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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
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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?
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
Tactical Safety for Firefighters
The Stockholm Department
By Ray McCormack
The Stockholm Syndrome is something people who are held hostage for a period of time can experience. It was named after a group of bank employees were held hostage for six days in Sweden and how, after a time, hostages will often empathize with their captors. Firefighters are no different in how they will defend and support their department even when it’s hard for others to grasp.
A close-up lens is a wonderful thing because it provides an intimate view without a contrasting background. We all have our beliefs on fire attack and the procedural methods to accomplish it. If you look at how a department operates, you will see similar fire attacks, not just because of SOP’s, but because of belief.
If a department changes like the wind, it probably had a weak stand on tactics in the first place. Some are constantly looking for something and ending up with too many options. If you see a department that doesn’t change much, that is not necessary a bad thing. It is just that change often has a lot to prove before it is implemented.
Departments that operate under a system that many progressives would cringe over must realize that they are doing it their way too. They are just as much hostages as the constantly changing department is, but for different reasons.
The first department is subject to constant change while the other is married to routine. The problem with the first system is that they will probably keep changing and adopting all types of tactics creating a vast options menu and a very confused officer core. The second group has no such confusion and while they may appear to some as very legacy, they operate with a broad understanding of capability and uniformity of fire attack and are slow to take on new options.
All will defend what they do, they have no choice. It’s what they believe in. The bigger question is will the first department ever get it straight and when will the second department ever modify? Neither will until they are released from their own captivity.
Keep Fire in Your Life
Tactical Safety for Firefighters
No Two Fires Are The Same
By Ray McCormack
Have you heard the phrase, “No Two Fires Are The Same”? It is not true!
There are plenty of fires that are the same. They may not be identical , but they are very much alike. This statement, like others, has taken on a life of its own and, if strictly adhered to and believed, can impact negatively on fireground operations.
Unless your response area contains completely custom one-of-a-kind homes, then your department has experienced some fires that were the same.
While the postal couriers motto talks about rain, snow, sleet and gloom of night never impacting the swift completion of their rounds, the same is not true of the fireground. Time of day, weather, etc. impact us, but the fire’s location within the dwelling type doesn’t vary. A kitchen fire in a ranch in a neighborhood of predominantly ranch style houses is just that, a repeatable similar fire. A second floor rear bedroom fire in a condo among hundreds just like it in a development is the same fire.
The effect on operational safety comes when we firmly believe the statement that no two fires are the same and therefore do not take the time to evaluate our response area to discover the occupancies that are similar and develop SOGs for such building fires.
What happens next is that a lack of SOGs impacts efficient operations and the dispatching of tactics which then must be ordered instead of being intuitive. When everyone is awaiting the most remedial of orders, we will experience delays and delays equal fire growth in this business. Never had a fire that was the same as another? Think again!
Keep Fire in Your Life
Don’t Forget what has worked in the past. Remember that thousands die every year inside residential structures. What are your thoughts? Will you still go inside? Will you make the interior room? Will you take advantage of that door of opportunity?
By Ray McCormack
There are only two sides to a fire building: the inside and the outside.There are those who want us to stay outside for a variety of reasons. There are those who see us as incapable of making good decisions regarding entry. There are those who fail to truly understand our capabilities employing interior fire attack.
Fire, smoke, occupancy, construction, time of day, troop strength, timing, and water issues are all valid reasons to stay outside and many can be misread or exaggerated keeping you outside. We are all hazard – “check”. We are firefighters – “check”, but wait. There seems to be some difficulty in pulling the interior extinguishment pin for some. If your scales tend to tip toward the outside and you know that it isn’t really necessary, then why would you continue?
Do you feel that the inside of the fire building is too dangerous for your firefighters to operate in? What happens when the exterior option is off the table? What are you going to do then? Are your tactics going to tame it? Have you sat down and figured out what your extinguishment is going to look like?
Are you operating under an assumption that our capabilities don’t include interior success? What is missing from your extinguishment platform that you have trouble handling a bread and butter fire. It can’t be equipment because we all have the necessary hoses and nozzles. Do you believe there is no such thing as a bread and butter fire in the modern age? If so, that is a bad assumption.
To arrive at a burning home and base your operations on exaggerated conditions places most firefighters in a state of paralysis, and that must be fixed so that your people know they can be successful with either option.
Finding the tactics that you need to get extinguishment done is not an unknown, but it may take practice for some. Start by not feeding it unnecessarily and its bite will be less powerful. We need to get our people inside to find the savable and the injured. I know that I want someone coming for me if I’m inside, don’t you?
Keep Fire in Your Life