Over the last year, what did you do to increase your emergency services knowledge, skills, and abilities? What supporting educational programs did you complete? What training classes did you attend? Most importantly, what changes in behavior did you implement after attending the programs?
Here’s a three step process to help you further your abilities and provide new information to fellow crewmembers. The process can be remembered using the acronym A.C.T. The letters stand for:
A- Attend a class.
C- Contribute to the classroom conversation.
T- Take-back what you learned to your crew.
Don’t just “ATTEND” any course. When you peruse a course catalog or conference schedule in search of a course to attend, think about topics of interest to you. Remember, the idea is to increase your knowledge about subjects you find interesting and want to learn more about. If you could care less about driving or pumping an apparatus, don’t register for a pump ops course!
“CONTRIBUTING” to the course can occur in a variety of ways. You hear other students with questions about what is being presented but the other students will not ask the instructor? CONTRIBUTE by asking the question for the other student. Trainers love questions! If the instructor asks for assistance with a demonstration or needs some help, volunteer! Your participation will be greatly appreciated.
“TAKING IT BACK” is the most important thing you do with your new knowledge, skills, and abilities. The department spent money to send you, one person, to the class. Why not help the department get the biggest “bang for the buck” and spread the new material with your co-workers and others?
Grab the fire academy course catalog, thumb through a training conference schedule, or check out your county fire association’s website. Select an interesting class, register, and attend the program. When you come back to the station, share what you learned with your co-workers. Alternately, search the web for a computer basd course, complete the course, and share what you learned with others.
We hear the term “Collyer’s Mansion conditions” thrown around a lot. As soon as you hear it visions of crap piled floor to ceiling pop into your mind. With good reason, the Collyer brothers really set the bar in the hoarding game. If you want to know more about them go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collyer_brothers
This type of hoarding really didn’t start getting properly identified until the turn of this century. It was mostly thought of as a form of OCD, which most often it is not. The diagnosis of hoarding is still being determined. The current diagnostic criteria for hoarding is still just a proposal for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , or DSM-V which is due in May this year. It is a VERY complicated mental issue, but, that is not our concern. Our concern as firefighters is the well being of the neighborhood first and the hoarder’s well being second.
There are more ways to classify hoarders than anyone can imagine: Pure Hoarding, Hoarding plus OCD, organized hoarder, Common hoarder, animal hoarder, etc, etc… Just to show that this phenomenon is still not understood. Either way 3-5% of the population can be diagnosed with some type of hoarding disorder (#1)
When we come across a property that looks like it’s occupied by a hoarder the first thing to remember is that this is a private residence and it is not up to us to dictate how someone should maintain their home. It is first and foremost a legal minefield that we just stepped into.
DO NOT JUDGE. The Mayo Clinic says many hoarders have limited social interactions (#2) and we most likely will put them on the defensive right away and reduce any chance of remedying the problem. The 2 that I have had to deal with I walked through the property and acted like it was normal, asked them about social interactions and family. I also asked them if they had smoke detectors and what was their plan to exit in case of a fire.
Asking around the firehouse I’ve come up with 8-10 stories involving hoarders. Most of them did not end well for the homeowner. Most of them involved the home owner dying and the neighbor calling because of the smell. A couple of the stories involved fires, one of them the occupant was not found until a week after the fire, buried under the stuff she had acquired.
If you have to write them up for something remember to not make it an issue about them or the stuff, but make it about the threat to the neighborhood. Our most recent hoarder lives in a single family home. We got called to the house because of a repair man he had at the house called 911 to complain. I advised the homeowner to make sure all exits were easy to use in case he had a medical emergency or if there was a fire. Honestly there is very little benefit in writing up an 81 year old man for hoarding. mainly because there is no law, and secondly because it will not accomplish anything. I also reported him to the “Hoarding task force” that the city runs because they are better equipped to handle these things.
I have joined my city’s Hoarding Task Force and I’ll have more info shortly.
Okay, so I know that it’s been a while since I have last posted, so I thought I’d start with a short one as I dust off my keyboard. This story occured a few months ago, and I have been meaning to share it, but haven’t gotten around to it, until now. One thing that I have always advocated to everyone is the standard morning checks of one’s equipment prior to starting the shift. In addition to the standard SCBA checks of checking the bottle, turning it on and hearing a PASS device arm, I also allow my PASS to alarm after the 30 second time out. Once it alarms, I silence it, then re-activated it by pushing the manual activation button before silencing it for good. Upon completing this ritual, a “senior” firefighter came up to me and said, “You know that’s pretty loud, right?”
