Thursday, October 10, 2013

Alternative to LUNAR for Mayday

Here is a very good article on the LUNAR concept for Mayday and consideration for an alternative that is more fireground friendly and effective.
Scott is a fellow instructor with Engine House Training, LLC and a Lieutenant with the Metro West Fire Protection District.

LUNAR....Is There an Alternative?
As a Fire Service, we have done a good job looking out for each other. We need to do a better job now and tomorrow due to the dangers that are increasing before us. We have no idea what lies ahead of
us with the next alarm that we are responding to. We need to be ahead of the game, plan for the worst and hope for the best.
The days of having “bread and butter” or “routine” fires are long gone. With the construction of buildings now and in the future, we need to be aware of possible catastrophic events happening sooner in the time line of our on-scene operations. In the Fire Service as a whole, we are
always looking for ways to “work smarter, not harder”. We have started with resources available to us, the training that we do as a crew, as a battalion, FDIC and the vast knowledge of firefighters that have
come before us.

After a MAYDAY is called, what is the information that the IC wants to hear? Do we want the firefighter calling the MAYDAY to be lengthy and use their air giving a report? Or do we want a message short, sweet and to the point so our firefighter can concentrate on conserving their air and/or getting out of their current situation?

I have been teaching Firefighter safety and survival for the past twelve years and the acronym LUNAR has been drilled into our heads. This acronym provides the Incident Commander and the RIC the information needed to get a firefighter who called a MAYDAY out to safety. LUNAR has saved countless lives on the fire ground and will continue to do so, however, think back when you were in a MAYDAY training and if you stumbled giving a LUNAR report. I know I have and many firefighters
have no matter if they are a probie or a 25 year veteran.
With that, I started to think, there has to be an easier way to give information after calling a MAYDAY. After doing research and reading NIOSH reports, the simplest form of giving information is
This provides the same information as LUNAR, and is easier to remember. Let's now break down WWW and how it compares to LUNAR.
In giving a LUNAR report we give the following information:
L – Location
U – Unit
N – Name
A – Air/Actions
R – Resources needed

All this information is pertinent and needed for Incident Command to send in RIC. As much as we train on LUNAR, we still stumble when giving this information or give the information out of order. It does not matter as long as the information gets out. But why not have a simpler way of getting that out after calling a MAYDAY. That is where WWW comes into play.

With WWW we give the following information:
W – Who are you, same as UNIT AND NAME IN LUNAR
W – Where are you, same as LOCATION IN LUNAR
W – What do you need/What happened, same as AIR AND RESOURCES IN LUNAR

The of utilizing WWW is that it is easy to remember, all you have to remember is one letter and it is very effective and efficient. When we use LUNAR, we are providing redundant information. The “U-Unit and N-Name” are the same information. “A-Air”, we shouldn't have to give an Air Report because RIC is bringing air (RIT Pack) with them when they are activated every time. You provide a more effective and efficient report to the Incident Commander when calling a MAYDAY. With all the
information that we have discussed, there is one is simple to use.

As you can see, with the three (3) little letters of W, the same information as LUNAR can be transmitted in a quicker time. I am not saying that LUNAR is broken; all I am suggesting is that WWW Will get the same information out in a quicker time. What is our #1 goal when a MAYDAY is called: to get help into the structure to elevate the situation.

I am not trying to say that the Fire Service needs to throw LUNAR out the window. All I am trying to say is that using WWW is another tool that we can put in our toolbox. Try using WWW, if you like it, consider using it, if you don't, then stay with what has worked. LUNAR has worked for us and will continue to work for us now and the future. In using WWW, it simplifies the information after calling a MAYDAY. While teaching at the St. Louis County Fire Academy as the Lead Instructor for Firefighter Survival and MAYDAY, I have started a trial of during practical evolutions, splitting the class in half. One half calls a MAYDAY using LUNAR and the other half calls a MAYDAY using WWW. I realize that that most of the recruits have no fire experience, approx. 10% have prior fire
experience. The half of the class that uses LUNAR stumbles thru providing the information. The other half that uses WWW provides the information and it seems to flow freely and faster. Also the recruits
are in a controlled environment with no heat and smoke. This is a small sample size, but it is a start.

