Thursday, December 16, 2010

Think About It!

The Importance Of Plan A,B,C,D,E,F,G………

Post courtesy of Patrick McKay, Fairfax City Rescue Engine 33 Chauffeur

Company officers are tasked with strategizing and using their personnel to employ tactics during emergency incidents. When making these decisions, an alternate plan should be established in the instance that our initial actions do not mitigate the problem. Yesterday I responded to a unique, somewhat complex incident that further emphasized this. Fortunately due to proactive decision making by several good fire officers, multiple plans were established and employed without delay. If you do this job long enough, you will likely respond to a variety of emergency incidents where the first tactics that are employed are unsuccessful. With that said, we cannot simply freeze up and look around waiting for a solution to the problem to drop from the sky. This article will look at how to prepare for and employ multiple tactics during emergency incidents.

Training is probably the best way to ensure to your company is able to employ multiple plans. Incorporate elements into scenario based drills that cause failure of Plan A such as: the FDC is damaged and unable to be used yet you still need to get water to the fire on the 10th floor, your initial preconnect stretch does not reach the fire area, your saws won’t start yet the roof still needs to be opened, the stairs are burned out to the second floor and a search still needs to be conducted because there is a report of occupants inside, your hydraulic rescue tool system fails and the occupants of a vehicle are still trapped. These are certainly not the only drills that can be conducted but are merely examples of a few drills where companies need to initiate Plan B and so on. It is better to work out the kinks during training than on an actual incident. This training will create thinking firefighters and fire officers and allow them to make sound decisions quickly to overcome obstacles on emergency incidents.

Being proactive is essential to successful emergency incident operations. If we’re not proactive, we’ll be reactive and continuously playing catch-up. During rope rescue operations we always attempt to establish redundancy at least one time for each component of our systems and we incorporate elements such as load releasing hitches in case our initial plan fails. Constructing our rope systems with these elements and redundancy initially will allow us to overcome events that may cause our initial plan to fail, without delay. This is one example of taking a proactive approach during emergency incident operations.

As I mentioned in a previous article, it’s important to not only know how to use your equipment but also the limitations of your equipment. This allows personnel to identify all the equipment on their rig that may be used to cut something and also which tool or technique to utilize in the instance that your “Plan A” cutting tool fails or breaks. If all of the battery powered reciprocating saws are successful in cutting something but fail due to the battery, a company may simply need to place an electric reciprocating saw in service to continue on.
Hopefully the company has been proactive and already staged this equipment near the scene where it can be quickly deployed. If a company is unsuccessfully trying to displace something utilizing hydraulic spreaders with a spread force of 32,000 pounds and a 40,000 pound spreader is also on the scene, it would be a good idea to put the 40,000 pound spreaders to work. Knowing your equipment will allow you to make these decisions quickly on emergency incidents. The same kind of decision making can be used on the fireground dealing with handlines. If you are not making any headway on a fire utilizing a handline flowing 150 GPM’s, a decision needs to be made to increase the GPM’s. This could be accomplished by switching nozzles (a proactive move may be placing a 15/16” slug between the shut off and nozzle), bringing in another handline that flows 150 GPM’s thus providing a total of 300 GPM’s, or bringing in a larger line that’s capable of flowing 250 GPM’s or more. This decision needs to be made quickly and may be influenced by factors such as personnel available, water available, and the area that the line is being maneuvered in.

I hope this article provides some insight or merely initiates thoughts on developing and employing multiple plans to mitigate an emergency. A good rule of thumb is to always develop at least one back up plan to whatever plan you are utilizing (e.g. if we are on Plan C, then Plan D needs to be established). This will allow you to stay ahead of the game and prevent long periods of inactivity. Nobody has the answer to every problem, however we can effectively work towards solving these problems by developing multiple plans. Another important element of developing and employing multiple plans is having someone who is standing back from the immediate work area and can provide insight as to what’s working and what’s not working. Sometimes when we are actively involved in an operation we become so engrossed with what’s taking place that we lose track of time or fail to see what’s taking place in the big picture. Happy holidays and stay safe!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Rescue Company Member

Post courtesy of Patrick McKay, Fairfax City Rescue Engine 33 Chauffeur

Lots of American kids grow up with hopes and dreams of being a fireman at some point, many of these kids grow out of it and some are lucky enough to fulfill their dreams and ride fire trucks. Growing up in a fire department household, I always wanted to be a fireman and more specifically a Rescue Company fireman. Due to my father’s assignments, I was introduced to the Rescue Company at an early age and everything about the Rescue Company seemed larger than life. The rig carried so many cool tools, the guys loved their jobs, and it seemed like they got to do all the “fun” stuff on calls. I loved watching VHS tapes that showed footage of FDNY Rescue Companies in action, they really got to do “fun” stuff whether it was cutting cars, rope rescues, or searching a tenement building on fire. Whatever needed to be done, they did it and they did it well. As I got older I made it a point to learn as much as I could about the Rescue Company and what it really means to be a member of the Rescue Company. This article will outline what I believe it means to be a member of the Rescue Company, because it certainly goes far beyond just showing up for work and jumping on the fire truck.

Members of the Rescue Company should not be new members to the fire service and should have significant fireground experience before assuming the position on a Rescue Company. Being an experienced firefighter is critical to operating as a member of the Rescue Company, as there are many skills and responsibilities the Rescue Company has. While basic firefighting skills should be maintained, they shouldn’t have to be learned while riding the Rescue Company. If a member of the Rescue Company doesn’t have the knowledge, skills, or abilities to conduct a primary search or force doors, surely we cannot expect them to take on more advanced tasks that the Rescue Company is responsible for. The reality is, not every member of the fire service is meant to be a member of the Rescue Company nor does everyone in the fire service want to be a member of the Rescue Company. We, the fire service as a whole, cannot simply place any warm body on the Rescue Company. While it may keep people happy for the short term, eventually it will lead to problems for everyone, the citizen’s and fire department. We cannot afford to waste precious time upon our arrival to an incident to catch someone up to speed on how we conduct operations.

