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Fire Officer 101: How to Establish the Right Expectations with Your Firefighters

Being a company officer is a tremendous responsibility. It is critical one understands the rank and what it entails.

Blog by Steve Prziborowski

Santa Clara County Fire Department (Los Gatos, Calif.)

The rank of company officer is undoubtedly one of the most challenging and important ranks within the fire service. If you read my previous post, “What Makes a Great Company Officer,” you know where I stand.

One of the most important things a company officer or any supervisor for that matter can do is establish the right expectations for personnel. While there is no one-size-fits-all method, or template for establishing expectations, I encourage you to reach out to other fire officers to understand what they are doing, as well as conduct online research to learn more.

When I was a firefighter, I didn’t enjoy having supervisors share their expectations. I interpreted that as micromanaging, which I now believe is an overused and misinterpreted word. Granted, the majority of supervisors I have had – in and out of the fire service – never bothered sharing expectations, so I at least give credit to those that did take time.

Check out other fire blogs by TargetSolutionsWhen I say I interpreted a supervisor sharing expectations as micromanaging, I felt the captain was telling me how to do my job. For example, I remember one captain stating something like this:

“If we get a car fire, I expect you to grab the front-bumper 1 and three-fourths hose line if the fire is toward the front of the vehicle. If the fire happens to be toward the rear of the vehicle, I expect you to pull the rear 1 and three-fourths hose line, as opposed to the pre-connected hose lines above the pump that are pulled to either side of the apparatus. Pulling the front or rear hose lines will keep us safe in most situations because we won’t have to pull hose out into other traffic lanes or over the side of the road.”

After serving as a captain and now a chief officer, I look back and realize the following:

  • It was the captain’s job to tell me how to do my job.
  • He was trying to set me up for success.
  • He was doing his best to ensure that communication and expectations were shared in advance so there was minimal chance for confusion on the fire ground.

Had he not shared those expectations, what would I have done on an actual vehicle fire? Any of the above options, some of which he might have liked, some of which he might not have liked. Would the fire go out with any line? Of course it would have. However, could I have put myself in danger had I done something he felt was unsafe given his experience? Of course! I could have injured myself or someone else!

Ultimately your job as a supervisor is not to handhold your personnel, but to provide clear direction as to what your expectations are in the majority of situations they face. Nobody said the job of company officer was going to be easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it.

About the Author

Steve Prziborowski has more than 21 years of fire service experience, currently serving as the Deputy Chief of Administrative Services for the Santa Clara County Fire Department (Los Gatos, Calif.), where he has served since 1995. Steve is also an instructor for the Chabot College Fire Technology Program (Hayward, Calif.), where he has been instructing fire technology and EMS classes since 1993.

About the author Steve PrziborowskiHe is a current Board Member for the California Fire Chiefs Association, serving as the Area 5 North Director, a Former President of the Northern California Training Officers Association, and he received the 2008 California Fire Instructor of the year award. He is a state-certified Chief Officer and Master Instructor, and has received Chief Fire Officer Designation and Chief Training Officer Designation through the Commission on Professional Credentialing.

He has a master’s degree in emergency services administration, and has completed the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy. He is a member of the IAFC FRI Program Planning Committee, is a regular presenter at fire service events across the country, and has authored numerous articles in all of the major fire service publications. He is also the author of three books, which were published in the fall of 2013: “How to Excel At Fire Department Promotional Exams,” “The Future Firefighter’s Preparation Guide,” and “Reach For The Badge – How To Master The Fire Department Entry-Level Testing Process.”

Comprehensive Recordkeeping Is Critical to Fire Department Training

This is the seventh tip from TargetSolutions’ special report, “Eight Great Tips for Training Your Crew,” a best practices guide. To view the entire report, please click here.

Are your fire department’s training records accurate? Are you sweating an upcoming ISO review, or some other audit, because you don’t trust the data you have on file? Chances are you need to examine your data business practices to ensure the processes for collecting, logging and reporting information are effective.

To generate comprehensive reports, your process needs to be defined. If you want specific data, all participants in the collection and reporting of that data need to adhere to the same criteria, and all components need to be defined and coordinated.

It’s important to establish best practices for data collection. You will need to organize, plan and execute the work to ensure good, reliable data is consistently available.

The first step is to commit to gathering data properly. That commitment will lead to better reporting.

