More uses for locking pliers

Posted on Fri, 30 Mar 2012 14:36:44 UTC

Previously, I looked at how to maximize locking pliers; here are some additional uses. Locking pliers can be used in a number of ways to keep different styles of self-closing doors open.

As seen above, clamping the locking pliers on the hinge of a self-closing door can prevent to door from closing. The top hinge is the most preferred location because it keeps the tool up where it can be seen, and lessens the chance of leaving it behind.

Certain styles of door-closing mechanisms also can be held open by clamping to tool directly on the door closer itself.

The photo above shows the locking pliers being used to hold open a storm door. This works well when the normal keeper, or door open clip, is broken or missing.

The main problem with storm doors is that they typically involve a piano-style hinge, which have a four- to six-inch gap beneath them when in the open position. These features make it nearly impossible to use a standard door wedge with any success.

The photo above shows the locking pliers being used to prevent a magnetic lock from locking the door. Placing the tool on the magnet prevents the door from latching closed.

This simple trick is helpful when walking through a building while investigating an activated fire alarm, during a pre-incident plan walk through, or other nonemergency situations.

On some door handles the locking pliers can be clamped on the handle allowing the tool to extend in front of the latching mechanism to prevent the door from locking. This too is useful during nonemergency situations.

Some styles of rim locks can be twisted off with a set of locking pliers, allowing for a through-the-lock method of forcible entry.

Locking pliers also have nonforcible-entry uses. Here, the pliers are being used to shut off a gas meter. This technique works well in confined-space situations where obstructions prevent larger tools, like a Halligan bar, from reaching and operating the valve.

Locking pliers can be used in a number of different ways on the fireground. With the simple eye-bolt modification and a creative mind, this tool is tremendously useful to have on hand.

Fire station DVR crashes, grief counselors called in

Posted on Tue, 1 Apr 2014 01:01:44 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."

Exclusive: Firefighter says death of fire chief 'was my responsibility'

Posted on Tue, 24 Feb 2015 16:21:38 UTC

Firefighters bear witness to tragedy. It is part of the job. Solace is often found in the idea that others might learn from our very worst moment and prevent a future tragedy from happening.

The recent death of Medora (Ill.) Volunteer Fire Chief Kenneth Lehr was such a tragedy, and it seized headlines across public safety media. A seemingly inexplicable and senseless incident, it provoked emotion and strong reactions from many.

As often happens with such incidents, the immediate reaction by some was to find someone to blame. In the case of Chief Lehr’s death, that person was Firefighter/Engineer Patrick Cullum, who drove the truck that killed his chief.

"If just one death can be prevented then something good will have come from this incident," Cullum told FireRescue1 in an exclusive interview about the incident, the aftermath and how he’s coping with the tragedy.

The incident
On the afternoon of Feb. 5, a landing zone (LZ) was set-up to a fly a patient with a significant injury to a trauma center. This LZ was deemed unsuitable and a second location was selected approximately one mile away. Cullum drove the fire engine from the first LZ to the second.

Chief Kenneth Lehr is believed to have ridden the engine's tailboard, unknown to Cullum, between the two landing zones.

As Cullum, 47, pulled the fire engine off the highway in the area being established as the second LZ, he visually located nearby personnel and took note that they were 10 to 15 yards away.

In the seconds between stopping and the putting the fire engine in reverse, Lehr either fell or stepped off the engine's tailboard. He was run over by the reversing truck, and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Bearing responsibility
Cullum says he will regret for the rest of his life not taking 10 more seconds to find a spotter before reversing the fire engine.

"Someone notified me that Chief Lehr had been on the back of the truck and fallen under before I could stop," said Cullum. "It was not an accident. It was my responsibility to ensure a safe truck."

Cullum, from his life and military experience, believes it is human nature to assign blame. Even though he doesn't know why the chief got on the back of the truck, potentially while it was moving, Cullum is accepting responsibility for his role in the incident.

"This was not an accident. It was an incident," said Cullum. "In an accident there is nothing that could have been done to change the outcome. An incident, even when the outcome is tragic, could have been prevented."

Cullum said that as the engineer, it was his responsibility to make sure the engine was safe.

"I failed in that respect and I also failed my fire department brothers and sisters worldwide," he said.

Learning from LODD and near miss incidents
Firefighter Close Calls, NIOSH line-of-duty death reports, Firefighter Near Miss reports and other training materials are created and distributed to help emergency responders learn from past incidents and avoid repeating those same incidents.

Asking questions about an incident – why, what, where, when, and how – are part of the investigative and learning process.

When asked about his initial response to an EMS1 editorial questioning how the incident occurred, Cullum clarified.

"It wasn't the questions EMS1 asked,” he said. “The questions need to be asked, but they need to be asked with more knowledge of the incident and what happened.”

The preliminary state police report and early news reports of the incident were thin on specific details about the patient's injuries, the request for an ambulance, the departments that responded, and where the landing zones were located.

Those details will likely be clear in the final OSHA report.

Loss of a friend and a department

Medora is small community. Members of Lehr's family asked Cullum not to participate in the funeral and also asked him to resign from the department a few days after the incident.

He honored both wishes.

As the department's training officer for the last five years, Cullum worked closely with Chief Lehr.

"Kenny was a friend, mentor, chief, and surrogate father figure to me and many others on the department," he said.

"We had our disagreements, but we always worked through those disagreements. That is part of being in a volunteer fire department. You have debates or arguments and then you move on to share a beer together.”

Grief and post-incident stress
Grieving is a process unique to each person experiencing a loss. As a Navy veteran and firefighter, Cullum has seen death and dismemberment before, but sleep is not coming easily to him.

"When I close my eyes, I see all of the incidents behind my eyelids," he said.

"I have seen this before. I know we need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best."

Cullum has been surprised by the thoughts that have come into his mind as he’s grieved the loss of his chief.

"I won't see Kenny at the pork chop dinner (an annual fundraiser for the department)," he said. "This was a fun event for me and all the guys. A vision of Kenny and the assistant chief standing at the grill popped into my mind, for no particular reason, a few days ago."

His experience underscores a truth about dealing with traumatic encounters: stress management is unique to the individual.

"I can only speak for myself," Cullum said. "I can't speak for the other guys on the department. Talking about the incident is helping me."

Support from the fire service
In the days since the incident, former fire department colleagues, his pastor, and many friends have visited Cullum at his home.