Members of the Rescue Company should take a significant amount of pride in their work and realize that everything they do or don’t do is a direct reflection on the company as a whole. Just doing enough to get by doesn’t cut it on the Rescue Company, it entails going above and beyond. If it didn’t, there wouldn’t be a need for the Rescue Company as any firefighter would be able to carry out these duties. Many of the tasks the Rescue Company is responsible for are on “high risk, low frequency” events, meaning it is even more critical to carry out these tasks in a proficient manner as the results of not doing so could be disastrous. Attention to detail is critical and a simple oversight could result in things such as the failure of a haul system due to improper rigging, shifting of a vehicle in a precarious position due to ineffective stabilization, or failing to locate a victim in a fire because we didn’t complete a primary search of all areas in the fire building. Nobody wakes up in the morning and wants something like that to occur, however if we don’t operate in an efficient and precise manner they can happen.

Members of the Rescue Company need to have courage. It takes a certain amount of courage to knowingly place yourself in harm’s way to protect or save another person. With that said, the Rescue Company member needs to be intelligent which will allow them to operate in a dangerous position while minimizing the risk as much as possible. The majority of Rescue Company fireground operations occur independent of a hoseline, meaning the benefit of having a hoseline to protect you or lead you back to a safe position isn’t an option. This is why it is essential for the Recue Company member to be intelligent by taking note of egress points as they search, deploying a search rope in a cut up occupancy, or understanding what the fire is doing by observing smoke or heat conditions. Intelligence will also allow Rescue Company members to minimize the risk on other “high risk, low frequency” events such as water rescues, rope rescues, or confined space entries. Knowing what tactics to employ, what PPE to utilize, and how to “safe” an area (i.e. atmospheric monitoring, maintaining a zero mechanical state, placing upstream and downstream safeties) will allow us to minimize risk while still operating efficiently and effectively in a dangerous position.

Members of the Rescue Company need to have a thorough knowledge of their equipment. Knowing how something works is a good place to start, however knowing the limitations of your equipment is essential as well. Many folks don’t believe it’s important to remember the “numbers”, meaning to know things such as spread or cutting forces, WLL’s, or lengths of winch cables. Guess what? Those folks don’t belong on the Rescue Company! It may seem harsh or not PC, but it’s reality. Failure to fully understand the limitations of your equipment is dangerous to you, your fellow firefighters, and the citizens. If you are trying unsuccessfully to cut a “B-Post” with a cutter that has a cutting force of 152,000 pounds, it wouldn’t make much sense to try utilizing a cutter with a cutting force of 72,000 pounds. If the Rescue Company was tasked with winching one vehicle away from another, it’s important to know the weakest link in the system. Knowing the “numbers” on your winch, winch cable, snatch blocks, and chains will allow you to complete this task in the safest manner possible. If the Rescue Company is assigned to free someone from a machine, knowing how many CFM’s your whizzer saw or impact wrench consume will ensure you have an adequate air supply to complete a cutting or disassembling operation without delay. The point is: knowing how to use your equipment, when to use your equipment, and the limitations of your equipment are all very important for members of the Rescue Company. While you as an individual may not remember every number tied to every piece of equipment, conducting frequent company drills will reinforce this information and allow the Rescue Company as a whole to stay proficient with their equipment.

Members of the Rescue Company need to be able to function as members of a team. The Rescue Company is truly a team concept and it is imperative that all members are on the same sheet of music. A good Rescue Company can go to work with very few words having to be spoken, meaning that the members are part of a team that know their responsibilities and are entrusted to carry them out. This solid teamwork is established in the firehouse and on the fireground. In the firehouse, conducting frequent company drills will get everybody on the same sheet of music, reinforce skills, and expose individual strengths and weaknesses and allow the team to capitalize on individual strengths in specific areas. For example, the rig I ride has 4 members of which 3 of us ride in the same spot everyday. The 4th position is rotated between 2 members that split time on the Rescue Engine and Medic unit. The 3 of us that are on the rig everyday have pretty well established our respective roles on a rope rescue based on our strengths and weaknesses: the Captain is a tactician in every sense of the word and effectively lays out a game plan for us and works the edge, Bill is our member that is in the best physical shape and is our member that will likely go over the edge, I am good with rigging and constructing systems and will likely serve as the rigger. We are all capable of doing the other’s roles, however to operate in the most efficient and effective manner we take the job that best suits us. That is what being part of a team is all about. There is no better place to solidify teamwork than on the fireground, especially for a new member. All members on the Rescue Company need to be able to trust each other and know without a doubt they will do whatever needs to be done to get the job done and ensure we all go home at the end of the shift.

The final thing I will discuss is attitude. Having the right attitude is essential to being a member of the Rescue Company. Folks that are go getters with a “can do” attitude make excellent Rescue Company members. To quote a FDNY Rescue Company member from the 1980’s, “when the public needs help they call the fire department, when the fire department needs help they call the Rescue”. Giving up or quitting is not an option, the citizens AND your fellow firefighters are counting on you to show up and do what needs to be done. This is what makes or breaks the Rescue Company. In my company we have the motto “Whatever It Takes” and our members truly embrace that concept. We will do whatever it takes to get the job done and do whatever we can to ensure everybody goes home in the morning.

