Technology with a Purpose

Archive for January, 2013

Like Everything in This Profession, Preparation Is Critical When Ventilating a Metal Deck Roof

Blog by Ed Hadfield
www.firetowntrainingspecialist.com

As firefighters, we are often faced with challenges out of our control. When tasked with vertical ventilation, we must deal with the roof assemblage we are dealt with. In the case of the metal deck roof, (also known as Robertson decking, or Q-decking) specific challenges are thrust upon the ventilation group. Obviously, if we had the opportunity to completely pre-plan all of the occupancies we might face in a commercial structure fire, we would have some prior knowledge of the roof assembly. But we don’t, so we must be prepared to react to the circumstances we encounter.

In most cases, once the ventilation group identifies the roof assembly is a metal-decked roof, a number of actions must occur for the mission to be safe and successful. The first item would be to indicate to command and interior operations that the structure has a metal deck roof assembly. This is important for all personnel operating within the structure due to the potential of a catastrophic collapse as the heat generated from the fire weakens the roof assembly, and support structures. The second key factor is to identify to all interior companies where specific heavy machinery on the roof may be located. This additional load may be critical in firefighter safety and survival.

Heavy Machinery Poses a Hazard to Interior Crews
The ventilation group supervisor may want to readily identify natural, or man-made ventilation points, such as skylights, and other openings that may assist in the ventilation of the structure without the need for actual cutting of ventilation openings in the roof. Of course this would be incident driven, and based upon the need, and amount of ventilation required to accomplish the task.

Cutting an Inspection Hole Four Feet from an Exterior Wall
Of course the ventilation group may not know the roof assembly is metal decked until we place an inspection cut into the roof itself. The inspection cut is the single most critical element to the vertical ventilation operation on a commercial or industrial occupancy. It will give the ventilation group five key elements in the vertical ventilation operation:

1. Roof covering
2. Roof decking
3. Rafter or truss type and direction
4. Conditions immediately underneath the ventilation group at that moment
5. Determines the operations of the ventilation group

Once the inspection cut is placed into the roof assembly the formal process begins to take action. In the case of the metal deck roof, a number of critical factors come into play. The first is the ability of the ventilation group to be successful in performing vertical ventilation on this type of roof assembly. The metal deck roof offers certain specific hazards and inhibitors to the ventilation group. The first is the ability to successfully open the roof up with the equipment on hand.

In most West Coast Fire Departments, the chainsaw, with a 20-inch bar and carbide tipped chain is the tool of choice for vertical ventilation operations. Although the advent of the newer Terminator and Raptor type chains has increased performance in this area, they still provided limited ability to be successful in the vertical ventilation operation on the metal deck roof. The primary problem occurs when firefighters run the chain into the metal trusses that support the metal deck roof.

Generally, no matter how experienced and careful the firefighter may be, the inability to feel the truss until it is too late causes the loss of multiple teeth on the chain, and in many cases causes the chain to be thrown from the bar itself, thus rendering the saw useless.

Utilization of a Rotary Saw with a Metal Cutting Blade
It is important for the ventilation group supervisor to acquire a minimum of two rotary saws immediately for the operation to be successful. As stated, most west coast fire departments don’t normally take rotary saws to the roof. This lends itself again to the need to spot your apparatus close to the occupancy so it doesn’t delay the operations longer than necessary. If the ventilation group is staffed well enough to send a runner back to the truck company to acquire the rotary saws, this would allow the ventilation group to possible begin ventilation operations on skylights, or other man made ventilation openings.

Pulling the Plug with a Rubbish Hook
As stated, the chainsaw is not the tool of choice in most cases. However, often times it is needed to skin the roof covering to expose the metal decking itself.

The best method of removing the top roof covering is to simply cut ventilation plugs the area or size of the ventilation hole the ventilation group wishes to accomplish. To accomplish this task utilize the chainsaw and make a plug cut the area or size of the ventilation opening.

If needed, the plug can be diced into smaller portions to make it more manageable for the pullers to handle. Be careful not to allow the chainsaw to sink into the metal decking, as this might cause the chain to be thrown, and thus rendered useless for further operations.

The goal is to simply skin the roof covering in an effort to expose the metal decking. Once the plug has been established, the best method of opening up the metal deck roof is with the use of rotary saws utilizing either a metal cutting blade, or for greater use the multi-cut or DAX type of blade. The use of the multi-cut blade offers longer duration of operations, without the repeated needed for changing blades.

Working Toward Your Means of Egress
When performing the cutting operations, always work back toward your means of egress. The ventilation group supervisor or Company Officer should remain in an EYES-UP position. This simply means the company officer should refrain from becoming actively involved in the ventilation cutting operations if at all possible. Of course this will be dictated by the staffing levels of the company.

