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