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!!