If it is necessary for the officer to become involved in cutting operations he/she should limit the amount of cuts necessary to accomplish the task and then return to the EYES-UP position. This size and location of the ventilation opening is incident driven and specific to the location, and volume of fire within the structure.

A good rule of thumb is to operate in an area nearest to the fire without being directly over the involved area. It is important to note that heat will affect the structural stability of the roof assembly, and operation over the involved area may place the ventilation group in extreme danger.

The goal is to increase visibility and tenability by reducing the rapid build-up and spread of fire within the location. This can safely be accomplished from an area not directly involved in fire activity.

Teamwork and communication with interior crews is essential, and important for overall fire ground safety and survivability. As for the amount of ventilating required, this is incident specific. A good rule of thumb is to communicate with interior crew on their ability to suppress the fire and make headway on the assault. Also, heavy pressurization from a ventilation hole, or fire self-venting is generally an indication of inadequate ventilation, and further ventilation needs to occur.

The key items to remember when faced with metal deck occupancy are:

>> Vertical ventilation on metal deck roofs requires addition equipment in the form of rotary saws, and often multiple blades.

>> Vertical ventilation operations on metal deck roofs do not follow the same type of cut procedures as conventional and light weight engineered structures.

>> Vertical ventilation operations on metal deck roofs take greater time to accomplish. So plan wisely.

>> Natural and man-made openings should be the first choice in vertical ventilation openings.

>> Communications with the interior crew is essential for safe and efficient operations.

>> Preplanning of commercial and industrial occupancies is the best way to lessen the surprise of the metal deck roof on structure fires.

About the Author
Ed Hadfield has more than 26 years of fire service experience after rising through the ranks from firefighter to division chief. He is a frequent speaker on leadership, sharing his experiences within the fire service and also with corporate and civic leaders throughout the United States. For more on Hadfield, please check online at www.firetowntrainingspecialist.com.

Burnsville Fire Department Improves Hands-On Training by Using TargetSolutions for Pre-Training

Burnsville Fire Department has found TargetSolutions to be a tremendous tool for delivering pre-training prior to hands-on training exercises.

Since 1981, the Burnsville Fire Department in Minnesota has strived for efficiency in all areas of emergency response. The goal has always been to carry out its commitment to the preservation of life, safety and the protection of property.

Assistant Chief Brian Carlson plays an important role in helping the department meet that mission by administering training to personnel through the use of TargetSolutions’ industry’s leading web-based training and records management system.

Going through the hassle of manually tracking departmental data is a challenge many departments struggle overcoming. Before Burnsville found TargetSolutions in 2011, it faced the same difficulties.

“Previously, all the data we used would be something that would have to be manually inputted, or manually tracked,” said Carlson, whose department was slowed down by these outdated recordkeeping practices.

With the implementation of TargetSolutions, the department had the tool it needed to simplify and improve training management practices. But Carlson was pleasantly surprised with how TargetSolutions helped the department train more effectively through pre-training coursework.

“We use TargetSolutions to allow our crews to review didactic course information before we do hands-on training,” said Carlson. “When they arrive at training, they know all of the background information and we can jump right into the hands-on training.”

At the end of the day, however, it’s the recordkeeping capabilities that have had the largest impact on Carlson’s department.

“TargetSolutions has really allowed us to use their reporting to rapidly be able to find and extract information and be able to report it for ISO compliance, as well as reports for other elected officials,” he said. “Through reporting we can also see who’s late on assignments. Firefighters are able to receive e-mail notifications for when they’re due; and as the admin of the program I receive e-mails when the firefighters are late on an assignment.”

The implementation of TargetSolutions for online training and records management has resulted in cost savings, Carlson said.

“TargetSolutions has allowed us to keep units at their stations, which helps with response times and fuel costs. For OSHA training, rather than having to call everyone in and pay them off-duty, we can assign those courses through TargetSolutions and have them complete them on-duty.”

Brian Carlson, Assistant Chief

Overall, Carlson said he has been extremely pleased with the platform and the customer support he has received from TargetSolutions.

“I have nothing but good things to say about TargetSolutions, said Carlson. The content is good. The ability to upload our own content is fantastic. What I’ve enjoyed most is the customer service. Whenever I’ve had a question, the e-mails or phone calls have been returned promptly. All in all, it’s been a great product.”

About TargetSolutions
TargetSolutions is the leading provider of web-based technology solutions for fire and EMS departments. These solutions enable departments to maintain compliance, reduce losses, deliver curriculum, and track all station-level tasks, certifications and training activities.

