Crisis intervention teams: Helping our own

Posted on Mon, 16 May 2011 17:01:15 UTC

In the public safety field, one of the least addressed topics is the mental wellness of our responders. When tragedy and violence hit, we're the first to be there. Having to care for people when they are at their worst, and having to deal with the impact of the call, can take its toll.

This tends to impact the first responders in many different ways. These individuals might be the first people to see the tragedy but they are the last to admit that it has had any emotional or mental effect to them. So, when an outside group comes in to intervene or defuse the situation, there is resistance from the first responders

First responders tend to rely on their comrades in the field. When outside groups or people try to intervene, the responders tend to be reluctant to their offers of help. "You have no idea what we do" is usually the cause for reluctance.

This is why we created a peer-driven support group that we call the Horry County Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). The team is made up of 11 peer support members, four councilors, one training instructor and one chaplain.

The CIT is continuing to grow and manage all of its internal staff as well as other departments in the local area. They are also recruiting police and 911 dispatchers to round off the group. This will make the CIT very versatile.

Horry County Fire Rescue covers more than 1,134 square miles and responds to more than 42,000 calls per year. The department is made up of 275 full-time uniformed staff and 200 volunteers.

The CIT for Horry County is no stranger to unique and very stressful calls. Some of the calls that the CIT has had to intervene with have been:

  • Horry County Fire Rescue roll-over engine call that had three firefighters and a lieutenant trapped
  • Horry County Fire Rescue volunteer went into cardiac arrest during a medical call and had to be intervened by the same members who responded with him
  • Horry County responded to a fellow firefighter's home, where he had already committed suicide. The crew prior to his shift from his own station responded
  • Multiple child abuse calls; some with death as a result
  • Multiple drowning calls involving children at local motel pools
  • Motor vehicle accident deaths involving children and infants
  • Multi- casualty incidents involving a large number of deaths

These are just some of the calls that have made an impact to Horry County Fire Rescue staff over the past couple of years. Those who responded to these have had the opportunity to get help from the CIT with positive results.

The CIT has also put together a White Paper to describe some of the statistics from the past three years. This paper will give other departments information in the field of crisis management so that they too can make their wellness program complete. Check it out here

Understanding the new fire grant rules

Posted on Thu, 23 Oct 2014 18:02:39 UTC

Over the past year the Office of Management and Budget has been working with all federal agencies that administer grants, loans, contracts and other types of financial assistance with the implementation of Super Circular 2, or 2 CFR. It will streamline eight federal regulations into a single regulation, and all federal agencies must adhere to it by Dec. 26.

To most fire and EMS agencies, the conflicting guidance given by current regulations has not really impacted your operations. However, to departments that receive funding from multiple federal agencies, this situation has been a record keeping and procurement nightmare.

The new 2 CFR will:

  • Provide for consistent and transparent treatment of costs.
  • Strengthen oversight.
  • Target audit requirements on risk of waste, fraud and abuse.
  • Eliminate conflicting guidance.
  • Save the federal government approximately $250 million annually.

2 CFR will apply to new awards and additional funding (funding increments) made after Dec. 26. Since we anticipate that AFG will open sometime in early November, the regulations established under 2 CFR will apply to awards made under the 2014 AFG program.

3 key areas
In particular there are three areas of concern for departments receiving awards under AFG 2014.

First, all departments will be required to have a written procurement policy. At first, you will simply be required to acknowledge that you have a written policy by signing a form if you are awarded a grant.

If you are audited, you will be required to produce the form. In the future, there may be a question added to the AFG application asking if you have a written procurement policy, and you may be required to produce a copy of the policy when you are awarded your grant or at the time of close out.

The second major change has to do with the way your department contacts vendors for information for AFG requests. If you use a vendor or manufacturer to draw up specifications or similar documents for an item, your department cannot buy the item from that vendor if you are awarded a grant.

And third, it will be the responsibility of the grantee (your department) to ensure that the vendors, manufacturers, and even the grant writers that you contract with, are not debarred from doing business with the federal government.

Compliance tips
I know all of this can seem a little overwhelming, but don't panic because it isn't as complicated as it sounds. Here are some suggestions. If your department does not have a written procurement policy, you have several options.

  • Write your own policy. However, keep in mind that your policy cannot be any less stringent than the federal policy.
  • Adopt your local government's policy. For example your municipality, county or state. Again these policies must be in line with the federal policy.
  • Adopt the federal procurement policy outlined in 2 CFR as the procurement policy for your department.

If you are trying to get price estimates for your AFG application, again there are several ways to handle this without violating the new regulations.

You can call a vendor or manufacturer and say, "Please give me a price for a specific number of new SCBA that meet NFPA 2013 with a specific size bottle and a spare. Do you expect any price increases in the next six months?"

This is completely legal, and if you are awarded grant funds you can buy from that vendor. What you cannot do is get specs from that vendor for new SCBA and then use those specs to get bids from other vendors.

Vehicle specs
With a vehicle, for example, you can ask a vendor or manufacturer for pricing of a new NFPA 1901 compliant vehicle with a (custom or commercial) chassis, two- or four-door cab, with a specific size pump and tank with CAFS, a generator and light tower. If you are awarded AFG funds for a vehicle, this vendor can participate in the bidding.

Again, you cannot obtain the specifications for this vehicle from the vendor or manufacturer, or have the sale representative assist with the creation of the specifications. If you publish specifications that were prepared, or had material involvement from the sales representative or manufacturer, they are not eligible to participate in the bid.

You can get technical specifications, prices and other product information from the Internet or a catalogue. You also can ask a local department that recently purchased a similar item to provide you with their specifications and final price.

The third requirement I mentioned earlier dealing with debarment maybe the easiest for department compliance. One of the benefits of registration in SAM is that it provides access to a list of all current individuals and companies debarred from doing business with the federal government.

Enter your SAM account and access the information from the list of excluded parties or conduct a record search by the vendor's name. If you violate any of the procurement regulations you may be forced to repay your grant to FEMA, face prosecution or both.

Here is a partial look at the new regulations. You can view the complete document here.

§200.318 General procurement standards
(a) The non-federal entity must use its own documented procurement procedures, which reflect applicable state and local laws and regulations, provided that the procurements conform to applicable federal law and the standards identified in this section.

§200.319 Competition
(a) All procurement transactions must be conducted in a manner providing full and open competition consistent with the standards of this section. In order to ensure objective contractor performance and eliminate unfair competitive advantage, contractors that develop or draft specifications, requirements, statements of work, and invitations for bids or requests for proposals must be excluded from competing for such procurements. Some of the situations considered to be restrictive of competition include but are not limited to:

  1. Placing unreasonable requirements on firms in order for them to qualify to do business;
  2. Requiring unnecessary experience and excessive bonding;
  3. Noncompetitive pricing practices between firms or between affiliated companies;
  4. Noncompetitive contracts to consultants that are on retainer contracts;
  5. Organizational conflicts of interest;
  6. Specifying only a “brand name” product instead of allowing “an equal” product to be offered and describing the performance or other relevant requirements of the procurement; and
  7. Any arbitrary action in the procurement process.

(b) The non-federal entity must conduct procurements in a manner that prohibits the use of statutorily or administratively imposed state or local geographical preferences in the evaluation of bids or proposals, except in those cases where applicable federal statutes expressly mandate or encourage geographic preference. Nothing in this section preempts state licensing laws. When contracting for architectural and engineering (A/E) services, geographic location may be a selection criterion provided its application leaves an appropriate number of qualified firms, given the nature and size of the project, to compete for the contract.

(c) The non-federal entity must have written procedures for procurement transactions. These procedures must ensure that all solicitations:

  1. Incorporate a clear and accurate description of the technical requirements for the material, product, or service to be procured. Such description must not, in competitive procurements, contain features, which unduly restrict competition. The description may include a statement of the qualitative nature of the material, product or service to be procured and, when necessary, must set forth those minimum essential characteristics and standards to which it must conform if it is to satisfy its intended use. Detailed product specifications should be avoided if at all possible. When it is impractical or uneconomical to make a clear and accurate description of the technical requirements, a "brand name or equivalent" description may be used as a means to define the performance or other salient requirements of procurement. The specific features of the named brand which must be met by offers must be clearly stated; and
  2. Identify all requirements, which the offerors must fulfill and all other factors to be used in evaluating bids or proposals.

(d) The non-federal entity must ensure that all prequalified lists of persons, firms, or products, which are used in acquiring goods and services are current and include enough qualified sources to ensure maximum open and free competition. Also, the non-federal entity must not preclude potential bidders from qualifying during the solicitation period.

If you have are interested in learning more about 2 CFR links to informational webcasts are available at www.cfo.gov/cofar.

Public health sectors need teamwork to address Ebola concerns

Posted on Tue, 21 Oct 2014 19:21:13 UTC

By Anthony S. Mangeri
American Military University

On October 8, Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person ever diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas where he was being treated. This first case of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) being diagnosed in the U.S. reinforces the need for a comprehensive approach to community preparedness that includes public health, healthcare, and emergency management.