 

“With TargetSolutions we’re able to show auditors what we’re doing. I can pull a report on anything within the system and demonstrate its effectiveness and efficiency. This is a very cost-effective program to get our staff a great deal of training and also meet training needs.”

Nate Renzella, Fire Inspector with Hendersonville Fire Department (Tenn.)

 

Tips for Making the Right Selection When Hiring a Firefighter

When hiring a new firefighter, it is important for fire department leaders to have a set of standards and criteria. After all, every candidate hired is a direct reflection on the department. Deputy Chief of Phoenix Fire Department Jeff Case recently sat down with TargetSolutions to discuss the hiring process and how an agency can develop the future of firefighters.

 

 

What tips would you provide fire department leaders on how to prepare their organization for success when it comes to hiring new members?

First of all, we talk a lot about making sure who we hire represents what a firefighter really is today. Making sure we don’t simply glamorize the position, and market the fire aspect of it.

Again, that is a critical and absolutely necessary component of what you hire. Someone that can go into a burning building, rip through things, and has that aggressiveness about them or toughness about them, means they can do the most difficult part of what we do, which is fight fire. But we must also realize that a person has to have components of compassion, nurse characteristics, counselor characteristics, humanitarian characteristics, have construction knowledge, etc.

So it is the total package we really need for a firefighter to be successful, and also to be happy. I mean if you hire somebody based on the premise they are going to come to work and three times a day they are going to fight intense fires, they are going to be very unhappy in this profession because that is not a typical day.

It is a challenge to find the right mix of personalities and not just look for that single toughness component, but recognize it is a total package.

 

What is something fire department leaders might not consider when making a hire?

Recognizing you need to be very careful about who you hire because you are probably not going to change them. You can train them, you can teach them, you can talk about your philosophies, but the general core essence of who a person is when you hire them at age 20 to 27 is already established. Their core personality, their core behaviors, and their core values are set by that point. And so, something we talk about is recognizing people’s strengths, and recognizing those are the things that are going to determine your ability to have them be successful and happy in their career.

We spend a lot of time talking about how to develop people’s career toward those strengths because we do need all types of personalities on our fire trucks.

Also, making sure that they are going to be happy because if you sell the job to people based upon this hero mentality, and that is what they expect to do every day – these extreme, dangerous, and hard things – they are going to be disappointed. So it is great they have the ability to respond well when that is the call and that is what they need to do, but they also need to be happy, content, and enjoy all the other 90 percent of what we do most of the time.

 

In your experience, are there any secrets or keys to finding the right employees? What do you look for that others should consider?

I do not know that there is any magic pill or series of things, but I think it is important to create a process. A process that allows you to get to know people better than a 20-minute interview where we ask three to four questions in which they are absolutely scripted coming in – if they are at all prepared as a candidate through classes and mock interviews and everything else. You do not want to be fooled by some of these pre-planned answers and set questions, and all of a sudden assume you know that person.

So I think relationships with the community colleges, mentorship programs, cadet programs, or volunteer opportunities where you get to see people in real settings are important. Inviting prospects into your fire stations, encouraging ride-alongs, and talking to people that interact with these people. Because it is in that element where both their positive and/or negative ones will be seen. So you have to create those opportunities.

We have firefighter one-on-two academies, we work with the community colleges, and we stay in close communication with them. The ongoing challenge you are going to have is looking out for people that we are associated with – friends and family. Not that it is a bad thing, but we have to make sure that our members do not encourage or falsely represent people as being good potential firefighters when they are really just a friend and they do not have the qualities, attributes, or characteristics you are looking for. We need to protect against that and make sure our members know who they bring in either strengthens or weakens the organization one person at a time.

So it is important to make sure all of those elements are as pure as possible. No process will ever be perfect. However, with families where a family member meets those criteria, then it should absolutely be encouraged. But do not bring someone in just because they are family or friends that do not meet the criteria you are looking for.

 

About the Author
Deputy Chief Jeff Case serves as a Shift Commander on the Phoenix Fire Department. As a Shift Commander he helps administrate the department’s Command Training Center and the management of Fire, Medical and Special Operation responses. Chief Case helped design and run Mesa Community College’s (MCC) Virtual Incident Command Center. Faculty member MCC, and adjunct instructor with TEEX’s WMD/EMS response program. Bachelor’s degree, Fire Service Management and a Master’s degree in Education.

