Technology with a Purpose

All posts in Featured Contributors

No Shortcuts When It Comes to Throwing Multiple Ladders on the Fireground

Blog by Ed Hadfield
www.firetowntrainingspecialist.com

It seems that a certain phenomenon has occurred in the fire service, and it’s one that has not benefited the safety and efficiency of our personnel. Has anyone noticed the lack of ladders thrown at the scene of fires in recent times?

How many times have you arrived on scene of a structure fire to find a single ladder thrown to the roof? Have you ever been told we don’t have the available staffing to throw ladders to windows for rescue or potential firefighter egress on two story occupancies? When was the last time you trained by throwing ladders on actual buildings?

We have moved away from the tradition of throwing multiple ladders and we have made excuses why. We have always taught personnel to throw two ladders to a roof for means of access and egress. Yet, how often does that occur? Unfortunately, the second-due truck will use the same ladder thrown by the first-due truck to access the roof. This should be regarded as criminal.

I’ve been asked why we have moved away from throwing multiple ladders at working incident scenes. Although not a scientific answer, it’s my opinion we have added many other components to our list of responsibilities, taking an already understaffed fireground and tasking it with more objectives. As a result, we have cut things viewed as non-essential, all in an effort to check boxes of things deemed essential.

Let’s look at a few ways to get ladders back as part of our arsenal of safety and efficiency equipment list.

First- and Second-Due Trucks:
Establishing a ladder size up is critical for all truck companies. It should be pre-established who will throw ladders and what ladders are to be thrown. It should also be established within your organization that the fastest and safest one-person ladder is the aerial; however, the aerial is seldom used until the incident has gone defensive. First-due company officers often think they need to position their apparatus with the cross-lay lined-up with the front door. This is a mistake. Remember, you can pull an extra 100 feet of hose, the aerial only has so much extension of ladder and believe me, you will thank the truckies for fast, aggressive ventilation when the interior clears up and you are more tenable in making your attack.

All first-due truck companies should be capable of throwing, at a minimum, the aerial and a 35 foot ladder to a multi-story occupancy and performing ventilation operations in a timely fashion. The key to success in this operation is an established set of procedures, positional riding assignments; ladder packages based upon occupancies and most importantly: training, training, training!

Most truck companies should be capable of throwing two ladders of any type and accessing the roof in less than two minutes, 30 seconds from the time of arrival. This is an acceptable standard. This includes full use of PPE and all necessary operational equipment on the roof.

Second-due trucks, or units assigned to assist Roof Division in operations, shall utilize their own means of access and egress, even if this is a single-family dwelling. If things go bad and multiple personnel need to egress off the roof, one ladder per company is the bare minimum. If you are assigned to the roof as a second-due company, and the first-due truck was only able to throw a single ladder for access and egress, make it a point to throw two ladders for a total of three.

A SAFETY NOTE: Never move an established aerial from its original position unless you are the individual that placed the aerial there in the first place, or have made direct contact with the company/individual that did and you have absolute permission to do so.

RIC Companies:
A primary purpose of RIC Companies is the elimination of hazards. One such method is the placement of ladders for means of access on the structure. If the first-due truck is operating on the roof with only one means of access, the RIC Company Officer should direct his personnel to throw one additional ladder to the area nearest the location of the members on the roof.

If the RIC Company Officer is aware of operations above ground on the second floor, they should identify the area closest to the potential of a hostile event or structural failure and have additional ladders placed at windows at a 65 percent angle for firefighters egress. All members operating in that area shall then be notified via radio of the ladders placement and area.

Squads, Rescues and First Due Engineers:
Based upon response configuration, many organizations respond to incidents using medic units with two firefighters as part of the original assignment. If this company is not generally assigned to establish a medical group, it is typically assigned to assist with some other fireground function.

Unfortunately, they are often given the task of RIC and never supplemented by a full company. Yet, these individuals can be given the task of laddering the building or throwing additional ladders upon arrival. These tasks include secondary search, assist RIC, extension or medical group. Once again, the Incident Commander needs to think proactively and eliminate those hazards that are glaringly obvious before deploying an RIC or medical group.

First-due engineers should know once a water supply has been established and lines are stretched in-service, they have a moment to identify hazards and take proactive action. One of those tasks could be throwing an additional straight ladder to the roof of a single-family occupancy near the window as personnel may need immediate egress due to deteriorating conditions.