In closing, some folks look negatively upon the Rescue Company and refer to the members in a sarcastic manner as “the heroes”. The best thing a Rescue Company can do is train hard and perform at the highest level which will allow your actions to speak for themselves. At the beginning I said not every member of the fire service is meant to be a member of the Rescue Company. With that said, every member of the fire service is capable of becoming a member of the Rescue Company. It is incumbent upon the person to possess the qualities and traits that are essential to be a member of the Rescue Company. With hard work, initiative, and drive you could make yourself marketable to be the next member of the Rescue Company. Stay safe!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Engine Company

Engine company hose beds should be configured based on that individual company's needs and response area.  Larger departments tend to set up all of their engine company's hose bed configurations the same.  That way, regardless of what engine company a member gets assigned to (overtime, detail, or transfer), he/she is already familiar with the locations/lengths of all supply and attack lines.  While there should be some consistency, with the amount of supply line for example, this allows little room for companies to 'customize' their engine to match the needs of their first-due area.  -Keith

How is your company's rear hose bed set up?

In your department, are all of your engine companies' hose beds set up identically, or configured based on the needs of their individual first-due?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Truck Crew

(Photo courtesy of firefighter Amos Akers, Loudoun County Tower Ladder 619)

Here, in the picture above, one of each length of ground ladder (two 35' extension, two 28' extension, one 20' straight, and one 16' straight) is stored with the tip facing out, and one with the tip in.  This gives the driver and/or OVM a little bit of flexibility when retrieving ground ladders for placement regardless of whether if the truck has pulled past, or just short of, the fire building.  -Keith

How are the ground ladders configured on your truck/tower ladder?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Who Is On Your Truck Company?

Post courtesy of Firefighter Amos Akers, Loudoun County Tower Ladder 619

Most of us can agree that the aerial device doesn’t make a truck company. It’s the crew that makes the truck company.

On the fireground, truck companies are expected to perform multiple, coordinated tasks simultaneously in order to support engine company operations. John Norman, retired FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief, used the acronym LOVERS U to describe the basics of truck/tower company operations in his book “The Fire Officers Handbook of Tactics”.

This acronym spells out the basics of what “Truck Work” is all about:

   L adders
   O verhaul
      V entilation
                               E ntry (of the forcible type)
 R escue
S earch

          U tility control

Here in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, truck companies, like rescues, are referred to as “Special Services” units. Meaning, units have special responsibilities not only on working fires, but also at heavy technical rescues, and other special operations assignments.

Being a "Special Services" unit, a truck company is not the place where just any firefighter can be assigned, or “rotated” into. There should be a set of minimum requirements in order for someone to be on the truck/tower ladder. Unfortunately, in the “Kinder and Gentler” fire service, not a lot of people understand this.

If your department has a truck company, how are members assigned to it?

Do you place a firefighter, 1 year out of the academy with no previous fire experience, and who’s never been in a fire, as your Forcible Entry position on the Interior Team?

Do you assign a firefighter as the Outside Vent Man (OVM) spot knowing for a fact that they cannot carry and/or raise a ground ladder by themselves?

Do you assign the newly promoted Apparatus Technician who’s never driven anything bigger than an ambulance as the driver operator of your truck?

As I stated before, the truck company is required to perform multiple, coordinated tasks simultaneously on the fireground. Many times this requires the truck crew to split, and to operate on their own, without the direct supervision of their OIC. This is the work that your experienced, highly skilled, and well trained firefighters should be performing.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Are you an Urban Firefighter?

Please take the time to check out Brother Ray McCormack's online magazine related directly to our job. It is time well spent, and provides some great information to share and drill with at the firehouse. - Ron Kuley

Welcome to Urban Firefighter Magazine, the latest in fire service culture, training and media. Urban Firefighter Magazine is a new and vibrant trade publication representing a major shift in: content, reader participation, and the delivery of both. Urban Firefighter Magazine is a digital magazine available to you around the clock and around the globe. Urban Firefighter Magazine is free and does not require a subscription. At Urban Firefighter Magazine, we believe in passing on life saving skill-development lessons, just as past and present firefighters have shared their lessons with us. We will only pass on credible information to you, our readers and supporters. Come join us in our journey of discovery and the celebration of the Urban Firefighter in all of us. Sincerely,

Ray McCormack, Publisher and Senior Editor, Urban Firefighter Magazine
"Keep Fire in Your Life"

Friday, October 29, 2010

Get Out The Door!

Post courtesy of Patrick McKay, Fairfax City Rescue Engine 33 Chauffeur

I recently found myself captivated by a discussion that was taking place on a social networking site (soon that will be a bad word to the fire service) in reference to a photo depicting a piece of fire apparatus leaving the firehouse. Believe it or not, the individuals involved in the discussion were “senior men”, some even retired. The discussion revolved around which crews and rigs turned out for runs the quickest. It was great to see a bunch of older guys engaged in this discussion and the pride that obviously came with getting out the door fast. Anyone who knows me can agree that this is very important to me. Unfortunately, I believe this is becoming a lost practice to many companies and maybe even discouraged by some folks.

Citizens call 911 because they are having a bad day and are looking for our assistance in mitigating whatever issue is causing them to have a bad day. These “issues” can range from an elderly person falling out of bed to an apartment building on fire with multiple people trapped. Whatever the nature of the call is, it’s our duty and responsibility to turn out as quickly as possible. Notice I said “turn out”, which is synonymous with getting out the door, and not “respond”. Anybody who has been doing this for a while knows that you don’t make up time by driving like a mad man to calls but rather by turning out quickly. This is especially true in box alarm areas that are tight in the run order.