This case illustrates the need to reinforce and strengthen our approach. The hospital initially failed to identify Duncan as a potential Ebola victim, delaying the notice to public health authorities.

Upon confirmation of Ebola, the public health system’s emergency preparedness and response protocols went into effect. Public health agencies implemented long-exercised response strategies to mitigate the threat to the community by tracking down and quarantining (as necessary) the more than 100 people who may have come into contact with Duncan.

Full story: Visit the In Public Safety blog

How we're changing the status quo

Posted on Mon, 20 Dec 2010 22:39:32 UTC

American voters made a decision in the midterm elections in November this year. The decisions were based on a decision to change the status quo. The U.S. Fire Service apparently made a similar decision earlier in the year, too. The number of line-of-duty deaths recorded in 2010 is near the lowest in the past decade. The number of Safety Officers certified by the National Board of Firefighter Professional Qualifications (Pro-Board) through the Fire Department Safety Officers Association is at a record annual total.

The causes for the reduction in LODDs are not readily measurable. Although the number of deaths is down, the statistics do reflect a status quo or even regression in some ways. Statistics through November show that 68 percent of LODDs occurred away from the incident scene, or responding to the incident scene. Heart attack was the cause of 58 percent (46) of the deaths, vehicle collision 14 percent (11). Twenty-one firefighters who died were over the age of 61. The oldest was 86. Two firefighters were under the age of 21.

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation's Everyone Goes Home Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives call for the certifications of firefighters. Perhaps the fire service is implementing and adopting this Initiative. The training required for certification may be a factor in the reduction of fireground deaths. However, 8 percent (6) of the LODDs involved firefighters losing their lives due to building collapse, being overtaken by advancing fire conditions or becoming disoriented.

The FDSOA, NIOSH, the IAFF and the IAFC all worked to reduce the number of LODDs in 2010. The FDSOA through safety officer training certification, NIOSH by investigating LODDs and making remedial recommendations and the IAFC's Rules of Engagement and the IAFF's Fire Ground Survival Program both show a commitment to reducing firefighter fatalities.

Technological improvements may be another LODD reduction factor. Several firefighters report "new" use of seat belts because of the strong reminders that come in the form of warning lights and buzzers in newly delivered apparatus.

Increased awareness of air management has changed the way departments treat low air warning alarms. Changes in roadway operations is apparent in most photos and videos, in the form of roadway safety vests on most (if not all) responders.

All of these improvements in safety operations and awareness may be contributing factors in the relatively low number of LODDs in 2010. Perhaps the "no fear" culture of the fire service is changing and we are entering a time when risk management prevails and we employ intellectual aggressiveness.
We still must address our biggest cause of LODDs — heart attack. We must look at age as a factor that increases risk. The Fire Service Joint Labor Management Wellness-Fitness Initiative should receive a renewed effort.

The fire service is committed to reducing LODDS, but the efforts must seriously review the statistics and make the necessary changes.

Top 3 products you can't get in the US — yet

Posted on Mon, 22 Oct 2012 23:40:56 UTC

Three interesting products were demonstrated at the European Resuscitation Council 2012 Congress in Vienna, Austria, last week. They are all so brand-new that they're not even available in the U.S. yet.

Physio-Control based out of Redmond, Wash., unveiled its newest product, TrueCPR, a standalone CPR feedback device designed to provide rescuers with real-time feedback on chest compression depth, rate and quality. TrueCPR utilizes Triaxial Field Induction (TFI), a magnetic technology that overcomes erroneous overreporting of compression depth from devices currently on the market when used on a mattress or stretcher. Physio-Control expects to launch TrueCPR in Europe shortly and in the U.S. in 2013.

RhinoChill, a unique therapeutic hypothermia induction device, was on display by Benechill International, from Wallisellen, Switzerland. Designed for initial induction of therapeutic hypothermia in the pre-hospital environment, RhinoChill uses a nasal cannula like an intranasal cooling catheter to cool post-cardiac arrest victims rapidly. An inert coolant is delivered through the catheter while flowing oxygen or compressed air to facilitate evaporative cooling of the brain, effectively lowering core body temperature. BeneChill International currently markets RhinoChill in Europe and expects approval in the U.S. in the future.

The Corpuls CPR, a new automated CPR device, was introduced by Corpuls, Inc. of Kaufering, Germany. Expected to be released in Germany and the rest of Europe in 2013, the battery-operated device includes an integral long backboard and features adjustable depth and rate parameters. The manufacturer has no current plans to bring the device to the U.S. market.

Fire station DVR crashes, grief counselors called in

Posted on Tue, 1 Apr 2014 08:01:44 UTC

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. — It's being blamed on a lightning strike or possibly a surge from a ComVolt substation. Either way, the destruction of the station DVR has left agony and uncertainty in its wake.

"We just don't know where to turn," said Sleepy Hollow Firefighter Ted Riklyner. "In a split second everything was gone - all seven seasons of "Rescue Me" with outtakes and interviews plus the complete set of "Emergency!" You have any idea the time and commitment our guys put into recording those programs? Many came in on their days off to make sure the DVR was set and running."

The power surge hit about 8 p.m. Friday, setting off small popping sound followed by a flash and a wisp of smoke from the DVR.

"We were just in shock," Riklyner said. "We sat there staring at it; good thing it didn't catch fire as we'd have been goners."

Fire departments rely heavily on their equipment and few pieces are more important than a DVR. Without it, firefighters on low call-volume departments like Sleepy Hollow can go out of their minds with boredom.

Town officials wasted no time bringing in a team of grief counselors to help firefighters cope with this tremendous loss.

Following the counselors' advice, Sleepy Hollow firefighters are spending their time washing trucks and practicing firefighting skills.

"It's a way to keep our mind off the tragedy," Riklyner said. "Eventually, we'll get a new DVR and rebuild the collection; we're just not at that place yet."

Firefighter safety: Prepping for the cold

Posted on Mon, 20 Oct 2014 15:29:00 UTC

"Old Man Winter" is just around the corner with his usual assortment of cold temperatures, fierce winds and frozen precipitation. Now is the time to review with your personnel cold-related injuries, the signs and symptoms, prevention strategies and rehab strategies.

There are two specific cold-related vascular (skin and blood vessels) conditions that may result from cold exposure: chilblains and frostbite.

Chilblains are a common type of cold weather-related injury that can develop in predisposed individuals — those with underlying medical conditions or medications — after exposure to non-freezing temperatures and humid conditions. Chilblains typically develop because of an abnormal vascular response several hours after the area exposed to cold is warmed.

Chilblains are itchy, painful, reddish or purplish areas of swelling that usually affect the fingers, toes, nose or ears. In some individuals, blisters or small open sores may also form, increasing the risk for developing an infection.

Chilblains typically last for several days, and the affected area usually heals after several weeks. Although the affected area may remain sensitive to the cold in the future, there is usually no permanent damage.

Frostbite
Frostbite happens when fluid in the cells freeze; there are various degrees of frostbite. Frost nip refers to a milder form of frostbite in which only the surface cells of the skin freeze, usually on the nose, ears, cheeks, fingers and toes.

The affected skin may at first turn become flushed or reddened. Burning and tingling sensations are also common.

If exposure continues, the skin may turn white and become numb. Frost nip is the most common type of frostbite affecting firefighters and, if identified early, can be reversed without any tissue damage.

Superficial frostbite involves the skin and subcutaneous tissue and the deeper freezing of tissue stops oxygenated blood from reaching the cells putting the tissue at risk. The skin becomes firm, white and waxy although the tissue underneath remains soft. Deep frostbite denotes full thickness skin and deeper tissue damage, including muscle and bone.

Hypothermia
Hypothermia is a condition in which the body's core temperature falls below 95ºF (35ºC). Firefighting activities, particularly when firefighters get wet, presents opportunities for firefighters' bodies to cool to dangerous levels. Another scenario is when firefighters must conduct emergency operations when low ambient air temperatures are combined with strong winds — creating dangerous wind-chill conditions.

In most cases of firefighting-related hypothermia, exhaustion is a predisposing factor. As exhaustion sets in and the intensity of a firefighter's efforts slow down, the firefighter's core temperature starts to fall. Shivering will set in, which is one way the body tries to generate heat.

As their temperatures start to fall, the skin will become cold and pale, their respiration will be depressed and a slow irregular pulse will be present. Continued exposure will cause the firefighter to show signs of irritability, incoordination, weakness, clumsiness and difficulty speaking — this happens at temperatures below 90ºF.

If temperature depression continues, the firefighter will collapse into a coma and failure of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems will ensue.

Treating cold-related injuries
The initial treatment for any cold weather-related injury involves removing the affected person from the precipitating cold environment, if possible, to prevent further heat loss. Move the patient indoors, and remove all wet and constricting clothing, such as socks, boots and gloves, and replace with dry clothing. Uncontrolled shivering is a positive sign of hypothermia that requires aggressive re-warming.