Bio and photo of Jeff Case are courtesy of Firehouse.com.

 

Tactical Emergency Casualty Care 101: What It Is and How It Impacts Emergency Response

Ofer Lichtman of Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department (Calif.) presented at 2015’s Firehouse World Conference in San Diego. Lichtman provided an overview on Tactical Emergency Casualty Care and how it impacts the fire service. A few months later, Lichtman answered a few more questions on the topic for TargetSolutions.

 

 

 

What exactly is Tactical Emergency Casualty Care and why is it so important for today’s fire service?
Tactical Emergency Casualty Care is the result of a group of experts from law enforcement communities, the fire service, academics, medical professions, and the military, creating guidelines that take into account military medical lessons learned from the battle field, and aid in applying them to civilian crisis response. TECC has looked at the preventable causes of death and targeted guidelines to mitigate those in a very efficient, practical manner.

Prior to the 1999 Columbine massacre, law enforcement traditionally waited for the SWAT team to arrive and secure the perimeter. However, during that time people were still dying. Due to this inefficiency, law enforcement has realized it needed a change and did an amazing job transitioning into what is called ‘contact teams.’ These teams arrive on scene and aggressively pursue the threat. Whether it is an active shooter or another threat, they try to eliminate it.

Though, the law enforcement community was now on board, the fire service never really adapted and shifted along and this formed a gap. The gap is shown when law enforcement has eliminated the threat, but the fire service is still not coming in because they are still using old methods of staging. Current statistics have shown that 85 percent of fire departments around the country are still staging. Many fire service responders do not have a plan of what to do, whether it is a post-blast, a barricaded subject, or an active shooter.

So what Tactical Emergency Casualty Care has done is looked at why there is such high number of casualties in a penetrating trauma. Whether it is a blast, or an active shooter, they have identified certain instances where there is preventable death and have prioritized the importance of these instances to reduce preventable deaths.

The TECC guidelines are different than the military version of Tactical Combat Casualty Care. The TCCC is used to teach soldiers basic life-saving measures. With these guidelines, the military has done an amazing job of having between 3 to 5 percent of deaths from preventable causes. TECC is specific for civilian EMS. If you look at Vietnam War Era and World War II, about 20 to 25 percent of casualties died from things that were completely preventable.

Today, in the civilian world preventable death numbers are nowhere near the military, so there is a need to fix that gap. It is a paradigm shift for the fire service, and it is working very hard on implementing these TECC guidelines, which are in place to guide them on what to do and in what order to treat victims to decrease preventable deaths.

Is there a specific amount of this TECC training in place right now that is required by the fire service or EMS individuals within the fire service?
Recently Fire Scope came out with their official guidelines, which state the fire service should apply a minimum amount of TECC or TCCC training into its day-to-day operations. Therefore, it is recommended that departments should have at least four hours of tactical training at a minimum FRO level, and training on how to respond with law enforcement in a warm-zone environment.

Traditionally, the fire service will only work in a cold zone. The paradigm in the fire service has since shifted. However, still only about 15 percent of fire departments across the country, with Rancho Cucamonga and other southern California agencies being some of them, have made this shift. They have a very progressive policy and protocol that a lot of departments have adopted.

In these situations, there is a different level of Personal Protective Equipment, so all our firefighters are outfitted with ballistic helmets, ballistic vests, and they are more subdued. They do not wear yellow jackets and helmets, which would put a giant target on them.

Also, they train on how to integrate with the law enforcement, and how to move with cover verse cover and concealment. They understand PACE mythology, which would basically mean what their primary plan is, alternate plan, contingency plan, and an emergency plan.

So it is a different mindset than most controlled environments that the fire service is used to. There are a lot of dynamic, moving parts to this level of care. With the main one being, you are working in a unified command environment with multiple agencies having different objectives all for the common goal of providing safety and saving as many lives as possible.

What are a few of the key points in applying TECC to trauma patients in trauma situations?
There are three phases of care in TECC that are crucial, and it is important for the first responder providing the care to understand what level they are working under. For example, if you are finding yourself in a hot-zone, maybe you notice an IED or a shooter with a gun, the principles of your care change dramatically.