During the class, I tell the recruits that LUNAR is the primary acronym used when calling a MAYDAY. No matter ho much training we do on RIT, MAYDAY and LUNAR, (we all know that we do not train enough on it), there will always be pauses when a LUNAR report is given. When you give a LUNAR report, you will pause to think about what letter to give next. Try this in your next training and see which one works best for you and your department. Do not get caught up in the “150 years of
tradition, unimpeded by progress”. Always try something new, see if it works and it is a fit for your department. If you like it and it works, go with it and forge ahead. If you do not like it, no harm, no foul
and stay the course.
Let me end by saying....”OMNES CEDO DOMUS”.... EVERYONE GOES HOME.
Everyone stay safe out there and I look forward to the conversation and comments, good and bad from everyone.

Let me know your thoughts.

Scott Hulsey
Lieutenant – Paramedic
Metro West Fire Protection District

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Culture of What?

There has been a lot of talk recently, the last few years especially, about the culture of the fire service. There have been all kinds of cultures thrown around: a culture of safety, a culture of extinguishment, a culture of tradition, a culture of nexters, etc.  I think you get the point.

I'm going to keep this short.

First, cultures are created over long periods of time by attitudes, beliefs and habits.  Cultures of anything are not easy to change or fix, if that is the problem.

When I teach instructors and officers, I implore them not to go into a new position, crew, shift or house with the objective of changing the culture; it's just too big of a "thing."

Instead, in order to change or alter any culture there has to be a concerted effort to change individual attitudes, behaviors and habits.  You have to chip away at the stone piece by piece to change the size of the boulder that is culture.  It doesn't happen over night and it is never easy.

Second, why are we so hell bent on insisting that our culture has to be one way or the other?  Why can't there be a mix of cultures in our fire service like we have in our everyday life?

Too much of any singular type of culture is short sighted and limits us to a narrow path.  This job does not allow for that.

So, I hereby proclaim that the fire service needs a Culture of Proficiency. ([a high degree of competence or skill; expertise]Google)  If we train, educate, follow our guidelines, put water on the fire and not get ourselves in bad places without a line, read buildings, drill constantly with purpose, prepare our people for as many situations as possible, wear our PPE the correct way on all calls, and yes, even wear our safety vests on the highway; I would argue that we can still be aggressive firefighters, saving lives and property AND be safer without compromising firefighting traditions and the need to put ourselves in harms way when those situations require it.

It all goes together. Just my opinion.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Drilling for Prevention of Bad Things

Drilling for effectiveness cannot be overstated enough.  In posts and articles firefighters and officers are imploring that we, as a fire service, put a heavy emphasis on drilling and training on a regular basis.

Not just when training is scheduled, but everyday we are at the fire house, we must use the equipment and techniques to master our craft and to know the capabilities and intricacies of our equipment and that of ourselves.  What have we forgotten?  Where are we having difficulties?  What do we need to work on more?  Where are we slow?

Well, what about small changes in performance?  I have been debated that this job just isn't that hard by some who think they know it all.  For the sake of this post, lets assume that they do know it all and that they do it perfect every time.  But, that's still not a reason not to drill, check it out.

I have done hose drills many times with my crew and I know exactly how long our tank water will last with each line we have and with associated nozzles pressures.  We have done it enough know what to expect and how the streams look and what the hose feels like.  Our operators know what the motor sounds like and how long he has when the "fill tank" light starts to flash before he gets pressure drop. All of these we know because we drill.

I was working a trade day on a different crew and had an eager group of guys, so after dinner on a Saturday evening, the weather was perfect, we pulled some lines and pumped some water.  The firefighter at the nozzle was indicating that the stream looked weak and that the pressure didn't seem right.  We emptied that tank and it took much longer than it has in past drills. (We are ordering some in line gauges to help better measure our flow rates.)

We did it again and boosted up the pressure a bit, but we were using a smooth bore and we had no kinks.  Same problem, we were only flowing around 110 gpm with that smooth bore.  Something was really wrong.

As we broke down the lines we started looking at the hose.  We found on one section of hose the inner jacket had separated and was blocking the water flow.  A significant finding.  

I can remember being a firefighter and doing some drilling.  The typical drill was pull the line, flow it and repack it.   Fast, easy and not much work.  But, also not a lot of attention to detail.

Had we not paid attention to the details in previous drills we would likely not have noticed the flow problem.  The  trigger was the amount of time it took to empty the tank water.  It threw up a big red flag which led us to try it again and then to look for the problem.

We don't want to find these issues during a fire.  We figured, non-scientifically that we were losing approximately 75 gallons per minute with this blocking the interior of our attack line.  That is a critical failure.  Just imagine the loss of flow had there been a kink that went unseen?