By turning out quickly for every call we receive it becomes second nature and the norm. So, when seconds count, chances are your company will be on top of their game and not fumbling around in the firehouse. One of the first skills learned in recruit school is donning your PPE in an expedient manner. Unfortunately after completion of recruit school this skill is rarely practiced and folks don their gear in a less than expedient manner. Do you think the hours spent learning to quickly don your gear was done just to fill out a schedule? No! That time was used to give you a foundation for a skill that you are expected to do for the duration of your career. Once again, if we don our gear in an expedient manner for all calls, chances are we’ll be quick and proficient when it counts.

Some folks believe area familiarization and memorization aren’t essential because we have maps and GPS to navigate us. Yes, we do have those resources but what happens when GPS doesn’t work? What happens when a map shows two roads connecting that don’t actually connect? We are still tasked with getting to the incident and getting there in a timely manner. Upon receipt of the alarm, the driver should have a good idea where they’re going. This will prevent a company from sitting on the ramp of the firehouse wondering whether they make a left or right turn. Time on the front ramp is wasted time and for the citizen trapped in their vehicle or whose house is on fire, seconds count.

It seems that more and more folks subscribe to the theory that quick is reckless. Operating in a quick, deliberate manner is not reckless and will provide us opportunities to make a difference. Training and experience will allow us to operate in this quick, deliberate manner without being reckless. We should all have pride in ourselves and companies that drives us to operate in the most efficient and effective manner as possible, this includes turning out quickly for every alarm received. If your company doesn’t turn out quickly, identify the reasons why. If you’re in a position to initiate change, do so! The citizen’s we serve and your fellow firefighters deserve it. Stay safe!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Think About It!

A fire-related emergency involving a structure with one or more solar panels would not be considered an unlikely or even rare occurrence in the United States anymore. There are, for the most part, two different 'types' of solar panels that firefighters need to be aware of, as well as a few basic hazards associated with each. Regardless of what type, either thermal or photovoltaic, the first unit on scene must relay the presence of solar panels to all incoming units.

Before I get started, let me state that I am just discussing the basic hazards we should all be aware of while operating near roof mounted solar panel systems, and am in no way an expert on these systems.

Thermal systems, for the most part, use solar panels to collect heat from the sun, and transfers it to the water that runs through the piping. This hot water feeds down to a storage tank, and acts as a pre-heater to the house's existing water heater. Some of the hazards that firefighters need to be aware of while operating near this type of panel are (but not limited to): tripping/slipping, structural collapse due to extra weight, flame spread, inhalation issues (from burning panel materials*) and hot fluid scalds. Fires in/near this type of system can be extinguished with normal tactical and strategic approaches (water).

Photovoltaic systems use the solar panel's cells to convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. To provide electricity, these systems include several pieces of equipment in addition to the solar panels. The additional components typically include a charge controller, an inverter (to convert the DC current to household AC current), heavy cables, wiring, and some form of electricity storage (typically batteries).
Some of the hazards that firefighters need to be aware of while operating near this type of system are (but not limited to): tripping/slipping, structural collapse due to extra weight, flame spread, inhalation issues (from burning panel materials*), and most importantly: severe electrical shock and battery hazards. Be aware that a solar panel exposed to any sunlight is always "on" and the system remains energized. DAYLIGHT = DANGER.  The only way to eliminate the electrical output of a panel is to cover it with 100% light-blocking material (heavy tarps). Fires in/near this type of system should be attacked similarly to any piece of electrically energized equipment.

During roof operations, firefighters will need to remain aware of the added weight of the solar panels on a roof that may be weakened by fire below. An array of solar panels may also prevent direct access to the section of roof providing the optimum point of vertical ventilation. Under no circumstances should solar panels be cut or damaged to perform vertical ventilation.  -Keith

*Panels are made up of many materials that may include gallium arsenide, phosphorous, and cadmium telluride that, when exposed to fire conditions, introduces potentially dangerous levels of cadmium, a know carcinogen.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

You Make The Call!

Aggressive truck companies know that you ventilate vertically (the roof) immediately upon arrival, and ventilate horizontally (windows) in conjunction with the engine company being ready with their attack hose line.  What are your thoughts on this video, or this topic in general?  -Keith

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Truck Crew

(Photo courtesy of Northern Virginia Fools)

With the numerous and often overwhelming initial tasks required to be performed on the fireground by the first due truck company (especially those understaffed), a thorough size-up and 360 of the building must still be made.  If window bars are encountered by the OVM during his walk-around, he should notify his truck officer or incident commander immediately via portable radio.  Not only does this notify the officer in charge, but incoming units are now made aware of the situation also.  This is vital when crews are already operating inside, or are about to make entry.  Most window bars are anchored into the mortar and are fairly easy to remove with the use of a halligan bar.  This usually holds the same for child gates/bars.  Some, however, may require the use of a circular saw and may become labor intensive.

Note the bars in the photo above.  They are set inside the frame of the casement windows, and are anchored about 8 inches into the concrete/masonry wall.  The removal of this type of window/bars can certainly tax initial companies.

Do you have enough special services companies to handle this type of issue on your first alarm assignment?

How would you attack these window bars?

What kind of tools/personnel would you need?

Does your truck crew train on window bar or casement window removal as part of basic forcible entry? 


Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Rescue Company

With high rise buildings on just about every corner here in the Washington, DC metro area, window washers usually go about their daily business with most citizens paying them no mind.  That is, until something goes drastically wrong.  Then, it seems folks leave the office, pour into the streets looking skyward, pointing, and gasping.

Is your company/department equipped to handle this type of situation?

Do you have a highly trained rescue company whose sole job is high-angle rescue? Are you trained to assist them?

If the window washers are within reach of your truck company's areal, do they perform the rescue?

Think of a mid or high rise building in your first due.  If this scenario unfolded tomorrow, are you ready?

What type of initial resources are dispatched to this type of event, and what additional resources might you need to special call? Do you rely on mutual aid rescue companies to assist your department?


