to see you in Missouri next month.
Some training partners and I recently had the opportunity and honor to travel to rural Missouri to help with some safety and survival training. It was a one day event on a Saturday and the department and area that we were in is staffed solely with volunteers. We realized very quickly that these men and women were eager and a little anxious at the same time about this series of drills.
My background in the fire service started in a volunteer department and I am still very involved with that agency as a volunteer and as a part-time staff position. I understand the obstacles that are present in these very small, rural, and underfunded fire departments. This department covers over 300 square miles with no paid staff and a budget that is a small line item in most urban career departments.
The one thing that I had to remind myself is that this is one of only two days off that these firefighters were getting this weekend and they were spending it at a voluntary training. There was not a lack of effort or interest on the part of this group of volunteers. Even coming from a similar background, but not as rural as this department, I had really forgotten “where I came from” in the sense that in both agencies that I represent, we very seldom lack for most things; especially training.
This day we were requested to present and run drills for Mayday and RIT along with some safety and survival techniques. When we asked how many of the 16 firefighters had had prior Mayday training, only one held up his hand and he mentioned it was limited. Most had not heard of LUNAR or the parameters for calling a Mayday. This was an important part of the class that the training officer wanted to make sure we covered.
I have taught free classes for years and have never regretted it. Those free classes have typically been state sponsored courses that allow us to charge or not. In my area we border some smaller departments that have small budgets and we try to help those districts and departments by not charging or only charging for materials. It is something we can do to help our neighboring departments and firefighters.
These larger trainings that are manpower intensive and require some travel and a lot of prep time, we typically charge for. There is also time away from our families and we like to get some compensation for our time away and efforts. We are never going to get rich, but it does cost money to put these trainings on. This weekend we agreed to do this for free, and am I glad we did.
The whole group of us agreed that we felt a sense of having really helped these firefighters and there was a huge feeling of satisfaction. I don’t mean in a “pat me on the back” kind of way. It was the satisfaction of knowing that there are people that need this and just don’t have the resources or even the information to find the resources. These firefighters will probably not have many opportunities to get to state or regional fire schools and will likely never make it to an event like FDIC. They are bound to their area by budgets and resources.
By the end of the day everyone had rid themselves of their anxiousness and had been very willing to participate. The RIT drills we do last and we had teams wanting to go through more than once and were getting very good at them. They were commenting on the things that they had learned and were asking lots of questions. It wasn’t because we were good, it was because they were wanting and needing this kind of training and they were taking advantage of the circumstances before them.
Oh, and we were invited to their annual Christmas party/fish fry. They go gigging and then fry it up that night for their Christmas party. Brotherhood is alive and well in rural Missouri and we are trying to clear our schedules to make the party.
What I am asking all of us to do is to pay forward the opportunities, experiences and hard work that we have been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of. I know that you can’t always accommodate all situations, but we, as a fire service cannot forget about the less fortunate in our own profession. I feel we have a duty and an obligation to find these smaller departments and offer them our help and not wait to be asked.
Here’s my challenge; this upcoming year, for those of you that have the means and resources, go out at least three times to departments that are less fortunate and their areas and host a class. Find out what they need and give it to them. If you can’t provide what they need, I’m sure you have the contacts and network to get if for them. If you don’t, let me know and I will assist you in getting them what they need.
This Christmas, let’s remember to be generous and to be kind. Pass it forward this coming year and for years to come.
As always, thanks for reading and stay safe.