Finally, it’s key to recognize the importance of aggressive laddering operations for all personnel, not just our truck companies. Personnel need to be well versed in aggressive ladder placement and ladder packages related to occupancy groups and types. The importance of providing means of access and egress points on all above ground areas will greatly increase personnel safety.

Company Officers should take the necessary steps to assure personnel have the ability to effectively perform laddering operations and to ensure they have a solid understanding of ladder tactics as it relates to differing type of occupancies. Nothing can take the place of real-world ladder operations and training in full PPE, not just helmets and gloves.

When we start wearing just helmets and gloves to structure fires, then our training should mirror that level of PPE. But we all know that’s not a viable option. We need to train the way we fight fire and we need to train as though lives depend upon it, because they do.

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.

Remember to Focus on What Matters: Your Job

Blog by Nicolas Thomas
Division Chief for Benicia Fire Department, Calif.

The fire service is undergoing significant changes. Local governments are using rolling brown outs to save money. Fire stations and fire companies are being defunded and permanently closed. Communities are revisiting auto-aid /mutual-aid agreements with their neighboring communities. Company staffing strength is being reduced. Training budgets and fire prevention budgets are being slashed. A day doesn’t go by without an article in the local paper calling for fire department right sizing.

Unfortunately, most of this is beyond our control. But what is in our control is whether or not us firefighters focus on what matters: our profession.

If your fire station is anything like mine, you have access to a library containing in-house developed policies, procedures, and training plans. Your library probably includes commercially available publications such as the NFPA Fire Protection Handbook, IFSTA manuals, and other books focused on topics like ladder truck operations, engine operations, fire investigations, rescue operations, etc. If you stacked all the materials in your library you’d probably have a stack 4 feet high.

If your fire station is anything like mine, you have access to the Internet. Personally, I’m yet to fail in locating something I’m searching on the Internet. I especially like perusing the NFA, FEMA, CDC and TargetSolutions web pages. Give them a look.

If your fire station is anything like mine, you have access to senior personnel. Colleagues who have seen and done it all in this business. It says here story telling is still effective for passing along knowledge. And trust me; senior colleagues will share stories if you ask.

There are dozens of ways you and your crew can use your library, Internet and senior personnel to improve your knowledge, skills and abilities. I’ll leave it to you on how to utilize available resources. All I ask is that you stop wasting time on things like shift wars, food in the pantry, or washing and fueling the rig.

We need to bring our A game every single day. Let’s focus! Let’s bring it!

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on TargetSolutions Command Post website in February, 2011.

About the Author
Nicolas Thomas is a Division Chief for the City of Benicia Fire Department. He has more than 30 years of fire service experience, including 20 years as an officer. He has a BS in Fire Administration and has completed extensive leadership training through the National Fire Academy and through the California State Fire Marshal Office.

NFPA 1035 Provides Guidelines to Increase Skills of Fire Safety Educators

Blog by Sharon Gamache
NFPA’s Program Manager for High-Risk Outreach Programs

Whether you teach older adults, develop lesson plans for classroom visits, or prepare a Fire Prevention Week open house with interactive activities, it is always important to increase your skills and knowledge as a fire-safety educator. NFPA 1035 can help you accomplish that goal.

NFPA 1035 identifies the levels of professional performance required for public fire and life safety educators, public information officers and juvenile fire setter intervention specialists. According to the NFPAs website, it specifically identifies the job performance requirements (JPRs) necessary to perform as a public fire safety educator, a public information officer and a juvenile fire setter intervention specialist.

Please click here for an outline of what NFPA 1035 addresses.

Ernest Grant, committee chair for NFPA 1035, says that NFPA 1035 is the ultimate path toward professionalism in fire safety education. Becoming certified sets you apart from your peers, makes you a good example for others, and shows your commitment to the field. Taking this course or becoming certified can make your job easier.

Grant, who is First Chair of NFPA Board of Directors, believes the 1035 document serves as a guide for individuals or organizations that may be seeking to a have certification process in place.

“In North Carolina, we have adopted the 1035 guidelines as a part of our certification process, Grant said. Participants seeking certification must complete the three standards (Administration, Planning & Development and Education/Implementation) at each level in order to be certified as a level I, II or III Fire and Life Safety Educator.