Of course, my reponse went something like this, “Well ya, I think it’s supposed to be, right? So when I fall through a floor, someone may hear it and help me, right?”
Thus, he replied, “Well, you don’t have to check it every morning, the things do work, and they are pretty loud in the morning. Do you really think it’s necessary to go that far in your checks, that is why we carry radios, so you can call the Mayday if you need it.”
Well, I had to leave it at that, because I was clearly not going to change this firefighter’s mindset, yet still knowing that I am in the right. I also elaborated to him that there are only 2 things on the fireground that I can control which could save my life: My PASS device and my radio, which was another thing he didn’t seem to understand. I always change my own battery in the morning at shift change, and tell my guys to get in this habit as well. This way, you know you are startign fresh in the morning, and not depending on someone else to do it for you. I know in many departments and companies have a good policy of the chauffer doing this job, but I still recommend taking the additional 30 seconds to make sure yourself that you are ready to go to work. No one else is responsible for your life, but you. Anyways, in closing, take a few extra minutes and really go over the equipment that could mean the difference between being heard and saved versus not working and being dead. We can only hope that this culture of safety will continue, and that we can contiue to lower the LODDs in this country every year we think this way.
The photo illustrates significant vehicle body damage. Consequently, emergency responders should expect decesased occupants or serious occupant injuries and a potentially lengthy extrication time. This car was involved in a high speed accident; the car hit two trees and came to rest against a third tree. This photo was taken in a salvage yard.
Photo by author
1. How will you use your resources?
2. What is your plan to make the scene safe?
3. Access the patient(s)?
4. Extricate the patient(s)?
5. Can you think of additional resources requiring “special call”?
Post your response in the Comments section. Let’s hear what you, and others, think about this extrication challenge!
A few of my thoughts:
1. My resources will be devoted to controlling hazards and determining if there are any survivors.
2. Expect hazardous fluids (gasoline, antifreeze, etc.) to be released in this accident. Are power lines involved? Control the hazards and increase responder safety.
3. Accessing portions of the vehicle to determine if anyone survived (back seat passengers) may be difficult. Tearing and/or cutting away portions of the vehicle may be necessary for access. Also, consider the need to remove the bodies of those not surviving the accident to allow access and/or extrication of survivors.
4. Expect a longer than normal extrication time and more paramedic and patient interaction. The vehicle has extreme body and frame damage. An advanced extrication consideration would be to make selective cuts to the vehicle and allow the frame and body to move, opening up the passenger compartment and allowing for more rapid patient extrication.
5. Special resources I would consider may include persons with advanced extrication knowledge and skills and a tow truck to assist with extrication operations.
If you are in these areas, this is an awesome opportunity to attend a FREE US Department of Energy Radiation Technician training program. The course uses radiation sources with significant strength; this offers an excellent opportunity to see how radiation instruments react in real radiation fields. Additional course and contact information is in the below, attached PDF (SC TMERRTT).
We want you to Identify basic functions by putting yourself in the position of our brother and sisters in the videos. Remember these are videos and you could be the next week. We want to learn and grow not critcize.
After being apart of some conversations, emails, and training I found that firefighters do not have an understanding that fire ground survival skills and Rapid Intervention are two separate disciplines. Fire Ground survival skills such as low profile maneuvers, ladder bails, and entanglement training provided the skills need to rescue a fellow firefighter who may encounter a fire ground emergency. Survival skills and Rapid Intervention get used everyday interchangeably but deserve their own time to develop these skills. Think of it like this we learn in school how to add and subtract, and those two alone are the foundation and survival skills you need later on for advanced mathematics such as Algebra. The reason we should know the difference is often firefighters on the fire ground are asked to be a RIT on the fire ground, but have no survival skills training to base RIT operations off of. When departments are creating training programs, trainers need to make sure members understand and are not getting burnt out on RIT training as many will say. Explanation will be required for members to understand how regular training allows for the proper default to learn skills when faced with emergencies. In the future we will post individual survival skills and rit drills. For success and more information on fire ground survival and rit I use the Fire Department Traininig Network. The Network has Fire Notes easy to read books that are practical and to the point as well as joining and receiving the monthly newsletter, and drill packages can be purchased check it out.