TargetSolutions Helps Clients Add Custom Certificates to Activities

Did you know you can add custom certificates to activities? If your organization would like to create official training documentation for completed activities, TargetSolutions is here to help.

“Some organizations like to be able to show proof of training by creating custom certificates,” said TargetSolutions Client Services Manager Jennifer Antinone. “In some cases this helps them achieve easier recertification and continuing education credit by being able to document this completed training. We are happy to assist with it.”

Upon request, TargetSolutions will create a custom certificate for your organization. In order to produce this certificate, TargetSolutions will need the following information:

>> A copy of your existing certificate, if available

>> Your department’s logo

>> Electronic copy of the signature needed on the document

>> This same person’s full name and title

>> CE provider name and number, if applicable

Once you have gathered these requirements, please contact your account manager with TargetSolutions for more information. The process for adding custom certificates to activities typically requires 3-5 business days.

Extrication: Back to the Basics

Blog by Jacob Johnson
Lt. with Pearland Fire Dept. in Texas

The expression, “back to the basics” is often stated during training, but what does it really mean? Is it a quick 30-minute review of a topic, or is it an in-depth, eight-hour class? To really answer that question, your department needs to complete a needs assessment. This will explain what people know and don’t know.

In most cases, getting back to the basics means refreshing and strengthening your foundation or knowledge on a given subject. Quite too often firefighters forget the basic tools that helped us reach the point we have in our career. The basics will never go away and should never be forgotten.

When dealing with high-risk, low-frequency type calls, it’s the basic material or maneuvers we don’t utilize that impact us negatively on scene. It’s the basics we forget when we are caught in a tight situation and need help.

So, how do we make sure to remember the basics?

Simple train.

We need to train on the basics of every aspect of the fire service. This will strengthen our foundation, and since we are talking about the basics, let’s discuss the foundation of extrication.

Stabilization, or cribbing, is the foundation for a successful extrication of a patient from a vehicle.

To start, review the basics of cribbing by simply taking your crew/department to the truck and going over what type of cribbing there is in the department. Is it plain wood cribbing? Is it fiberglass cribbing? Do you have struts and jacks on the truck? If so, how do you use them? That will start the needs assessment for the department.

Once you have established what you have on the truck, go over it. Pull it out of the compartment and demonstrate uses for a wedge, a step chalk, a strut, jack and discuss, all of which you’ve probably done for cribbing in the past. Set up simple scenarios in the back of the station or at the training field and use practical applications to refresh the memory on how to use cribbing.

One thing with all training, especially when getting back to the basics, is some people think it’s boring and some people think they are too smart to train on a particular subject because they already know it all. My suggestion would be to embrace that attitude and don’t forget about it. If there is a person like that try to utilize them in your training. Have them teach the class and spread their knowledge to the others.

A good portion of those people will realize they needed a refresher, and by teaching the class themselves; they will learn or remember more because they are involved instead of them just sitting in the back of the class updating their Facebook status.

Cribbing must be stressed as one of the most important parts of extrication. If you can’t crib, you can’t cut!

Safety is the goal and the only way to extricate safely is to have a stable vehicle to cut on. Sometimes it’s hard to fully stabilize a vehicle, but your goal is to be as stable as possible.

As for training on cribbing, there are a few ideas that may work for your department. The first thing you will need is a vehicle. Call your local tow truck drivers and junkyards and ask them for a car.

It will be a donation from them and a tax write off for giving you the car. Most of them will drop the car off where you need it or they will allow you to come to the junkyard and use the yard for training. This will accomplish two things: First, you will start a working relationship with the drivers, which could potentially help make scenes go more smoothly in the future. Secondly, tow truck drivers can help with your training. They know how to stabilize a vehicle and you can incorporate some scenarios where a tow truck is used to crib so the extrication can proceed.

Remember, extrication requires thinking outside the box and using critical thinking skills. Use all tools needed to help your department. Whether it’s using tow truck drivers or wood cribbing, make sure you try and cover all sorts of different situations that could occur on the fire ground. Most importantly, make sure you train on getting back to the basics.

After all, it’s your foundation for success.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in December of 2010.

About the Author
Jacob Johnson currently works for Pearland Fire Department as a driver/operator. He has been in the fire service for more than 10 years. He has taught at extrication schools, recruit academies, and several suppression schools throughout the years. His certifications include: FF Intermediate, Driver/Operator, Fire Officer 1, Fire Instructor III.