To find out where you can get certified, contact your state, territory, or provincial fire service training office or the state, territory, or provincial fire marshal. You can also go to the North American Fire Training Directors website to find local trainers.

NFPA 1035, which is available online, is up for revision next year. If you would like to comment on the standard, fill out the online form or send an e-mail message to Ernest Grant (egrant@unch.unc.edu).

About the Author
Sharon Gamache is the program director for High-Risk Outreach Programs, Public Education Division of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in Quincy, Mass. She develops and implements fire and life safety programs targeted to those at highest risk to fire deaths and injuries.

Controlling the Door During Fire Suppression Should Not Be Overlooked

Blog by Jason Hoevelmann
Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal with Sullivan Fire Protection District

We were the second truck on the scene for a fire in a neighboring jurisdiction. The first truck was training on the other side of the district, so it was only a few seconds ahead of us. It was a single family home with a basement. The first company reported heavy fire and smoke. They were pulling a pre-connect hose.

As we moved past the first engine we were directed to catch the plug. While grabbing a tool and moving toward the front door where the first company had already made entry, I noticed their attack line was flat and the front screen door was closed on top of it. They had no water.

This scenario is not uncommon. One quick remedy is to secure the front door open, which is what happened. There was no delay in getting the attack crew water. But attack teams need to ensure before making entry to control the doors that could impede our progress and egress.

Controlling the door has many applications in firefighting operations and can complicate our tactics and progress. It’s imperative that we maintain control of the doors at all times and understand how to do so. It’s not just during forcible entry that we must control these means of access; it’s during all firefighting operations. This task is paramount for our safety and victims who may be trapped.

Whether we are in a single family home or a high-rise apartment building, it’s important to use doors to our advantage. In many cases, it’s as easy as just closing the door for protection. In other instances, we need to prop doors open for the advancement of hose lines and paths of egress. It’s up to us to be familiar with the when and how.

During search operations, especially during VES, we must use the door as protection from heat, smoke and fire. While searching a room from the hallway or common area without a hose line, it’s appropriate to have one firefighter search the bedroom while one stays at the door. If the hallway becomes untenable, the firefighter can enter the room and shut the door.

For VES operations, the control of the door is a must. After sounding the floor and making entry from the outside, firefighters should close the door. This protects the firefighter and any victims who may be in the room. Rapidly changing conditions may cause the room to become untenable.

With the threat of wind-driven fires in buildings, especially high rises, controlling the door is critical. This can literally determine if you survive. Control of the door from the stairwell must be made to insure that superheated gases and windblown fire does not compromise the position in the stairwell. Failure to control the stairwell can result in the spread of smoke to upper floors, making fire suppression and search efforts difficult.

In addition, the fire room door should be controlled. Not controlling the door can compromise search efforts on the floor and can cause suppression crews to retreat from the blow torch like flames and heat. Severe conditions can cause serious injury or death in some of these fires. It should be noted that when conditions deteriorate in a wind driven fire, firefighters should never seek refuge in the unit across from the fire room. Instead, get into a unit adjacent to the fire unit on the same side of the building and control the door to that unit.

As important as it is to control the door by closing it, it is just as important to keep doors open to allow suppression crews a clear opening to quickly find and extinguish the fire. Back up crews need a clear path behind the attack team. Closing doors can cut off water and reduce pressure to attack lines, leaving the attack team vulnerable.

Control of the door may seem basic, but it’s a skill that is often overlooked. Even on the routine, single-family house fire, we need to control doors during suppression and search operations. All doors should be controlled on all fires, not only for advancing crews to get in, but for them to get out as well. That one door you open in the back of the house might be the one that saves a life.

As with all firefighting tactics, follow your local jurisdictions guidelines and operating procedures and train accordingly. The more you train on these skills, the more second nature they will become.

>> Blog was originally posted with TargetSolutions in February of 2011.

About the Author
Jason Hoevelmann is a Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal with the Sullivan Fire Protection District, a combination department. Hoevelmann is also a career firefighter/paramedic with the Florissant Valley Fire Protection District in North St. Louis County. His experience spans more than 20 years and he has been an instructor for more than 15 years.