We want you to Identify basic functions by putting yourself in the position of our brother and sisters in the videos. Remember these are videos and you could be the next week. We want to learn and grow not critcize. Five basic points to consider. This is three videos that need to be viewed altogehter. Learn all you can. Found this video at Statter911.com.
There is always talk of the basics and what they mean to the fire ground. Basics are the Key to preventing fire ground emergencies. Every week we will look at a fire not to poke fun or disrespect the agency in the photo or video, but in an effort to use these to open discussion about the basics and use them to identify flaws in our own fire ground operations!
So what does it take, to effectively manage a scene and not be labeled as a “Legacy” department?
First, you must understand your response area, resource availability and the ability of your personnel.
Secondly, once you arrive on scene, paint the picture gives a “Windshield size-up”. Then you must exit the vehicle and conduct a 360 degree walk-around. If the Incident Commander does not complete the initial walk around, a seasoned firefighter or officer must complete the walk-around. They will know what they are looking for and be able to relay the critical information to the incident commander via radio or face to face. During the walk-around, scene observations are made, roof line, initial smoke and fire conditions. Reading smoke is critical.
Next, the incident commander must quickly develop a plan. One that weighs Risk vs. Benefits. Once the plan has been established, ACCOUNTABILITY has to be established and utilized. ACCOUNTABILITY has been a façade for many departments that acted as a security blanket for years. Tactics have to be given, in order of priority based on the fire ground priorities/strategies. Once these tactics have been thought of and handed down to the company level will then employ functional assignments/tasks.
Communication from the crews to the Incident Commander or Operations sector and communications from the Incident Commander or Operations sector to the crews has to be a priority. This is the only way to achieve better accountability. Benchmarks have to be utilized by using a checklist (Tactical Priorities). These bench marks will drive the overall tactics, which in turn will cause the incident commander to reevaluate their strategies.
This will not be foreign material to “Modern” departments, however “Legacy” departments will be at a loss with the information and the mind set of what has to be accomplished.
I commend those that are a “Modern” department and I pray for those that are still a “Legacy” department. There is more at stake than an ego and hiding behind the “It’s always been done that way” attitude. Families, communities and organizations are at stake. If you are an officer and want to gamble, go to Vegas or Atlantic City. Don’t gamble within your own department. If you don’t want to stand up for your safety, your family’s safety and change within the department. Then do the fire service a favor and change professions and allow someone else who is willing to affect change to take your place. Start early with young firefighters, introduce them to the NFPA standards, professional journals, well grounded web sites. Learning never stops and more than ever, we as a fire service cannot sit idle by as hydrocarbon based materials become more and more volitile and building construction becomes more lightweight/deadly.
I have viewed the “Legacy vs. Modern Room” video that was done by NIST a dozen times. Every time I watch the video, I wonder how many departments are still operating as a “Legacy” department with tactics. Strategies have pretty much stayed the same throughout time, Life Safety, Incident Stabilization and Property Conservation. The last two always seem to switch based on what we as a fire service has presented to us upon arrival.
“Legacy” departments have not stayed up with building construction, fuel loading and validated articles, classes or the NFPA standards. When I started my career almost twenty years ago, NFPA standards were just a number on a label in the gear. Little did I realize back then, what they really meant or how few actually pertained to firefighting. In the recent years, 2in/2out, Rules of Air Management, Rapid Intervention Teams, Manning standards have hit the fire service. Understanding that these documents are national consensus standards and not law or regulation is a hard thing to swallow. The fire service has seen some major advances in the quality of PPE and apparatus design. However, this comes with a cost. The first thing you probably thought of was cost. Let’s look past the cost and look at how many departments don’t know that these documents even exist. This is the start of the “Legacy” department.
In recent years, NIST and UL have done extensive research on room by room comparisons, fuel loading, burn through times and even what can be accomplished tactically from a 5 person crew down to a 2 person crew. NIST and UL have been major advocates in promoting firefighter safety. When you view the videos and can’t see what has been done for the fire service with the research, well then, please don’t play the part of the incident commander.