Avoid massaging or rubbing areas with chilblains or frostbite as this could cause additional tissue damage. If a firefighter experiences frost nip, the affected part may be warmed by blowing through cupped hands onto the skin, covering the area, or holding the extremity against the body and using body heat for re-warming.

For superficial or deep frostbite, conduct the initial treatment as described above and then get the affected firefighter to a medical facility for definitive treatment under controlled conditions. Such care will help to reduce or eliminate nerve and tissue damage that can occur when normal perfusion, oxygenated blood flow, is returned to frozen tissue too quickly.

Prevention
Staying warm when the air temperature is frigid and the wind is howling is not difficult when firefighters are actively engaged in tasks on the emergency scene. The exposure comes when the activity slows down or ceases and firefighters are standing around in the elements with sweat-soaked clothing under their turnout gear, especially if the turnout gear is wet as well.

As officers, we need to recognize this exposure risk for what it is and limit the exposure of our people. If personnel are not needed for tasks, say you're waiting for a fire investigator to arrive, get them out of the cold until needed.

If possible, call for relief personnel to come to the scene to complete operations while your cold and wet firefighters return to their stations for clothing change, warming, food, etc.

As an old Boy Scout (Eagle Scout, 1973) I still recall our scout leader's admonitions when we would go camping during cold weather, "Ears, nose, fingers and toes." Protecting these body parts from exposure to wind and cold temperatures and keeping them warm is good preventative medicine for preventing cold-related injuries.

Encourage your personnel to carry a duffle bag containing a minimum of: a change of clothes, several pairs of socks, extra pairs of gloves, a lightweight jacket, knit cap, and energy bars. This will ensure that your people have dry clothing to change into on scene to prevent cold-related injuries, particularly hypothermia.

Consider it their "self-rehab" kit.

Rehab: best practices
Firefighter rehab is an intervention designed to mitigate against the physical, physiological, and emotional stress of fire fighting in order to sustain a member's energy, improve performance, and decrease the likelihood of on-scene injury or death (NFPA 1584: Recommended Practices on the Rehabilitation of Members Operating at an Incident Scene Operations and Training Exercises).

Cold firefighters (just cold, not those suffering from a cold-related injury) cannot be properly rehabbed outdoors. If they are expected to return to active tasks in the cold, they must have the ability to:

  • Get out of the cold and into a warm area that can add external heat to the body (I've seen cold weather rehab set up in a neighbor's garage across the street from the fire).
  • Change the wet clothing beneath their turnout gear.
  • Consume useful calories, not fats or sugars. The cold body needs fuel and the best fuels for a cold firefighter are proteins and carbohydrates.

Can firefighters sue building owners?

Posted on Thu, 16 Oct 2014 19:31:43 UTC

Resurfacing with the news of two FDNY firefighter suing — one going after a homeowner for injuries to his shoulder incurred while responding to a residential fire — is the emotional debate as to whether or not the Firefighter's Rule should apply to bar lawsuits.

Here's the issue. An on-duty firefighter assumes the risk of working in conditions where the firefighter deliberately encounters certain types of hazards inherent to firefighting.

So, when the firefighter is injured in the course of an on-duty emergency response, should the firefighter be limited to worker's compensation or should the firefighter have the ability to recover against the property owner? And if so, under what circumstances?

Evolving over 120 years, under what was initially termed "The Fireman's Rule," a property owner was not liable to a firefighter for injuries sustained while fighting a fire [Gibson v. Leonard, 32 N.E. 182 (Ill.1892)].

Assumed risk
The Firefighter's Rule originated from the theory that firefighters assume the risk inherent in their job for which they are compensated with salary, disability/worker's compensation and pension benefits. This puts the burden of their financial loss on the public rather that an individual property owner.

Therefore, under this theory, lawsuits are not the correct method for compensating firefighters for injuries incurred as a result of the negligence that created the very need for their employment [Espinoza v. Schulenburg, 129 P.3d 937 (Ariz. 2006)].

Another theory supporting the Firefighter's Rule is that firefighters — unlike invited guests or business customers — are required by the nature of their job to enter premises at unforeseeable times and to enter into unusual parts of the premises, which may not otherwise be open to or accessible by the public.

Under this theory, firefighters are not considered in the same category as invited guests to the premises [Pearson v. Canada Contracting Co., Inc., 349 S.E.2d 106 (Va. 1986)].

Therefore, the Firefighter's Rule generally works to prevent a firefighter who is injured in the course of employment as a firefighter from recovering against the person whose negligence or recklessness caused the fire or other hazard resulting in the emergency response.

New York law
The Firefighter's Rule has evolved differently in different jurisdictions. Notably, in New York the legislature has effectively eliminated the Firefighter's Rule as it pertains to third-parties and allows both police officers and firefighters to bring a lawsuit against a third party when they are injured in the lawful discharge of their official duties where the injury is caused by that third party whose neglect, willful omission, or intentional, willful or culpable conduct resulted in that injury, disease or death [N.Y. General Obligation Law § 11-106 (McKinney 2001)].

Although the New York legislature opened the door to allow lawsuits previously barred by the rule, a plaintiff firefighter still has to go through the lawsuit process. This includes the potential for dismissal if the plaintiff can't come forward with evidence on all the elements of the claim — which includes establishing the culpable nature of the conduct and that the conduct was the cause of the injury.

In other jurisdictions, the Firefighter's Rule has been interpreted and applied narrowly, modified to create exceptions for the ability to sue landowners who fail to keep their premises in reasonably safe condition, or modified to create exceptions for failure to warn of an existing hazard.

How do you see this debate? Should a firefighter have the ability to bring a lawsuit against the person who caused the hazard?

Could elimination of the Firefighter's Rule adversely impact the public's willingness to call 911? Should this rule apply to volunteer or paid on call firefighters?

What other issues do you see? Continue the discussion in the comments section.

Rosenbauer steps into the chassis market

Posted on Thu, 15 Mar 2012 16:50:18 UTC

Not wanting to wait till FDIC, Rosenbauer debuted its completely new cab and chassis at a viewing for sales people, local firefighters and some members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago.

After a two-year research and development phase, the company decided to manufacture its own cab and chassis at a new recently rented 34,000 square-foot factory.

Rosenbauer wanted to be in total control of the manufacturing process not just building the body, but the whole vehicle itself.

The present design will be available in six cab configurations and five options for cab interiors with seating up to 10 firefighters. The cab is constructed of 3/16-inch aluminum and is available with a wide grill and optional round or rectangular headlamps.

The most noticeable difference on the cab is its one-piece windshield, which Rosenbauer said gives a greater unobstructed view. The company also increased space for foot and hip room for the driver and officer. The floor in the cab is completely flat on all options or cab configurations.

The vehicle comes with Weldon’s V-Mux electrical system, Hendrickson front suspension, a high-performance air conditioning unit providing 67,000 BTUs of cooling power, as well as wider doors and steps for easier entry and egress, and a wraparound dash for driver ease of operation.

Along with the Cummins EPA 2010-compliant engine package, which is available up to 600 horsepower, the vehicles will come with either 3000 or 4000 EVS Allison transmissions and will be available in single- and tandem-axle models with up to 60,000 pounds of axle weight.

I am sure we will see some additions and modifications made to the vehicle in the coming months before the first vehicles leave the factory.

But according to Rosenbauer, over 25 vehicles have already been sold. One of the first is going to the Goldsboro Volunteer Fire Company in Caroline County, Md.

A family-owned business founded in 1866, Rosenbauer has built global partnerships with 11 manufacturing locations worldwide building innovative, safe firetrucks. For more information, click here.

Tools and techniques for forcing a door

Posted on Mon, 20 May 2013 18:16:48 UTC

There's nothing like successfully forcing a door to get the blood going. And there's one tool that's often used to take the door — the Halligan Bar.

The Halligan is a firefighter tool that dates back to the mid 1900s. The tool has its origin in the FDNY; it was designed by former First Deputy Chief Hugh Halligan and local blacksmith Peter Clarke made the first actual working model.

Halligan was a city firefighter for years and worked first hand with the Halligan's predecessors, which were called the Claw Tool and the Kelly Tool. The Claw tool was the original and was problematic in its design. It was dangerous to use because it was very heavy and had an off-centered striking surface.

Later came the Kelly tool, which was designed by a FDNY Ladder Capt. John Kelly. The tool resolved some of the previous issues of the Claw, but still was deemed too heavy and not substantial enough in its welded assembly.

FlashoverTV is powered by FireRescue1.com

After multiple trials, Chief Halligan developed a tool that was lighter, efficient, perform well, and would not fail when in use. There are many versions and alterations to the bar since, but the main concept is still present.

Andrew Brassard of Brotherhood Instructors states that the bar's original design was "made of cross-drop forged from one piece of No. 4140 (high carbon content) steel, and weighed 8 ½ pounds. Comprised of an adz, pick, and fork, the standard-issue bar is approximately 30 inches long, with a 15/16-inch shaft shaped into a hexagon for grip. The fork is a minimum of 6-inches long that taper into two well-beveled tines.