First, let’s understand what phase of care. The three phases are 1) hot-zone, which is also called direct threat; 2) the warm-zone, which is the indirect threat phase; and then 3) the cold-zone, meaning no threat and evacuation care.

It is important that you know what phase of care you are in and then adapting to do what is most appropriate. Today, we realize the thing that decreases most preventable death injuries from occurring is hemorrhage control. Therefore, the first thing you should treat in a tactical environment is hemorrhage control.

Sixty percent of preventable deaths occur due to hemorrhage or massive hemorrhage. Even the simple bullet hole that looks like it is controlled could be bleeding on the inside or you do not see the exit wound. So it is crucial that personnel are very aggressive on using tourniquets and other hemostatic agents appropriately to address the main cause of preventable death.

The second in the TECC guidelines would be breathing and airway injuries. Breathing injuries account for about 33 percent of preventable deaths. For example, someone is shot in the chest and develops tension pneumothorax. If this goes untreated, it is something they will die from when one could have easily treated that in a tactical environment with very little equipment.

In conclusion, knowing the phase of care and then knowing what order to apply treatment in that phase are important components. The hot-zone is only hemorrhage control and then evacuate. The other ones are all the different treatments, so hemorrhage control, breathing control, and then airway issues.

What are some of the latest updates from the committee on TECC? What is the committee?
The committee is a non-profit committee of pre-hospital emergency medicine experts that convene to provide guidelines about the medical lessons learned from the battle field to reduce preventable causes of death. TECC are the guidelines that the committee has set for best practice recommendations for casualty management during civilian tactical and rescue operations.

However, in the military, you are dealing with young, healthy adults between 18 and 30, which is much more different than the civilian population most emergency responders are dealing with. Your patient population could be geriatric, disabled, or pediatric; especially considering the school shootings in the last few years. First responders need to be able to incorporate scope of practice and local protocols into their care. Whether you are dealing with patients on blood thinners, patients that are obese, geriatric patients, or pediatric patients, scope of practice are important.

The committee itself is comprised of individuals of high academia who practice high-threat medicine, SWAT teams, fire and rescue agencies, hospitals and military personnel. Together they come up with guidelines and concepts based off current research, which are found in the TECC. Some changes that have been identified are realizing the significant threat to the psyche of the responders.

Some firefighters did not sign up to deal with a combat type of environment where they see mass injuries and death in children. There are some significant emotional injuries the providers will face. Therefore, having the ability to first train people to understand the horrific things they will see and how to deal with it has become important.

But how do you deal with that in TECC? There are things you can try to do, and that is the committee’s main objective – to find new guidelines to incorporate into the existing guidelines to prevent further post-traumatic stress to our own providers.

Exposure to these traumatic events has been identified as a major contributing factor to PTSD in the fire service that you do not even think about it. There is this hero mindset that nothing can hurt you because you are firefighters. But the reality is you are just like anybody else, and if you expose enough of these types of calls to people they are going to have some major emotional injury. The committee has recognized this and they are making progress to try to create guidelines for these instances.

Are there any other guidelines that have been updated recently?
Current medical research is showing the use of TXA (Tranexamic acid) can aid in hemorrhage control. This is potentially going to be a game changer in the trauma setting because there is now a drug agent that you can introduce into a patient’s bloodstream that will assist in clotting.

Before, if a patient was shot in the abdomen, there was little you could do in the field to prevent massive hemorrhaging. With this new treatment medication, there is a high possibility for survival because the paramedics on scene will provide this medication that will allow clotting. The military has been using this for a while, which may be another contributing factor to why their survival rates are the highest that they have ever been. Therefore, it is going to be a game changer in the civilian trauma setting to increase survival rates.

About the Author
Ofer Lichtman started out as a first responder in Israel and is currently the Terrorism Liaison Officer Coordinator for Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department and was instrumental in developing its Terrorism and Tactical Response Program. Ofer is a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force and is on the advisory board of the C-TECC.

About the Department
The Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department has had a TECC program since 2003. In 2009 it adopted the TECC guidelines. It has taken its training program to the next level. Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department has trained on more than 116 active shooter drills over the last five years, which has helped it implement a strategic and efficient tactical response program.

Bio and photo of Ofer Lichtman are courtesy of Firehouse.com.

What Makes a Great Company Officer?

Being a company officer in the fire service is tremendous amount of responsibility. It is important one understands the rank and what it entails. 