How to Build Trust in the Work Environment

 The Uncompromising Truth
When everyone in the workplace knows it’s safe to treat others with the uncompromising truth, you have a shared value and trust is built.

Blog by Peter Dove
President of Shared Values Association

In the ancient days of the Greek city-state, a man was chosen to greet an approaching army and do his best to arrange for peace. This man was called a hero.

Rob Lebow dreamed of bringing peace to the work environment so he wrote a book: “A Journey into the Heroic Environment.” This book is based on the answers of 17.1 million workers from around the world in response to this question: “What does it take for you to be excited about doing your best at your job?”

Here are the answers Lebow found:

1. Treat others with the uncompromising truth

2. Lavish trust on your associates

3. Be receptive to new ideas regardless of their origin

4. Mentor unselfishly

5. Take personal risks for the organization’s sake

6. Give credit where credit is due

7. Do not touch dishonest dollars

8. Put the interests of others before our own

Nothing new, but common sense is not common practice. Your organization delivers these eight values now. The question is to what degree does your organization deliver these eight values? If you focus on being world class at delivering these specific values, you will have a sustainable, world-class organization that achieves world-class results.

See if this is confirmed in your own work experience. Have you ever had a boss that you did not like and didn’t respect? What was productivity like? I bet it was low. Conversely, have you ever worked for a boss you respected and honored? My guess is that workers cared more, trust was higher, and so was productivity.

Let’s take a real-life example of just one of these values: Treat others with the uncompromising truth. People deserve the truth and when they haven’t received it, they feel betrayed and disempowered. If people feel it is not safe to tell the uncompromising truth, they won’t.

  • Joe has body odor, always has and no one tells him. Joe needs the truth, instead others joke about him as they roll their eyes. Nobody tells Joe, does Joe know something’s up? Yes. Does this cost you anything when people don’t include Joe? Yes. Joe does his job but won’t go the extra mile and freely share information because he doesn’t feel like it and you will never know the cost.
  • Nancy is a gossip, loves to talk about other people. Nancy shares a juicy piece with Sue who is too polite to say anything though she feels uncomfortable. After all she has to work with Nancy all day every day. What’s that costing you? Plenty. Nancy is killing trust in the organization. Trust is everything. Low trust, low productivity — high trust, high productivity and joy as well. Trust is the foundation.
    When everyone in the organization knows it’s safe to treat others with the uncompromising truth, you have a shared value and trust is built.
  • Rita sees a memo and it has created some fear. She wants to tell you, her boss, the uncompromising truth but won’t for fear of what you might say or do. You’re about to make a decision, need the feedback and don’t get it. Results are only as good as the decisions. But Rita has to tell someone so she complains to her friend John and a rumor starts. Costly? Yes.

The solution to all of this: Make it OK within your group to tell the uncompromising truth.

Get your people together and make a ground rule, a contract, an agreement between all that it is safe to tell the truth. Agree on guidelines as to what telling the truth means. What is OK and what is not OK behavior.

When it’s agreed, you are on your way to a heroic environment. Over the years we have found these guidelines to be the most effective:

  1. Am I discussing the issue with the other person within 24 hours?
  2. Am I asking the other person for permission to communicate? Is this a good time to talk?
  3. Am I approaching the other person in a non-threatening way?
  4. Am I straight-talking without hurting the other person’s feelings? Is my language simple, understandable, non-apologizing and non-personal?
  5. Am I making a request of the other person and not a complaint? Is my request telling the other person how I would like it to be?

If you drive from your house to the grocery store with the emergency brake on, you can still get there, you just have to press harder on the gas pedal. You can still get results working in an organization that does not have a heroic environment, but it’s like driving it with the brake on.

The advice of this article is to focus on the eight values at every opportunity starting with the truth. Take the brake off, it will set you free.

About the Author
Peter Dove is president of Shared Values Associates (www.peterdove.com). He focuses on installing the Shared Values Process as well as management and leadership development training and assessments.

 

Responding to Incidents Involving a Chevrolet Volt

Blog by Jason Emery
Electric Vehicle Safety Training

Let’s take a look at the first Extended Range Electric Vehicle (EREV) on the market, the Chevrolet Volt. It was first released in the fall of 2010 in select markets, and went nationwide in 2011.