Spacing between the tines allows for a gas valve to be shut off. The adz has a gentle curve for additional leverage, with a beveled end. In addition to being used to break something, the pick and adz — only when properly used — provide protection to the user's arms, hands and body during forcible entry operations.

Although one would think the tool would take off in FDNY, there were initial thoughts from the department that this would be a conflict of interest. This is why Boston was the first major fire department to purchase the tool. It took FDNY firefighters buying it on their own for some time before the city of New York eventually purchased them for firefighters.

FlashoverTV is powered by FireRescue1.com

You often see the Halligan paired with an ax. These tools are quite complimentary in forcible entry and are often referred to as a "set of irons". Over the years people have designed straps and kits for carrying the two items together as a pair.

As mentioned earlier, there are three components of the Halligan Tool: adz, pick and fork. All parts of the tool can be used in various types of forcible entry. The tool can be used for breaching walls, forcing doors, ventilation, and search and rescue.

When purchasing a Halligan Bar be on the lookout for the following:

  • Once-piece forged tool. Do not settle for welded, pinned or threaded connections
  • Tool should be 30-inches long
  • Adz and forks should be both 6 inches long and slightly beveled
  • Forks should be thin

If you are not familiar or equipped with a Halligan Tool, get familiar online, speak with your officer and train. When training, train under the supervision of a professional or experienced officer. Communicate, and always remember your safety basics

FlashoverTV is powered by FireRescue1.com

Rescue is a Thinking Person's Game

Posted on Wed, 8 Aug 2007 19:38:53 UTC


AP/Minnesota Daily, Stacy Bengs
Firefighters size up the scene after the bridge collapse in Minn. last week.

Years ago, when I took my first search and rescue class, the instructor talked about the six-sided review of a building or incident. "Look up, look down, and make sure you look all around before committing yourself," he told us.

Over the years, I have thought of that simple saying on many emergency incidents and have passed it on to thousands of my students during training. The bottom line: Don't get sucked into something before you give it the old once over.

It's easier said than done sometimes, especially when lives hang in the balance and quick action will affect the outcome of an incident. But what about all of those other occasions when you may have the time to do it right?

What is your approach and thought process when you come across a technical rescue or any type of rescue for that matter? Is it a well executed series of steps or a fly by the seat of your pants operation?

Good team members, the right tools and practical training shouldn't be under valued, but that doesn't replace mentally being on your game.

To do that, you have to do something that most people hate or are too lazy to do Rescue is a thinking game you need to play the "what if" game. "What if a car goes over that edge, what if that building falls down, what if that place blows up, what if I have to cut that guy in half to get past him, what if I have to crawl in that hole to get that victim?"

It's not enough to just know how to use the tools, or be well practiced or to have a cohesive team. Rescue is a thinking game, and the people who can plan ahead, see something coming and be ready for it are worth their weight in gold.

Organized chaos
You're always behind before you get there, that's a given. But how far ahead of the incident are you when you arrive? I used to work for a battalion chief who would say, "You don't bring a crisis to an emergency." Sure it's organized chaos at some scenes, but your level of organization and the ability to achieve the required levels under the most impossible circumstances is the real key.

How many of us can say that we are "masters" of our craft and how many want to be? Chances are, if you're reading this column, you're already a student of the trade, which makes you a cut above the rest. But there is a lifetime of learning to be done and every day is a school day in our profession.

If you think that you know it all, have seen it all or have it done it all, we're all in trouble and chances are you're probably a liability at a significant incident. Confidence should never be replaced by arrogance.

Rescue is a thinking game. The best people who have seen a thing or two tend to mostly be humbled by the experience they don't say much, but when the going gets tough they often get going.

I love watching new firefighters, they have so much energy and so much enthusiasm, and they're great to be around. It's also fun to watch them expend all of that energy to no successful end sometimes. But with age and experience comes wisdom!

The veteran firefighter may not always be as enthusiastic, but that tempered approach, years of real world experience and knowledge of the tricks of the trade often carry them through most calls.

But to be in the class above, you have to love it a little more to be really, really good at it. Superstars train harder, practice longer and are very, very focused.

So what does it take to be a master of disaster? Out of the box thinking, the ability to write down your first 20-30 moves on any type of rescue with a twist and a constant desire for perfection. And don't forget the lifetime of learning, listening and talking about the "what ifs" of our job.

Glass management: It's more than smashing windows

Posted on Mon, 12 Mar 2012 18:34:25 UTC

At every heavy rescue and extrication program, we are taught to remove glass as needed and in as controlled a manner as practical and possible. However, how many times do we go to the session and WHAM and SMASH go the side and rear glass because it’s impressive to watch or fun to do?

But is that what we should be doing? When displacing the vehicle glazing materials, usually referred to as glass management, we want to remove the glass in an orderly, managed process.

Before one window is shattered, it is important to know the types of glass firefighters will encounter and the additional forces that can be present at a motor vehicle accident. The two types of glass to which we have become accustomed, laminated and tempered safety glass, are still the most widely used.

Laminated glass is a sandwich, a series of layers of glass and plastic laminated together. Tempered, or safety, glass will break into small granular fragments when shattered.

However, there are a few new variations in use. Enhanced protective glass is basically a form of laminated glass found in the side and rear windows. Dual-paned glass and polycarbonate glazing are also used.

Some of these materials require a change in our methodology and tools for removing such windows.

And factor in the issues of rear glass hatches in SUVs and minivans. These glass hatches have a nasty habit of flying apart when broken because of the tension placed on them by the multiple hatch struts and the energy absorbed by the vehicle during the crash.

Laminated glass is found in windshields but is increasingly found in the side and rear windows as well. This type of glass must be cut from the vehicle to be removed, which can be facilitated by cutting the peripheral edge with an axe, a glass saw, or even a reciprocating saw.

This operation produces glass dust, which is a respiratory hazard. For this reason, we must add dust masks to the personal protective equipment for glass management.

Tempered glass is usually found in side and rear windows. To break this glass, use an impact tool that imparts a large amount of force into a small concentrated area. Then clean out the window opening by pulling the glass onto the ground with a tool, not with gloved hands.

Vehicles can load the glass with energy from the crash; when it’s broken it can almost explode when that energy is released. We must protect our patient with a protective cover and use hard protection to funnel glass pieces away from the patient.


Photo David Dalrymple

Make sure your eye protection is in place and you are wearing a dust mask. Also, watch out for glass in hatches of vehicles.

It can have up to four gas struts pushing on the glass and creating even more tension. This too might explode when broken; be aware that the struts may also push toward rescuers.

Ideally, the laminated glass that was cut and removed should be folded and slid in under the vehicle out of rescuers way. If at all possible, tempered glass should be removed to the outside of the vehicle, away from the patient and the interior rescuer.

However, some vehicles — especially SUVs and minivans — might have a lot of windows or a rather large window, which produce many glass particles.

Glass particles can be slippery, almost like marbles. It is a good practice to sweep these under the vehicle so that rescuers are not walking on it and stabilization devices are on not on it.

There are two new materials available to help rescuers manage glass. One is Packexe Smash and it is available in North America from ESI equipment. It is a clear film dispensed from a special applicator. The film adds enough strength for tempered glass to be cut.


Photo David Dalrymple

On the flip side, laminated glass dust can be greatly reduced by applying the film first and then cutting through the area where the film is applied. If the glass is wet, it can be wiped dry with a microfiber cloth before the film is applied.

The other material is an extrication wrap made by Protecto. The wrap material is an adhesive rubber compound on one side with a smooth brightly colored film on the other side. The material comes in a roll that firefighters can pre cut or cut-to size on scene.

The up side to this material is it can be used as sharp-edge protection as well. Both of these materials really can make a difference in glass-management tasks. And both materials can handle glass management and sharp-edge protection.

Whether or not you invest in glass-management products, it is critical to invest the time to plan and execute how you approach removing glass at vehicle collisions. A smart approach protects both rescuers and patients.

6 questions every new fire officer must ask

Posted on Tue, 14 Oct 2014 15:19:52 UTC

Whether you are a veteran supervisor, a new supervisor or someone who aspires to be a supervisor, there are several things you must do upon taking a new position or a new rank.

One of the best things you can do within your first few weeks in your new position is to get together with those you are now supervising and ask them these six key questions.

1. What's going right?
Start off on a good note. Find out what they think is going right within their company or area of work and within the organization as a whole. This information can be very valuable and should give you a pulse on what is going right.

Look for similarities as well as differences of opinion with the different individuals you talk to. If they don't clarify or support why something is going right, ask them to expand so that you can find out more about their opinion.

If something is going right, try to capitalize on it and make sure it continues going right. It is also good information to share with your supervisors to keep them informed of what is happening at the station level or areas they may not interact with regularly.

2. What can be improved?
This can be tough for some to answer, especially if they don't know you too well or if your reputation makes someone not want to be honest and up front — fearing an expected reaction. We all have worked with those in positions above us who, for whatever reason, have demonstrated some behavior that has led us to lose trust in or loyalty to them.