"I have not been alone," said Cullum. "This is hard for me and everyone. I pray to God to give me the strength I need."

Support for Cullum has extended beyond his own department, as several within the fire service have reached out to him. One retired fire chief in particular has been helpful, Cullum says, in sharing his own experience of dealing with a line of duty death at his department.

They are currently collaborating on a lesson or presentation they might give to other departments to help prevent a similar incident from occurring.

OSHA has interviewed Cullum and others about the incident. The final report has not yet been released. Cullum approached the interview knowing the investigators had a job to do.

"I did my best to be truthful about what I saw and did. The investigators were gracious in the interview and looked at the incident from all angles," said Cullum.

Hopeful that others will learn
Cullum is not the first and he will not be the last emergency responder to reverse a fire engine or an ambulance without a spotter.

"All of us have from time to time assumed it was OK (to back up) and got away with it," said Cullum.

Backing without a spotter is an example of normalization of deviance by emergency responders, similar to failing to wear a seatbelt or being distracted while driving an emergency vehicle.

Over time, when negative consequences do not occur, unacceptable practices become acceptable. A series of near misses does not change the risk of a fatal backing incident.

"My hope is to prevent another needless death by sharing with others that 10 seconds is enough to save a life," Cullum said. "This incident, maybe, can be a tragic learning tool and I will not have completely failed my mentor and friend."

4 key areas for firefighters strength training

Posted on Mon, 29 Oct 2012 08:55:36 UTC

Whether dragging victims from a building or simply humping hose around the fireground, firefighting demands certain types of physical training in order to perform the job safely and effectively.

Traditional firefighter conditioning has revolved around cardiovascular training such as jogging or treadmill work. But the real world dictates that firefighters must have cardiovascular function with nearly 50 pounds of gear on their bodies.

This changes the equation drastically when it comes to being in shape. It dictates that maximal strength and the highest level of anaerobic endurance must be obtained.

To some extent maximal strength can dictate how much endurance you have. If your maximum-effort dead lift is 200 pounds and you're asked to carry a 200-pound person, you won't be moving that person far before running out of energy.

On the other side, if your dead lift is 600 pounds, then a 200-pound person can be moved with relative ease because it only requires 33 percent of your maximal strength.

3 problem areas
Statistics show that most firefighters' physical injuries involve the lower back, knees and shoulders. This is where strength training takes a specific route to bring up strength and decrease injury.

Lower-back injuries often come from lifting heavy patients. Any firefighter who has run ambulance calls has come across residents who weigh between 300 and 500 pounds, or more in rare cases. Obviously firefighters need to be strong enough for that type of duty.

Injuries occur here due to weak lower back muscles, little-to-no hamstring strength and improper technique while performing a task. The first issue is to bring up the lagging muscle groups, then teach form in order to be mechanically sound.


  • Reverse hyper extensions – This builds important lower erectors and glutes while tractioning the lower back.
  • Glute ham raises – This strengthens the hamstrings, glutes, lower back and calves. Working them with this exercise teaches all the posterior chain muscles to work together as they do on duty.

Knee issues can be more complicated, but often firefighters beat their knees up by having weak hips and hamstrings. When jumping, jogging and carrying equipment at a fast pace, the hips and hamstrings must take their share of the work. If they are lacking in strength, the knee extensors attempt to complete the work. Over time this over use of the knee starts to take its toll.

Pain and injury occurs here due to weak hamstrings, hips, vastus medialus muscles and improper form. Once the hamstrings get stronger, knee pain and injury decreases.


  • Glute ham raises – This builds the hamstring in a functional environment.
  • Straight leg deadlifts – This strengthens the hamstrings in a way they will be required to work.

Shoulder pain, tendonitis and injury usually start with a weak upper back. The upper back — which includes the lats, rear delts, rhomboids and sub scapular muscles — needs to be strong in order to hold the shoulder joint in place under strain and to maintain correct posture while performing various tasks.


  • Rear delt row – This directly builds the rear delt and sub scapular muscles.
  • Bent over row – This builds the lats and also the rhomboids, traps.
  • Lat pulldown – This builds the lats, rear delts and most minor muscles groups of the back.

Cardiovascular endurance
Working on your cardiovascular endurance is important in maintaining your overall health and aiding your recovery. Many firefighters remain on the job well into their 50s; and some, especially volunteers, remain past 70.

High-impact activities, such as jogging, over time will increase injury and wear on the knees, back and hips. Therefore it is important to gain endurance with the least amount of negative impact on the skeletal system.

Sled dragging is one of the best overall tools to develop conditioning while building muscle in important areas. There is virtually no joint impact and with the proper weight can be just as intense as running is on your heart, lungs and lactic acid tolerance.

Dragging the sled backwards is similar to dragging people out of buildings.

Kettlebell swings are a very tough cardiovascular drill and very quickly improve the conditioning level of firefighters. I have seen U.S. Army Rangers buckle to the floor with 60 pounds in less than 5 minutes while doing swings, while it was no biggie for these guys to run more than 10 miles.

A strong lower back and abdominal base must be built before using this exercises with anything more than 25 pounds. The benefits of using a kettlebell is no joint impact and a great workout for the cardiovascular system and much of the entire muscular system.

Training on the job
It is important for firefighters to train at an optimal level of volume and intensity when on duty or scheduled for duty within 24 hours.

Firefighters must still be able to perform their job at any moment while on their shift. Totally wrecking the crew will not be optimal for a possible fire or other emergency. This is why training must be individualized for each person.

These issues are 90% of the problems I have seen in the four years of working with a large fire department. The variety of ages and body types means that training will require different starting points and constant revision to keep individuals progressing.

How fire chiefs can navigate the political jungle

Posted on Mon, 9 Feb 2015 23:29:59 UTC

I try to practice what I preach. In the past months, I've written about leadership and the preparation it takes to become and remain a leader in any organization — but especially in the fire service.

There is a personal responsibility to educate oneself for leadership and this education is an ongoing process.

Late last year, I took a National Fire Academy off-campus class entitled "Politics and the White Helmet." This two-day course is offered several times each year at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md., and as part of their outreach program in several regions across the country.

It is two days that can change your ability to influence municipal leaders, change your department's culture and protect your community. As with all NFA courses, there is no fee to attend other than your own expenses to attend.

I understand how important this course is because I not only took it, but helped with its early development.

