Sunday, October 2, 2011

Rapid Intervention Team Basics

While it is bad to say that there needs to be a focus on firefighter self rescue and RIT operations, it is a reality that comes out of new construction, inadequate training, and unchanging commander abilities/training. We are going to need to develop better and best programs for training each other to help get people out long term.

The first ugly development that needs a flush down the toilet is the idea that RIT teams or whatever you want to call them should spend time on scene sitting in the front yard with the commander and all their tools sitting by his greatnesses side. RIT must have a leader with experience and great commitment to training that will get the job done actively. That means he or she is conducting their own size-up, listening to communications and confirming important communications, directing personnel to set up,open up with the necessary equipment to possibly rescue a trapped,disoriented firefighter. This all has to be happening as the scene develops and should have some standard actions like if your at a working fire in a two story house then by all common sense means get some ladders to the alpha and charlie sides and make sure they are set up below the window sill at an escape enhancing angle.

Secondly the RIT may need to be interior to be close enough to the operational area that might be a hazard to firefighters so that when ugly happens they can save that oh so precious time that we need when we get into trouble. You could even say here that the second line in is a conditional RIT team acting to make conditions better for the firefighters inside beating back the enemy. I know this goes against many entrenched ideas made by Chiefs who may have never even fought todays enemy but start looking at things like it is really happening and a firefighter is really trapped under a ceiling and see where that leads you.

Last thing is communications about and related to your location are critical for commanders and RIT so dont forget them. Sure we all want less supervision but this has nothing to do with that and is all about your rear end making it home each and everytime you go to do the job, Stay Safe Boys!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Back to Training

The priorities of a fire department being so muddied these days makes me think whats always been a priority for me and what I remind people of the most. Training firefighters just as much as we put up hazmat tents and install carseats, etc might be a great way back to being great at what matters. You know there is this tone that goes off while the CSEPP tents sway quietly in the breezes of a long hot day and the dispatcher says, structure fire with people trapped. What are we going to do now boys, the hose aint been off the truck in months and the powerpoints are faded from over use.

Training is the cornerstone of being your best out in public for those of us who still live in reality. There is no way around it or underneath it, you will be lacking in the life or death effectiveness if you ignore it. Training means even if you did know it yesterday, do it again or show someone else how to do it and it should be something real hands on or best information plus hands on!

And...if you've got to go outside yours to find something wonderful than look no further than North Carolina Breathing Equipment School at Gaston College, boys it rocks! North Carolina

Friday, July 29, 2011

Rise up Leaders!

Maybe you don't see this happening everyday, but I do. Fire Chiefs unwilling to call for the necessary personnel at a scene because of every poor and irresponsible excuse in the book. It contributes to firefighter deaths, takes longer to get the job done, and doesn't utilize the common sense training they have had as Chiefs...maybe. There are national standards you Chiefs are always holding firefighters to while you ignore all the ways command can work to keep firefighters safe. Take all that pride and ignorant ego crap and throw it away right now while you still haven't hurt or killed anyone. You want your generation to be respected then show us how your going to train yourself to do what will be best for your firefighters not yourself....come on... you can rise up and lead!


Friday, June 24, 2011

Ventilation Basics

Here's a good example of how to not use ventilation for any of the things we call priorities on the fireground. If we want anyone including us to survive we have to keep a charged, working hoseline in areas where there is fire if we are going to vent. Bringing a dry line that might get charged and then going to work ventilating the whole house would be a no go, it goes under that thing where if we cannot get a line on the fire why are we venting?

Now if we want to open this smoke charged structure we better have the necessary resources on scene to get right to work because as you can see it gets rockin when we open up here!  Even though Mr.Obvious shows his head about the basement fire, we still send a crew right in above the fire, the ventilation indicators give warning that this might not end well. Type of construction comes to mind too as the two windows upstairs that could be opened up are not, instead we commit a crew to a time consuming vertical vent?