From the exterior, the vehicle can be primarily identified by the Volt badging on the front fenders and on the lift-gate. Additionally, the door for the charging port is located on the driver’s side front fender underneath the Volt logo. The interior features digital display screens which also provide clues such as the battery state of charge indictor.

The Volt is constructed of nearly 80 percent high and ultra-high strength steel with the vehicle essentially built around the 6-foot, 400-pound, liquid-cooled, 360-volt lithium ion battery that runs down the center of the vehicle and under the rear seats. In addition to the high voltage battery, there is an engine generator under the hood that is designed to generate electricity to power the drive motors when the battery becomes depleted. The average range on the fully charged battery is 35 to 50 miles with an additional 344 miles provided by the engine generator running off the 9.3 gallon gasoline supply. The Volt battery can be recharged using a level I or II charging station.

Since this vehicle has both a high voltage electrical system as well as a gasoline powered generator onboard, first responders should treat this vehicle as you would a hybrid and be sure to control both energy sources.

Fire Engineering Magazine recently published an article with participation by members of our Electric Vehicle Safety training staff that provides an overview of the Chevy Volt, its systems, and emergency response procedures. The piece features relevant and useful information about key characteristics to identify a Volt; the vehicles construction, including the electrical system, high-voltage battery and occupant protection systems; and a step-by-step guide for responders.

It also emphasizes that first responders must ensure they understand the technology and operation behind EVs and HEVs to ensure overall safety for all parties involved.

As part of NFPAs mission to provide the latest information regarding electric vehicles to first responders, we would like to highlight key details noted in this article regarding the appropriate electric vehicle safety training response procedure for a Chevy Volt. Similar information can be found on our websites vehicle manufacturer resource page and will be included in our soon to be released Electric Vehicle Emergency Field Guide.

>> Identifying the types of vehicles in a crash is essential. It is more critical than ever for responders to identify the types of vehicles involved in a crash. As green technology and alternative fueled vehicles become more popular, responders should not immediately, always assume that they are working with conventional vehicles at a crash scene.

>> Securing vehicle from potential movement should be priority. Responders should control potential hazards by chocking the wheels, accessing the passenger compartment to set the parking brake, placing the vehicle in park, and shutting down the high voltage system. Specifically, in the case of a Volt follow this two-step process:

>> Shut the vehicle down by pressing the power button (found just above the gear selector).If possible then remove the proximity keys from the vehicle. Then, disable the 12v electrical system by using the special cut location provided in the rear of the vehicle. In the rear hatchback, an access panel is found on the driver’s sidewall of the cargo area. This access panel displays a logo of a firefighter’s helmet to indicate its purpose. Behind the access panel is a bundle of wires in a black wrap with GM’s “first responder yellow cut tape” attached to it. Make two cuts, one on either side of the yellow cut tape.

>> Extrication operations: Although high voltage cabling and components are not generally found in typical cut points, it is important to inspect the area that is being cut to confirm this. During extrication, it is also important for responders to keep in mind that the Volt is comprised of approximately 80 percent high-strength steel. In order to respond effectively, responders should be aware of their rescue tools’ ability to cut through these materials. Also noted in the article are back-up methods for responders in the case their tools are not capable of cutting high-strength steels.

>> Vehicle fires and submersions. Traditional firefighting equipment is acceptable to extinguish a Volt that is on fire and water application does not create a shock hazard. In addition, responders can safely operate around a submerged Volt in the same manner as a conventional vehicle or a hybrid.

Crashes Involving the Chevy Volt
In light of the negative publicity, electric vehicles have received recently regarding their involvement with fires; it is interesting to note the outcome of a recent crash in upstate New York.

In May in Geneseo, N.Y., a Toyota Camry traveling at a high rate of speed struck a Chevrolet Volt and another vehicle parked in a driveway. The damage to the Volt was extensive, especially on the driver’s side. The Camry, a conventional vehicle, caught fire as a result of the crash and was extinguished by an off-duty police officer prior to the Fire Departments arrival. The Volt, however, did not experience a crash-related fire.

This incident is a reminder to first responders that all vehicles come with potential hazards that must be addressed. It is also important to note that the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration (NHSTA) does not believe that electric vehicles present any greater risk of fire than conventional ones. As for a response to a severe crash such as this involving and electric or hybrid vehicles, there are some procedures to follow. NHSTA, with assistance from the NFPA, has developed guidelines to deal with damaged vehicles equipped with lithium-ion batteries. Responders should familiarize themselves with these guidelines and be prepared to pass them along to other personnel, such as the wrecker operators involved in the scene.

