Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Don't Forget the Obvious: Basement Self Rescue

In our classes we spend a lot of time showing firefighters how to stay out of and how to get out of bad situations.  Our fire service is seeing an increase in firefighters who are falling through floors into basements or sub-levels.  This is large part due to the engineered flooring systems that do not perform well in fire conditions.

Fires are growing more intense much faster than in the past and the structural members of these buildings are under attack before we arrive in some cases.  The importance of knowing our response areas, getting an accurate size-up, doing a 360 evaluation of the building and choosing an appropriate tactic are more critical than ever.

We teach different methods of removing ones self from a basement and removing a downed firefighter from basements.  There are several techniques for removing a firefighter including using an attic ladder, using the hose, rope, or webbing to lift them out of the hole. We can also cut the floor away from the exterior making a window a door to remove someone.  These are just a few examples.


For self rescue we teach using a hand tool as a step or as a recent post by Chris Huston discusses, using the drywall as a ladder to get yourself out.  We also teach using webbing as a stepping device with the assistance of firefighters on the outside.  All of these techniques are good and and should be practiced. However, we know that if we fall through a floor we may lose our tools and it is going to be very bad down there. Speed is of the essence.

When go over the teaching points of basement rescues, we always talk about things to do to avoid this from happening in the first place.   Doing a good 360, sound the floors, descend stairs feet first, know your still area and building construction are good places to start.  I also like to point out that the hazards we discuss in regards to basements, junk and clutter, can also be our friend.

If you find yourself in a situation in a basement or an area with a high window for egress, use the stuff in that space as steps. Pile it up under that window and climb out.  Don't forget to use the obvious.  I have done training in acquired structures where we put firefighters in the basement and they are free to use whatever is available. You would be surprised how many limit their resources to only what is in their hands or pockets.

Train hard and sometimes thinking outside the box is as simple as looking around at the "stuff" that is right at your feet.  Thanks for reading and expect fire!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering With Your Actions

Today is a solemn day. Eleven years ago this country was attacked by terrorists and changed us forever. That day is remembered not only for the horrific events of the attacks, but also for the heroes of that day.  We lost 343 of the bravest our profession has known and some of the most influential fire service leaders and instructors we have seen.

Today will be filled with ceremonies, Facebook posts, blog post like this one, speeches and news coverage of events remembering this day all over the country.  There will be a lot of Brotherhood going around and a lot of drinks raised to honor our fallen, all as it should be. There will be flags lowered, memorials opened and black bunting hung in memory and honor of those that sacrificed.  These things make me reflect on what those that gave the ultimate sacrifice would think and how they would want us to remember them.  With all of the ceremonies and events being wonderful tributes, I believe as firefighters we must do more to truly honor their legacy.

Here's my list:

  • Don't just call each other Brother, act like one every day
  • Be physically and mentally fit
  • Be engaged everyday in our profession, don't just act proud, show your pride by engaging
  • Learn something about our profession every day no matter how small or large the task
  • Pass on the lessons of those that taught us, share and give much to those who come after you
  • Stand up for what is right even when it goes against what's "popular"
  • Be excellent at whatever you do; not all firefighters will be officers, but whatever you aspire to, be the best at it--everyday!
  • Encourage and teach those younger than you, don't degrade them-they are our future
  • Be involved--see a problem, be a part of the solution
  • Leave our fire service better than it was when you entered it
These are just a few thoughts that I had. They are nothing that haven't been said before, but things that I try to remember everyday.  I feel very fortunate to be able to be a part of this fire service and to have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives that I serve and work with.

As we take time to remember today, carry the feelings from today with you everyday.  Carry the pride and the honor with you knowing that that is what those 343 firefighters would want.  They expect that we will carry the torches left behind by them.  Be courageous ambassadors of the this noble profession on a daily basis and pass that on to those that are younger and new to our job.

God Bless those families left behind and those that were lost.  Take care and Never Forget!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Running Up Hill

Many of us stay in shape in different ways. Some just lift weights while others circuit train or ride a bike.  Of course the Crossfit craze is out there too!  I really enjoy running and do a great deal of it along with some resistance training. It is a time to test my aging body and to clear my mind during a time when I'm all by myself.  Actually, during my runs my mind races and I have lost many ideas because I had nothing to write them down on during my runs.

The challenge is not against someone else or even a clock. It's really against me. Can I push it for half more mile or a full mile more?  Can I sustain a faster pace than I ran last week?  Will this hill break me or will I be able to push through without breaking stride?  Everyday is a different run and no run is ran the same.  Sometimes its the wind, heat, cold, rain or a sinus infection.  Other days it may be the dinner you had the night before not setting well, whatever the case is you choose to push ahead or to ease off a little.  However, quitting is never an option.

In recent weeks I have talked to other fire service people who have become frustrated with circumstances at work or in other fire service related endeavours and they question their motivations and the worth of their cause.  I myself have sought the advice and encouragement from some of my mentors recently too due to some of those same frustrations.  I begin questioning if my efforts will be worth the time and energy I put into everything I do in regards to teaching, training, self improvement and all of the extra "stuff" I do to try and make the fire service a better place for those coming after me and for those that are already here.

We all deal with the same personalities and negativity no matter where we are when it comes to affecting change in the fire service and sometimes it seems we are making no head way.  Then something happens or someone drops you note or an email that changes those doubts.  It reminds you why you are doing what you are doing and that you are making a difference.

I recently presented and didn't feel especially good about my performance.  I didn't get any negative feedback, but I just did not feel like I would normally have after giving a class.  Couple that with the normal challenges of being a training officer in a department that is transforming itself and I was questioning my efforts and wondering if I was still being effective.  We've all been there and it can seem lonely in those places. Then I received two messages of encouragement and how some of the information that I had shared and provided was being used by crews and positive outcomes were resulting changed everything and reinforced my resolve to keep on keepin' on.

Then, today I was having a conversation with a more junior firefighter and we were discussing our training programs.  We were discussing the challenges with starting a new training division and how  patience is key. As he left I said to him, "It's like running hills."  What I meant by that was that running hills is not easy and seldom thought of as fun. But, if you continue to press on and include them in your training regimen you learn how to handle them during a race and you are faster and more efficient in the flats.

Running hills may not get easier over time simply because we try to run them a little bit faster and a little more efficiently, so it's a constant battle. Or, we may move on to a larger, steeper hill that is even more of a challenge. But, we can be sure that we are physically and mentally stronger for stepping up to the challenge.  That new hill may take more time and effort, but with persistence and the fortitude to not be conquered you will persevere.  

Our fire service challenges are no different.  We all need a little pick me up every now and then, but the key is to push on. Don't quit!  Encourage yourselves and those around us to continue to be constructive and productive in sharing ideas and knowledge that is important and vital to our performance on the fire ground. If your message is received and used by one person that had a positive impact, you succeeded.

 Bad days?  Sure, they will come, we just need to make sure  that they go too.