So control the fire by controlling the vent, horizontal vents will do alot if weather and other factors like size are adequate. The size up of where venting is necessary is critical and needs to be reported back to the fire attack crew. Bring the right tools to the vent job so you can get it done and either get off the roof or move on to the next job!

Now I'm sure they are doing their best but lets not lose sight of the ventilation basics, good crew assignments and safety.

Accountability: Where are Your People when they are not on "The Board"

Knowing where your people are is very important if you really want to improve firefighter safety. I dont mean that you know they are present on shift or someone can look at a board and see there tag hanging there, I'm talking about knowing as best you can with your best effort where they really are during the whole incident. This is going to be the most important thing I hope to see fire departments improve upon while we face horrible shortages of staffing and money.
I hear all kinds of fire service leaders talk a fantasy talk about where their people are but it is time to realize that communication throughout an incident is going to get us better accountability. This starts in training officers to report information that right now, in most organizations, officers tend toward the thinking that they know this information and do not really need to radio it to command because nothing is going to change in the next minute or two right? No, step one should be you radio a change in location, change in fire behavior, change in activity, and report as specifically as you can. Are you telling me you already do this, time to be honest you don't!

Step two, that commander needs to set up with an initial accountability board that tracks the beginning locations of crews at a fire or other ILDH atmosphere, because the commander should and can do this along with size up etc. If staffing allows then commit an accountability officer but until that dream world arrives do it cause it still matters! Maybe that second commander that thinks he needs to do command but doesn't could do this vital activity!

I'm saying you can have seventeen points of beauty you found on some website but putting good use of radio communications and an accountability system together is where the rubber hits the road, the one that is ugly and will expose bullcrap like "we have all the tags of everyone on the trucks". If you think that works ask yourself ,on your next worker, at any point in the run, if any one calls a mayday right now do I know a good location that they might be in besides, On the truck or in division 1 of the local super eight? HUH!
Step up leaders, you do not control or impress anyone unless you've really got your crap in order!!! Read through some NIOSH death reports and think about reality a few more times today!

Ventilation Practices

Common ventilation practices have tried to advance beyond common sense and this is never a good thing, kinda like NFPA adding all the foolish "safety" standards to fire service apparatus.
In the video you see two components of a vertical vent go well and fire attack go poorly which demonstrates my first thought here, why are we not communicating enough information so that ventilation does get done in direct relation to how the fire fight is getting done?

Why do we book ventilation to death and teach young minds to always get the PPV set up quick so we can get the smoke out when there are many other firefighting issues to consider like construction and fuel load for starters?

Underwriters Labs has put together some great information on ventilation that is based on facts instead of "backdraftology". Check it out!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fireground Accountability Starts with YOU!

I wake up each shift day knowing that whatever I do right for my guys today will only be enhanced a hundred fold if I can get them to communicate great accountability in everything they do. This way all the everyday stuff will get done and if we go into fire hell and someone gets lost, disoriented,out of air,hurt bad, we might get him or her back home safe to those that love them.

Because great accountability begins when everyone communicates to the IC where they are, and not just in general, like the whole first floor of a building. Communications like," Chief, we are pulling a line inside Division 1 and making our way to a fire on the Charlie side." These radio or face to face communications let commanders really know where their guys are if things go to crap, and if you haven't been there, it goes real fast! Officers should be keenly aware that no matter what trust exists between them and their incident commander they must report their location regularly and when an assignment is complete say so. I know your thinking yeah, DUH! but if your honest the fire service sucks at real time accountability. Instead, we want to "do it" by setting out boards ,doing regular PARS, putting tags/velcro on a rig.

These things are all a part of the system that should be employed but lets start at the beginning of a fire where most firefighters die and accountability is usually way behind or sitting on a truck somewhere.
This talking clearly to each other about where we are and what we are doing, is about really increasing safety for us all on the fireground. This falls greatly on the company officers shoulders and then each and every firefighters situational awareness about their individual location, should they end up needing help.

Communications are getting compromised everyday, lets all make great effort to provide updates on our locations so that no matter what the other parts of your system are, you increase your chances of going home! Those digital radios need exercise anyway!