Know your audience, be a good listener, keep an open mind, don't disagree, and just let them vent if needed. Think of this part of the questioning as the brainstorming session where ideas and thoughts can just be freely thrown out on the table. Remember, your job is not to solve all those potential issues as much as it is to be supportive, empathetic and someone your personnel can talk to when needed.

As with the previous question, look for common themes in the responses you hear from different individuals. If only one person is complaining or unhappy about something, maybe it's just that one person's issue.

However, if you start hearing a common theme, then it actually may be worth trying to solve the problem — with their assistance, of course. If someone is going to give you problems, they better be ready to share some reasonable and achievable solutions. Anyone can complain or take pot shots; not everyone can actually provide solutions and be willing to be a part of the solution.

3. What do you want or need from me?
The best advice a chief officer ever gave me was that it was my responsibility to served those I was responsible for. This means ensuring they go home at the end of their shift and that I prepare them for future promotions or just being the best they can be.

In all the years I have been sharing expectations, when I asked this question as a battalion chief, the standard answers from captains was something along the lines of "don't disrespect us, take care of us, and don't yell at us."

Why do you think those items are so common? It is probably because of those who have been their supervisors in the past.

4. What are your career aspirations?
It is critical for you to be aware of the career aspirations of those you supervise so you can assist them with their career development. Now, the challenging part is that some personnel may want to hold their cards tight and not share their career aspirations with anyone, let alone their supervisor.

That's ok. But if you sense that is the case, explain to them the benefits of sharing their career aspirations, with the primary benefit being you can now do what you can to assist them.

5. How can I or the department assist with your aspirations?
One of the best battalion chiefs I worked for as a captain was Dan Dunlap. He knew I was preparing for the battalion chief test and took every spare moment to throw things my way in the form of, "Here is the situation, as a battalion chief what would you do?"

Most of the time, I would answer like a captain would. He would then tactfully correct me to now think like a battalion chief, think bigger picture.

I would always think of steps 1 and 2 and he would counter with adding steps 3, 4 and 5. He forced me to think like the position I was aspiring to and it definitely helped during the promotional exam, and more importantly, in the position once I was promoted.

6. What are your career-development needs?
This takes the previous question to the next level. If you are aware of the career-development needs of your personnel, do what you can in your power to ensure those needs are met.

For example, if you know they are deficient in certain areas of training and education, actively look for those classes or experience opportunities that may benefit them. For those individuals who I know have the desire to better themselves, I will do my best to share training and experience opportunities with them.

They don't have to take me up on every opportunity, but it shows that I care and it shows that I have an interest in their career development.

When to pop the questions
The question of when to ask these questions is not easily answered. There is no one right way to proceed. Some will say it's best to set up a meeting with each person you supervise within your first week or two. Some will say to wait a few weeks if not a month or more before.

I lean toward getting together in the first week or two. The longer you wait, the tougher it may be to get together, and the tougher it may be to change bad habits.

Regardless of when you decide to get together, just making the decision to do it and then asking those six questions will pay off in the long run. Send these questions to them in advance so that they have time to review them, take notes and formulate their own set of questions for you. Have them share them with those they supervise so that they can, as a crew, ensure they are all on the same page.

In considering when best to ask the questions, you can provide lunch of their choice. Having the time to break bread around the ever-important kitchen table is very valuable. There can be a small talk during the meal, and once lunch was over have a longer sit down with some great dialogue.

Private or public
Depending on your current situation, it may be appropriate to have a one-on-one session with a person you are now supervising. Or it may be appropriate to have the entire crew in on the conversation so they know what you expect of everyone.

Obviously some of the questions above may be best in a one-on-one setting, especially those that relate to the career aspirations of the supervisor, as well as their feedback on what the department can improve upon. Some of those other questions are actually great for the entire crew, especially what they all expect of you.

Nobody said being a supervisor was going to be easy. But if you take the time to really get to know your personnel and do what you can do to be the best supervisor you can be, the rewards can last a lifetime.

The best tools for firefighter rehab sectors

Posted on Tue, 19 Jul 2011 17:21:35 UTC

By Ken Lavelle, MD, FF/NREMT-P

Anytime we need to do a job, we look for tools to help us do it more efficiently. However, these tools also need to help us do it reliably. If a tool causes us to get wrong information, then it is not a very good tool. This is particularly the case in medicine — and remember, EMS is medicine.

One of the challenges of the EMS provider in rehab is to quickly do intake and assessment as a company or group of firefighters enters the rehab area.

If the firefighters have to wait 10-15 minutes for anyone to see them, they very well may wander away. We need to engage them quickly, not only to make sure there is nothing life threatening occurring with their condition, but also to "get them in the system" and make sure they stay in rehab for the appropriate amount of time.

Usually one person will be getting their name, age and company. This "scribe" can be anyone — it does not need to be an experienced medical provider.

They could be a cadet, a new member to the organization, even a spouse or friend that got sucked into a major event because they were out with an EMS provider that had a responsibility to respond to the incident. Obtaining this information can occur at the same time other activity is going on.

I usually like to get the firefighter to sit down and get their gear off, so the cooling down process can start. Next, we need to get baseline vitals. This is a mildly controversial area.

My former Division Chief, a very experienced EMS and fire physician, prefers to wait 10 minutes and then get a set of vitals. His view is that it does not matter much what the initial vitals are at the start, and that it is much more important what the vitals are at the time that the firefighter may be released.

I think there is some validity to this, however I would prefer to know if there was a problem sooner rather than later. If a firefighter's heart rate is 200 because he is in a dangerous arrhythmia, I don't want to miss this, even for only 10 minutes.

If their blood pressure is extremely low or extremely high, I also need to keep a better eye on them. While in most circumstances they should have either a complaint or physical appearance that should clue us into this abnormality, this is not always the case.

I think both approaches are reasonable — discuss with your medical director which is better for your department.

I have found that obtaining vitals is often the bottleneck in the initial rehab evaluation. There are two vital signs I definitely want immediately — heart rate and blood pressure.

A third vital sign that I think is reasonable to obtain sooner rather than later is a carbon monoxide level. I am not concerned about the temperature because it is my opinion that getting an accurate core body temperature is not feasible in the field.

Doing so requires taking a rectal temperature, something neither I nor the firefighter are much interested in doing. The other, non-invasive methods of getting a temperature are not very reliable, and an elevated temperature is almost always associated with a significantly elevated heart rate.

So how can we get these vitals quickly?

The pulse can be obtained by the good old fashioned method of feeling a radial pulse and counting, but we can also use a number of other tools, such as pulse oximetry, a heart monitor or a carbon monoxide monitor.

have found that either feeling and counting the radial pulse, or using CO oximetry, is the most efficient in obtaining a pulse rate. Using CO oximetry allows us to get both a heart rate and a CO level with one action.

The concern is of course is whether it is truly reliable. I believe it is, but if you are concerned, feel for a pulse at the same time and compare the results. This will likely not add much time to the task.

The blood pressure also needs to be obtained quickly and reliably. Now I am generally a fan of automatic blood pressure cuffs. In the hospital, these work fairly well and allow us to trend the blood pressures — follow them over time.

However, in the field, I have found that they are becoming more and more of a problem. Too often the machine pumps up the cuff and then slowly goes down. And up. And down. And down some more. And then back up. And then down. And then fails to give a value.

EMS providers end up staring at the screen awaiting this important vital sign. So, I think the best way to get a BP in the field is the manual sphygmomanometer and stethoscope.

If a firefighter is found to have a significantly abnormal BP, and they become a patient, then using the automatic machine to confirm and trend is reasonable. But I bet most EMS providers can take a manual BP faster.

Once you have these vitals, and assess the firefighter's appearance and any physical complaints, they can then be sorted into the medical sector or just to the rest and refreshment area.

But we need to have these vital signs to do so, and we need them quickly and to be accurate. Remember we call them vital signs for a reason — they are important.

Stay safe (and hydrated!)

Fire engine pump pressure needs to match fire, nozzle

Posted on Mon, 6 Oct 2014 15:55:49 UTC

One of the most common tools for the fireground is the hose line. Most front-line quints and fire apparatus will have a hose line on them with the exception of the dedicated truck company, rescue company and some water tenders. All in all, you will find a hose line on the fireground being used in some capacity.

One of our main handicaps on the fireground is the amount of pressure being pushed through the hose line to supply enough water pressure for nozzle and water applications. Sometimes there is not enough pressure being supplied and at other times there is way too much pressure being supplied.

Good pump operators will know exactly how much pressure to supply for the required hand line being used by knowing their equipment, knowing the situation and knowing simple hydraulics.

When there is not enough pressure being supplied, it hinders the ability to effectively knock down or extinguish a fire. At the same time, this exposes the crew to the intense heat or dangers that are present from the fire.

When there is way too much pressure being supplied, it will certainly provide for fire knockdown. But depending upon the type of nozzle being used, it may not be adequate based upon the amount of water being discharged.