Blog by Steve Prziborowski

Santa Clara County Fire Department (Los Gatos, Calif.)

The rank of company officer, is one of the most challenging and important ranks within the fire service.
Regardless of what your agency calls the position (captain, lieutenant, company officer, sergeant, etc.), that person is responsible for managing a fire station and/or company is the one with the greatest chance of making or breaking the perception of the department.

Why?

For a number of reasons: most importantly, when someone calls 911 for a situation, the responding fire company is typically supervised by a company officer who has the best opportunity to represent the fire department in the best possible way.

Also, most emergency incidents are managed by just one fire company (engine, truck, etc.), not counting an ambulance, which has a company officer on board as the supervisor, or as some like to say, “the designated adult.”

So what makes a great company officer? Notice I didn’t say “good” or “awesome.” Good is coming to work each day on time, doing the bare minimum, not getting in trouble, basically collecting a paycheck if working for a career department, and doing the old “eight-to-eight, out the gate” routine.

Awesome is walking on water and sheer perfection, both extremely rare and unrealistic since we promote humans to positions of leadership, and as we know, humans are not perfect and make mistakes.

Back to what makes a great company officer … While there are a number of things, I honestly think you can narrow it down to the following, with the first one being: Do your job!

Doing your job covers everything, doesn’t it? If only it was that easy, I know. Besides doing your job, some other key things that make a great company officer include, but are not limited to, establishing and maintaining effective working relationships, being the training officer of your crew, striving for credibility and respect (as opposed to being liked), and last but not least, being the designated adult when necessary! 

Nobody said the job of company officer was going to be easy – if it were, everyone would be doing it!


About the Author
Steve Prziborowski has more than 21 years of fire service experience, currently serving as the Deputy Chief of Administrative Services for the Santa Clara County Fire Department (Los Gatos, Calif.), where he has served since 1995. Steve is also an instructor for the Chabot College Fire Technology Program (Hayward, Calif.), where he has been instructing fire technology and EMS classes since 1993.

He is a current Board Member for the California Fire Chiefs Association, serving as the Area 5 North Director, a Former President of the Northern California Training Officers Association, and he received the 2008 California Fire Instructor of the year award. He is a state-certified Chief Officer and Master Instructor, and has received Chief Fire Officer Designation and Chief Training Officer Designation through the Commission on Professional Credentialing.

He has a master’s degree in emergency services administration, and has completed the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy. He is a member of the IAFC FRI Program Planning Committee, is a regular presenter at fire service events across the country, and has authored numerous articles in all of the major fire service publications. He is also the author of three books, which were published in the fall of 2013: “How to Excel At Fire Department Promotional Exams,” “The Future Firefighter’s Preparation Guide,” and “Reach For The Badge – How To Master The Fire Department Entry-Level Testing Process.”

How to Attack Attic Fires: Strategic, Tactical and Task-Level Considerations

Phoenix Fire Department Deputy Chief Jeff Case spoke in January during Firehouse World in San Diego. His topic covered critical factors one should consider when creating a plan of attack on an attic fire. Chief Case took some time to speak with TargetSolutions recently to answer a few questions about how to approach fire department training for attic fires.

 
Attic fires present so many unique challenges. What are some of the tactical priorities firefighters need to consider when they are faced with an attic fire?

I think the first thing is to realize that you can’t approach every fire the same. The approach we take when discussing attic fires is to make sure that one considers the unique characteristics of an attic fire compared to a room and contents fire.

If you have sized it up right – upon your arrival – an isolated attic fire has not caused significant interior damage to a homeowner’s things or to the interior contents. Therefore, your primary focus should still be to put the fire out, but to also make sure that the approach you take puts a priority on saving the homeowner’s stuff versus saving their trusses.

People really don’t care about their trusses. Their roof can be replaced, but interior contents – rooms, valuables, and things we really don’t have the ability to make a decision in regards to what is the most valuable to somebody – those valuables can’t be replaced. So your approach should be to create and execute a plan that addresses putting the fire out while simultaneously salvaging a homeowner’s things.

We need to set a priority that once we have an all clear, or life safety addressed, our primary focus is on making sure we save people’s things, and that secondary damage – the damage that we cause – doesn’t add to the loss of people’s valuables. Basically, putting an attic fire attack plan in place addressing that priority is the focus of how we address attic fires.