Leadership objectives
The course was developed in 2011 when Ken Farmer, who heads the NFA's Executive Development Programs, foresaw a need to educate chief officers on the new political climate. It's a climate that most of us face while balancing an ever-decreasing department budget with our community's fire and EMS needs.

Farmer asked Chief John Buckman and I to be a part of the initial concept development as subject-matter experts for this program prior to its curriculum phase.

Initially, the course defined politics as "the art of building and using influence to achieve an individual or group's public policy goal." Building on that definition, it delves into what is public policy and what is the role of the fire chief as a department head in helping to create or change that public policy.

It also covers areas of policy that include the departments mission, funding, regional or intergovernmental cooperation, staffing, compensation, facilities, safety and working conditions.

Five types of power
The course then discusses the role of leadership and the types of power and influence that are found in both formal and informal leaders. This influence is achieved by such characteristics as visibility, interaction, involvement, ethical behavior, and ultimately the performance of the organization.

While the fire chief is part of the formal influence on public policy, the class was asked to list who the informal leaders were in their community. This list included business leaders, former elected officials, affluent residents, community and special interest groups, and professionals.

Knowing how to garner support from both a community's formal and informal leadership is part of the fire chief's responsibility to promote positive change that strengthens their fire, rescue and EMS delivery to meet the needs of those they serve. Using small-group break-out scenarios, the class offers a chance to network and interact among the students to offer examples of what worked and what didn't in real-life situations.

The second unit of the class began by defining power as "the ability to influence people's behavior and to get them to act in a certain way." It discussed the five types of power: legitimate, reward, coercive, expert and reverent, to show that every leader at times can use one or more of these types to influence an outcome on public policy.

The class, however, stresses the need for a chief to properly use his or her legitimate, expert and reverent power to achieve an organizations long-term goals. These three types of power are enhanced by an individual's personal credibility — believability, availability, demonstrated personal and professional values, professional appearance, and bearing or presence.

8 change strategies
Using these characteristics, the chief is not only in a better position to influence public policy, but also earns a reputation at consensus building that leads conflict resolutions where both sides win.

In the final unit of the course, students learn eight steps in successful change strategies.

  • Establish a sense of urgency.
  • Create a guiding coalition.
  • Develop a vision.
  • Communicate the vision.
  • Empower subordinates to act.
  • Generate short-term wins.
  • Consolidate gains to produce more change.
  • Anchor the new approaches into the culture.

A single column could never do justice to the practical ways this course could impact you and your department's future. This brief outline should sparks an interest with you to look on the National Fire Academy's website to see where this course will be offered near you in 2015.

While there is no silver bullet that can guarantee an easy fix to any difficult issue, I am amazed to still find chiefs who would rather continue to curse the darkness than to learn to light a candle so they can better navigate the difficulties inherent in today's political maze. For that too is a sign of leadership.

Firefighter invents commercial door forced-entry tool

Posted on Wed, 11 Mar 2015 13:30:04 UTC

Commercial occupancies and metal doors are some of the more challenging forcible-entry jobs that firefighters face. A double-panel sliding door, found on many commercial structures, provides the greatest conundrum: how to quickly gain access without causing extensive damage to the door and causing ill-will with the business owner.

In many cases the need for forcible entry is not time-intensive. The building is not on fire, but there is a situation that requires investigation and possibly some non-emergent services.

Enter the JV Tool: a new forcible entry tool designed, manufactured and sold by In Our Gear, LLC. The tool and the company are the brainchild of John Zour, a lieutenant with Howard County (Md.) Fire-Rescue. The tool is slightly bigger than a large screwdriver and sells for $35.

I caught up with him to learn more about his company and tool creation.

FireRescue1: How does the tool work?
Zour: The firefighter slides the JV Tool into the gap between the door panels that either exists because of the weather stripping between the door panels or is created by the first responder using a prying tool. The thumb key is operated from inside the building, resulting in little to no damage to the door and lock.

What was the inspiration for developing the tool?
One night we responded to a reported gas leak at one of our suburban shopping malls. The occupancy in question had double sliding doors on Side A and we had great difficulty forcing entry.

It was one of those "It'd be nice to get in, but we don't want to do damage to the doors" situations. We were getting some positive readings on the portable gas monitor, but not to the levels that made us think that we had to get in there immediately.

There was a Knox Box on location, but the entry keys had not been kept up-to-date. By this time, we were starting to get some positive readings on the monitor in the adjoining occupancies, so we wanted to get into them as well to check them out.

Eventually, we did and we did minimal damage to the doors in doing so. It got me to thinking that there had to be a better way.

So where did this inspiration take you?
We started taking a look at how we could take advantage of that gap between the sliding door panels. If the doors have a thumb lock on the egress side — and many of them do — it's only about an inch away from where you're standing on the other side.

So we started experimenting with different types and sizes of tubing that we could maneuver between the door panels through that gap. That was the beginning for the "J" part of the tool.

Then we worked with several different types of claws that we could mount on the end of the J tube to be used to manipulate the thumb lock once the J tube was on the egress side of the doors.

We eventually settled on the current V-shape because we found that it worked with the widest variety of thumb locks that we experimented with.

How have firefighters responded?
Everyone we demonstrate the tool for is really amazed at how quickly and easily it can be used to access and operate the thumb lock to open the doors. We took the tool to trade shows in Ocean City, Md., Harrisburg, Pa., and Raleigh, N.C. last year and received great feedback.

Responders like the small size of the tool, because they can carry it with their existing tools for forcing doors. They also liked that it can be customized with their company patch and name prior to the protective shrink tubing being applied; this helps keep the tool from "wandering away" when the call is finished.

High-angle rescue: How to execute mid-height pick off

Posted on Wed, 17 Dec 2014 16:33:30 UTC

In light of the recent rescue that FDNY performed, I thought it would be a great opportunity to discuss some of the techniques available when confronted with these types of scenarios. There are some universal concepts that apply to both natural and man-made environments.

There are many reasons a victim is trapped at mid height: gear malfunctions or failures, injuries resulting from falling debris, medical emergencies, etc. The first series of variables is what is supporting the victim's load. There are two basic variables.

First, the victim is rigged or supported by a dynamic system (meaning it can move). This can simply be a rope or ropes as in the case of a climber, person rappelling, or a would-be rescuer.

It also can be an industrial application such as window washers or maintenance personnel on a cable-and-winch system or a ladder-based climbing system. In all of these examples, the assumption is that the system supporting these victims is under tension and carrying their load.

