Sorry, our Department Can't Comply with Rehab Standards

Posted on Mon, 24 Nov 2008 21:19:30 UTC

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1584 Standard on the Rehabilitation Process for Members During Emergency Operations and Training Exercises, attained "standard" status in March of 2008. Emergency services organizations must begin implementing the standard this year. Certainly it is the desire of every fire and EMS administrator to protect their department members in the areas of health and safety. As time proceeds, it will be interesting to monitor the a cceptance and practical application of these standards. Can we expect the "perfect emergency scene" to exist throughout the nation consistently? Where will departments fall short? Are these mandates doable, especially with shrinking budgets and manpower limitations?

Let's look at the nine key components of NFPA 1584, highlighting some practical concerns. I will be taking the "devil's advocate" role in responding to the requirements of the standard. You may note an air of cynicism that is seldom heard in the fire service. This is a very serious topic and my approach is only to show that "If there is a will, there is a way." Organize your team and resources and continue networking in order to achieve success.

Relief from climatic (weather/environmental) conditions:
Firefighting is done in extreme weather conditions. Mother Nature doesn't provide our world with moderate temperatures and working conditions. How can we escape the extreme heat or cold? We just won't respond to calls if it is too hot or cold.

Rest and recovery:
Depending on how many units are in staging, I'd love to take a 30 minute break with every bottle change. We operate two-man engine companies and the closest mutual aid company is twelve minutes out. "Hey chief, I'm tired, can I go lay down?"
We need a 3rd alarm just to get enough bodies to the scene.

Cooling or re-warming:
The only heat source is the inferno we're here to put out. Wearing all this turnout gear causes me to dehydrate before I even get into the structure. City council dinged our request for air conditioned cabs. We're lucky they let us have the air conditioners on at the firehouse. My idea of cooling is sit in the shade of the ladder truck.

Re-hydration:
Where's the closest vending machine? No one filled the engines water cooler today.
We used to carry bottled water on the rigs but the guys would drink them during truck checks. Hopefully the neighbors will show up with some lemonade to help out America's Bravest. Fire trucks have water in them, don't they? Drink that water.

Calorie and electrolyte replacement:
Hey neighbor, while you're making that lemonade, how about a turkey on rye with extra pickles? No name, free game. The mobile canteen showed up with day old doughnuts and week old bologna sandwiches. Luckily I ate a big lunch because this looks like a long one. That's why we never implemented a physical training program. We like to have our guys with some extra fat on them.

Medical Monitoring:
What do you mean my pulse and blood pressure are too high? That is my NORMAL resting pulse and BP. Maybe these extra few pounds I've been carrying around make it tough. After a couple cups of coffee and some doughnuts, they will go back to normal.
Chief needs three more hand lines stretched and we need all bodies.

EMS Treatment in accordance with local protocol:
Where are the medics? We've got an apartment building roaring and the EMS rigs are two blocks away. Just give me some O2 and I will be fine. It's not bad chest pain. Probably the chili dogs with onion I ate for lunch. I don't want to look soft in front of the young guys.

Member accountability:
I lost my tags. My crew got split up and the captain detailed me to re-fill air bottles.
I don't want to look soft by hanging out in rehab.

Release from rehabilitation:
This will not be a problem. You either get back to work or go to the hospital in the bus.
It feels kinda good here in the air conditioned rehab unit. With all that 5" that needs to be re-loaded, maybe I need to drink another liter of juice.

We all know that changing old habits comes slow for some. Budget constraints do create real challenges in meeting the needs of your department. Truly, for any department to be 100 % compliant in meeting these standards, much planning and focusing will be required. Develop a team of interested staff members to research, develop and implement these life-saving standards. Although it may take months to reach your ultimate goal, it is never too late to make improvements. Best of luck with your efforts to ensure the health and safety of your people. They are worth it!

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.

How to rid firefighting PPE of bedbugs

Posted on Tue, 16 Sep 2014 15:53:55 UTC

We are routinely asked about problems that firefighters have with unusual forms of contamination for their turnout gear. Other than the commonly reported paint, tar, various hydrocarbons, and other substances, we are seeing a new trend in less-traditional forms of contaminants.