The point, be thorough and pay attention to the details when you drill.  Working pump pressures and flows, working air and resting air on SCBA, etc.  Don't make drilling busy work, make it meaningful. It just might save your life!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Are You Ladder Ready?

A few months ago I posted about operating on a quint and the idea of reverse laying for first due engines that run with quints.  A great deal of us are operating on these apparatus everyday and don't have a single designation as an engine or a truck, rather we are assigned based on our order of arrival and on what tasks need to be done.  Most of the time we are not assigned by what type of apparatus we arrive in.

We are also running thin in regards to staffing.  These two circumstances requires us to be resourceful and smart when it comes to preparing our people and apparatus for any type of call and assignment.

Being no different than the majority of the country, we run a ladder truck (quint) on car fires, EMS calls, motor vehicle accidents, CO calls, hazardous materials calls and everything in between.  We don't get a chance to deploy our ladder on many fires, so that requires us to do a lot of training in between those times.  It also requires us to ensure that we are as effective as possible when we do get the call and need to operate as a ladder/truck company.

Our apparatus is a 105' ladder and we have two 16 foot roof ladders mounted on each side of our aerial.  When I got assigned to this apparatus one of the first things I did was face one roof ladder with the butt to the rear of the apparatus and the second facing the opposite way.  While checking my truck the other day I noticed that both were positioned with the butts facing the rear.

Although not a huge deal, we turned one back with the butt of the roof ladder facing the front of the  truck.  I had a guy not on my shift with us that day and he asked why we did that?  Well, a great opportunity had just arrived.

Having two roof ladders at your disposal is really convenient and saves a lot of time.  One roof ladder has the hooks facing front.  This ladder would be used for a pitched roof or a roof elevation with a peak or ridge.  With the hooks facing front I can easily un-cradle the ladder and simply drag it up with me and slide it right onto the roof without ever having turn or flip the ladder.

The roof ladder with the butt facing the front the of the truck allows us to easily deploy the ladder over a parapet wall without having to turn or flip the ladder.  It makes deployment much easier.  

It's the small things that make a big difference and saves time and energy on the fireground.  Think and work smarter, not harder.   Check your rig and be familiar with what it's capabilities are and what you might be called on to do.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How the Dominos Fall

I just want to take a moment to share an experience with you. I normally post positive experiences or situations that went well.  This one is different. Although there was not a bad outcome, the call itself went poorly, mostly due to my lack of focus.

I am the first to preach tactical proficiency and the first to tell people that training is the most important task, outside of calls, that we can do while at work.  Let me be the first, now, to share with you how things can go bad from the dispatch because of a lack of focus.  Let me share and hopefully you will learn from my mistakes

During a recent rotation we were in our spare pumper. I am normally on a quint and it is in the shop, so we are running out of our spare pumper.  Since we are in the spare, our dispatch has a habit of not dispatching us to our own still area because we don't have the ladder. Go figure, right?

Well, on this day we are preparing dinner and the district tones drop for a commercial first alarm, smoke coming from the basement.  At first I didn't think much of it.  Then, I was thinking that the address sounded like an apartment complex in my still area.  Sure enough, they did not dispatch us to our own call.

Now we're already behind the 8 ball.  I rounded up the company and we started bunking out.  We are in a hurry and I am feeling  a little anxious.  As we pull out, one of our compartment doors is open and we have to stop to shut it.  Not typical!  But, you can start to see how things start to go bad before you ever get there.  And, it can happen to the best of us, and quite honestly, I was extremely embarrassed afterwards.

As we were responding our computer was not working and our pager did not activate because we were not on the initial dispatch.  We got the address and proceeded.  As we entered the complex we knew that the building fronted one street and backed another and access could be made from either road.  Some people standing on the road directed us in: to the wrong side of the building!  I normally trust my instincts and this time I did not and made things even worse.

My size up was rushed and incomplete and I left the truck without my normal tool selection of  New York hook, but I did take the TIC.  It was going to be a long stretch once we found the correct unit.

As it was, maintenance was already on the scene repairing the burned out blower motor on the unit's AC.  No fire, no hazards and luckily, it ended my lack of focus.

These were all of my decisions and they were not good ones. I was angry with myself as someone who trains and studies our profession.  I was also embarrassed that I made such elementary mistakes.

I share this show how easy it can be to screw up.  Had we had a fire I would like to think that I would have hit the reset button, but who really knows.  I would like to think I would have reverted back to my training when it really mattered.  

The point is this, stay vigilant, train and train some more.  Discuss you short comings and fix them. We are all going to have bad days and we need to limit them as much as possible.