Second, the victim is supported by something static (meaning it is a fixed object or support system). This can simply be a ledge or window opening. It also can be a working platform upon which he may be safety rigged but do not have tension on his personal rigging.

In these examples, the assumption is that these victims are captured through gravity but are somewhat free to move minimally and their position at height is not under loaded tension.

First steps
As we approach these scenarios we must assess the condition of the victim and the cause of the predicament. As we gather information regarding the cause, we will learn whether or not we can use the existing system or develop a new one.

This can radically shape the action plan.

If the victim is suspended by a cable-and-winch system that is safety compliant and intact and the victim is having a medical emergency, then using the existing system (provided rescuers can operate it) may provide the most effective solution.

However, if the victim was rappelling and suffered a gear failure, we will have to develop a complete high-angle system to accomplish the rescue.

If the victim is suspended on a loaded or tension system, we will have to bring gear that will allow us to transfer the victim from his system onto the rescue system.

As we refine our action plan and draw conclusions from these assessments, there is one final challenge to consider. What is the best approach for access and rescue.

Reaching the victim
In these events, we may have crews above the victim, at the victim, and or below the victim. All of these options will shape the systems we select and how we deploy them.

A victim who is on a ledge in a cave, ravine or gorge will most likely require a hauling system to bring the victim up. This will require a lower haul system with a high directional.

It may also require bottom side crews to develop a tensioning track line or tensioned track line depending on the placement and height of the directional as well as the terrain features.

A victim who is trapped on the side of a water tower or hydropillar may only require topside anchoring and a rescuer who descends to the victim, packages, and then descends to ground.

A victim trapped at height that can be directly or proximally reached through a nearby window or platform may only require top-side safety systems to be rigged so the victim can be safely moved from the compromised position to an accessible position. The recent FDNY rescue was a good example of this application.

As always, the objective is to make the right choices to achieve the most optimal outcome for the victim and the rescuers. Do not over-rescue. With that said, here are the tangible points of rigging to perform a pick off of a stranded mid-height victim.

Load transfer
This is when the victim is suspended on loaded rope or cable. Establish a belay line and moving brake line. Some organizations may elect to establish a fixed brake line in which the rescuer is lowered, but I have found that this application requires very finite communications and often results in miscues between the rescuer and the lowering team.

Conversely, the moving brake requires an experienced rescuer who is adept at rappelling and rigging. This should be the case, though, because pick offs are a level II skill.

Pre-rig the belay line for victim attachment. Put a knot, typically a figure eight on a bite, into the end of the belay line and attach it to the accessory loop on the rescuers harness with a screw link. This knot will be attached to the victim when the rescuer gains access to him.

I prefer the link to a carabineer because it can easily get side loaded during the pick off process and insures a higher safety factor. I avoid tying a knot into the victim's harness because it can be time consuming compared with attaching a link or similar connecting hardware.

Once the knot is established, measure approximately one arm's length and tie a midline knot; butterfly is acceptable here. This midline knot is the attachment point for the rescuer.

Pick-off straps
Rig in a pick-off strap or self-minding short-haul system. Attach this element to the eye of the rescuer's brake bar rack or other descent control device. It is important that this device eventually carry the load of the victim directly to the main line and not to the rescuer.

Pick-off straps have a U and a V attachment. The U goes to the rescuer's rack or lowering line knot and the V gets attached to the victim. It is a good practice to make these attachments with screw links for the reasons previously mentioned.

Self-minding short-haul systems are typically 4-1 or 5-1 ratio systems with capturing cams or progress capture devices that self set. These systems will provide the rescuer with an added capability to haul the victim up a short distance.

Some of these systems come in small packs and can be carried down by the rescuer and deployed when needed. Pre-attaching will help speed up the rescue and may reduce potential rigging errors.

At the victim
Rappel or descend down to the victim. Stop descending and lock off when the rescuers hips are at the same height as the victim's head. This positioning is crucial to ensure that the transferring devices have appropriate spacing to be reached and operated.

Attach the belay line to the victim and the pick-off strap or short-haul system. I find that inverting at this point can greatly increase the efficiency of the rescuer. Inverting allows the rescuer to maximize her reach and use both hands.

Haul the victim up or pull tension on the pick-off strap until the load has transferred from the victim's line to the implement you have applied. When using a pick-off strap, the load usually cannot fully transfer because not enough force can be generated by simply pulling the strap.

This requires the victim's loaded descent-control device to be operated in a controlled manner until slack is developed. This is where short-haul systems will pay dividends. When the transfer is complete, disconnect any remaining unnecessary victim lines to reduce entanglements.

The victim should be oriented just below the rescuer and the pick-off strap or the short-haul system should be between the rescuers legs. If working on a wall, coach the victim to keep his arms crossed around his rigging so that he doesn't grab the rescuer's legs.

When the rescuer's legs are grabbed, they lose foot contact with the wall both parties end up riding the wall. If not working on a wall, rescuers may direct the victim to grab their extended legs to prevent rotating or spinning independently of one another.

When preparing to descend or rappel to the ground, remember that an extra load has been picked up and the previous level of friction on the descent-control device will not be appropriate.

No load transfer
When the victim is static and not attached to tensioned lines, all of the steps are the same with the exception of transferring lines. This means we simply access the victim, attach the belay and pick-off strap, pull out slack and ease off the static platform.

This is a much more simplistic pick off, but often requires more packaging. These victims often do not have harnesses and require rescuers to put one on them. These victims also may be significantly injured.

This will require basket packaging and a lowering system on the top side with the rescuer transition to a tender. We will save that for another column.

Pick offs require a lot of repetition and are a high-risk rigging event. Watch the video to help drive the material home and then get out there and do it.

Remember you can statically go through the rigging progressions out in the bay so rep it out and be ready. Train hard.

Rosenbauer steps into the chassis market

Posted on Thu, 15 Mar 2012 09:50:18 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.

Fire cadets and fire departments

Posted on Thu, 22 Dec 2011 12:22:38 UTC

Fire cadets play an important role in assisting local fire departments. They also are a great way to encourage young people to go into firefighting careers and EMS programs. While cadet programs aren't considered direct recruiting tools, they are ways to expose students to the life of a firefighter so they can decide if it might be the right career path for them.

Many people aren't even aware that fire cadet programs exist. What are fire cadets and what are their duties? Here's a brief breakdown of how these young future firefighters contribute to local fire departments.