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Engine Company

(Photo courtesy of Tom Meloy, Fairfax County Company 4/A)

Post courtesy of Mike Deli, Fairfax County Battalion Chief 1/A

Now, take the townhouse from the last post about ground ladders (The Truck Crew 9/27/10), and think about fire streams. Look at the photo above. With the 14' roof ladder in place from your engine, could we have advanced an 1-3/4" line from Side C up the ladder, and operated it through the window into the attic? The fire that seemed to be unreachable was in the front of the attic, under the front gable, and partially protected from an elevated stream (most likely stream from an aerial than from a more manuverable tower ladder). The tower knocked it down quickly, but was this a 1000 gpm fire? The 2" smooth bore also pierced the fire wall and sent water into the D-1 exposure. How about an 1-3/4" stream from the roof of an adjacent exposure? Or an 1-3/4" through the front windows from a ground, aerial, or tower ladder? We've used this tactic before on other fires in the 1st Battalion, like the Cedar Cove and Fairwind fires. We should always consider what could have been done differently for the next time. Any thoughts?

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Truck Crew

(Photo courtesy of Tom Meloy,  Fairfax County Company 4/A)

Post courtesy of Mike Deli, Fairfax County Battalion Chief 1/A

Look at the attached photo. E436, TL436, T425, and R439 returned to this incident scene to see what ground ladder options we could come up with.
In the photo, there are two ladders placed on the ground, leaning against the deck. The ladder on the right is the 35' extension - in this instance, it didn't reach any of the top floor windows - when we placed/heeled it outside of the back yard fence, the angle was too low and there was not enough length. When we placed it inside the fence, the deck acted like a fulcrum (What the fulcrum is a fulcrum Mike? ed.) and made the angle too high so the tip could not touch the house. Plus, it's typically at least a two person ladder. The ladder on the ground on the left is the 20' straight - this is easily a one person ladder and was the best choice to get up onto the deck. The firefighter placed the 20' inside the fence, climbed onto the deck and hoisted (hand over hand) the additional ladders up onto the deck. On the deck, the ladder on the far left is the 14' straight found on any engine and in this case is a nice fit to the window sill (where it needs to be for a means of egress from an IDLH environment). The ladder on the right is the 16' straight from most truck companies and in this case is too much. Realize that in both cases of the 14' or the 16', much of where the tip lands depends on the depth of the deck and where the ladder is butted. This isn't as simple as placing ladders to a third floor window because of the obstacles created by the fence and deck. On the front of the townhouse, the car in the driveway made things difficult -
What were our options with that car? Pull out of the way? At first we were hesitant to place a ladder. A nice combination of ladders to accomplish this might be found on the engine with it's 14' and 24', one person ladders. In the 1st Battalion we don't give up until the task is completed. The third ladder being hoisted to the deck is the 14' extension and though it could be adjusted to fit a variety of objectives, some thought the ladder is too narrow. Thoughts?...
On the front side, the car in the driveway made ladder placement difficult - get the keys and drive the car back into the garage? Initially, the crew was hesitant to place a ladder on the first landing of the exterior stairs thinking about not crowding the entrance. We summed it up like this - if the IDLH is on the top floor, that gets priority for an alternate means of egress over the lower floors that may be partially blocked by the ladder - make sense?
There is still some debate over whether or not the window should be removed by the exterior crew when interior crews are fighting an attic fire. As in any case, it's a judgement call - what are the conditions on the floor where the companies are working? But if we want always want to err on the side of safety, remove the window... thoughts?
Please review with your folks, as a single picture is worth a thousand words.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

You Need to Check Side Charlie

Post courtesy of Patrick McKay, Fairfax City Rescue Engine 33 Chauffeur

A building has 6 sides and it’s important to evaluate conditions on each of these sides throughout fireground operations. Evaluating these conditions allows implementation of sound fireground tactics. In the past few years, there have been several fires in the Metropolitan Washington DC area where evaluation of conditions viewed from side Charlie has proved critical to the success or failure of fireground operations. I am going to briefly discuss the importance of giving a proper report of conditions on the Charlie side and what it really entails.

I’m not here to tell you who gives a report from side Charlie, but rather to reiterate that somebody needs to give a report from side Charlie. Different systems utilize different companies for this task and have valid reasons for the way they operate. Simply stating “side Charlie is clear” is not a side Charlie report! I hear this way too often, and often times it is an inaccurate statement. I went to a fire the other night and that radio transmission was made, when in fact there was fire throughout the second floor and attic. With that said, how was side Charlie clear? At the same time, I don’t expect anyone to give a ten minute dissertation, of which nine minutes and forty five seconds was wasted air time.

Obviously the quicker we implement tactics, the better chance of a successful outcome we have. Like everything else in the fire service, with experience and practice, you are able to carry out tasks more efficiently and quickly. With that said, it’s good habit to give a side Charlie report on all reported house and building fires, appliance fires, odors of smoke, chimney fires, etc. Obviously it’s impractical for the first Engine officer to give a report of side Charlie at a warehouse or big box store, but somebody needs to do it!

So what does the side Charlie report consist of? For different buildings and occupancies it will vary but there are some constants. Identify the number of floors in the rear. Often due to grade changes there are a different number of floors accessible in the front and rear. Identify fire conditions. Is the exterior of the building burning? Is there smoke or fire issuing from the first floor, while companies have committed to the second floor? Is it an auto off to the rear of the building and not actually the building on fire? Identify Rescues. Are there people on a balcony above the fire? Are there people in windows that have significant smoke issuing from them? Identify sub-floor access. Does it have a walk out or walk up basement? Are there indications of fire in the sub floor areas? Identify any special hazards. Are there power lines down? Are there pressurized gas containers involved or exposed? Are there bars on windows? Are there exposure issues? Is there a large addition on the rear of the building, otherwise not visible from the front? Are there numerous electrical meters on the exterior of the building which may indicate separate occupancies and more occupants than generally expected?

