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.