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

Forcible Entry Drill

Growing up I played lacrosse, not the typical hockey that most Canadian kids played. I was fortunate enough to play at a very high level and had the privilege of playing for some great coaches.  They taught me not only about the game of lacrosse but great lessons about life that I carried over into the fire service. I had one coach that always said “you can’t learn this game in a book; you have to get out on the floor and play the game”. I could not agree more, to truly learn this job aggressive and realistic training along with experience is required. That being said my coach would also say “you want to be great at this game, be a student of the game”, I would see my Coach constantly looking at plays, statistics, equipment, etc. and he was a true student of the game and one of the best players ever to play box lacrosse. The point is that you need the knowledge and the understanding of what you’re doing to go along with your hands on training. We would practice some days until we would literally be throwing up on the floor, we would also spend some days in the class room in front of the chalk board going over plays. This was just as important to the development as us as lacrosse players and a team as going out and throwing the ball around the floor. We are going to look at a quick drill that you can do at your firehouse, this type of drill we call “chalk talk”.

Chalk talk drills are those types of drills that are great for rainy days, these types of drills are good because they often get great discussions going and it allows some of the senior members in the company to pass along their experiences and knowledge to the younger guys.  Some of the best training that I have ever done has been sitting at the kitchen table, around the tailboard of the rig, or sitting in front of a white board talking shop with a warm cup of coffee and the company of some great firemen. Not all training has to be blood, sweat, and tears, here is a good “rainy day” forcible entry drill that you can do with your crew.

To try to add some variety to the training and be able to put the training on I set out to make a series of props that would allow me to do quick, realistic, and optionless forcible entry size up training. I wanted to build a series of magnetic locks that could be stuck onto any regular metal door in the firehouse, out doing building inspections, etc. These locks would look exactly (or as close to it as possible) like their real lock counterparts. I took the basic type locks that me and the crews in my fire department would encounter during a forcible entry operation, these locks included:

  • Key in the Knob Locks
  • Tubular Deadbolts
  • Rim Locks
  • Rim Cylinder Guards
  • Carriage Bolts (drop bars, slide bolts, etc.)

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magnetlocks (4)

magnetlocks (5)

After I narrowed down the most common type locks that I wanted to simulate I made a trip to a local machining shop and had them mill out exact likenesses of a key in the knob lock and a couple of tubular deadbolts, because of the weight associated with making these locks out of metal PVC was used instead. On the backside of the locks a counter sunk hole was drilled and then a heavy duty magnet was secured into place using epoxy. To make the cylinder guards, 10 gauge metal plates were cut to the size of a standard cylinder guard. After the cylinder guards were cut ¼ inch carriage bolt heads were welded on the corners and then magnetic stripping was added to the backside of the guards. Finally, ¼ inch carriage bolts were taken and the threaded rod was cut off the back leaving just the heads, a hole was counter sunk into the back of the carriage bolt head and a magnate was held in place with epoxy. Having these magnet props allows you to gather the crew around any metal door in the firehouse and set up any forcible entry scenario your imagination can dream up. These drills at my firehouse have been invaluable; the guys at the station love it and get very engaged in the discussion about tactics and forcible entry size up.

magnetlocks (2)

magnetlocks (3)

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The total cost of the magnet props was around $200, but if you are fairly handy or know someone who can use a machining lathe you could probably get them made for a lot less money.

This will be the first article in a series of articles that will give you great training ideas that you can do at your firehouse. If you want to train, you can train.

FF Andrew Brassard

Milton Fire Department- Pumper31

 

 

Special Operations Training Ideas

When dealing in fire department Special Operations, we must constantly be thinking outside the box when it comes to new innovative training ideas that push our boundaries and keep our heads where they need to be. It is tough sometimes to come up with new ideas that will stimulate and challenge our members. Below are a couple of easy drills that you can do at your firehouse that will keep your guys on their toes and get them thinking.

Impalement on Rope

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An ironworker slips and falls impaling himself 6 stories up….. the only way to access him…. rope rescue.

Nothing like ramping up a drill you have done 1000 times! Standard pick off’s can sometimes become a “going through the motions” drill for good crews, it is important to constantly push your members to the next level on the training ground…. an easy way to do that with pick off’s is to add new elements to it. Adding new elements/challenges will push your members out of their comfort zone and push their capabilities to the next level.