Numerous articles have been published in recent years with some very solid research that has had a major impact on the fire service as a whole. Articles dealing with building construction, effects of fog stream nozzles, positioning, command and control. There are numerous reputable professional journals that are on the market today, that if you say you can’t find the information that you are looking for, then you are not looking. The internet has allowed us to watch some very interesting videos and well some less that desired tactics and training. The “Art of Reading Smoke” has become a major part of the fire service. NIOSH reports unfortunately give us history lessons of what does go wrong. To many NIOSH reports have the same items that seem to have a consistent theme: Command and Control, Communications, Standard Operating Policies and Training.
“Legacy” departments have been put into motion well before the call for service to respond to a working incident ever goes out. Change is not an option. Evaluation of current practices of tactics is not even considered. When these above mentioned items are not considered, read or even researched, the term that runs ramped through the firehouse is “We’ve always done it that way” or “It’s worked like that in the past”.
Why it is then these departments are surprised when something bad happens or even worse a close call occurs and nothing is learned from the incident.
Building construction has to be a driving force into our tactics. As materials become more lightweight and cost effective, benchmarks have to become part of our everyday fire scenes. Checklists have to be used to make sure that we are still on track and not deviating from firefighter safety and survival. “Legacy” department’s incident commanders and members will have denial and frustration. Why, because the admittance of being labeled as a “Legacy” department means there is a lot of catching up to do and a lot of changes that need changing. The likely hood of these departments truly changing is slim to none. Now I am sure there are some that will change. But, understand this cultural change. The “Legacy” departments will not even understand the 16 Rules of Engagement for the Incident Commander and the firefighters will not understand the 11 Rules of Engagement for Firefighter Safety published by the International Association of Fire Chiefs. Departments do not want to admit how the lack the resources, knowledge or procedures to change. Firefighters will not understand in a “Legacy” department what they are doing wrong or what they need to be looking for.
Often times fire ground operations dictate aggressive engine work and the situation will get better for everyone, but who is looking out for the firefighters making the push. We are condition to make excuses or rely on the Fast/RIT teams to do basics fire gorund functions such as placing ground ladders for egress for operations such as VES or even emergency escapes when conditions change. Chief Ed Hadfield and a number of others out there have ask the question WHERE HAVE THE LADDERS GONE? So I ask you when operating at a dwelling or building fire does your fire ground look like this and why not?
The discussion of Rapid Intervention continued to come up among various groups. So from my vantage point R.I.T is both a Crutch and a Foe. I see as I go on vacation and travel for departments who have a solid grasp on training dictates the outcome of your operations where RIT is truly a service provided for when an incident happens the IC has his Spec Ops team to ensure everyone goes home. Now my problem is the department who leans on RIT as a crutch when providing poor fire ground operations, and/or not wanting to address reckless behavior on the fire ground. So my question are we so focused now on saving our own that we now don’t see training on the basics as the prevention needed to successfully make rapid intervention the most boring job on the fire ground?
What do you know?I know my weapon do youI know my weapon do you
Many times as I travel across my state and even on vacation I stop into firehouses and ask or inquire about their departments operation. One of the things I want to know is how the fire is put out. What nozzles do you have? Then I’m a little more curious does that firefighter know what type of nozzles it is and how it operates, why it operates, and the best question how does it fail? Having friends in Law enforcement a dramatic difference I have noticed; You can take the most bassakwards cop and ask them about their service weapon and they will be able to tell you, how and why the weapon works, what kind of bullets are fired and if any different can be used, they can field strip it, and best of all they know how it can fail and if they can overcome it. So why should this matter to you? Great question. I’m curious to see your answers and then I will post mine on Friday
Often times aggressive fire companies want to get inside and do work, but it is with that same aggression firefighters get killed. If any firefighter out there could justify why 15 firefighters should be operating in a 1100 sq ft ranch house here is your opportunity. Firefighters have to be thinking firefighters, and use the basics. What do I mean? One company for fire attack, a company to back them up, a company to search and open up. I do realize that the number increases as the square footage goes up but it still needs to be managed. Interior supervisor’s need to recognize when too many companies are on the interior and correct the problem. It has already been proven that it takes 12-14 people for a RIT team to rescue one down firefighter, but yet we continue to put RIT teams in a position to rescue multiple firefighters with only a 3-4 person team. My point being if your position is not to be committed to interior operations your time will come so stand by. Remember the items that burn today are highly volatile and cause conditions to change as well as the inexperience on the fire ground making poor hose line selections, and improper fire ground coordination of ventilation.
