Tactical Safety for Firefighters- No Hose Butts

Ray

Tactical Safety for Firefighters
No Hose Butts

By Ray McCormack

I have repeatedly stated that the engine company officer has the biggest impact on the fireground. You IC’s out there needn’t worry. You’re important too and of course, so is the ladder officer; however, fire extinguishment is why we are in business and that comes from the exit port of a nozzle directed by the engine officer.

For those that aspire to be engine officers, there is plenty to learn and discover. A good portion of learning should have already taken place as you observed others. The discovery portion is truly the variable because it is about individual effort. To discover new ideas, new methods and try them for suitability is one very important component of professional growth.

Can you honestly say you are into it? If you find yourself with a lack of passion for engine company operations as an engine officer, it’s time to turn the tide. I would hate being in this business and just let it all pass me by without hitching along for a ride. The diversity in engine operations alone should spark an area or two of potential interest and perhaps eventual expertise. When you encounter someone who works at a business and is asked a question that they should know the answer to, but doesn’t that’s bad, worse is when they don’t care to boot. You have just encountered a compartmentalized employee. This person has a narrow band of knowledge, and is in a rut. If that’s you, that’s bad, but not inescapable.

The tuned in engine company officer sees opportunity where others see extra work. They see variations as possibilities and possibilities as platforms for enhanced operations. By going to extra lengths for yourself and your company you ‘ll be able to increase your tactical safety and call for water quicker than the rest.

Keep
Fire
In
Your
Life

Tactical Safety for Firefighters- Staffing Reach

Ray

Tactical Safety for Firefighters
Staffing Reach

We hear all about the issues of staffing in the fire service: its limitations and its benefits. First things first! Your staffing is your staffing and typically doesn’t change much except for the variable of the alarm assignment strength. Volunteer response is a deployment model that tends to have more radical staffing swings. So now, what are you doing about this “given” when it comes to community fire protection?

Is your staffing commensurate with your buildings? Are your hosebeds assisting your handline deployments? Are you able to check the boxes and perform interior attack? Comparisons between what is perceived as ideal staffing and minimal staffing is not the point.

The question should be is staffing adequate for the majority of your fire attack incidents? This is a critical need and should be looked at critically. Interior fire attack is handled by a nozzle firefighter who should have a backup firefighter assisting with that nozzle function and advancement. Fire extinguishment also needs to be supervised by an officer. That’s three people. Can we do it with more? Sure, add a firefighter further back to assist with line movement.

The bottom line is that this is the model. You may or may not have a complete version of it, but that only cuts you so much slack. If you switch roles or you assign two tasks to each firefighter, or you improve your interior advance techniques, that’s creative thinking. If you only opt in for a staffing model you will never attain, that is fantasy.

Benchmarks are a common form of fireground measurement. Here is a simple model for fire extinguishment. How much hose will be used on the interior of the building? If it’s on length ( 50′), then that is a staffing model. If twice that is needed, that is another. This is why the interior model doesn’t vary much. Getting the hose to the point of operation is typically the real variable that staffing impacts. Vertical and horizontal distances matter and often account for increased hoseline staffing both inside and outside the fire building. There is no need for two nozzle firefighters for a single hoseline but there is often a need for a door firefighter. The fire service needs to adapt and overcome its excuses and dreams and focus on the issues that impact operations and fireground lives by moving towards efficient extinguishment.

By Ray McCormack

Keep
Fire
In
Your
Life

Tactical Safety for Firefighters- False Positives

Ray

Tactical Safety for Firefighters

F A L S E
P O S I T I V E S

There is much talk in the fire service regarding how some pass downs have been proven wrong due to current research. In some categories, this legacy behavior has been explained utilizing a more scientific language which is one aspect of research. The other is how to avoid the legacy outcome regardless of what you label it now (hint : Better Engine Company LeadershIp).

Another aspect to be watched more closely is the false premises where a fire example is given along with a bad solution and now we fix it with a modern solution. The problem is if you were applying the original solution to the problem, then you didn’t understand basic firefighting anyway. So now we have SME’s (Subject Matter Experts) or a talking head who comes along with a new solution to fix it for you. You should have known this solution and you should be able to recognize silliness when you see it. The point is that some fire attack videos are giving you solutions to problems that should not have existed. Beware the peddler and their improved and enlightened ways. It’s only enlightening if you have had your head buried in the sand.