The actions I have listed above can be completed and communicated in a timely manner on any fireground and will allow for better implementation of tactics. Remember, the fireground is a dynamic environment and conditions are subject to change and changes should be communicated. By completing a quick and proper side Charlie report, we increase our chances of successfully combating fires and doing so in an efficient manner.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Think About It!

(Photo courtesy of Tom Meloy, Fairfax County 4/A)
See additional photos of this incident (click to view photos)

This is just a little training opportunity to challenge yourself and share with your members. View the photos and put yourself in the Engine Company OIC's spot.

What would you transmit for your onscene and situation reports?

What would be your course of action?

Where would you have the first line go?

Would you remain as the IC or would you transfer command?

What if you are arriving as the second due engine company? What would you do with your crew?

What are the assignments that you would make to the remainder of the first alarm?

During this incident, the BC was responding from a Command Staff meeting with a 15 minute ETA.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Say It Loud and Clear

Most everyone has experienced poor radio traffic whether it be difficult to hear or transmit.  Especially with the digital radios and SCBA mask, many times the message is difficult to understand.  While wearing the SCBA mask, where does that portable radio mic go?  To the voice amp? Or pressed against your throat? Or a few inches from your regulator? Or the exhalation valve on your mask?  Many of you have different ideas on this, and there have been many formal and informal ways to determine what is best with the equipment you have.

The following is a decent video that describes proper portable radio use as it relates to speaking into the portable radio mic. In order to save 8 minutes of your life, start the video at the 8:20 mark and watch the "using portable radios and SCBA".

Link courtesy of Ken Neumann, Fairfax County Tower Ladder Chauffeur 36/A

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Engine Company

Your the second due engine and have arrived on the scene. The first due engine is stretching a 2-1/2" line to the alley on the "D Side" of the structure. The first due truck has reported that it is going to be delayed due to traffic.

What is your initial on-scene report?

What are your immediate concerns/actions?

What size line will you advance, and where would it go?

What about exposures?

Monday, September 20, 2010

You Make The Call!

For the obvious reasons in the photo above, you would not be sending any of your crews inside for an initial attack.

What are some other reasons, based on conditions upon arrival, would you need to make the decision to keep your members out of a building?  -Keith

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Think About It

(Photo courtesy of the Hamilton, NJ Fire Department)
Think about it. You're dispatched as the engine company, along with a truck company, to a fire alarm in a commercial building at 2:30 am. Upon arrival, you have a decent amount of brown smoke showing from the front of an 110' x 50' single story, old, brick building that is currently being used as office and storage space for an auto parts manufacturer. After notifying your dispatcher to "fill the box" for a working fire, the truck forces entry and your crew starts to advance a line through the front door to investigate and locate the fire. Visibility is almost zero as you make your way down the hall, and you can feel a good amount of heat coming from below your feet. Just then, without warning, a member of the truck crew falls through the floor into a basement. You can still barely see him through the smoke, but can't reach him.

What are your immediate actions as the engine boss?

What building construction features should you have noticed/been looking for during your initial size up/360 that may have prevented this scenario from happening?

Is there anything you can do with the staffing/equipment on scene, or will you have to wait for additional companies?

What method(s) would you use to rescue a member who has fallen through the floor?

Have you (and your crew) ever trained for this type of scenario? (Columbus Drill)


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Our Name Has Finally Changed!

Due to an overwhelming response, and increased popularity to the training website, we have finally changed our name to The content and purpose of this site will remain the same, except we will now be able to post videos and PowerPoint presentations that you can download for review with your shifts.

We will still be including some of the old weekly posts to include (but not limited to):

- “Think about it”
- “You Make the Call”
- "The Engine Company"
- "The Truck Crew"
- "The Rescue Company"
- Near-Miss Report of the Week

Along with any other relevant topics that deal with fireground tactics, strategy, and firefighter survival.

The mission of this website has always been very straightforward. These goals are being met each and every time you take a few minutes to review and comment on a post. is pleased to announce that we will soon be joined by various well known fire service instructors and authors from Houston, Phoenix, New York, Los Angeles, Fairfax County, etc, to continue to share ideas and encourage discussion.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments, questions, or ideas for an upcoming post you would like to see or submit.

Get outside and put some hose in the street. Stay safe.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Think About It

Watch the above clip (courtesy of of an explosion and fire that tore through six South Los Angeles buildings, spattering firefighters with molten chunks of titanium. The explosion also collapsed numerous walls and sections of roofs. Post as if you were a chief officer in command, company officer or just manning the line. Immediately after the explosion, what radio traffic, if any, do you transmit? Mayday? Priority traffic?

You Make the Call!

This has generated some great discussions. We look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Based on the picture above, ask yourselves the following questions:

• Identify the construction features of the building that will help to increase or decrease fire spread.

• List any construction features that may impact the safety of crews operating in or around the building.

• Identify size-up information. What does the situation tell you?

Where will your first line go? How about the second line?

• What is the Benefit to be gained by taking the Risk?

• Is this a Go or No-Go situation?

Are there any other considerations to assist our decision to Go or No-Go? Is there anything else to add?

Special thanks to FireMedic Caldwell Clark (FCFD Engine 30) and Fairfax City Medic 33/C for the picture.

You Make the Call!

Based on the picture above, ask yourselves the following questions:

• What are the construction features of the building that will help to increase or decrease fire spread?

• Are there any construction features that may impact the safety of crews operating in or around the building?

• Identify size-up information. What does the situation tell you?

