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