I can assure you that this call will stick with me longer than the ones that went well; I want to make sure I never respond at a call this way again.  It happens fast and without notice.  Be tactically patient and train hard.

Thanks and learn from others.


Monday, June 17, 2013

I Will Not Get Out of Your Way

We have all worked with those that just don't care, we discussed it in an earlier post.

We exhaust ourselves to make the fire service, our fellow firefighters and us better and safer by training and mastering our craft.

We are asked "why" continually and it is easy to think about giving up.  It would just be so easy to ensure that I know what I'm doing and leave you to your own mediocrity.

I know you just want to push me and those like me aside, for us to just get out of your way.

Well, I, and those like me, will not move.  We will not get out of our way.  We will not quit.  This is to those that are okay with being "okay" at this job.  This is to those officers that wont take a stand against the loud, vocal minority that are just "okay" at this job.  This is to those that think they know everything about fighting fire but refuse to practice their craft.

We will not get out of your way.

You might be my partner at the fire that things go bad at and I want to make it home; I wont get out of your way.

You might be my last chance for survival when I call the Mayday; I wont get out of your way.

You might be the firefighter arrives when my family has a crisis and you need to be at the top of your game; I wont get out of your way.

You might be the incident commander seeing conditions deteriorate from the exterior as I am operating on the interior unaware; I wont get out of your way.

For every firefighter and officer out there trying to make a difference, no matter what road block they throw up, Do not get out of their way.

Keep plugging along and take your lumps, just don't get out of their way.

Monday, June 10, 2013

This is NOT Your Side Job!

So, you want to sell real estate?  You want to pour concrete?  You want to be the next top seller in a multilevel marketing scheme?  You want to build houses? You want to sell insurance? Well, then go do it and get out of my fire serivce!

This is my rant!

I have no issue with you doing whatever you want to do on the side. I don't care what you do on your days off.  I even don't mind if you need to do some work during YOUR down time at work so long as it doesn't encumber your efforts to be a masterful firefighter so that YOUR fellow team members can return to station safely because YOUR proficient.

If you can't do that............GET OUT!

I have no issue with you not being a "Fire Nerd." I encourage you to have a life outside of the fire service, but when your here, give me all I you've got because my wife and kids depend on it.

Don't ASSume you know it all because you have been in the serivce for xx number of years.  It makes an ASS out of you, not me.

When it's time to drill don't tell me that firefighting just isn't that hard; it can be.  It just goes to show you have no clue.

So, when you walk in the door, you have a choice; you can be a firefighter that cares about those that serve with you or you can be an employee that wants the paycheck, benefits, days off and the ability to wear the cool t-shirts but who will let down the person's family next to you because you just..........don't..........CARE!

What do you choose?

That's all

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Road Map: Give Some Direction

As the company officer we have an obligation to ensure that our crew stays safe. Wearing seatbelts, traffic vests, headsets on the apparatus and making sure that our PPE is worn appropriately are all important, no doubt.  But, imagine being given a map with no starting point and no idea where you are and being told to get to a destination. It would be almost impossible because we have no starting point, we have no indication of where we are or which direction to even start in.

This is happening to our firefighters everywhere. Company officers are not spending enough time providing a starting point and direction to our new firefighters.  For that matter, even to the seasoned guys.  What this really boils down to is are we giving our crews, the people that depend on us for leadership and direction all of the information and tools that they need to navigate the dangers that we may face on a daily basis?

Are we creating habits that will create safe and proficient practices on the fireground? Are we stating our expectations and providing solid reasons why so that there is understanding, not just sheep being prodded by a staff?  Have we trained and invested in our people to build trust and commitment so that when we are not on duty that day, they still do it right?

These are things to ponder the next time you are contemplating what your going do on the next duty day.  Build strong habits by drilling regularly. Build trust by actively listening and communicating effectively your expectations, and stand by them.  Cut the path to effective and proficient firefighting by mastering the basics and being engaged in the fire service and practicing our craft.  Doing and accomplishing these things will allow you and your crew to know that the little things are being taken care of.

Be well and lead from the front. If you don't have anybody behind you, your doing it wrong!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I'll Make You Train!

This is going to be short and to the point: Don't make training a threat in relationship to punishment.

I have heard, and have used this phrase myself, "I'll just make him/her train all day."  This in response to a firefighter that is a problem.  Negative attitudes, lack of interest, or any other behavior can be attempted  to be changed by making them train, but in wont work.  It will only make them hate training all that much more.