Generally, programs for fire cadets accept people between the age of 16 and 20. Some require that they be at least in the 10th grade. If they're still in high school, most programs require that students maintain at least a 2.0 grade average in order to remain active in the program. If they've graduated from high school, they should be in college and maintaining a good grade average.

Application acceptance for fire cadet programs can be ongoing through local fire departments, or it can be limited to once or twice a year. Applicants must have undergone CPA training and certification prior to applying. If accepted, cadets go through a training program.

The cadet basic training program teaches them introductory level knowledge of firefighting skills, tools, equipment and fire science. It also helps cadets develop positive mentoring relationships with firefighters. The cadet instructors evaluate the students during basic training to assess their ability to undertake duties and their commitment to becoming a fire cadet. Proficiency exercises take place at this level to assess the student's physical abilities.

Some fire cadet basic training programs also require that trainees participate in ride-alongs with firefighters and

Fire cadets generally spend about 100 hours or three to six months in supervised cadet training activities. After that, they are considered for ride-along certification, which gives them an opportunity to accompany firefighters to emergency calls. During this phase of training cadets can spend anywhere from 12 to 24 hours on a firefighting under the supervision of a mentor or instructor.

Although special instructors are responsible for fire cadet training, fire station personnel also sometimes assist with basic training.

Once they've been certified as fire cadets, inductees are allowed to assist fire departments in a non-hazardous capacity. Their duties might include cleaning equipment, restocking supplies and helping to clean up fire scenes.


7 truths about fire service retirement

Posted on Tue, 3 Mar 2015 15:34:49 UTC

Retirement from a life-long career can be a stressful event, regardless of the field. Research conducted in the military and law enforcement fields shows that retirement from a career in public safety can be more stressful than retirement from the civilian workforce.

Most firefighters I've ever had the pleasure to know have worked hard to get their first job. For many of us, that journey started in the volunteer ranks where we cut our teeth in the business.

Many others worked for two or three paid-on-call services or "comboed" a fire department job with an EMS gig before getting that one job that paid enough to make it their sole fire service endeavor.

Then once we were in, we immersed ourselves in the fire service culture. Our fellow firefighters became our second family; truth be known, we spent more time with that family than we did with our spouses and children.

The break up
When that retirement date comes and goes it might seem like a divorce. Suddenly, that second family will be nowhere to be found. Getting into the fire service was easy compared to what it was like to leave it.

The only other careers that parallel that of the fire service — that strong sense of camaraderie, daily exposures to the unknown, and retirement at an early age — are found in law enforcement and the military.

Here are a few things that you can expect to experience once you hang up your turnout gear for the last time.

1. The loss of camaraderie is real.
No matter how much you complained, you will miss your fire service family within a relatively short period of time. The term divorce is an apt description, despite it being an amiable one.

When you return to your former second home, you'll likely feel that you only have visitation rights, especially when you start seeing all those new faces.

2. The normal world is sometimes a crazy place.
After years of living on a work cycle (mine was 24 hours on and 48 hours off), you'll find yourself needing to adjust to the world of the 40-hour work week, especially if you take on another job.

It was always much easier to shop, make doctor appointments, schedule vacations and the like when weekday hours were fully in play.

3. You'll never be busier than after you retire.
Many of my fellow retirees have remarked how busy they became after they retired. Whether it was getting to all those "honey-do" projects that you never seemed to have time for or taking care of business for family and friends, your weekly schedule can fill up in a hurry.

4. What to wear becomes a confusing.
Choosing what to wear was a lot easier when it meant grabbing a clean uniform. Most guys don't want to admit this, but wardrobe management is not necessarily in our DNA.

If you go into another field of work after retirement that requires real clothes — not one of the 100 polo shirts you accumulated over your fire service career — you can spend more than a few minutes each day finding matching clothes. Over time that equals hours, then days, then weeks that you spend doing nothing but thinking about what shirt to wear.

5. Finding work that's as fulfilling as firefighting hard.
A colleague, upon her retirement, said, "I'm not retiring, I'm 'refiring.'" For most of us, retiring in our mid-50s means finding a new career to help pay for those mortgages and college tuition bills that keep coming.

We're trained to be America's problem solvers, those people call when they don't know who to call. While we're on the job many firefighters and officer might gripe about some of the calls that we respond to, especially those that we felt didn't need the fire department.

But it's hard to beat the sense of satisfaction that comes after you and your crew handled the difficult fire or motor vehicle crash or complicated rescue. It's tough to find that kind of satisfaction working in the non-fire service world.

6. The higher you are, the harder it is.
The higher the rank, the greater the sense of loss of friendships, prestige and self-esteem. In his Executive Fire Officer Program research paper "Problems and Success Factors Inherent in Fire Service Retirement," Gerald Bates wrote that he found a significant relationship between the participants' rank at the time of retirement and their perception of their personal and social relationships.

As we progress through the ranks, our circle of friends and colleagues shrinks. As officers, we learn to maintain that delicate balance between being friendly on the job with firefighters and junior officers and lapsing into friendships that can be detrimental to the good of the order. This is particularly true for men, as research has demonstrated that lasting male relationships are closely connected with their work.

Being a fire officer also means that you probably had some significant roles and responsibilities managing people, physical resources and budgets. After a career of shouldering those kinds of duties, it can be difficult to wake up one day as a team of one.

It can also be a difficult adjustment for your spouse and family as well; as my wife still tells me from time to time, "You're not the chief anymore." Reality check.

7. You'll become familiar with America's health care system.
Your health and wellness moves up on your list of life's priorities. Nothing says you've moved into the second half of life's football game like retirement.

Those little nagging aches and pains take on a new significance, especially when you don't have that peer pressure to keep working through them. Think about how many retired firefighters finally get surgeries for those knee and shoulder problems that they've been putting off for years.

A successful retirement
In his research, Bates found that 95.7 percent of his survey's participants felt that their retirement was successful.

"The primary determinant of a successful and satisfying retirement appeared to be directly related to the level of planning that went into it," he wrote. "The most satisfied retirees tended to be those who planned for their retirement several years in advance."

As firefighters, we know the value of conducting pre-plans for target hazards in our district and there's great value in applying that strategy to your second career. Consider these retirement target hazards and pre-plan accordingly.

  • Your personal characteristics.
  • Your reasons for retirement.
  • Your financial security.
  • Your level of activity in retirement.
  • Your social and personal relationships.
  • Your physical and mental health.