Pressure situations
Whenever firefighters are using hand lines, they need to be familiar with the amount of pressure that is required to supply those lines and be capable of handling that amount of pressure.

Sometimes a firefighter may have to be alone when applying water without a back-up firefighter to help with the nozzle reaction. When this is the case, firefighters may find themselves becoming handicapped by being overrun by the pressure being supplied by the pump.

Changing a combination nozzle from straight stream to a fog pattern will relieve some of the nozzle reaction.

I have witnessed firefighters during pump practice holding a 100-foot 1¾-inch hand line with an automatic nozzle complain that there was too much pressure being supplied when actually it was the required pressure needed to make that nozzle work adequately and effectively. They were just not familiar with what that pressure felt like.

In the corresponding video, you will see how firefighters can be caught off guard when there is too much pressure being supplied to the hose line. As mentioned previously, a good pump operator will know just how much pressure to send for the needed application.

For a vehicle fire, the pressure needed may be less than that required for an interior attack — so why not dial down the pressure?

When getting the hand line charged and ready for defensive or offensive operations, do not send the water to the nozzle at full pressure — let the hose fill with water first, then gradually dial the pressure up. When this is not done correctly, you will see how it affects the firefighter holding or operating the hand line.

Become familiar with the pressures required for your particular hand lines and practice with that pressure. Get used to it so that you will not get caught off guard.

Firsthand account: 10 lessons from a massive flood

Posted on Tue, 15 Oct 2013 13:52:02 UTC

One of the largest disasters I have ever been involved with started in the middle of a plate of rigatoni when I heard our south units in Erie, Colo., speak of significant volumes of rain.

It was 17:30 on Sept. 11. I was in Longmont, Colo., just to the north of Erie. Mountain View Fire Protection District covers a large area, so I pushed the pasta aside and headed south in case things got interesting.

While driving, I noticed that all the irrigation and run-off ditches in the area were running high, but had not over-topped just yet. That was not surprising as it had been raining for the past two days.

The most recent rain event had caused localized flooding south of our Station 6 near Coal Creek. Blocked storm grates had increased the flooding, damaging many houses in that area.

I wasn't too worried that this would happen again. As I drove through a downpour, calls started coming in for downed power lines along a main artery into the town from the local interstate.

Multiple storm-related calls
We blocked traffic in both directions for about a mile to prevent shock while waiting for the power company to repair about six separate line breaks. We lost power to the area around 18:15 as rain continued.

As crews waited for power company reps, the volume of water running down the road increased to the point where soil from local field was being washed downstream and starting to flood Coal Creek and run into the local high school. Normally our crews would assist, but another call to the middle school's fire alarm systems had thinned out our resources.

At about 18:30, I coordinated with local police, who had set up an emergency operations center, to establish any rescue necessities in the areas that had flooded before. The storm drain that had caused issues a week before was working well at this point.

But water continued to flow into Coal Creek; the rising water had overtopped the road, effectively trapping smaller vehicles and stalling others. No rescues were called and by 20:30 the rain subsided and vehicles were able to cross the Coal Creek Bridge. Power returned around 21:00 and the local EOC stood down.

Mutual aid
I made it back to my station around 22:00 and got ready for bed. Around 02:00 I received a call from our dispatch center asking if we had any water-rescue resources that we could send up the canyons, as there were multiple collapsed structures and swiftwater rescues.

Our department has limited water rescue resources, but I called the number given me to inquire about specific needs prior to sending personnel to an unknown situation. The individual I called said that water rescue capabilities of all levels from all the surrounding fire districts had sent to Lyons or Boulder.

It quickly dawned on me that there were significant water-related disasters occurring along Boulder Creek, Lefthand Creek in Jamestown and most importantly the Saint Vrain River in Lyons. All three converge in our district.

I had to refuse to send our limited capabilities out of the region as there were no other resources left for what could be significant water rescues in the near future.

Preparing for the worst
I contacted our chief of operations who was engaged in incident management at the Boulder EOC and set in motion a plan to staff extra apparatus and ensure we could deliver service to both sides of the district once the flood waters divided it.

I also called back swiftwater-rescue certified individuals to staff another specialized rescue apparatus. Our district had recently completed surface, flood and swiftwater training to include the use of a personal watercraft (Kawasaki Jet Ski) for water rescue scenarios.

I drove the district to assess the water levels at all the bridges that crossed the two creeks and one river. At 05:30, water was up to the bridge girders and rising quickly.

About this time came emergency traffic from the incident teams in Lyons and Jamestown advising all personnel downstream to evacuate due to collapses in multiple dams. Six dams had collapsed, 20 had overtopped and that a weather system parked over the area had dumped 14 inches of rain in four days.

In some areas the sheer volume of rainwater run-off caused walls of water 20-feet high to rush down canyons that had no vegetation due to recent wildland fires. And our district was in its path.

People trapped
Water that normally running around 200 to 300 cubic feet per second had spread a half mile wide and was running 10,000 cubic feet per second. It spread out over the banks of the St. Vrain, flooding farm fields, destroying greenway paths and uprooting trees and utility poles without difficulty.

Our first call, around 08:30, was to rescue a couple trapped on their second floor as floodwaters washed through their first floor. When we arrived, the swiftwater training we recently completed had not prepared us for this level of impact.

Every few minutes, you could hear loud cracks as 12-inch circumference trees struck the bridge and shattered. You could also hear trees breaking as they fell into the creek or other trees.

Our first structure was the one with the highest risk and the greatest danger to the civilians. This home had beautiful stucco covered fence structures that funneled the water into and around their home. Horse trailers had been picked up and wrapped around trees. A pick-up truck sat abandoned 30 yards from the home with water up to its hood.

Dangerous 'rescue'
Our plan called for a three-person team to cross the torrent to reach the couple who were using their phones to video the rescue. The first team member struggled but made it across. The second and third members lost their footing, forced to use the water rescue rope to swing them into the far side of the rushing waters.

Once reached by the team, the couple was ready to leave until they saw how they were going to have to cross the water. At this point they refused and would wait until the water lowered. We advised them that the rain was expected to increase, not decrease, but they refused.

Our team reluctantly left them in their home to continue the remainder of the mission. Three other homes in the area were contacted and all persons we talked to were perfectly fine with staying in their homes.

We advised them that staying was not be the best option as the water would be constant for a few days, may increase significantly and more than their homes could be lost. Later that day, a military six-by-six had to be brought in to rescue them; the six-by-six was almost lost to the volume of moving water.

Chin pinned to the car ceiling
Over the next few days, our team rescued people stranded in homes, cars and trees. Most rescues were simple, putting personal flotation devices on our evacuees and guiding them through the water.

One rescue required using our watercraft to help extricate a young woman from her vehicle. The water had risen to her chin, pinning her head against her roof. We broke a window, pulled her out, put a PFD on her and moved her on the personal watercraft.

Our team was also tasked with accessing a gas line in a flooded field breached from repeated assaults from rushing debris. We found and secured the valve.

As we ran from call to call for water rescues, our district was evacuating areas in the flood's path. Getting from point A to point B was no longer a straight-line proposition. Road closures became required knowledge to reduce already extended response times.

Water moving at 10,000 cfs punishes structures, especially bridges. While many bridges withstood the pounding, often the water diverted around both ends of the structure and washed out the road base, collapsing the roads leading to the bridge.

Strained resources
In most cases, evacuation just required going door to door. However, those with limited mobility needed assistance being evacuated. Teams of two helped move them to a patient collection point for evacuation on busses.

To make matters worse, on day two we were advised that the water supply systems had failed. There was no water pressure and the water was considered contaminated. The pipes supplying the water district had been washed away; in some areas missing pipe sections were 300-feet long.

Associated with the no-water issue, some areas were crippled with a no-flush directive as sewage systems failed. The district had portable toilets and pallets of drinking water delivered to all stations. Our command team worked with the FEMA resources through local EOCs to hand out water to residents in our area.

During our evacuation of the mobile home park we noticed that a large amount of water reaching this area was from a failed irrigation ditch. This was the second time in two months a wall in the ditch had failed.

An excavation company hired to dig a new flow path dug through three metal pipelines. As all the gas wells in the area had been shut down for prevention, no leak occurred. All energy companies were contacted to ensure that they would assess their local wells prior to turning them back on.

Once the ditch was diverted, we used four, 12,000 gpm pumps to remove the water from the mobile home park. After approximately 18 hours, the task was completed.

As the water recedes, significant challenges lay ahead. At this time, there are only eight known fatalities and 60 unaccounted for across the entire state. Estimates put losses at more than $2 billion dollars with the number of damaged homes at 17,500. More than 11,700 individuals were evacuated.

10 lessons learned
With the event largely behind us, it is time to reflect on what went right and what went wrong. Here are the top 10 things we learned.

1. One cannot have enough water rescue equipment at a time like this. We rapidly used PFDs for the water rescues. In some cases, we forgot to retrieve them. By the time the local EOCs were able to order and replace them, we were about out.