• What is the benefit to be gained by taking the 'risk'?

• Is this a Go or No-Go situation?

Are there any other considerations to assist our decision to Go or No-Go? Is there anything else to add?

As always if you have any pictures or ideas to submit please send us an email at Thanks to JJ Walsh (Batt 7/A) for the info above.

Think About It!

A line out of the movie "Top Gun" talked about how the pilots in Vietnam had become too dependent on missiles and had lost their edge that fighter pilots had during WWII and Korea. They had become too dependent on technology!

We have had a lot of great tools come our way due to technological advances as well. One of those tools is the Thermal imaging Camera (TIC). This is an incredibly valuable tool for use in locating hot spots, trapped or lost civilians, and of course trapped or lost firefighters. But we also can't become too dependent on technology.

In spite of how good the cameras work, they are still not the answer to all circumstances when doing searches, either for fire or for people.

Discuss the following:

1. The operation of the camera.
2. When you can use it for finding hot spots and sources of fire extension?
3. Use of it in locating people.
4. What other uses do you have for the TIC?
4. Most of all, circumstances when the camera cannot or should not be used to find fire or people.

Talk also about the need to maintain a high level of search skills in various situations. Include a discussion of the differences in searching a residential occupancy vs. commercial occupancy. If for no other reason, what happens if you are depending on the camera and it does not turn on?

(Courtesy of Deputy Fire Chief Coffman)

NOVA Operations Manuals

For those of us that work in a Northern Virginia Fire Department, you should be well aware of the NOVA Regional Operations Manuals. These are the manuals that provide operating and tactical guidelines for emergency incidents. These manuals are written by a committee of representatives from fire departments in the Northern Virginia area. See below for an excerpt of what their activities entail:

* Develop uniform incident management and command systems and procedures.
* Develop uniform operational and response procedures that provide for shared use of special emergency response teams, equipment assets, and other regional resources.
* Standardize fire, EMS, and emergency service policies, procedures, apparatus, and equipment whenever and wherever feasible.

These links will allow you to download five documents that are "cheat-sheets" from the following manuals; Single Family, Townhouse, High-Rise, Strip Shopping Centers and Garden Apartments.

These “cheat-sheets” are a great resource to use while preparing for a promotional exam. They are another tool for 5 minute drills with your shift. It is our hope to have these mass produced and laminated in a 5x7 format that can be kept in your rigs if you choose.

I know what some of you are thinking, “these are stupid because the members should know what their assignments are….” We feel these sheets will prove to be helpful whether studying for an promotional exam or responding to a call at 3AM and maybe having a hard time remembering your assignment on a certain call.

If you have any items to add or to make any changes so these can be more user friendly please let us know. As always your feedback is welcome. Ron Kuley 26/A

Warehouse Fires...Think About It!

From the FCFD’s PIO office“Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department units responded to a commercial fire at approximately 8:10 a.m., Sunday, December 2, 2007, in the Springfield area of Fairfax County. The commercial building, a warehouse, is located at 7390 Ward Park Lane.
Firefighters reported heavy fire from the front with flames rising more than 50 feet above the roofline of the two-story, 100 by 300 foot warehouse. The warehouse was fully involved with fire causing firefighters to fight the fire from the exterior. The fire was brought under control in approximately 90 minutes. Subsequently, a third alarm was requested bringing over 90 emergency personnel to the scene. There were no reported injuries. The warehouse stored coffee products and housed a woodworking business.
Damage is estimated at $3.7 million.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.”

This fire went to a 3rd alarm and it was a defensive operation with the use of multiple heavy-caliber streams.

One of the issues at that fire was that of a partial collapse. The building being a warehouse type of occupancy is of Type II construction. This type involves the use of non-combustible structural materials but those building elements are not protected as we find in Type I, Fire resistive construction.

When fire conditions are well advanced in Type II, there are a number of factors that can contribute to the failure of different structural components. Steel beams, steel bar joist, metal lintels over bay doors, columns, and exterior walls are all easily affected but in different ways.

Discuss the issues associated with building collapse and/or failure of building components and what the signs of this problem are. What steps and tactical activities do, or should, we take in addressing the issue of structural compromise?
Courtesy of Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Coffman

Think About It...

OK, we talk about the importance of laddering a building. The most important reason for getting this tactic accomplished early and properly is for the emergency exit of members operating on the interior. Take a look at the picture above. IN AN EMERGENCY, which ladders could you use and which one(s) would be a problem making an escape. Remember that if fire is chasing you out of the building, you will NOT be able to get high in a window opening, but will most likely be trying to crawl or slink out staying as low on the window sill as possible. Take a look also at what else should be done at window openings to which ladders are placed.

(Courtesy of Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Coffman)

Watch the video at end of posting...

THROWING LADDERS. The term we use to place ground ladders in position so we can get in, get out and for us to get trapped civilians out. If we train and train and train on doing that and have enough people to do it-it generally works pretty well on the fire scene. A recent video from Massachusetts shows FF's not doing it as well as could have been...with a civilian trapped. Before we saw the video, we wrote a commentary on how important staffing is when responding to a fire. Staffing on your apparatus or as a part of an automatic mutual aid program for the first alarm assignment-which is reality these days-is critical. Very few small and medium size FD's (and even some bigger ones) can meet the staffing goals of NFPA 1710-but it can be done way better by combining resources as a part of an area or regional 1st alarm assignment. What's the goal? As we have stated for years, to have plenty of FF's to (at minimum) establish water, vent, enter, search/rescue and hit the fire when reports have people are inside....and to attempt to do it simultaneously under a boss (and support functions) in command and in control.

But when we saw that video of the FF's attempting to raise the large ground ladder-we started to think about FD's who ask for more staffing-but then perhaps aren't training the staffing they have to the max. In other words, it could be said by those who oppose more staffing "why do you need more when you aren't training the ones you have to do the job as best as possible when needed" ?