Get informed and pick up on what you’re being shown and just as importantly, what you’re not being shown.
If you want to improve the fire service, work on yourself first!

By Ray McCormack

Keep Fire in Your Life

Rogues- By: Mark vonAppen

Rogues

DCE3

By Mark vonAppen

I believe firefighters can be placed into 3 categories in terms of engagement and leadership.  Generally speaking: 

  • 25% believe in (or pretend to believe in) current leadership staff
  •  35% have no faith in (some of them even hate) the leadership staff
  •  40% could go either way given strong direction and leadership 


Of the 35% that contains the haters, there is a very temperamental subset that can have a profound impact on organizational chemistry. 


The most important firefighters to capture are the rogue leaders, those passionate individuals who, if ignored, can be savage and destructive forces on the team.  Like it or not, your truest leaders are not always the ones who do exactly as they are told or what the book says is right every single time. Your best leaders are not necessarily “yes men”.  The best leaders are functionally intelligent, independent thinkers who scare the shit out of micro-managers.

People gravitate toward strong personalities, not drones who do just exactly what is expected of them and nothing more.  Some of the strongest leaders among us have pushed it right to the edge and some have even gotten kicked off of the team.  Passion is energy; channelling that energy in a way to best suit the needs of the team is the key to overall success.  Some of history’s most influential leaders were agents of evil, I sure-as-hell don’t want them on my team.  In order to bring the rogues home, you must first understand who they are.

Rogues are driven by passion.  Sometimes, your informal, real leaders wind up getting chapped by positional leaders who don’t know what to do with them.  Rogues have a lot of energy and original ideas, because of this they are seen as trouble makers who rock the boat.  They ask questions. They can be found training by themselves or in tight-knit misunderstood groups.  They are often your highest fireground performers because their passion and drive for perfection won’t let them stop training and learning.  They are students of the craft in the truest sense.  The rogue believes that when your job has the potential to take your life, you had best make it your life’s work.  Rogues are intolerant of those who do not understand their drive or respect the craft.

Communication, trust, and confidentiality are the keys to success in any leadership endeavor, but particularly when dealing with the bristly rogue.  Cultivating trust in the firehouse is a must have if we seek an elite level of performance.

Each rogue leader must be engaged individually.  Build trust by treating everyone as unique, and shower them with genuine interest.  Place these fiery leaders in positions where they have the best chance of affecting others with their strength, their passion for the craft.  They must feel that the organization will not quit on them, even when they overstep their bounds.  The deal breaker is if the rogue does harm to the team, this cannot be tolerated.  The obligation of the informal leader is to make every effort to try to contribute to the success of the team.  People must feel that the leader is speaking to them individually even as the leader is addressing an entire  group. Trust and connection must be built and it might take a while.

How do you develop trust?

  • Communication
  • Honesty – most rogues have something in their career that has made them jaded, be honest or you’ll lose them forever
  • Create stakeholders – include informal leaders in the planning process
  • Clearly communicate the plan and then execute it 
  • Mutual exchange – have expectations of the individual and allow them to have expectations of positional leaders
  • Accountability  
  • Patience
DCE31
Rogue leaders can have the greatest influence on the firehouse.  Their infectious, passionate personalities are magnetic.  People are pulled in when they speak and they will emulate their actions. If you are able to rein in their energy for the positive, and are genuinely interested in helping them succeed for the good of all; then you will have an ally for life.  If you double-cross or lie to them you will have an enemy for eternity.  Trust is the biggest factor in getting and keeping rogues engaged.   

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Do your job 
Treat people right
Give all out effort 
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Rogue leaders have loaded dispositions that can either aid in leading the group forward or act to tear the team apart.  The key is taking all of that energy and focusing it in the right direction before it goes sideways from lack of exercise and frustration.  Rogues just need someone they can trust and who truly believes in them.  People follow passion much more readily than rules.  Find your most passionate people and bring them on board.  True progress is made when passion and lofty goals meet planning and expectations.
Be sure to check out Mark’s website : http://mark-vonappen.blogspot.ca/2013/12/rogues.html?m=1

Tactical Safety for Firefighters- Three Mile Bridge

bridge

Tactical Safety for Firefighters
By Ray McCormack

Three Mile Bridge

The fire service is always traveling by bridge as it heads back and forth on topics of concern and popularity and for the passage of new ideas. The direction of the bridge traffic is two way or bidirectional and changes depending upon which debate direction you’re heading in. The bridge comes with two lanes on each side so that slower traffic can keep to the right allowing new ideas to pass on the left.