Everyone's responses to the above will be different, but the one key for everyone is to plan for your retirement early in your career. Begin early in your firefighting career and focus on your career expectations, long-range financial plans, and the importance of developing a career and retirement plan in general.

Good radio skills can save firefighters' lives

Posted on Sat, 21 Mar 2015 22:27:07 UTC

Last month we looked at communication as it relates to fireground operations and the importance of clear, concise and standard procedures. We highlighted the order model and how communication moves between the sender and the receiver.

The advent of the portable radio changed the effectiveness of firefighters on the fireground. Firefighters can work at a greater distance from incident command and from each other in terms of sectors.

The range of operation these devices enable can be vast depending upon the infrastructure set up supporting them. As technology develops, we are seeing more integration of portable radios into our PPE, SCBA and other devices.

Industry experts who champion firefighter safety as well as firefighters who work on the front lines recommend that each and every firefighter be equipped with a portable radio. This simple and small device is such a vital part of the firefighter's survival that it cannot be ignored.

3 tiers of safety
An example of this recommendation comes from the NIOSH LODD Report F2008-21 in which a volunteer fire chief was killed when he was buried by a brick parapet wall. The report's recommendations say to "ensure that every firefighter on the fireground has a portable radio with sufficient tactical frequencies to effectively communicate on the fireground."

This recommendation was made back in 2008 and is just one out of many that have been made since and before that time. So how have we progressed since that time?

There are fire departments that provide a portable radio for each firefighter, and there are those that do not. It may be not be logistically possible to provide every firefighter working on the fireground with a portable radio due to the number of firefighters present. Costs can also be a prohibiting factor.

The portable radio provides a lifeline to three distinct people: the incident commander, the dispatcher and every firefighter who has a radio. Having these three tiers of safety provides a firefighter who may need help the ability to reach not just one person, but a whole host of people.

Mayday lessons
In the attached radio clip, you will hear a mayday being declared from a captain who fell down into a building from the adjacent roof. He was not alone; another firefighter also fell in with him.

The captain declared the mayday using the radio, but we never hear from the other firefighter. This is because he was brand new and was apprehensive about using the radio to call for help.

This is where we need to train on the importance of using the radio no matter how new or how seasoned you may be. This is your lifeline for help.

What you will hear in the audio clip are good, clear, concise communications from the captain to incident command. This made a huge difference in his rescue as well as the other firefighter's rescue. This audio clip is a great training aid to show the proper way to declare a mayday using a portable radio.

10 ways to better respond to special needs patients

Posted on Wed, 9 Jul 2014 10:59:06 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 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.

Safety tips for winter-weather response

Posted on Tue, 28 Jan 2014 08:28:50 UTC

Winter has settled in with record lows, dangerous wind chills and significant snowfall covering much of the nation. Unfortunately, how people respond to these weather events can result in house fires, automobile crashes, carbon monoxide poisonings and personal injuries.

Likewise, how you respond to incidents when the weather is a factor requires extra consideration to ensure your safety as well as those who've called for our help.

Statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association confirm what most of us know from our experience in the fire service: that house fires increase during the winter months. The majority of these fires are a result of food left on the stove, candles left near flammable items like decorations or curtains, or space heaters left unattended and close to flammable objects.

When we're called to a winter house fire, we're not just attacking the fire and smoke in the structure or searching for potential victims. We also have to be attuned to what's happening as a result of snow, ice, freezing rain or wind. Snow accumulation on the house and tree limbs, ice that may already be surrounding the house or that will develop from flowing water, and low-hanging or downed wires can all impede our work.

Maintaining situational awareness is imperative. Pay attention to what's going on around you on the scene, including with the structure and your crew. Proper ladder placement is critical in any incident, but when these harsh weather conditions come into play, we must be extra diligent. When possible get someone to heel the ladder for extra stability.

Road safety
Similarly, how people drive can be affected by the weather. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 24 percent of all vehicle crashes in the United States occur during rain, sleet, snow or fog, and the slick pavement it produces.

Keep this in mind when responding to the scene of a crash during bad weather: If the driver who you are on your way to assist had difficulty seeing due to fog, heavy rain or blowing snow, or hit black ice, you should expect to experience the same conditions. While it's important to arrive to a scene quickly, it's far more important that you arrive safely.

It's also critical to be conscientious of how you and others around you are driving at all times. It's common for motorists to become nervous behind the wheel in inclement weather.

That level of uneasiness only increases when they hear sirens or see lights behind them. Their reactions, such as stopping short in front of you or skidding into oncoming traffic, may result in another incident.

Drive appropriately for the weather conditions. And remember that driving defensively doesn't mean driving aggressively.

Above all else, use your seat belts every time wheels roll. Whether you're responding in your personal vehicle or department apparatus, it's imperative that you buckle up. It’s that simple.

The bottom line: Stay alert, drive smart, be safe and stay warm.

HAZMAT Response Video Supplement: Personal Protective Equipment

Posted on Sun, 30 Sep 2007 18:28:40 UTC

Be a better firefighter with post-incident analysis

Posted on Tue, 3 Mar 2015 15:28:42 UTC

One of the most important areas of personal development for any firefighter is participation in the after-action critique.

Regardless of the success or challenges encountered in an emergency, effectively illuminating its resolution is a giant step in advancing policy and procedures, training and education, and the real meaning of teamwork and collective accomplishment.

Exactly what you and your department determine is the best way to conduct such an analysis can mean the difference between a progressive, proactive experience and one that flounders in second-guesses and finger-pointing.

The following basic principles of a successful critique will go a long way to formulating a productive and successful process.

Selecting the right facilitator for a critique is critical to its overall success. The person selected should be experienced, objective for the particular incident to be reviewed and democratic in their approach to discussion.

A good critique officer is one who can create the scene — weather, incident environment, equipment configuration and general assignments.

Whether on a screen or a white board, an organized narrator equipped with a site layout can go a long way in providing a foundation for effective discussion.

Ground rules
The stage should be set, whether in a standard operating procedure, a formal declaration of the ranking officer or by the facilitator at the time of the incident review.

A respect for rules, a sense of order and acknowledging appropriate behavior, combine to create a decorum that is essential to an effective review.

Expressed frustrations and even displays of anger are totally unacceptable during these critiques. Integrity of purpose should keep you on track — most of the time.

Process not people
The underlying principle for conducting a review is that it is all about the process and not about the people, with the exception of performance recognition.