>> Blog content is from the NFPAs Electric Vehicle Safety Training website. For more information on hybrid and electric vehicles visit http://www.evsafetytraining.org/. For a more in-depth look at this vehicle and its emergency response procedures, please be sure to take the NFPA/GM Volt safety training course.

About the Author
Jason Emery, a 21-year veteran of the fire service, is a lieutenant with the Waterbury (CT) Fire Department, where he is assigned to the rescue/hazmat company. He has a BS in fire science from the University of New Haven and is a member of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors. He is a subject matter expert for the National Fire Protection Association, a member of its development team, and the lead instructor for its Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Training program. He founded Emergency Training Solutions, designed the PowerPoint materials for Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I & II, and is a contributing author to the 2nd edition of the Handbook.

The Policy-Behavior Disconnect in the Fire Service

Blog by Dr. Richard B. Gasaway
Retired Fire Chief and Web Master for Situational Awareness Matters

I often poll program attendees about the need to complete a 360-degree size-up. While the responses are mixed as to how many have policies and how many don’t, those with policies that require a 360-degree size-up often admit that first-arriving companies often do not do them.

This prompts me to ask why. Why would a first arriving company fail to comply with departmental policy and not complete a 360-degree size-up? There may be many explanations. Among them is a philosophical disagreement with the policy leading to a conscious decision for non-compliance. Another explanation may be a failure to see the importance of completing a size-up.

Yet another explanation may be there is a policy-behavior disconnect. The policy says, the first arriving company shall do a 360-degree size-up on structure fires.

That’s pretty clear.

However, in training (at the fire station, at the burn tower and/or in acquired structures) many firefighters are not required to complete a 360-degree size-up prior to entry. I’m not talking about the pre-burn walk-around required by the NFPA 1403 standard. I’m talking about making the fire crews walk around the structure as the first step in every evolution. This creates a habit that will become the automatic performance under stress.

Your muscles don’t learn from verbal instructions. Your muscles learn from muscle movement. You can read all day long about what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed to do it. But you’re not really learning until you move your body and do it.

A 360-degree size-up is a situational awareness best practice that should be performed at every structure fire, sans physical limitation based on structure size, access and obstructions. If you want your policy and behavior to align, train by physical movement of the body in ways that are consistent with your policies.

About the Author
Dr. Richard Gasaway is widely considered to be one of the nation’s leading authorities on situational awareness and decision making processes used by first responders. In addition to his 30-plus years in the fire service, including 22 years as a fire chief, Dr. Gasaway has a second passion: Uncovering and applying research in brain science for the benefit of first responders. His website, Situational Awareness Matters (www.SAMatters.com) has enjoyed over a million visits since its launch in October 2011. He can be reached via e-mail at support@RichGasaway.com.

The Time to Redefine the Art and Science of Firefighting Is Nearly Upon Us

Blog by Christopher J. Naum
Executive Producer of www.buildingsonfire.com

Today’s incident demands on the fireground are unlike those of the recent past, requiring incident commanders, commanding and company officers and firefighters to have increased technical knowledge of building construction. It also requires heightened sensitivity to fire behavior and fire dynamics, a focus on operational structural stability of the compartment and building envelope, as well as considerations related to occupancy risk vs. the occupancy type.

Without question, there is an immediate need for today’s emerging and operating command and company officers to increase their foundation of knowledge and insights related to modern technology and its relationship with building occupancy, building construction and fire protection engineering.

We need to be ready to modify traditional and conventional strategic operating profiles in order to safeguard companies, personnel and team compositions.

Strategies and tactics must have the combined adequacy of sufficient staffing, fire flow and tactical patience orchestrated that identifies with the fire profiling, predictability of the occupancy and building profile and accounts for presumptive fire behavior within compartments and buildings.

We used to discern with a measured degree of predictability how buildings would perform, react and fail under most fire conditions. Implementing the fundamentals of art and science of firefighting operations built upon nine decades of experience and proven strategies continues to be the model of suppression operations. These same fundamental strategies continue to drive methodologies and curriculums in our current training programs and academies.