Any FD fighting for more staffing would have trouble arguing the point. By asking the question: What are we doing to train and safely use the current personnel we have...can go a long way in being a key ingredient in justifying more personnel. If aggressive training is happening and companies are operating as "as effectively and as safely as possible" on the fireground with what we have to work with, we can then show "those who decide" how much more good we can do if we were provided more staffing...or given more companies on the 1st alarm assignment. No matter what the staffing-a regularly trained FF is always going to be a better bet than one who has not been training.

FDNY has the best staffing and the best written and trained upon operating procedures we have seen. Of course, like anywhere, it doesn't always work perfectly, but for the most part, they have a good system of operating that a probie is taught from the start. If you are on a truck company and you are assigned to "this" task-that's how you will do that task. If you are on an engine, and are assigned a task-that's how they expect that task to be done. From the Chief to the probie-they all speak the same "operating" language so there is a level of expectation and consistency with time proven outcomes. Companies and the officers of those companies know what is expected and what to do. Chiefs overseeing them expect tasks to be performed automatically-because the members have been trained that way from the start...and the staffing matches the required functions.

There are always going to be some that don't like one FD or another-usually for some pretty dumb reasons like "their trucks are green" or "their Deputy Chief's mustache needs trimming" know what I mean. Of course, there are some who have never even been to NY but don't like how FDNY operates. But like them or not, it is hard to argue that FDNY "gets it" when it comes to staffing and they "get it" when it comes to the functions of a fire company. Take a few seconds and watch this video sent to me by a friend this morning that shows the urgency as well as the efficiency required when people are trapped in a fire and ground ladders are used to make the rescue. Throwing ladders is a basic task taught in probie school-but if we haven't drilled on it or don't have enough companies on the 1st alarm to throw the ladders (no matter what color trucks they arrive in or what town they come from)...the outcome is predictable.
Here is the video:
Take Care,
The Secret List 12-27-07/1145 hours

Think About It...

We have many buildings that have large open areas. Schools, warehouses, malls, churches, etc.

Discuss three issues in dealing with fires in these areas.

1. Hose or fire stream deployment and operation.
2. Ventilation operations
3. Search or evacuation operations.

Include a review of the hazards associated with operating in these large open areas and what building characteristics may be present that can cause your crew problems.

(Courtesy of Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Coffman)


Don’t Fight Explosives Fires!

from Bill Schumm at - editors note - Bill is a retired Captain from Fairfax County. He opened Firehouse 26..."Guardians of the Slab"

We have had many close calls here in Fairfax County. Great info below!

One of the headline-makers yesterday was the truck fire and resulting explosion in a trailer carrying a mining explosive, ANFO - ammonium nitrate mixed with fuel oil. The explosion killed dozens of people gathered around to look at the wreck along with some rescue workers. It is not yet known if the driver informed anyone at the time about his cargo.

Firefighters know (as least, you should know!!) that once you have explosives involved in a fire, then you have an irreversible process ongoing that will result in a catastrophic explosion. That’s why your haz-mat instructors keep preaching to you: “Don’t fight explosives fires!”
Yesterday’s incident brought back to mind a similar event that took place in Kansas City, Mo. 19 years ago. It was on November 29, 1988 that fire dispatch received a call at 0340 hrs. from a construction site security guard reporting a pickup truck on fire at the job site.

Pumper 41 was dispatched and while en route was told by the dispatcher: “Pumper 41, use caution on your call. There’s information there may be explosives. It’s in a construction area …” Upon arrival 6 minutes later, P-41 reported that there was a second fire in a 40-ft. trailer several hundred yards away and requested a 2nd engine company. Pumper 30 was dispatched to assist.

The two engine companies had a total of 6 men on them, 2 captains and 4 firefighters. Four of the six had completed field training on haz-mat identifications and procedures. There were two trailers at the fire scene, one of which was burning, but it is not known if they were placarded. They were being used as storage magazines for ANFO. The one that was burning contained 25,000 lbs. of product and the 2nd trailer held another 30,000 lbs.

Twenty-two minutes after the first company arrived on scene, at 0408 hrs., the burning trailer detonated. The blast had five times the force of the Oklahoma City bombing and immediately killed all six firefighters and destroyed the pumpers. The battalion chief who was responding immediately pulled back, established a remote command post and set up an exclusion zone keeping everybody far away from the blast site. Forty minutes after the first blast, the second trailer detonated.

The first explosion literally vaporized the six firefighters. No single trace of them was ever found. Not so much as a fiber. The two fire engines were blown into bits. The exemplary size-up and tactical decision of the battalion chief to maintain the extended quarantine of the site undoubtedly saved untold others from perishing when the 2nd blast occurred.

The explosions were heard 45 miles away. Think about that for a moment…. Pick a place that is 45 miles from where you are right now and try to imagine hearing something taking place there. And never forget:
Don’t fight explosives fires!

Take a moment to review explosive placards...take some extra time to review all DOT placards. Discuss what the differences are between the hazard classes. What do the small numbers mean? How would you respond to each? 15-20 minutes for this review.

You make the call...

Based on the picture above ask yourselves the following questions:

• Identify the construction features of the building that will help to increase or decrease fire spread.

• List any construction features that may impact the safety of crews operating in or around the building.

• Identify size-up information. What does the situation tell you?

• What is the Benefit to be gained by taking the Risk?

• Is this a Go or No Go situation?

Are there any other considerations to assist our decision to Go or No Go? Is there anything else to add?

As always if you have any pictures or ideas to submit please send us an email at Thanks to JJ Walsh (Batt 7/A) for the info above.