The words used to discuss the incident can influence the quality of the process. When analyzing an incident, use terms like challenges instead of problems, lessons learned rather than mistakes made, and always remember that critique is not another word for criticism.

Instead of berating a crew for losing an exposure, a discussion of the challenges faced defending the adjacent building will lead to an open learning environment and further discussion. As a result, your training officer and possibly your SOP committee may revisit the concept of close-proximity exposure protection.

Hiding is not helping
We obsess about every emergency response. It is in our nature. Second-guessing, what ifs and an eclectic group of theories permeate every back-bay and kitchen-table discussion for days after a high-energy incident response — and for good reason.

Learning from our experiences is a critical component to how firefighters make themselves, their teammates and their department better.

Taking this one step further requires that if you have something to say, you have an obligation to contribute in a critique.

Firefighter's role
As a firefighter adding to a critique, you must be aware of the format and speak when it is appropriate. Be objective and limit your point of view to what you know while acknowledging your biases.

Clarify misconceptions, describe changing environments and create a measurable view of the work that was accomplished. Explain what you experienced and how it added to or subtracted from the tactical objective you were assigned.

Asking about how your tactical involvement related to the overall strategy is a valid question.

Leadership's responsibility
Officers, too, have a role in promoting an open atmosphere of acceptance and discussion during any critique. There are several questions officers must ask during an after-incident critique.

  • Was the action plan followed and why or why not?
  • Were there gaps in the tactics and did they affect the strategic progression of the response?
  • Were there enough resources and were they the correct ones for the tasks?
  • Could anything have been done differently?
  • Was any action seen as unsafe?
  • What have we learned and what needs to change?

Training opportunity
Not knowing something is not the crime, but not teaching what you know is. When it comes to training, patience and the Socratic method will advance the critique when appropriate and effectively allow lessons to be learned.

The rule here is to be careful not to get bogged down in teachable moments. The ultimate goal of a critique is to solicit feedback in a structured format for the purpose of advancing operational development.

It doesn't matter whether you call it a post-incident analysis, an after-action review or simply a debriefing. The critique of any emergency response is a fundamental factor for promoting progress in your department.

The opportunity to discuss strategies and the real-life tactics used to advance them are vital to your organization's moving forward.

Knowing that every participant, regardless of job or rank, has an equal chance to express their questions and concerns as well as their appreciation, generates an abiding trust in each other while directly enhancing the prospect for success on the next call.

How About a Culture of Prevention?

Posted on Mon, 29 Jun 2009 12:32:56 UTC

By Bill Delaney

Reactions to Lt. Ray McCormack's speech at FDIC were varied, with people picking sides — sometimes very emotionally.

My own take on the speech was somewhere in the middle. He never said do not be safe. I think he was really trying to say he fears we are taking the "be safe" component to an extreme. He has stirred a good debate and I applaud him for having the conviction to stand up for his beliefs.

But the one big thing that was missing from all of the discussion that followed the speech, and seemingly absent from all fire service debates/discussions, is the bastard child of the fire service: the culture of prevention.

You know, that annoying little member of our family who we always try to make sure is relatively unseen and certainly never heard from? After all, most of the debate related to "The Speech" does not happen if the fire, gasp, is prevented and never happens in the first place!

There is much national gnawing and gnashing of the teeth as staffing on trucks are being reduced, stations closed, revolving station closures, etc. amidst the current economic climate.

No doubt we should be screaming from the highest mountain tops about all of that as it does involve the wellbeing of our people and those we serve. We are, however, eerily quiet when it comes to public educators and other "prevention" components of our service when they get cut.

Why is this? Well, for me, it is because we DO have a culture of extinguishment! That is where Lt. McCormack was all wrong in his speech. The culture of extinguishment is more than alive and well and probably always will be in a vast majority of departments in the United States.

Don't believe me? Take a look at your own department's budget priorities. Next, look at the departments around you. In the Washington, D.C.–Metro area, we have two departments that now have no public educators and three that cut staffing by more than 50 percent.

Meanwhile, one that has taken its few remaining educators and trained them as inspectors and let them know that most of their duties will fall under revenue generating inspections. I will admit that the last one at least has a prevention component to it so not all is lost.

The old adage is that you cut what you do not perceive to be the greatest value. Fortunately my chief values our risk reduction efforts (as well as firefighter safety) and let it be known that cutting our public education staff is not even an option for discussion.

But actions speak louder than words and the vast majority of departments across our great land have spoken. The proponents of the speech can rest easy — I firmly believe that the culture of extinguishment is alive and well in our great country!

Unnoticed door locks increase firefighter risk

Posted on Tue, 17 Sep 2013 09:17:42 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.

How to train for firefighter, police games

Posted on Sat, 17 Jan 2015 23:18:19 UTC

On June 26 the 2015 World Police & Fire Games will kickoff in Fairfax, Va. The games' organizers expect over 12,000 professional, public safety athletes from 70 countries competing in more than 60 sports to qualify for over 1,600 medal sporting events.

That's a lot of public safety athletes that are preparing right now to excel in their respective sports and events.

If you are one of these dedicated athletes or just a dedicated public safety athlete not interested in competing, I intend to walk you through a workout program that will get you in the best shape of your life.

The plan is simple: you have six months to train, balance, eat clean, prepare and peak for the pinnacle of public safety fitness. In this case it's the games or maybe just to be better then you are today.

No fitness program for any athlete regardless of the sport is complete without proper mobility and flexibility. No matter how strong you are or how fit, without good mobility (joint motion and muscular flexibility) injury will eventually occur.

Movement matters
The best athletes will fail without proper movement. Movement matters, so you need to move well and move well often.

First is self-myofascial release followed by trigger-point treatment. This is truly where great athletes are made and old injuries go away. The time you spend preparing to workout should be almost as long as the workout.

Think of it as "pre-hab so you do not have to rehab." As I stated in my last article, check off the truck then check off your body.

This approach is perfect for when you are on duty because you have to get you ready for whatever call comes in. As an athlete, some targeted pre-shift stretching is good, but you have to do more. That's where the foam roller comes in.

I like to think of foam rolling as brushing my muscles. As an obsessive-compulsive muscle brusher, I want to roll each and every fiber I can get. Start at the calf, then the hamstring and then the glutes.

From there I like to focus on the front of the leg, and what I call the firefighter spot, the inner thigh. From there, go to the lats and finally the upper back.

