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.