While we can’t see the other side of the bridge until we have moved at least half way across, it doesn’t mean that when we arrive on the other side we have changed our minds. We must; however, travel the full span of the bridge before we decide if we will turn around and head back or stay.

The debates that rage in the fire service may seem so legacy to some; however, all debate is good. The reason debate is good is because it shows interest. For those that debate, your opinions matter and even with voices raised, ideas can come through. If you debate because you wish to change minds, just make sure that yours is as open as you hope others are.

Cause champions attempt to collate support from like minded thinkers so that the message, often made brief for mass consumption, will be swallowed up more quickly. With campaigns and causes, we need to examine not only their direction, but the final destination they’re headed toward. If you cannot figure out their means and motivation, then maybe you should not climb aboard. Sometimes you will have to look far ahead to see where some ideas are truly headed, and that is not a task for a distracted driver.

Independent thought is often bullied by organizational media control while only giving exception to enablers. Organizations make claims of success and victory that don’t materialize while then attempting to push reconstructed messages for improved results. Bridge traffic can be heavy and slow at times. It is up to the individual firefighter to make sure that when they change lanes or merge with new ideas, they are not just doing so because everyone else is.

When you travel the three mile bridge, the toll is paid in both directions, and while exact change is preferred by many, change agents are there for those that may take something back from the ideas of others.

Have a Tactically Safe Holiday

Keep Fire in Your Life

Stretching Responsibly- Jim Allen ECFR Engine 3

Hose Bed 025

STRETCHING RESPONSIBLY 
 
    As every firefighter has probably been informed, the correct stretching of the attack handline is of critical importance. The incorrect stretching of a handline, should be immediately noticed and corrected by a firefighter on scene. Anyone who witnesses a line being stretched incorrectly, HAS THE RESPONSIBILITY to correct the nozzleman after the fire.
    There are many aspects to be considered when stretching; however, this discussion is about the correct way to finish the stretch. The nozzle firefighter will stretch, flake the line, and place the nozzle at the door; these three aspects are correct, but they do not complete the stretch. It is of vital importance, after placing the nozzle, that the nozzleman bring the first fifty foot coupling to the door. When the coupling and the nozzle are at the door; fifty feet of hose is available, to ease in maneuverability and to prevent the coupling from getting caught on obstacles in the front yard. Fifty feet of hose will typically reach all the rooms, in common style homes.
    If you observe a line being stretched incorrectly, or a nozzle team preparing to enter, without the fifty feet (working length) at the the door, YOU NEED TO CORRECT IT AT THAT MOMENT. Take the time to get the coupling in the correct place; this will help to insure the nozzle team is not delayed in reaching the main body of fire. Things to consider with a delayed hose team are: (1) fire will travel towards the door the team entered, increasing damage and fire intensity ; (2) conditions inside worsen for firefighters and possible victims ; (3) instead of backing up the nozzleman, searching, or checking fire conditions- the backup man is now tasked with mitigating unnecessary problems.
Hose Bed 578
   If you witness an incorrect stretch, you need to speak to the nozzle firefighter and explain the mistakes. We have the job of holding each other accountable. I see two common problems on this job today: (1) Some firefighters will not take responsibility when they are wrong ( “it is someone else’s fault”). (2) Some firefighters are afraid or unwilling, to correct someone for a mistake. You need to be an adult, when you screw up- step up. No one has a right to say one word about something that is wrong, if they are not willing to say it to the person who is doing wrong.
Firefighter Jim Allen
Escambia County Fire Rescue
Engine 3

Tactical Safety for Firefighters- A Sacred Bond

tacsafe2

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

Tactical Safety- Video Killed the Fire Star

DirtyDozen

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

Tactical Safety- The Stockholm Department

hostages

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