Trigger points
The foam roller warms up the big muscles, just like a jog or those dreaded calisthenics we all did in the past. Now, focus on the root of most movement evil, trigger points. The above video explains trigger points very well and demonstrates how to relieve them.

So the superficial tissue is warmed up from the roller and then you got deep with the tennis ball to mobilize those nasty trigger points. At this point, any stretching you do will be much more effective.

That's the pattern you need to follow each and every time you train. A good warm up should take at least 10 to 15 minutes, but it's this scientific approach to movement and mobility that will reduce your chance of injury both on and off the job.

Now that you are moving well and moving often, it's time to train. I'll break training for police and fire games into two articles. This one addresses mobility and stability; the next looks at the priority fitness system that I have developed to create tactical fitness.

Weeks 1 to 3
After you're warm up, do the following six exercises in a circuit. Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps for each exercise with no rest between exercises; do the bear crawls the full length of the bay.

Rest 90 seconds between sets and then repeat.

For your cool down, do 30-second intervals on the stepper (bike or rower are OK too) with 15 seconds rest for a total of eight rounds. As you progress to week 3 feel free to add your turnouts to the mix.

Weeks 4 to 6
Each exercise is three sets of 10 to 12 reps with a strict 45 seconds rest between sets. Use awesome technique; sloppy reps do not count.

When done, grab a kettle bell or heavy dumbbell and do farmers walks up and down the bay. Do them left handed, right handed and with both hands. Make sure that your torso is upright and that the shoulders are pulled back at all times during the walks.

After each lap, before switching hands, run the bay three times; if you have a tower hands, do the stairs one time after each lap. As you progress and get used to the movements, do it in your turnouts.

Remember, no exercise program should ever cause injury if it's done properly. Technique matters and so does your diet. Next, we'll look at priority fitness system.

Fire attack: Understanding landmark buildings

Posted on Tue, 6 Jan 2015 17:44:41 UTC

Fires in landmark structures pose some unique operational challenges for fire department, foremost being the mindset of the initial responding companies. The default mindset for firefighters is to quickly initiate an interior offensive attack on the fire using 1¾-inch lines. Such a predetermined mode of operations often results in unsafe, ineffective and inefficient operations when responding to older, longstanding commercial structures.

Let's consider what some of those unique challenges look like.

Older structures can typically include a mixture of construction types, such as wood-framed and ordinary, as the building has undergone modifications over the years. This results in the creation of unprotected void spaces for fire travel, incompatible electrical systems that are prone to overloading, and improper and overabundant storage (due to lack of space).

Keep these three pre-arrival fire development characteristics in mind when attacking a landmark fire.

Fires that originate outside of normal business hours, especially during the overnight hours, will quickly develop beyond the incipient stage and be into the well-developed stage — the point at which an offensive interior fire attack starts to become unsafe, ineffective and inefficient.

Fires will quickly locate and spread to those unprotected void spaces, like those between multiple ceilings. Fires are more likely to be showing from multiple points that are remote from the point of origin.

The percentage of the total building involved in fire will be greater as will the total BTUs being generated by the fire.

Discussion questions

  • What is your initial size-up of the incident?
  • What would your Incident Action Plan entail for this fire according to your size-up?
  • How do the tactical actions of the fire officers and firefighters in the video compare to your IAP?
  • What corrective actions, if any, would you take as the incident commander?
  • How would you compare and contrast the use of multiple smaller-caliber streams and fewer large-caliber streams for managing a fire like this one depicted in the video.
  • What role will issues such as water management, air pollution, impact on personnel, etc., play in your small- vs. large-caliber debate?

Apparatus Advances in 2007

Posted on Fri, 28 Dec 2007 10:00:00 UTC

Photo Jamie Thompson
Apparatus on display at the FDIC in Indianapolis in April.

At the beginning of the year, the fire apparatus industry really seemed as if it would suffer because of the new 2007 EPA Guidelines for Diesel Engines. While it wasn't all smooth, it didn't turn out as bad as some had imagined. Admittedly, it did require a lot of redesign and engineering of cabs and bodies to have the new engines fit. But it seems that sales have increased in the second half of the year, with many large orders being placed despite the new designs.

This year brought us the PUC from Pierce Manufacturing, which is a new concept that provides ease of maintenance with easier access to the pump, engine and transmission as well as a Pierce Pump. The vehicle also has more compartment space, chest-high cross lays and easier access to the rear hose bed by an angled ladder.

E-One had an extremely busy year, with several new products being launched including a new ARFF Vehicle, the Titan Force 6, with a five-person cab, exterior pump panel, multiple roof and bumper turrets, 3170 gallon poly water tank and a 437 gallon poly foam tank.

Also designed was the urban pumper, with a low ergonomic hose bed and a hybrid energy command vehicle for homeland security use. At FRI in Atlanta, it introduced a new SUV command vehicle — Comms-One — which promotes command interoperability in radio communication.

In more recent months, KME introduced the Challenger pumper line. The Challenger family features 36 different body configurations in steel, aluminum or stainless with 29" deep body compartments for added storage. It has numerous hose bed and compartment configurations including high capacity and low, easy-access hose beds. All can be built on KME Custom or commercial chassis.

Meanwhile, Ferrara's main launch in 2007 was the Heavy Duty 5 section Midmount ladder, which touts a shorter wheelbase and a lower overall height.

In addition, Crimson has built a new pump panel — ControlXT — in conjunction with Fire Research Corporation. It incorporates a more easy-to-read panel with engine information, water and tank level gauges, pressure governing systems and other customer-selected controls and displays. ControlXT will be standard or optional on all Crimson product lines.

Finally, Rosenbauer America debuted the T-Rex in 2007. In conjunction with Metz, the new articulating platform sets up in 25-30 seconds, has an aerial height of 102' equipped with a 2000 gpm pump and room for 115' of ground ladders. It also features a platform collision avoidance feature and a 1400 lb tip capacity.

All of the manufacturers are building and designing with firefighter safety in mind, which in my book is something that should continue in the coming years. More attention is being placed on larger cabs with more room for firefighter comfort and safety, lower hose beds and increased storage space as well as multi-tasking vehicles because we are all trying to do more with less in this day and age.

Just when you think nothing else could be possible, the fire apparatus engineers come out with another new idea that takes the industry by storm. With all of these new innovations that were introduced this year, I can hardly wait for the offerings in 2008. It should prove to be an interesting year. If that is not enough, newer stringent EPA Diesel Engine requirements crop up again in 2010. Oh well!