What are some of the most critical factors on the fireground that firefighters need to keep in mind? How can these factors help them determine their strategy?

I think when addressing attic fires, the most critical factors are, “is the fire isolated?” Also known as, what is the state of the fire?

If the fire is isolated to the attic area and the smoke is not impinging in a dangerous way on firefighters. It is also important that they make that size-up early, and that they clearly communicate that critical factor early. Therefore, everybody on the fireground knows that the focus is on putting the fire out, but has also now shifted to a salvage or saving-of-things focus. To do that properly, the second most critical fireground factor needs to be the consideration of construction features, and the building itself.

In other words, recognizing that when you have a vaulted ceiling, scissor truss, compartmentalized attic you can’t take a standard approach when going inside. One can’t pull the ceiling and hope to be successful in fighting that fire. Instead, you’ve got to find different ways of getting into those void spaces and different attack points to extinguish the fire without causing massive internal or interior damage to the home.

Therefore, one needs to look at options like penetrating nozzles, options like roof attacks, and gable-end attacks. Also, one needs to look at options that factor into keeping the lid inside intact while one puts water into the compartmentalized areas of the attic.

The other critical factor would be your resources, and how you use those resources. We try to really teach members to avoid non-specific assignments like “Come in and assist,” to a second company. Rather, it is best to communicate clear plans with clear communication directives to a second company such as “we have isolated attic fire; we’re going to attack this from the east gable end. We’re going to keep the lid intact…” or “second company, come in and bring a penetrating nozzle to the interior; we’ve got an isolated attic fire. We’re going to attempt to convert this fire.”

So I would say that three most critical factors would be the location of the fire and whether it is isolated. Second would be the building construction type and how that factors into the attack that you choose. If you have tile roofs and other things under that category, that can complicate the attack. Third would be the use of your resources, and the allocation of those resources.

How do operations vary based on whether it’s a new home or an older home?

The operations vary based on your ability to perform functions involving a vaulted ceiling, scissor truss, light-weight construction, or a tile roof home. From an operations stand point, if we go in there with a standard “I’m going to go in and attack this thing from underneath,” then you go to pull the ceiling and you end up having only 10% access to that attic because it is so compartmentalized. So you really can’t be successful without causing tremendous damage on the interior.

Therefore, you’re going to have to approach that vaulted ceiling, scissor truss home from gable ends or from multiple roof points. Maybe even from an aerial ladder or from an aerial platform ladder.

Second, critical point from an operations standpoint of construction is knowing how long you can work under an attic that’s involved. From a safety standpoint, once you’ve gotten an all clear on the home, the only real life safety issue we’re dealing with is our own firefighters. So understanding the more modern conventional framed 2-by-6 regular plywood sheeting roof; you could park a truck up on that thing and it’s going to withstand a much greater impact from the fire before collapse. With the tile roof vaulted ceiling homes, we’ve seen catastrophic collapse of those roofs due to the weight of the impact from the tile in a compromised light-weight truss.

Maybe one is a gusset plate. Wood versus nails. OSB versus plywood. In these structures, you see much early collapse and therefore compromise those working underneath it.

The other factor would be the ability to size-up a building, and what operationally would impact your ability to access gable ends. Do they have gable ends or do you need to create a false gable end to attack it? What percent of the attic space is reachable by one gable versus doing multiple gable attacks? Things of that nature.

Are there certain protocols for a particular buildings based upon the age of the structures?

One could attach a year to the building, and say that from the late 80s or 90s on you start to see much more light-weight truss constructions. And 70s or 80s homes are more conventionally framed. But more important than trying to attach a year to certain building is being able to teach firefighters how to size buildings up – how to do that quickly, rapidly, and having deliberate consideration of what you’re seeing from the home.

And so, knowing your first priorities, doing pre-plans, and driving areas to know where you have maybe balloon frame construction versus platform construction. Understanding the differences in most types absolutely plays into it, but I tend to teach more about building construction. I talk about the years and the type one through five constructions, but I focus more on size-up when you are on the scene and looking for signs. Such as signs of a vaulted ceiling, signs of a light-weight construction – all things that would factor into your decision about what your attack plan is going to be.

That really is the essence of the whole discussion about attic fires. It is important to have a plan that is specific to that structure and the level of fire that you see, and its exposure to the interior. Then we must communicate that plan clearly to everybody coming in.