TargetSolutions’ Courses Are Timed to Meet Regulatory Standards

The timer is one of the features in our online training management system we often hear about. The timer policy was instituted when TargetSolutions started providing continuing education credits to ensure users were spending an adequate amount of time in the courses for which they were receiving credit(s).
Many of the state approval agencies we work with require some mechanism to ensure users of online training are not just clicking through the course content. Because a certain course has been approved for continuing education credit, you must spend at least a minimum amount of time in the course content to obtain a valid certificate of completion.
“We take our accreditation with regulatory agencies very seriously, but at the same time we do not want to alienate users for the sake of compliance,” said Content Architect Jeremy Lynch. “Because of this, we walk a fine line of delivering the appropriate amount of accredited content that meets the minimum time required to get credit for the course.”
The system only records a certain amount of time per page and will stop recording time spent in the course if you stop actively navigating through the course. For example, if you get up and walk away from the computer, the system will not record time for that period. If you need to walk away from the course for any reason, you can click the “Quit” button at the bottom of the sidebar and the system will save your time and bookmark your page.
The completion timer will only log five minutes per slide before assuming the user is idle. If a user opens a course and then walks away, the time they left the course open will not be recorded. If a user quits a course, the system will remember how much time has been spent and start calculating from that amount the next time they log in. If the required amount of time is not reached, the system will prompt the user to spend additional time in the course.
Administrators also have the option to add a time requirement to a course, regardless of whether the course is approved for continuing education credit. If your administrator has chosen to require a certain amount of time for completion, you will be required to fulfill that requirement.

TargetSolutions Promotes Jennifer Antinone to Client Services Manager

TargetSolutions is pleased to announce the promotion of one of its very best Account Managers, Jennifer Antinone, to Client Services Manager. The position was recently made available and Jennifer was the perfect candidate, said Director of Client Services Jenny Fergason.

“Jennifer has been with TargetSolutions for two years and before her promotion, she was working with clients in the Southeast territory,” Fergason said. “Jennifer has made a tremendous impact because of her dedication, positive attitude and knack for helping clients make the most of the TargetSolutions platform.”

Antinone said she loves being a part of TargetSolutions tight-knit team where everyone is 100 percent committed to helping clients be successful.

“We support one another and each others clients,” Antinone said. “I enjoy speaking with the site administrators and demonstrating the site’s capabilities to them. It really feels like we work together to get the system to work in the way that they want it to.”

Antinone, who is originally from New York, has been married for 10 years and has two children, Luke, 6, and Emma, 4. She is a huge New York Giants fan and enjoys wine tasting and spending time with her family.

TargetSolutions Works Hard to Deliver Exceptional Platform Reliability to Clients

TargetSolutions is determined to deliver clients the very best experience possible. Creating a platform that is not only powerful, innovative and user-friendly, but fast and dependable, is more than just a goal – it’s a promise.

With that in mind, TargetSolutions has invested in the very best technology possible to ensure its systems are reliable and accessible. The company expects 99.9 percent system uptime, which is an internal benchmark that only the most sound technology platforms maintain, and is proud of the fact it consistently exceeds that impressive mark.

“We operate under the software as a service (SaaS) delivery model, and serve clients who need access around the clock,” said Systems Architect Anthony Miranda. “We need to be available 24/7 for our customers to utilize our system, we take that very seriously.”

Achieving such incredible system uptime is a result of having the appropriate technology in place – TargetSolutions utilizes best in class equipment and software to ensure its delivery infrastructure is reliable – as well as a dedicated and highly competent staff available at all hours to closely monitor servers.

“We have designed our systems with redundancy, so that if one fails, another will take over,” said Miranda. “We also have various layers of fault tolerance built into the systems along with a disaster recovery site strategically placed away from our main hosting location. If a natural disaster strikes this region, our customers won’t experience a prolonged outage.”

TargetSolutions’ dedication to reliability should leave clients with no doubt their records will be available when they need them. They can also rest confidently knowing a great deal of planning has gone into the platforms development. TargetSolutions works diligently to create innovative applications that make training management easier and more efficient.

“The best way to ensure our platforms success is to continually make improvements,” said Software Engineer Manager Dustyn Borghi. “We’re always looking for ways to further optimize the platform and make the user-experience that much better.”

For example, TargetSolutions recently made significant alterations to the User Selector tool, which has made it easier for administrators to navigate the platform and select the users they would like for various assignments. Large organizations with hundreds of users will certainly recognize this upgrade.

“Almost everything our platform has to do with user selection – so having the ability to find users and find them quickly is paramount to daily operations,” said Borghi.

The ongoing effort to optimize different aspects of the platform has made navigation throughout the site smoother and more efficient than ever before.

About TargetSolutions
TargetSolutions is the leading provider of web-based technology solutions for fire and EMS departments. These solutions enable departments to maintain compliance, reduce losses, deliver curriculum, and track all station-level tasks, certifications and training activities.