2. Personal watercrafts work well in deeper water, but in water only a foot deep they can scoop mud into the impeller. An inflatable boat would work better in a shallow draft and has pinpoint access using ropes connected to the raft for stability and steering.

3. Swiftwater rescue training does a great job preparing an individual for water running around 500 cubic feet per second. This event was projected to be about 10,000 cubic feet per second, forcing rescue personnel to be slower and more careful.

4. During rescues our personnel were pelted with debris ranging from trees, railroad ties and barrels to colonies of prairie dogs. We also had to anticipate health impacts from failed sewer treatment plants, septic systems and collapsed or displaced oil storage battery tanks.

5. That people want to see you in times like this, doesn't mean that they want to leave with you. Some will assume they are fine under the circumstances until water or food run out, or until the level of water continues to rise as you said it would.

6. Most fire districts around us sent their water rescue capabilities into the mountains to assist areas with significant flooding. When that water ran into the foothill areas, there were very few water rescue capabilities left.

7. Emergency operations centers had to deal with looting, road closures, oil tank failures, water line breaks, electrical systems collapsing and all that water. While they faced their tasks as gracefully as possible, they were unable to meet the request for logistical needs in the field in a timely manner. Look for alternative means to gain resources or pre-negotiate contracts for equipment and services. We were lucky to be able to provide for the basic human needs of our stations early in this event.

8. Swiftwater rescues took much more time as the unit assigned to this task had to keep up on road closures to ensure initial access routes could be completed and end up at the right area in the shortest time possible.

9. While we were not faced with the violence or mass casualties, we all worked long hours under stressful conditions. After the week-long operation, crews became short-tempered, forgetful and lethargic. It is important to crews that this type of physiological response was normal. Crews should be monitored for the next few months for extended stress-related issues.

10. Many of the homes lost belonged to firefighters. These brothers and sisters should expect our support and assistance helping to get things back to as normal as they can be.

It will take a few more weeks to be able to provide running water and sewer to homes in some areas. It will take significant effort to replace the homes that were lost. We may not have road constructed to get people back to their homes before the winter arrives. It may take as long as two years to get roads and bridges back to the state they were before the 10-day rain.

But make no mistake, all the personnel involved in this event can take home the pride of a job well done. Neighborhoods, individuals, private organizations, rescue groups, local and regional fire districts and emergency management personnel came together to deal with the impacts of the greatest flooding seen in Colorado in maybe a millennium. I am proud and honored to have been able to serve with such an august group of professionals.

Unnoticed door locks increase firefighter risk

Posted on Tue, 17 Sep 2013 16:17:42 UTC

For many departments, the first-due engine is staffed with three to four firefighters, in some cases even fewer. There are five key job functions that must occur: size up, action plan, water supply, the initial stretch and forcible entry. These items will quickly tie up a short-staffed rig.

Luckily, in many parts of the country forcible entry is fairly simple. In many communities key-in-knob locks are the primary, if not the only device keeping the "bad guys" out of peoples homes. A short throw on the locking mechanism combined with wooden doorjambs means a very basic forcible-entry effort is all that's needed.

Recent UL studies — as well as years of studies from overseas, particularly Northern Europe — all point to the importance of door control on fire progression. Smooth forcible entry not only allows us to put the line in the right place, but also provides for better door control.

For many departments, the forcible-entry team will also be on the initial hand line. Quick and easy forcible entry allows for the team to still have the energy needed to make the attack.

Barring the way
It doesn't take more than a stroll through the local big-box home store to see that are several off-the-shelf devices to make door harder to force. These cheap and easy contraptions not only sell to homeowner's fears of invasion, but also require no skill to install.

The most prevalent are bars to buttress inward-swinging doors closed. And because they don't require additional hardware on the door or jamb, you won't necessarily know it is buttressed when sounding the door.

During a recent structure fire at a center hall colonial, after performing my 360 with no visible flame or smoke on the interior, it became clear that the unlocked side door gave the easiest, most direct line of attack for the first-due engine. The homeowners weren't home yet, but luckily the fire remained external due to a lightning strike. While walking through the house we discovered a store-bought device on the locked front door.

As we discussed the event later, some things became clear. Had the fire progressed to the interior, I would likely have placed the initial line through the front door.

The likely outcome
Our first-due engine would have begun forcible entry on that door and would have met with more resistance than seemed appropriate. The front door didn't have sidelights that would have made it possible to view the device from the exterior.

These slow downs would have likely led to a change in tactics, such as heading to the side door, and possible even a change in strategy given my team would have wasted time and energy on the front door.

Worse yet, had they headed in the side door, our truck crew would have begun to soften egress points incase the interior teams had to escape. Naturally the interior teams would consider the front door at the base of the stairs a natural exit, only to find it barricaded.

A quick web search of home door security bars will show the myriad of devices out there for the general public. Don't get me wrong; we can overcome these devices.

However, the standard size up isn't going to see the device and command is likely going to create an action plan that doesn't fit the tougher forcible-entry profile these devices create.

Add that to short staffing and everything slows down except the fire growth.

10 ways to better respond to special needs patients

Posted on Wed, 9 Jul 2014 17:59:06 UTC

Paramedics and first responders tasks are becoming increasingly challenging with the growing number of special needs patients. According to the 2010 census, 2.8 million school age children were reported to have a disability.

In order to minimize problems and have an effective response, EMS and fire must create a stronger partnership and network with the special needs community. Here are 10 steps to successfully do so.

1. Don’t assume the patient has a mental disability based on their looks.

“Approach a special needs patient as you would a colleague,” said Pete Kelly, EMT-B, medical staff coordinator for Special Olympics Michigan. Once you have established mental and physical ability, than treat accordingly.

2. Have a Town Hall meeting with citizens and all essential resources.

Have 30 minute panel discussion with fire, EMS, law enforcement, transportation and a special needs specialist followed by a meet and greet. This is a great way to hear special needs populations’ concerns.

3. Encourage caregivers to keep information up to date.

The American College of Emergency Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics created an Emergency Information Form (EIF). The EIF is a valuable tool for first responders. Click here to download the form.

4. Develop a Special Needs Registry.

Emergency management agencies are creating an online registry to locate citizens with a disability during an emergency. Ohio County recently launched their website ReadyAllenCounty.org. Sites are usually in the cloud and need to be secure.

5. Include people with disabilities into emergency response plans.

The U.S. Department of Justice provides an American with Disabilities Act Checklist for Emergency Shelters.

6. Don’t separate equipment from the patient.

During an evacuation or a transport to the ER, try to keep the equipment with and the patient. Separation from an object can create outburst in some patients.

7. Be familiar with the equipment.

First responders can’t always keep up with the latest wheel chairs and devices. Here are a few of the latest devices. Convaid offers a special needs wheelchair product line that has advanced design, seating and mobility combinations for a variety of special needs and physical disabilities.

A child with a TheraTogs Lower Extremity System might be a challenge to transport. The device is designed to address several alignment and functional deviations of the knee joints, developing femurs, and hip joints in a child.

8. Keep the routine.

Mary Porter, owner of Tri-Care, says when dealing with a patient that cannot verbalize a compliant, Tri-Care staff often knows there is a problem when a patient is not sticking to the routine.

9. Get trained.

In recent years there has been a surge in organizations that have created training for first responders. About 1 in 88 children have been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network.

In addition, Autism ALERT’s mission is to educate first responders and health care professionals on how to recognize and interact with persons on the autism spectrum.

FEMA also suggests the independent study courses offered by Emergency Management Institute IS-197.EM Special Needs Planning Consideration.

10. Use the right communication.

Minimize distractions and use short explanations and use simple language, if the patient has trouble hearing. If you do not understand something the individual says, do not pretend that you do. Ask the individual to repeat what he or she said and then repeat it back. Be patient.

Creating a strategic plan before, during, and after an incident with special needs population is the most effective way to have a good response and recovery.

The Dallas reports: Leadership lessons from an LODD

Posted on Thu, 16 Oct 2014 20:26:15 UTC

Very dramatic headlines raced across news and social media sites when two reports were released on the death of Dallas Firefighter Stanley Wilson. Firefighter Wilson died May 20, 2013, in a condominium complex.

The Texas State Fire Marshal released a report that found the Dallas Fire Department's incident commander failed to conduct an adequate and continuous risk assessment. The report further states the incident commander failed to supervise personnel adequately and make the right decisions on the appropriate strategy and tactics of fire suppression and primary search operations.

After reading the report, I expect that many of us could say: "That could've been me." If you have been an incident commander for very long, you have had an incident where actions started out right but then cascaded down the wrong path.

It is critical for the incident commander to be able to recognize when actions begin to go wrong and call timeout. Calling timeout is not easy and requires courage, commitment and leadership from the incident commander, but will save the lives of firefighters.

Chain reaction
Imagine standing up dominoes in a row with each domino representing a critical fireground factor. If one of the fireground factors gets out of whack and falls, the entire row of dominoes will come crashing down. If one of the dominoes is removed from the row, the crashing stops — that's the timeout.