The lack of appreciation and the understanding of correlating principles involving fire behavior, fuel and rate of heat release — as well as the growth stages of compartment fires within a structural occupancy — are the defining paths from which the fire service must reexamine operations in order to identify with the predictability of occupancy performance during fire suppression operations. Ultimately, this will increase suppression effectiveness and firefighter safety.

The demands and requirements of modern firefighting, as well as the influence of technology will continue to require the placement of personnel within situations and buildings that carry risk, uncertainty and inherent danger. Risk management needs to become fluid and integrated with intelligent tactical deployments and operations recognizing the risk problematically and not fatalistically, resulting in safety conscious strategies and tactics and operational excellence.

Our world has evolved and changed. There are a variety of technological and sociological demands that create a continuing element of change in the built environment and our infrastructure. With these changes and demands come the requirements to assess these vulnerabilities, hazards, threats and dangers with effective and dynamic risk management and competent command and control.

These changes influence the way we do business in the street and equate to the risks and hazards you and your personnel will be confronted during incident operations. Fire suppression tactics must be adjusted for the rapidly changing methods and materials impacting all forms of building construction, occupancies and structures.

The need to redefine the art and science of firefighting is nearly upon us. Some things do stand the test of time, others need to adjust, evolve and change. Not for the sake of change only, but for the emerging and evolving buildings, structures and occupancies being built, developed or renovated in our communities.

About the Author
Christopher J. Naum, SFPE, has more than 37 years of field and operations experience and previously worked in command, operations and training capacities. Currently serves as the executive producer for several fire service websites, including www.buildingsonfire.com.

Top Five Principles for Incoming Rookie Firefighters

Blog by Brian Ward
Officer with Gwinnett County Fire Department in Georgia

Awhile back I asked my crew members their opinions on the top five principles for rookie firefighters. I had everyone write down their ideas, I mulled it over, and then put together my own list.

The newcomer was entering the field with the basics (Firefighter I, Firefighter II, Hazmat Operations and EMT-I). Our academy does a good job of preparing these firefighters with an extensive 32-week recruit school. However, adapting to the field and expanding on the basic items learned in recruit school can prove difficult if the field personnel do not set the tone on the newcomers very first day.

As I thought about what five principles I wanted to pass on, several jumped to the front of my head. In order to keep rookie firefighters from mental overload, or confusing them with 10,000 different policies and guidelines, I wanted to get right to the most important things they need to understand.

Now, I’ve seen published lists of what rookie firefighters should know in different magazines before and those reports are generally applicable to all fire departments. My major concern, though, was to identify specifics pertaining to our crew, apparatus and territory. I decided there were no barriers to what types of principles I would instill. These principles could be anything from equipment location to station duties.

The list below contains the items I decided to be the most important. I believe that if everyone in our station follows these simple rules, it will ensure everyone goes home safely and all the other skills and attitudes will fall in line:

1. We are a motivated crew. We train every day, including Sundays for at least one hour. Accept it. Be the first to participate in the drills and train as if your life depends on it because you know what, it does!

2. There is no I Can’t on the incident scene. The same thing goes for the training grounds. There is no I Can’t, only I Won’t. If you’re unable to complete the drill, do it again and again until you’re successful.

3. Listen before acting. Do exactly what the officer tells you to do on the incident scene, and stay one step ahead of the officer. For example, if the officer has his bunker pants on, you should already have your pants, coats, gloves and helmet on. Understand the difference between thinking ahead and freelancing.

4. Learn your duties and do them before you’re told. This will earn you respect in the station that will turn into respect on the incident scene as you gain experience. Crew camaraderie and integrity starts in the station.

5. Learn the equipment on the apparatus. One tool equals one compartment opened.

These items are simple in concept and should be upheld in the station. Simply talking to your new rookie could be the difference in him becoming an asset, or a liability. As a leader, do not allow the motivation of the new firefighter to slip away. That goes for everyone in your crew.

If we follow these principles, I believe we will be better individually, and as a team. Remember, in the very beginning, you have the chance to mold new firefighters into what they will be for the next 30 years. It’s an important responsibility to get them started on the right track.

As always train hard, take care and be safe.

Editor’s Note: This article originally posted with TargetSolutions in November of 2010.

