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.
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 firefighters have to gripe when being told they have to conduct Pre-Planning. During this time firefighters should understand the opportunity that has been afforded to them. Firefighters have to take notice of the construction , and hazards while the building is open to them. Even if a firefighters are on one man company it is no excuse. Here are some suggested steps to help you get started.
First make an appointment to ensure the owner or manager will be there to grant you all access to the building and answer any question.
Gather all forms provided by your fire department for pre-planning. Those things may include even taking a(n) book on building construction which may aid you in writing strategic and tactical objectives.
Firefighters should seek answers on anything they are questioning such as building codes and safety violations believed to have been committed. Seek answers from Fire Marshals or Code Enforcement personnel. Do not give information for which you do not have the authority or don’t know to be an absolute fact.
Ensure you have a site plan as well as a building sketch.
Future post will actually allow you to interact with pre-planning to aid in getting better at this task
D.E.R. Deep Environmental Retrofit, the process of adding large amounts of insulation and wind proofing to older buildings. The concept is simple; Add more layers of insulation and wind proofing to cut down on the amount of energy needed to heat or cool a building.
The layers are:
1. Blown in cellulose insulation in the original wall cavity. Most turn of the century homes in this area didn’t have any insulation.
2. Wrap the entire inside wall with Tyvek, then fur out the walls and add another layer of blown in cellulose.
3. On the exterior wall add 8+ inches of rigid insulation with staggered seams. All seams are taped on each layer and another layer of Tyvek is added.
4. Indicates the 2 layers of Tyvek inside the house, 1 of which is wrapped under the floor.
The end result is 16+ inches of insulation with very little chance of air infiltration. All of the areas that cannot be filled with blown in or rigid insulation is filled with spray foam. Even the windows are triple glazed to prevent air infiltration. The vendor says you could heat the finished room with a hair dryer.
You can see the before and after mock up in the picture. In the before picture there is no insulation and plenty of cracks and voids for air to permeate the building. These leaks help heat from a fire escape and allow fresh air to be sucked in, which is great for firefighters but bad for heating bills.
Firefighters are all too aware of what happens when fresh, oxygenated air runs out at a fire. The fire darkens down and the temperature continues to rise until something fails or something is opened by a firefighter. When this happens you get a back draft or a smoke explosion.
We have all been taught that building contents are far different than they were for previous generations of firefighters. Flashover is being reached at a shorter time than a couple decades ago, and I can post a side by side video if you’d like. The lower times are caused by a combination of better sealed buildings and the composition of the contents.
So after that overview, how long would it take to starve a room and contents fire of oxygen when the room is sealed and insulated this well?
A couple side notes:
The floor joists were notched during the original construction. That’s pretty common in these houses. But you can see in the after picture that the floor is still notched. How much extra weight has been added to this building and it remains on the original inferior construction?
The vendor indicated they have done dozens of houses in my area and the biggest concern they heard was from electrical inspectors who wanted the power lines from the solar panels to be candy striped. PV power too? I think that is a discussion for another day.
In my current capacity as a rental boss I don’t have the privilege of having my own crew. Where ever I get sent is the crew I have. It’s sort of like taking care of brothers grown kids; they know what to do, your just there for occasional guidance. Here is one of those instances.
We were responding to alarms sounding in a building and I hear one of the guys in the back say “I hate this building, It’s confusing and if we get something here we are going to look like crap”. Well that’s just ducky, thanks for instilling confidence in me. We run the call and the crew wants to hurry out. I ask them “since we are here and we have the maintenance guy, let’s walk the whole building”. No problem. We drew a little map, found the utilities and then found roof access. 10 min well spent. . We also realized if we parked on the side of the building we could run a line directly to 3/4 of the building instead of just the 1/4 when we parked out front. When we got back to the barn I showed them how to put it into the CAD
2 drills for the day. They loved it. The reason they never did it before was because they thought it would take too long. Now they know, and with the info in the CAD the whole city can know if they want.
In our line of work avoiding things usually makes them worse. If there is a building in your area that you “don’t like” get on it. Make an appointment and walk through it. Find the utilities, roof access, any little secrets you can.
Next time we’ll talk about the actual pre-planning process.