If you consider that each time a domino crashes there is a potential for a firefighter to be catastrophically injured or killed, you begin to understand the need to call for a timeout in some circumstances.

The reports from Dallas are best used to make change within the fire service, not to be critical of the individual who was in command. In that light, the questions are:

  • Have we provided adequate training for our incident commanders?
  • Do we provide continuous, measurable and realistic training for our incident commanders?
  • Do we provide adequate staffing to assist the incident commander at the scene of an incident?
  • Is the incident within the capability and experience of the incident commander and fireground resources.

First command

By Fire Chief John VonBruaene, Penn Fire, South Bend, Ind.

I was a young firefighter just three years on the job. Like all young punk firefighters, I thought I knew everything. After all, I was the driver on the squad company for two whole years.

The squad was a rescue pumper that made all fires and was the most active unit in the city. Of course, being on the squad is really no big deal because they made all new firefighters ride the squad for experience.

One day, my officer was on vacation and the station captain asked if I thought I could ride the officer seat that day. Hell yes, I can ride the seat. After all, I am a young punk know-it-all firefighter.

I instantly became the officer in charge of the squad. Wow.

At around 11 a.m., Engine 2 was dispatched to a trash fire in the alley. Upon arrival they found that the trash fire was a large stack of pallets resting against a single story commercial structure. They called for a full commercial response because the fire was rapidly threatening the structure.

Being 'the man'
It's my turn to be "the man." We were the first unit to arrive at the front of the structure. Fire was already rolling out of the top of a large overhead dock door. We had a hydrant right next to us so I told the driver to hook up.

The next order was to my jump seat firefighter, who, by the way, had only two years on the job.

"Pull the 1½-inch pre-connect and take it to the overhead door." I pulled the second 1½-inch pre-connect and also made my way to the overhead door. The hoses were charged and we were ready to kick ass.

Envision this: Two young punk stupid firefighters each with a charged 1½-inch line standing with our backs to the building. One on the left side of the door and one on the right side and fire blowing out of the top of the overhead. Sounds like John Wayne time in a Hollywood fire movie.

I shouted to my partner that we were going to "move in." As soon as we turned to move in the entire roof of the structure collapsed. The roof came down so hard that it caused a rush of air to blow us out of the door and on our butts about 10 feet away. We escaped with some minor first-degree burns and a lot of embarrassment.

My lack of knowledge of building construction and fire behavior, as well as my know-it-all attitude almost got myself as well as a brother firefighter killed that day. I didn't know what I didn't know.

We were very lucky that day. That is the day that changed my attitude and began my endless commitment to fire service training. There is no way in hell that I should have been placed on the seat of that apparatus.

This was 37 years ago and it sickens me that today this kind of stuff still occurs.

Ineffective command
The lessons learned over the years is that most of the time fire department crews are doing effective work at the task and tactical level. Then why, you might ask, do some incidents just go really bad?

Often it's because someone who's in charge of an emergency can't effectively do his job, won't do his job, or he is simply a weak incident commander. In other words, it is a failure of command.

Establishing a strong command presence requires that the person in command will take charge, be proactive, use effective techniques and be responsible for the command and control of all operations.

Further, the commander must communicate over the radio and establish the command post in a position of prominence that is visible to most operational units. Most importantly, he must ask questions of deployed operational units, confirm location and assignments of on-scene units and give direct orders so the units know who is in charge.

Changing conditions
In most cases, fire department standard operating procedures and guidelines are written for the first decisions to be made based upon the initial size up. It is after that initial size up and deployment of tactical resources where situational awareness is lost about what is happening on the exterior of the structure.

The interior crews can't see if smoke conditions (pressure, density and color) have changed. The interior crew can't see if the fire is spreading to adjacent areas either horizontally or vertically. Firefighters will put themselves in harm's way if there is not a strong command presence on the scene paying attention to the facts as they currently present.

The incident commander must keep his attention remains on the situation and not be distracted by frivolous radio traffic. In almost every report on a line of duty death, the failure of the communication process is identified as one of those dominoes.

The ability of a fireground commander to multi-task is a myth. The human brain cannot process more than three sets of facts without losing something in the process.

Situational awareness
That loss could be a contributing factor to a tragic loss of situational awareness and possibly death or injury to a firefighter. The incident commander's job is to protect them from themselves and from the unreported efforts of other operational crews. Communications management is a command function.

There are two schools of thought relating to the training of incident commanders. The first relates to the training needed for new or inexperienced incident commanders. The second relates to the training needed for experienced incident commanders.

Richard B. Gasaway in his studies of situational awareness matters states: "The ability to develop and maintain situational awareness is a far more complex process than most people realize. I've had many responders say to me that as long as they are 'paying attention' or 'keeping their head on a swivel' or 'looking up, down and all around,' they will have strong situational awareness.

"I truly wish it were that simple," he said. "If it were, flawed situational awareness would not be one of the leading contributors to first responder near-miss and casualty events. Because, all we'd have to do to fix the problem is … pay better attention … keep our heads on a swivel … and look up, down and all around."

Musical chairs
In the volunteer fire service who the incident commander is can be somewhat like a game of musical chairs. Depending on local SOPs, the person sitting in the officer seat on the first arriving vehicle may be designated by the SOP as the one to start the command process.

The SOP does not take into account training, experience or capability. I have seen firefighters who think they are qualified to be in command of an event that was over their training, experience and capability.

They were lucky that day that no one was injured or killed because the dominoes did not start falling. Fire departments must take steps to ensure that those who take the role of the incident commander are capable of managing multiple units and personnel before a catastrophic event occurs.

My story
In 1979, I was the incident commander of a structure fire involving a tavern that was closed for business. The building was about 4,000 square feet and heavily involved upon arrival. I ordered an offensive fire attack.

I believed I was making the right choice at the time.

Seven firefighters made their way into the fire building. And as the pump operator commented to himself that it looked like they got it knocked, the mansard roof came crashing down on nine firefighters. Rescue became the immediate priority.

No lives were lost, but severe injuries were the result of that roofing material falling on my brother firefighters.

I was the incident commander and the one and only one responsible. I accepted that responsibility at that time and still do today. I also committed to myself that I needed to know more about being the incident commander, as my experience and training level prior to this fire left something to be desired.

The end result after this fire:

  • Nine firefighters were transported to the hospital where they spent the night in the hospital.
  • Four firefighters had surgery to stabilize broken bones.
  • Two firefighters had steel rods placed in their bodies because of the damage to the broken bones.

The pain and suffering these firefighters endured was not necessary if I had made a different decision. Today, I realize the decisions I made that night were not appropriate for the amount of fire in a building with no life hazards and for the resources available to mount a successful interior fire suppression operation.

The report from Dallas Fire Department must be used to make it better for current and future incident commanders. Simulations must be created to ensure the decision-making process used to train the incident commanders is actually teaching the student to recognize the facts, evaluate the risk, make an appropriate decision based upon that risk and then enforce that decision.

Use this analysis tool for a better EMS grant proposal

Posted on Tue, 14 Oct 2014 21:46:56 UTC

Building a strong argument for your grant proposal is not an easy task, but using a cause-and-effect analysis to determine which areas to focus on can make the process a lot easier.

First, determine what problem are you trying to solve. For some agencies this could be quicker response times, increasing cardiac arrest survivors, or reducing injuries for on-duty personnel.

When constructing a grant proposal, be mindful of every facet of the problem and how it affects your agency and the community you serve. There are many ways to accomplish this task; one that I find very useful is the fish-bone diagram.

This technique helps identify many possible causes for a problem, and can lead to great brainstorming for an individual or a group.

For example, here’s an example of the fish-bone diagram showing a problem of missed free throws in basketball.

As you can see, the diagram lists the possible causes that have led to the effect of missed free throws. The example above does a great job providing a broad range of specific causes, and this is exactly how you must approach a grant proposal.

Cause: Poor cardiac arrest outcomes

For our example, let’s say an EMS agency is experiencing poor outcomes for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests. What factors could be contributing to these poor outcomes?

Was bystander CPR done? Were AEDs available and used? What was the response time of EMS? How far was the incident from the nearest hospital?

Take a moment to construct your own fish-bone diagram and submit it in the comments below.

Effect: Poor cardiac arrest outcomes

Now that we have an excellent idea of what causes our problem, how do we develop this information into a grant proposal?

Through your fish-bone diagram, you concluded one cause was poor AED availability. To break this down even further to get to the root cause, we could do another fish-bone diagram for just poor AED availability. However, in this article we are going to keep it simple.

We will use this information for an extremely common grant application question: summarize the purpose of this request. In this case, the purpose of requesting funding for AEDs would be to improve out-of-hospital cardiac arrest for your community.

This is a clear and concise opening statement that leads the way for a great grant proposal.

The fish-bone diagram is a useful tool to dissect your problem and better highlight root causes of a problem that often have financial implications and can be addressed through grant funding.