About the Author
Brian Ward is an engineer/acting officer with Gwinnett County Fire Department in Georgia. He is a past training officer, chairman of the Metro Atlanta Training Officers and currently serves on the Honeywell Advisory Council. He is a State of Georgia Advocate for Everyone Goes Home and the Membership Task Force Co-Chair and Live Fire Instructor for ISFSI. Brian was recently awarded the National Seal of Excellence from the NFFF/EGH.

 

Changing Attitudes: The Time is Now

By Doug Cline
Horry County Fire Recue (S.C.)

I recently attended a conference for fire chiefs where the hot topic centered on firefighter injuries and deaths resulting from motor vehicle crashes. The use of seat belts or lack of was a big part of the conversation. The topic was discussed at length. Everyone is searching for answers on how to get firefighters to comply. Ideas like decreasing state-death benefits and funding from county governments for departments with violations were tossed around as potential suggestions to help make groups comply. One rather salty chief blurted out, it’s all about attitude and many folks have a (darn) bad one!

That was an interesting and accurate comment. The attitude has to be there to make this cultural change. It has to start with the fire chief, the fired-up fire chief concluded. I was so thrilled to hear his comments I could’ve done back flips!

Unfortunately the next comment by another chief in attendance showed there is still an underlying issue: How do we change the attitudes of individuals who don’t see this as a problem?

There are many attitudes about hundreds of topics in the fire service. But why are there still attitudes when it comes to the safety of fire personnel?

Unlike other public safety professionals, the fire and rescue service is charged with the responsibility of protecting people and property from the ravages of fire and other hostile forces both man-made and natural. We are focused on protecting our communities, but we fail to protect ourselves by neglecting to wear our seatbelts. What sense does that make?

Folks, this is all about attitude. When a firefighter is seriously injured or killed, the fire service does little to promote positive action to prevent a reoccurrence. The message spreads quickly of a fallen comrade, but the lesson is slow to follow and is seldom learned.

How can we change attitudes?

One area this is especially critical is in line-of-duty-deaths that occur as a result of motor vehicle accidents. It has been shown repeatedly that a need for speed is not necessary in most cases. Now, I’m not advocating slowing our responses but the difference between 55 and 65 mph is relatively minor but very dangerous when you consider the fact were handling a 48.5-foot long ladder truck that weighs more than 73,000 pounds or a large apparatus weighing around 45,000 pounds.

The laws of physics show a drastic difference in the stopping distances, not to mention the external forces that affect the apparatus. I have news for everybody in the fire service: We are not immune from the dangers associated with motor vehicle crashes. Unfortunately, our attitudes suggest we think otherwise.

Time is long overdue for the fire and rescue services to actively and seriously address this key safety issue. Too often we tend to take a cosmetic approach rather than getting to the root of the problem. The fire and rescue services, at all levels, need to rise up and meet this challenge.

This means doing what is necessary to turn around the seemingly apathetic or complacent attitude about safety prevailing in the fire service today. You may be thinking that the fire service is safer today than it’s ever been. That may be true. We definitely have better equipment today and our apparatus and gear are safer. But make no mistake, the most important part of our own safety is the one thing we control most our attitude.

Over the past two years, the firefighter safety stand down has taken the fire service by storm with progressive departments. However, there are departments across our nation that never heard of this program even with all of the efforts this past year by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Every attitude in the fire service needs to be focused on the concept of having the courage to be safe.

I challenge you as fire service leaders to help make this necessary change. How do we do this, you ask? Start by being safety minded in everything you do. Take the 16 Life Safety Initiatives that were developed by the Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Look at your own department to see how you are measuring up. If you are falling short, focus on making cultural changes in how you operate on a daily basis. Take aggressive actions to identify and correct actions that are unsafe. Make everyday a training day so everyone goes home safe!

>> This blog was originally posted with TargetSolutions in December of 2010

About the Author
Douglas Cline is a 32-year veteran of the Fire Service. He serves as assistant chief with Horry County Fire Recue (S.C.). Cline is a North Carolina Level II Fire Instructor, National Fire Academy Instructor and an EMT-Paramedic instructor for the North Carolina Office of Emergency Medical Services. Cline is the President of the Southeastern Association of Fire Chiefs (SEAFC), a member of the North Carolina Society of Fire and Rescue Instructors and the 1st Vice President International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI).