A Sacred Bond
Tactical Safety for Firefighters
By Ray McCormack
While the fire service tries to figure out how much firefighting it can stand and which line to pull, there is a heavier burden to bear and that is commitment-the commitment of protection of your fellow firefighters while attached to a hoseline. There is a sacred bond between an engine crew and the firefighters they protect. This bond is sacred and must not be broken.
Any fire can challenge your crew beyond what you thought possible. You must work at developing challenges in the training phase so that when the reality phase kicks in, you are prepared. For those that believe all extinguishment issues are solved through the looking glass, please take a deeper look. Your people must also be morally tough so that when the chips start to fall, they can throw up a temporary shore, at the very least, for those who might otherwise be trapped.
When the bond snaps, we need to know why. There are few things tougher to do than hold your position at some fires, but hold you must. An engine company provides protection and saves lives. When the bond breaks, the repair may never come. Keep Your Bond Sacred
Keep Fire in Your Life
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Tactical Safety for Firefighters
By Ray McCormack
Improving Your ISO Rating
Your ISO rating could be slipping right out of your hands if you don’t take action to correct it. Your ISO rating should be important to you and every member of the department. Your ISO rating is a good barometer of how effective you are at putting out fires. Your ISO rating is your “Interior Stream Operation”. If you’re not so hot with a nozzle, then your ISO rating will go down in flames and the fire area will go up in flames.
Being part of a solid engine company is not only reassuring, it is the baseline of your extinguishment culture. An excellent engine company operation is not created out of thin air; it comes from dedication and hard work. The firefighters that make up a highly effective extinguishment team, besides having a shared dogged determination to defeat the fire where it lives, will incorporate solid nozzle techniques along with proper hoseline management.
As a friend of mine stated, “You can flow 200 gallons per minute, but if it’s going straight into a corner, it’s not doing much.” So true! The variable to all fire operations is the human element. Taking two similar fires with two different crews may not produce the same outcome. That outcome also varies between firefighters and bosses; however, firefighters and their bosses can not hide. They either accomplish the task or they don’t. They can, of course, make excuses to justify their lack of performance for those that will listen.
The odds that are stacked against a nozzle team can typically be successfully challenged by a reliable flow, rapid engagement and effective leadership. So now you say, we don’t have a lot of fires, and I say that doesn’t get you off the hook. Every aspect of firefighting can be closely replicated in training and with education. If you feel that you need more training, then seek it out. Departments that work to discover their shortcomings and work to resolve them are in tune with the foundational principles of service. Remember that fire drills are not just for schools; they are for fire departments too.
Your personal Interior Stream Operation (ISO) should be deliberate and efficient. You should learn when to open the nozzle and when to shut down. You should understand how to properly hold the nozzle so that your movements are fluid and are performed with the nozzle out in front of you. You must clear any area that you crawl through and understand when the nozzle should be up and when it should be down. You should avoid nozzle drop while advancing and understand that you and your teams skills can make or break the fire. Improving your ISO is harder than making excuses, but the payoff is much more satisfying.
Keep Fire in Your Life
Check out the full flier below:
By: Battalion Chief Shannon Stone
City of Fort Walton Beach Fire Dept. Fla.
Now that I have your attention, take a moment to read this and provide feedback.
Couple of disclaimers; I’m not a writer so please be kind and I’m not advocating the use of 1 ¾ for commercial fires, but rather reaching out to those who are knowledgeable in this area and asking for feedback.
Recently during flow testing apparatus in my department, an engine company approached me and asked me a question. “What do you think about flowing and operating a 1 ¾ line flowing 260 GPM in place of 2 ½ line flowing 260 GPM?” You can imagine my response….”No way, we don’t use 1 ¾ for high flow GPM and we certainly wouldn’t use it to replace a 2 ½ line on a commercial job.” As you can imagine this started a debate which led to much testing and this article for County Fire Tactics. I will make this as brief as possible.
All flows were flow tested with a flow meter at the intake, nozzle reactions calculated multiple times, and tested advancing lines in full PPE simulating fatigue factors (not live fire). An “apples for apples” comparison was done with two identical tests. Both evolutions were performed with a four man company, the same firefighters in the same positions every evolution. They advanced the hose lines into a drill tower room 1, flowing to the left, shut down moved to the right and flowed, advance to the next room and flowed, advanced to the 2nd floor and flowed, advanced to the 3rd floor and flowed. Each time the nozzle was opened it was operated at full capacity for 30-60 seconds. Here are the details:
Evolution #1 – 2 ½ inch Ponn Conquest hose, 200 ft, solid bore nozzle with 1 1/8 tip
- Engine pressure of 80 PSI equaling 265 GPM
- As everyone knows, 2 ½ hose advancement is labor intensive and even with four well trained firefighters, the fatigue factor was still a concern
- Firefighters had to work extra hard to manage the kinks in the line. They were never successful in removing all the kinks and this was performed in a drill tower where the obstacles are far less than an actual building.
- Proper techniques were used by all especially by the nozzle man and back up firefighter
- General assessment of the evolution is that it was very tiring and all firefighters were winded, but of course they said what all firefighters say “But we got it!”
Kink management was difficult at best with the 2 ½ advancement. The hose team was never successful in managing all the kinks in the line. Keep in mind there were numerous pivot points for this advancement.
Evolutions #2 – 1 ¾ inch Ponn Conquest hose, 200 ft, solid bore nozzle with 1 1/8 tip
- Engine pressure of 140 PSI equaling 260 GPM
- Half the weight allowed the firefighters to move the line very easily, much quicker, and more efficient than the 2 ½.
- There was only 1 kink during the entire evolution which was easily corrected by a firefighter.
- Proper techniques were used by all especially the nozzle man and back up firefighter. This is a 1 ¾ line but absolutely has to be operated and staffed like a 2 ½ line when flowing 260 GPM.
- General assessment of the evolution is it was much easier to advance and the firefighters said they felt way less fatigued. They described it as no different than advancing any other 1 ¾ attack line. The nozzle man also stated that due to the smaller diameter of the 1 ¾ hose, he felt it was easier to hold and control the nozzle position.
Here are additional facts:
- Nozzle reaction for both the 1 ¾ and 2 ½ are virtually identical since the GPM and diameter of the nozzle are the same.
- Kink flow testing revealed that on average a kink in the 2 ½ hose would result in the flow decreasing from 265 GPM to 240 GPM.
- Kink flow testing revealed that on average a kink in the 1 ¾ hose would result in the flow decreasing from 260 GPM to 210 GPM. The significant decrease is obviously due to the amount of water flowing through a smaller diameter hose.
- 2 ½ hose was guaranteed to kink, 4 firefighters could not manage all the kinks resulting in a decrease average flow of GPM.
- 1 ¾ hose was extremely difficult to kink due to the high pump pressure. Only one kink that was corrected easily and quickly. The average GPM was around 250-260.
- Low friction loss hose was used (Ponn Conquest). Anyone who is a student of the fire service understands the actual diameter of this hose is slightly larger that standard hose (or slightly larger than what the manufactures actually advertises it as); however, manageability of the low friction loss hose vs the standard hose is identical.
- High pump pressure had no negative bearing on advancement or operation of hose
- The nozzle man has the same range of motion with the 1 ¾ line as the 2 ½ line
- Reach, penetration of the fire stream of each was identical
Advantages of the 1 ¾ option
- Literally ½ weight in comparison to 2 ½
- Nozzle controllability was the same if not better with the 1 ¾
- Line advances easier, faster, and more efficient
- Fatigue factor was much less that 2 ½
- Average GPM was greater than the 2 ½ (kink factor)
Disadvantages and limitations to the 1 ¾ high flow set up
- It is likely that anything over 200 ft of 1 ¾ set up will not work due to high friction loss factors.
- This should not be considered in high rise fires due to high friction loss factors. This would include most if not all standpipe operations.
- If the 1 ¾ nozzle is operated too far out in front of the nozzle man, a serious “whipping or snapping” action of nozzle can occur. This is easily controlled by proper nozzle control and operation.
A quick special thanks to my guys that insisted I take a look at this. Fort Walton Beach Fire Department Engine Company 7- Acting Captain Justin Westmoreland, Engineer Mark Birchett, and Firefighter Brandon Waterhouse.
The testing we performed was much more comprehensive than what this article shows, but in an effort to make it brief and a quick read I stuck the meat and potatoes of the issue. In no way am I implying that we in the fire service move away from use of 2 ½ hose for large fire or commercial fire attack. However, the numbers and facts speak volumes that I believe are worthy of evaluating. If you think about it, this is no different from the evolution of 1 inch hose, to 1 ½ hose, to 1 ¾ hose, to low friction loss hose which now allows us to flow larger volumes of water under manageable conditions. I do buy into the concept of limiting your nozzle reaction and insuring you have a manageable line so the nozzle is ALWAYS operated properly during significant fire conditions-nozzle all the way open. This is why this 1 ¾ set up absolutely has to be operated as if it is a 2 ½ line insuring adequate staffing to insure correct deployment and operation.
So I beg the question….what are we missing here? What’s your thoughts and/or experiences with high flow, smaller diameter hose? Should this be a viable option for large fire attack?
Tactical Safety for Firefighters
Video Killed The Fire Star
By Ray McCormack
Video of fire scenes show us as we are. They are not complementary. They are real. While we all feel better because we would never look that bad, are you sure? Some will aways be poor performers and some will just have a bad day with the video rolling.
What we often see is poor task skills incorporated within a poorly structured attack plan. While some individuals stand out due to various errors, they are often operating within a broken system. So, two problems emerge: firefighter errors and scene disorganization. The bigger of these two errors is improper scene management- a total lack of SOP or SOGs, just Helter Skelter!
The task issue of forcing a door or stretching a line incorrectly can hopefully be overcome by someone who paid more attention to those lessons at the academy. Firefighters all learn skills in training school and hopefully rework the memory muscle at house drills; however, when we witness task errors throughout, we are witnessing dysfunction. Fireground dysfunctionality is not easily solved on scene because the problem goes deep. The problem is the fire goes out and no injuries are encountered and we collectively pat ourselves on the back and nothing improves. For many, there is no need for improvement if these two benchmarks are reached.
Beyond skill drills which make up the foundation of firefighter training, we need to also incorporate fire operations protocol . We need to revisit the fire academy as groups and work on our approach to fires in people’s homes. We need to practice directing the actions of firefighters. We need to have our firefighters not just in bunker gear, but truly ready to work on air. our leader needs to understand that good fireground management starts long before arrival on scene. Remember if you want to look good look practice your act.
In Ray’s class, “Engine Company Errors – The Dirty Dozen”, a lack of SOPs is cited as error number one.
Keep Fire in Your Life
Hard work, passion, and a little ingenuity is all you need to come up with fantastic company level training. You don’t need a big training facility to put on great training, you just need to use some imagination.
This is a prop that the Austin Fire Department in Texas put together for training their members in car removals in swift water rescue situations.
They put a car into a boat launch so that most of the car was submerged, they then used handlines of an engine company and a fire boat to cause the river like effect. This allowed them to preform various removal techniques in easily controllable situations.
Not only does it get your members out doing swift water training but it also gets you out stretching hose, pumping your lines, ropes and knots, medical, setting up your ladder truck, and anything else that you wanted to put into the scenario.
So get out their and push your training to the next level. A serious “hat tip” to the Austin Fire Department on this training.
Brothers and Sisters -
We are nearing the re-launch of FireNuggets.com scheduled for January 2014. There has been lots going on behind the scenes as we’ve been moving forward with the transfer of so much valuable information from the legacy website to the new platform. This process has provided us time to read and reflect on all the great, great articles that have been written by so many of you out there. As part of the transfer, all of the late Lt. Andrew Frederick’s articles resonated in a powerful way. Not just due to the quality of the writing, but also because of his legacy and the relationship he developed with the Fire Nuggets family.
While speaking with brother Brian Brush from Colorado about all the ideas we have and goals we aim to accomplish in the next couple years, the topic of funding, or rather lack of funding, was broached. Brother Brush suggested that we hold a fundraiser to raise some capitol to support the re-launch, which thus far has been paid for by our I.A.F.F. Local 1227 and by Union Centrics. Within a short period of time a T-Shirt and beanie design came together and is now ready for purchase.
Fire Nuggets has always been a non-profit organization in spirit and action. The founders were dedicated to providing high-quality, low-cost educational opportunities to all of us in the fire service. We plan to continue this mission and we want to strengthen that pillar by securing 501(c)4 status for Fire Nuggets, which should be completed by early 2014.
That said, we need your help to get back off the ground. All of you are the reason Fire Nuggets has thrived for over a decade, and all of you will be the reason it continues. Please purchase a shirt and beanie to both remember a great fireman, educator, Fire Nuggets contributing author – and to support the resurgence of a great resource to the international firefighting community.
Items are available from November 11th through November 20th, 2013. You can click here to visit the online store.
In solidarity, David Sprague
Chair FireNuggets.com Board of Directors