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An impalement on rope is a great way to push it to the next level. Some issues that you can come across while doing this are:

  • Will the Rescue Diaper/Yates Harness/LSP fit on the patient with the impalement in the way? A good chance to get away from using that “one way” that we always do!
  • What cutting tool are you going to use?
  • How are you gonna get tools to the rescuer?
  • How are you gonna handle blade or battery changes?

This drill can be done with several different types of metals that will require different cutting tools to be used.

miltonrope3

 

Confined Space Cutting and Tool Usage

This one was passed along by Lt. Grant Light from Cincinnati Heavy Rescue 9.

When talking about machine rescue or collapse rescue we are forced to use tools and equipment in tough and awkward positions, this drill is all about teaching members to use our cutting tools in these awkward positions in spaces where it is tough to see and move.

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The drill is an easy one. Pay attention when you are out in your first due for anyone throwing out a fridge, freezer, stove, etc. Place the appliance at the end of a small piece of corrugated tubing and ratchet strap the appliance to the end of the tube so that it does not move.

Now you can use as many different cutting tools as you can to make the hole large enough to pass a rescuer through. To make the drill even more difficult you can stick metal or other stuff inside the appliance that will have to be cut.

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Mini Shoring for Collapse Rescue

Collapse rescue can be very costly, especially when it comes to training and drilling with your crew. Lets be honest not many departments have the luxury of being able to go out and build full size collapse rescue systems out of full dimensional lumber on a monthly basis.

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An easy way to still be able to drill, and keep this stuff in your guys heads is to build mini version of these shoring systems. You can use just regular lumber that you have laying around or you can buy actual to scale model wood from hobby shops.

This will give you the opportunity to work out load calculations, angles, nail patterns, etc.

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Remember that this does NOT in anyway replace your standard collapse training, this is simply a quick 1 hour refresher drill to keep this stuff fresh in everyone’s mind.

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Just a couple small ideas that can help keep your crew on their toes!

Till next time, training is everything!

Andrew Brassard

Milton Fire Department

Pumper 31

 

 

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

Tactical Safety for Firefighters- It’s About Nozzle Reach, Not Stream Reach

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Tactical Safety for Firefighters
By Ray McCormack
It’s About Nozzle Reach, Not Stream Reach

While stream reach gets all the attention, and most of it well deserved, it can fool you into stretching short. Stream reach does not equal extinguishment. Nozzle reach equals extinguishment.

While the ability to hit distant fire by incorporating the reach of the stream is a common fire attack method, we need more. Those that use transitional attack often fall short of final extinguishment and extending fire because they use stream reach instead of nozzle reach as their stretch criteria.

Because not every fire exists in a three sided alley where stream reach is the only factor we might need, nozzle reach and mobility for placement at the seat of the fire is what is needed at the majority of structural fires. The reach of the stream used to attack the fire will typically run from far away to up close. However if you concentrate on stream reach only, you will be good at inline extinguishment only.

We need to realize that the nozzle needs to be able to access all areas that the hoseline was stretched to cover. Hoseline stretches must cover the fire area with the nozzle; not stream reach. We must not only have the capability to hit a fire in a room, we must have enough line to enter and move to any spot in that room with the nozzle. This is why hoseline estimation and line support are so important at a fire. To almost have enough line to reach the fire doesn’t work. We must be able to get close to the fire area and inside the fire area to complete extinguishment and battle extension.

Including stream reach into your extinguishment plan is fine for exterior fires and fires you don’t plan on getting up close and personal with at the moment; however, when you stretch a line inside to extinguish the fire at its base and cover extension, you need that nozzle right there so that you are maximizing your protection and extinguishment capability. Knowing your streams scrub area is important, but it is not enough to finish the job. Nozzle reach within the fire area is king. The line needs to be long enough so that it can rapidly move to where it is needed, and many times that includes more than one hot spot.

When you estimate your hose stretch, do it for what you will need inside the building. Do not estimate your hose stretch on outside access and stream reach. Hoseline support becomes important especially when a transitional approach is used because that charged line will now have to be repositioned to the interior; however, line support will not do you much good when the stretch is short because the estimate was incorrect. It is always improves your tactical safety when you anticipate the need for more hose so that the nozzle can go wherever you need it to go inside the building.

Keep Fire in Your Life

Photo Barry McRoy

Stretching Responsibly- Jim Allen ECFR Engine 3

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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.
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   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