Friday, December 30, 2011

Tactical Thoughts: 1

Take a look at the pictures and ask a few questions. There are always variables that we don't know about using a still photograph, but we can put ourselves in that picture and think about what we would do. The idea is to consider different approaches and outcomes and keeping ourselves ready should a similar even occur.

1. Is there tenable space in this structure and if so, where?
2. What are your initial actions?
3. Is search an option? Why or why not?
4. Are there any other considerations for this fire?

Ask the same questions of this next picture too.

Are your responses different? If so, what and why?

Keep training and have a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Basement Fire Tutorial

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.

Stay safe,

Friday, December 16, 2011

Some Heavy Timber Considerations

Heavy timber construction is still among us, it just isn't as common as it once was. If you read the books, they will describe true heavy timber construction as having no void spaces and obviously using large dimentional lumber. These buildings were used for mills, warehouses, factors and other commercial uses. Today we are seeing some increase use in heavy timber construction at lodges and resorts.

The more urban metropolitan areas have been dealing with these old building for a long time. They burn long and hot and most have brick or masonry exteriors, increasing collapse potential. Today many of these buildings are being renovated and converted into new occupancy types and changing the classification and creating more concerns for us.

This picture shows the large dimensional lumber and the connection of all three components. This part of the building is original and has not been altered. You can see a large crack in the beam on the left. This building is approximately 70-80 years old. Do you notice anything about this picture in regards to "no void spaces?"

This picture shows the sub level, basement, of the building. You can see the brick support for the floor beams. The next picture shows an alteration.....

This next picture shows the floor joists and their connections into the floor beam. Notice the dimensions and the hangers on the right.

This post is for discussion. Use these pictures how ever you like and show them to your crew. This is mostly review and I like to look at pictures like these to remind myself of building conditions and construction types. These building are constantly being changed and altered. Be aware of what's out there and use that information to be ready.

Train hard, expect fire and share your knowledge.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Judgement Not Needed

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.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Purpose

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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Smoke and Mirrors

I have been involved with training for a long time. One thing I have learned over the years is that training does not need to be wrapped in smoke and mirrors. It doesn't have to have a "trick" or wild and crazy obstacle courses. I see so many training officers and instructors spend so much time building almost impossible mazes, courses and drills that the purpose of the exercise is lost.

Recently we set up a new training division and basically started over with our training schedule and leadership. One of the first drills we did was a basement fire evolution. When I set up a drill I always want to make sure that there is a very specific purpose for the drill. Sometimes there are multiple take away points. If we don't get feedback based on those points, we have likely not done what we intended.

We were able to use an old house that was used as our administration building until about two years ago. The drill was simple; the captain assigns his team, get the 360 done, identify that it's a basement fire, advance the line and find the fire. The main point that we offered to the officers was line deployment for this drill. That is not lowering the importance of the other aspects of the drill, we just wanted to start with the basics of line advancement. Let's face it, we need to get water on the fire as fast as possible and if we can't get the line to the fire, we can't put it out.

There were no impediments, just pulling the line into the basement. So, the first crew runs through the drill and ends up with five guys on the nozzle. Perfectly wrong! We were able to identify this poor tactic and make positive changes. But, the challenges of pulling the line and using personnel to their benefit was identified by the crews participating in the drill. They now understood the importance of using the personnel along the line to manipulate corners and doors.

As simple as the drill was, it resulted in changes being made without "telling" firefighters that they needed to change. They realized it on their own and some really good discussion resulted as well. Were they challenged? Absolutely! Did they climb mountains and cross oceans to have to be challenged? NO! We made the drill real. We smoked it up and put them on the line. It was all we needed.

I'm not saying not to develop challenging courses. What I am trying to get across is that make these drills real and meaningful. We can do this without long set up times and the use of crazy mazes. Sometimes all we need is the hose line and a place to take it.

Don't over-complicate things. Get creative and the results you are looking for will come about. Make sure that when we do these trainings we know and understand the "why" behind the training. If we always stick to and develop our drills and classes around the "why", we should get the desired results.

Here is a quick video of what we did.

Train hard, keep it real and train to expect fire. Stay safe and thanks for reading.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Inside Balloon Frame Construction

This short clip show balloon frame construction from the inside. With Engine House Training, LLC this summer, we had the opportunity to hold a class in this building. It was going to be torn down and the interior wall coverings in most of the house had been removed. That exposed the balloon frame construction characteristics that we so often speak of but seldom have the chance to see.

Use this however you like and share it. Hopefully, this will help someone to better understand the meaning of balloon frame buildings and to ensure proper tactics are used with these structures.

Keep training and pass on your knowledge to others. Share the gift.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Firefighter Removal from Basement--Webbing Assisted

Here is a quick video of how to use a piece of webbing to assist a firefighter out of a basement window. Understand, that depending on the height of the basement, the length of webbing needed may need to be longer. A 30 foot piece of webbing tied in a loop will work for most situations. The reason the loop is used is so if the webbing slips, it wont completely slip out of your hands if your one of the firefighters pulling on the outside.

Thanks for reading and watching and train hard.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

What If........

Well, here I am and I must admit it is a bit surreal. I am proud to be a part of this blogging community and the fire service leaders that provide information and opinion here. I simply love the fire service and enjoy and feel obligated to passing it on to others. I am no expert, just a student of the fire service.

Most of my posts will be about training issues, which is my passion. As a training officer, I am frequently looking to incorporate operations into training needs and many times these ideas come from reading other news stories or blogs that sparks an idea. My primary goal is to make the basics the core of every training we conduct.

My approach to training, as is the fire service and that is "what if"? We must prepare for the inevitable "what ifs" that are going to happen at some point. Fire happens! We must expect and train for fire!

What if we don't repeatedly deploy hose lines during training? What if we don't repeatedly make our people wear packs and be on air during evolutions? What if we don't let our people conduct evolutions like a fire scene? What if during a hose deployment drill one member's low air alarm goes off and we just let him take the regulator off to finish the evolution?

What will happen is that our firefighters will get to the fire slower and expending more energy than necessary. They will not be used to operating with the bulk and weight of their SCBA in extreme conditions. Firefighters will become complacent at training and therefor will be complacent on the fire ground. When that low air alarm activates on a real call they will panic and they will revert to the habits created in training.

We must train like we play and we must require mastering the basic skills required to operate efficiently and effectively on the fire ground. As we train and practice our skills, we must keep in mind the "what if" behind every reason of what we do.

Take care, thanks for reading and keep training.