 

About the Author

Deputy Chief Jeff Case serves as a Shift Commander on the Phoenix Fire Department. As a Shift Commander he helps administrate the department’s Command Training Center and the management of Fire, Medical and Special Operation responses. Chief Case helped design and run Mesa Community College’s (MCC) Virtual Incident Command Center. Faculty member MCC, and adjunct instructor with TEEX’s WMD/EMS response program. Bachelor’s degree, Fire Service Management and a Master’s degree in Education.

Bio and photo of Jeff Case are courtesy of Firehouse.com. To read more about Case’s presentations at Firehouse World, please click here.

Are You Using Pre-Incident Plans During Firefigher Training Exercises?

Comprehensive pre-planning reports and training prepare a crew for when they are pressed into action. With TargetSolutions, agencies are able to document training hours spent analyzing local facilities.
You know how important it is to document inspections of your local facilities. Proving these examinations have taken place is critical to your next fire department ISO review.
But pre-plan reports are also great resources for training activities. Simulated training using pre-plans prepares crews for critical challenges they will see when pressed into action.
They can also be tremendous for teamwork exercises. Many departments effectively use pre-plans during training to give their crews a chance to work together as a team. This profession isn’t just about how strong or fast an individual might be. What matters most is how firefighters execute as a team.
By finding training drills and exercises using pre-plans, you’ll have great insight into how people will perform during emergencies.

 

TargetSolutions: The Next Evolutions in Training Management
TargetSolutions comes loaded with pre-built electronic documents for tracking pre-incident plans, ISO compliance, PPE inspections, licenses, and much more. Download this special report to learn more.

 

So Many Chemicals, So Little Time

Blog by Mark Bridges

Battalion Chief/Hazardous Materials Specialist – Retired

What you don’t know, will hurt you! You’ve heard the phrase “high risk, low frequency”?  A new PowerPoint presentation found in Community Resources, “So Many Chemicals, So Little Time,” will help you learn more about how the decisions you make can reduce your chance of getting hurt. This information was presented at Firehouse World in San Diego in January and delivers insight into many different potential dangers and deadly situations we encounter in the fire service.

Do you know the hidden hazards in jewelry stores? Or what’s in that tank on the roof of the dry cleaners? Or why underground electrical vaults are so explosive and dangerous? How about dark chemical bottles exposed to heat and fire?

Firefighters need to always be in learning mode when it comes to dealing with chemicals and hazardous materials.

Most fire department training focuses on the more common emergencies such as EMS and general fire training, including ladders, hose, pumping, etc.  We all have a good handle on that stuff, but what happens when we encounter a smoking electrical vault or some of the other less-frequent emergencies? Do we need to walk right over to the vault and stare inside it?

The short answer is, NO!  When the components and wiring of these vaults heat up, they off-gas or release Acetylene gas, which has a flammable range of 2.5 percent to 81 percent. This is the type of gas that if you look at it funny, you’ll blow up.

So what should you do? Recognize it, rescue nearby victims, cordon off the area and wait for the power company to de-energize it. Then you will consult with them and follow their guidance. Most jewelry stores use Sodium Cyanide – mix that with fire hose water and you get Hydrogen Cyanide, which is the same gas used in gas chambers.

Now, what about the chemical stored on roofs of dry cleaners? That chemical is Perchlorethylene (PERC), which decomposes to Phosgene gas when heated – similar to any chemical containing “Chlorine” or “Chlor” does.  What about the dark bottles? The reason the bottles are dangerous is because they don’t like heat or fire, which is exactly what occurs in any fire situation!  Once heated, the chemicals inside begin to decompose. Then they dry out to form a very unstable material, and can become shock sensitive, or also known to a common person as a small bomb.

These are just a few of the examples of types of things one does not routinely learn or train on. That is why it is important to seek answers and ask experts questions. In the future, consider stopping your engine or truck once in a while when you see a utility truck, or the gas company working, and ask questions – you’ll be amazed at what you learn.

 

About the Author

Mark Bridges presented “So Many Chemicals, So Little Time” during Firehouse World in San Diego in January. Bridges served as battalion chief/hazardous materials specialist with Santa Monica Fire Department in California. He is now retired and can be reached via e-mail at bridgesfsi@gmail.com.