As an officer we need to motivate our people to be the best they can be.  Making them train as in "you will straighten up or you'll train more" is a loser.  It doesn't change the behavior and they will not be engaged in the training for the right reasons.  Then they don't grasp concepts and techniques because they are there physically but not mentally,

If you want to give them busy work, give them busy work.  Training should be used to enhance skills, enforce or enable mastery, learn new skills and to become more proficient at our job.  It should also promote crew cohesiveness and team work.  That is hard to accomplish when we use training as punishment.

Make sure you know the difference and that you use each appropriately.  Make training a reward, make it a positive time at the firehouse.  Let the trouble makers do some inventory, do a little extra cleaning or anything but making them train.  Just don't use training as your crutch to change an trouble employee.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Quint Options: Do You Reverse Lay?

I have been told that reverse lays are a thing of the past, and in suburban America for the most part, they are. With an increase in the use of LDH with storz connections, increased tank capacities, automatic aid and codes requiring hydrants, the need for many departments to utilize the reverse lay has been diminished. However, like so many tactics that have been ignored or forgotten, this is one that needs your consideration if your running with quints.

Since the late 1980's and early 90's, there has been a shift to using quints as a regular part of their fleet. This is also an adaption to reduced companies and manpower. It could be argued that quints have expedited the reduction in staffing and true truck companies, but this post is for those many departments that find themselves adjusting to running with quints.

The idea of placing apparatus is to have the ladder truck in the front of the building, not parked down the street. To fully take advantage of the capabilities of a ladder truck, or quint, we need to get it to the front of the building. Even in true engine/truck company areas, this can be a challenge. In departments that run with quints, we can get into a mind set of it as an engine due to our typical responses of medical calls, MVA's, CO alarms, etc. We use it like an engine 95% of the time.

So, this is really easy to accomplish. The goal in this particular scenario is that the first due company is an engine on a two story residential structure. We want to attack the fire, secure a water supply because our response area is remote or isolated, our second due is a quint and we want to be aggressive with our attack.

We have a load of three inch that has what we call a city load on top of it, a 2 1/2 smooth bore with a 1 3/4 inch line attached to the tip. If we have a delay in our response area we would pull this line and the LDH and proceed to the nearest hydrant laying the 3 inch and the LDH. The 3 inch is not pre-connected and we carry 1000 feet. If we need big water, we unhook the 1 3/4 inch and use the smooth bore to beat some stuff up.

Be sure to pull at least 150 feet of three inch before the engine takes off to the hydrant to allow you enough to maneuver around the building if big water is needed. Now we have an engine at the hydrant that will first connect the 3 inch to the discharge and get the attack team water. Then he gets on the plug. We have a secured water supply, we the ability to attack with a smaller line on the interior and we have the ability to supply the next arriving unit, the quint, with leaving the front of building open.

We have used this is limited staffing areas, narrow streets and extended responses from our second due companies. There are some drawbacks however.

Your tools and equipment are now remote from your scene. Additionally, you need to have a good understanding of how far your hydrants are spaced. A typical spacing in a residential are is 600 feet between hydrants, you don't want to run out of hose.

Our quint has the same set up but with only 600 feet of 3 inch hose. It is primarily used on yard or apartment stretches, but could be used in the same manner.

Using this is an option and gets the quint to the front of the building. It works but does take some practice and a lot of effective communication.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Quick Drill: Hose and Appliances

So, sometimes we need a change of pace or we've had a busy day on shift, but we still need to drill. Or, maybe your at your volunteer department and you have some guys just hanging out waiting for the next call.

 Here is a quick drill that, in many cases, will turn into a great discussion and even progress into some flowing of water or advancing of lines.

As the company officer we are tasked with drilling our company and personnel. It doesn't matter whether your paid or volunteer, the task is the same.  For this drill make a list of the hose appliances and equipment you have on your apparatus.

--Give each member the correct name or lable for one piece of equipment.
--Make them correctly retrieve it and identify it and to hook it up or depoly it.
--They have to give a little presentation on what it is for, how your organization uses it and a scenario that would require its use.  This should include flow rates, friction loss, limitations, capabilities, etc.

This creates some great discussion and is excellent for reviewing items that are infrequently used but could be critical for our success if needed.

This same format can be used in relation to other tools and pieces of equipment as well.  Hand tools, forcible entry tools, hose loads, specific parts on your SCBA, RIT bags and so on. You should get the point by now.