During the setup a multi-agency drill, a conversation was started after a prop that was going to be used was built. The conversation covered when to remove a firefighter from the prop that will be used as apart of an Air Management course. The statement was made a firefighter starts to lose it you remove them from the prop. My feelings of course is that you allow them to stay there and work it out. My feelings are this way because, I feel that we are giving firefighters a false sense of security. Allowing them to believe that there is going to be a hand to just reach in and grab you when your in trouble. Firefighters who have experienced being lost and disoriented, or running out air know that this is not so. It was said to me that it seems like we just want firefighters to fail this particular skill by allowing them to panic and not pulling them out. My thoughts are the failure would be to pull them out and build that falsehood that help is always going to be right there. The basics are simple and plain if and when you get jammed because if your a firefighter going into structure fires you will, its simple you panic you could very well DIE! Yes I said it! Its a harsh reality, but true. You have to have a survival attitude and training to go along with it. So I ask you the fire service where is the failure. Is failure allowing firefighters to be pulled out because they panic, or Failure not to let them panic and hammer the point home?
I have written on this topic before but, I feel that it is even more important now. In a time when the Fire Service is under attack by the political hacks who are suppose to be servants of the people, our budgets are being cut and what area normally suffers first is training. Firefighters are innovative by nature but were spoiled when times were better. Paid firefighters often criticize our volunteer brothers for giving of their time freely but, I employ you to see the lesson in their service. The lesson is investing in yourself. Finding a way to make it happen. A good friend of mine, once a shining star in the NFL, told me during a discussion over dinner that Pro Athletes are relentless in their pursuit of their goal to make it to their respective leagues. Meaning they don’t just quit because practice is over and they are committed to spending whatever is necessary to go to camps and/or strength in conditioning tool. My point is they are constantly investing in themselves to achieve the optimum performance they expect of themselves. Firefighters have to make that same sacrifice in order to achieve the excellence we swore to provide when we took our oath or accepted the badge. Even while not get raises and insurance cost on the rise, we have to find our way to increase our training no matter what. The Fire Service is becoming a youthful service and providing realistic and relevant training couldn’t be more important. What I’m getting at is we must be willing to reach into our own pockets to build necessary props and travel to training such as FDIC. I’m not saying the fire department is off the hook for training just saying we can’t sit around crying about what we don’ t have because truth be told we never had a lot before. At least not to adequate levels. So I ask again, will you be willing to invest in yourself? It is up to you to give yourself that edge you are looking for when on the fire ground or during promotional testing. What KSA’s will you bring to the table? Ever wonder why that guy you think is a know it all always has something to say or appears to know just about everything? It is because they invest in themselves. They are the folks who drool at the sight of the new Fire Engineering Books Catalog. They are the guys whom pay for the conferences and spend their vacations on doing fire service related things. Sure their are some who could just never shut up and when challenged can’t produce but what about the person who can? Every asked yourself why?
Nothing pisses me off more than ego trips that could potential kill firefighters, and Civilians. I have been reading lately about Fire Service Administrators ( Not Leaders ) there is a significant difference that like to play the ignorance card when it comes to putting the best foot forward when it comes to providing emergency service to the public. It is not a secret and it is not frowned upon to use any of the three componets listed in our title. I can hear the older firefighters now we had firefighters back in our day. We fought fire with four guys and we got it done. Well hats off to you sir and glad you made it this far, but this is not your old fires. I will not bore you with the rambling of how many people it effectively takes to get the job done and still save a little something for the next alarm, but I will say to every Administrator ( City Mangers, Chiefs, and other politicans ) I do hope that the public starts to sue the hell out of you for your ignorance. In fact if a firefighter or civilian dies I hope you get jail time for your neglect. Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse. Firefighters it is time to stand up for yourselves and stop allowing your lives to be put in jeporadry for someones ego. All of the above are not new ideas and its about damn time someone else brings the subject to light.
While listening to some radio traffic from around the county I noticed a number of fire dept’s who give these long drawn out size-up’s and some who simply say they have a working fire or they don’t. My question to you is a size-up necessary or is it unnecessary radio traffic? If you deem it necessary tell why? Also who should give that size-up? If you find it unnecessary explain why also?