How Fire Department Training Leaders Can Communicate More Effectively with Personnel

The fire service is always evolving, but good communication has always been vital to successful operations. It’s important for leaders to be specific in detailed with directions and train personnel to follow instructions to eliminate mistakes in the field.

Blog by Rich Miron of TargetSolutions

Are you communicating effectively with your team? That was the question laid out in January during Michael Daley and Ryan Pennington’s training session at Firehouse World in San Diego.

Daley of Monroe Township (New Jersey) and Pennington of Charleston Fire Department (West Virginia) teamed up to deliver a 90-minute session, Communication between the Front Seat and Jump Street. The topic originated during a casual conversation the two had one evening.

“These kids today, they just don’t understand,” Daley recalled saying. After talking it over, it was determined issues arise because of breakdowns in communication from the front seat, where Daley sits, to jump street, which is Pennington’s area.

It was an interesting topic, considering the theme of the conference: “Changing with the Fire Service.” Times are clearly changing, but communication has always been a critical component to success. Whether it was 50 years ago, 20 years ago, or today, it’s always critical for leaders to set clear expectations.

During the session, Daley conducted an interesting experiment with the room of firefighters. He gave each a piece of paper and asked everyone to follow a series of instructions. After completing the seemingly simple instructions, each firefighter delivered a different result.

“Nobody did anything wrong, you all followed the directions; the point is, everybody follows directions differently,” Daley said. “This is an example that everyone hears directions differently. That’s why we have to get everyone on the same page.”

But how do you do that is the question that leaders sitting in the front seat often struggles with, Daley said.

Here are two key steps leaders can take to improve communication in their organization:

Be More Detailed: If you’re not specific with instruction, there can be confusion that can lead to unexpected outcomes.

Increase Training Using Instructions: Make sure you receive feedback that instructions have been received and understood. “So many communication issues come from lack of training,” Daley said.

Daley outlined key traits of a leader with good communication skills: Stability, integrity, flexibility, sensitivity, and personal power.

“If you’re a leader, when you leave this profession, you’re going to ask yourself, ‘did I do everything I could?’ I want my firefighters to be better and smarter than I am.”

Michael Daley, Monroe Township (New Jersey)

Pennington then presented his perspective from “jump street,” aiming to explain how subordinate firefighters feel communication breakdowns arise. He outlined how critical it is for personnel to support the mission, respect their leaders, and function as a unit.

Good traits of a good follower are self-management, commitment, competence and courage, Pennington said.

The ABCs of Fire Training: Always Be Creative.

Editor’s Note: this is the fifth tip from TargetSolutions’ special report, “Eight Great Tips for Training Your Crew,” a best practices guide. To view the entire report, please click here.  
Let’s face it, training isn’t always fun. Some might even say it can be monotonous. It’s important for training administrators to be creative and think outside the box when implementing training. Mixing up regular exercises can make them more engaging. Add a competitive twist, a team component, or a prize, and watch your personnel’s intensity heat up. It really doesn’t matter what you’re doing – training, sports, video games, etc. – make it a contest and everyone will find it more engrossing.
TargetSolutions Product Specialist Tim Riley worked as training chief with Dunedin Fire Department in Florida and he remembers having crew members make their way through an obstacle course with hidden treasures placed throughout the maze. The race to find the treasures was memorable.
Next time you need to put your aerial device into the air, try a game of aerial cornhole – where the operator is required to place a weighted ball into a bucket with the aerial device. Not easy, and guaranteed to make a usually mundane exercise more lively. If short on ideas, you can always conduct a simple race: who can put their gear on the quickest? This includes everything: boots, pants, coat, SCBA, etc.
TRAINING TIPS YOU CAN USE
TargetSolutions’ Tim Riley has all kinds of ideas for mixing up training. Here are four good ones:
  • Instead of sending personnel through a maze on their own make them do it as a team. After all, you’re not going to enter a smoke-filled structure alone, right?
  • Make personnel bring appropriate tools they will need when called into action. Treat everything like a real drill. Don’t take away flashlights or gear they will have during the real deal.
  • Blind-fold a member, spin them around and have them find the hoseline on the floor. Have them practice reading a hose out of the structure while disoriented.
  • The classic “Breath Down Drill” … Force members to control their breathing while making their way through a gauntlet of obstacles using SCBA gear. How many evolutions can you do?