The idea is to get intimate with all of the equipment on your apparatus and to do it as a team.

Another method is to have the crew inventory the entire apparatus. Write each piece of equipment on a piece of paper and tear it off and place into a hat or empty coffee can.  Have each firefighter draw a slip of paper and have them write down what compartment its in.  After everyone has drawn and written down the compartments, go out and see how you did and explain each piece of equipment you drew.

This is a great familiarity drill and works really well during inclimate weather.

Whatever you do, get out and drill.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Due Rural Engine: Laying the Line

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.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Some Basement Considerations

It recent years it seems we hear a lot about firefighters being killed and injured in residential fires where the basement was involved. There are a few reasons for this including changing building construction as in the use of engineered i-joists and the heavy fire loads that we have in basements. In addition, most houses with basements don't just use them for storage anymore. Basements are used as active living spaces increasing activity, heating and electrical demands that were not always present in the past.

One thing that we can do to help prevent some of these issues is to know what we are dealing with. Probably one of the most important tasks a fire officer can do when arriving on the scene of a residential fire is to complete a 360 walk around of that building. This gives us information we cannot obtain by darting for the front door.

By seeing all four sides of the fire building we can see if the seat of the fire is in the basement and may allow us a more direct attack from the same level as the fire reducing the chances of floor failure. We are also able to see hazards that impede our egress if a quick escape is necessary. It gives us an idea of our options for ventilation and fire control.

The pictures show some of the hazards that we can find and keep mind of during our 360. Exterior stair wells are altered and secured causing us difficulty making an egress. This is a perfect time for the first due officer to relay these findings to the next due or the RIT crew. These other units should cut locks, open bulk heads and make sure the egress points of the basement are accessible.

Additionally, we need to know the characteristics of the buildings in our still area. This is a picture of a house that is approximately 50 years old and the stairs to the basement are in the garage. Not knowing this could put our initial attack team at risk by searching the main level while fire is burning under them increasing the chances of a failure. Some of these homes have no outside exit and we must protect the stairs for the basement crew just like we would for a crew that ascend to a floor above us.

Take some time to look around your area and discuss these issues with your crew. Prepare your newer members for that thermal layer as you descend the stairs into a basement. We all know what that first experience is like. Train hard and don't forget to do that 360, it may just save your life.

Train hard and stay safe,


Monday, February 18, 2013

Not All Things Change

I read a lot of books. Some fire service related and others aren't. I typically prefer historical or biographies of influential characters of our history.  I also really enjoy the fire service books that share stories and experiences that are easy to relate to. Relativity is a good thing!

While teaching some of my classes the topic of today's fire service being so much different than from years ago always comes up.  There is no doubt that we are fighting fires in a much different environment than in years past. But, how different is what we are doing on the fireground from the way we did it 20 years ago?

Now I understand that we have to make changes and improvements and I am usually one of the biggest advocates if it is something that makes sense.  But, change for the sake change is not good and usually causes more problems than not.

The real reason for this blog post is to encourage all of you to obtain a copy of and read and re-read Tom Brennan's "Random Thoughts."  I keep this book with me just about all of the time and it is crazy good stuff. I marvel over and over again at the timely material and tactical suggestions that are from 1991!  Yes, they are still relevant!

I never knew Mr. Brennan, but his 'random thoughts' are timeless.  Just the most basic of topics like using a roof ladder is made interesting and is still very applicable today.  How to stretch a hose line and how to search. It's all in there.

I am not one for plugging products or materials, but I feel if 'we' in the fire service would follow the advice in this book and learn and share from these nuggets of knowledge, we would all be much better served, and safe.

Take some time to get back to the basics of firefighting and read this book. Just pick a page or two a day, and keep doing that for your career.  You and the firefighters that you share with will be much better for it and so will the people you protect.

Thanks for reading and take care,

Monday, January 7, 2013

Quick Roof Lesson

This is a quick drill for you company officers and acting officers. So much of what we do is coach and mentor our younger firefighters. When we are out and about we need to take the time point out things that might be obvious to us, but maybe not so much to others on our crew.

Use these photos to explain the challenges, dangers, benefits and tactical oppportunities with this roof. Share what you see and pass it on. You might pick up on something that someone else does not. But, maybe we can reach a firefighter with this drill that we don't have on our crew. Maybe we can reach a volunteer that doesn't have that daily mentor.

Clark Street Shoe Building 028

Clark Street Shoe Building 025

Clark Street Shoe Building 026

Clark Street Shoe Building 027

Share and thanks for reading.