As strange as it may seem, gear can be contaminated by bedbugs — sometimes because of poor storage practices or simply from firefighter clothing contact in areas where infestations have occurred. And as some may know, bedbugs can be difficult to get rid of, particularly if cleaning options are limited.

However, these are not the only bugs that the fire service has to worry about. Given the routine contact with the public, firefighter PPE is being exposed to different microorganisms, some of which can be quite infectious and lead to serious health problems.

For example, over the past several years, some departments have reported rampant spread of MRSA, short for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Other infectious organisms are also finding their way onto clothing and surviving for long periods of time.

Take Clostridium difficile, for example, generally referred to as "C. diff." It is generally rampant and difficult to treat in hospitals, and it is now finding its way into the first responder sector.

Gear-care challenge
These forms of biological contamination pose new challenges and a rethinking of gear care and maintenance. Yet, the fire service is no stranger to bio-contamination.

In the mid-1980s, the AIDS epidemic drove OSHA to create blood-borne pathogens regulations, which set specific requirements for employers, including fire departments, to have procedures for addressing blood-borne pathogens, including HIV and various forms of Hepatitis.

Approaches such as universal precautions were adopted and personal protective equipment was mandated for protecting workers (firefighters).

The NFPA responded by creating a new standard for emergency medical protective clothing (NFPA 1999), setting barrier requirements to further the OSHA PPE requirements specific to first responders. NFPA 1971, the standard on structural firefighting protective clothing was revised to include tests for viral penetration of moisture barriers and liquid integrity testing of garments.

As part of EMS responsibilities, firefighters were being exposed to airborne pathogens such as reemerging tuberculosis and emerging diseases such as SARS and the H1N1 flu. As a consequence, the fire service became more aware of biological contamination and adapted with new practices, including how they select, use, and maintain their gear.

Bedbug 2.0
While these new biologically based threats may be no less insidious, they too can be managed effectively, Take bedbugs for instance. Over the past several years, bedbugs have had a resurgence after being nearly wiped out during the mid-1990s.

The new bedbugs are more resistant to many insecticides and conventional pest treatments. Most recommendations for ridding textile-based articles of bedbugs involve applying high temperatures (washing and drying at temperature over 120oF) and using special insecticides.

However, turnout clothing is generally prohibited from being washed or dried at temperatures greater than 105oF.

Insecticides pose specific problems. Many are simply not effective, particularly aerosols that may not fully penetrate into all the recesses and gaps in clothing. Moreover, these insecticides pose their own problems and generally have unknown compatibility with clothing materials and could lead lasting residue.

Big chill
Some departments have found that putting clothing in a freezer can be effective in eradicating bedbugs, though it does take a long time.

University of Minnesota research showed that bagging items and placing them in a freezer at 0°F for a minimum of 3.5 days kills bedbugs at all life stages. This time may be decreased to 48 hours if temperatures average below -5°F (note that many household freezers cannot achieve these temperatures).

Bagging the clothing before going in the freezer prevents bedbugs from exiting the items and perishing elsewhere inside the freezer; the bagging also minimizes condensation.

Invisible threat
Emerging infectious diseases being spread to first responders can be bit more challenging. Obviously, the microorganisms that are the seat of this contamination and potential for disease are invisible and show no sign of contamination. Often, the firefighter or emergency responder will not know if they have been exposed unless there is some telltale sign from a victim.

These microorganisms can easily contaminant clothing and some have amazing persistency, remaining viable in textile-based fabrics for extended periods of time, as long as three weeks under ordinary temperature and humidity.

True, an individual's likelihood for infection is affected by many factors, including the dose of the exposure as well as overall health, state of immune system and general physical condition; however, the incidence of infections has been increased.

Clothing considered to be contaminated with a biological contaminant has to be handling in the ways now applied to blood-borne pathogens. It must be assumed to be contaminated and communicable, that is, universal procedures must be applied.

Universal precautions
This includes bagging and isolating the clothing and using examination gloves, facemasks, eye/face protection, and aprons in handling the contaminated clothing. Commercial laundry facilities often use water temperatures of at least 160°F and 50-150 ppm of chlorine bleach to remove significant quantities of microorganisms from grossly contaminated linen.

Studies have shown that a satisfactory reduction of microbial contamination can be achieved at water temperatures lower than 160°F if laundry chemicals suitable for low-temperature washing are used at proper concentrations.

For turnout clothing, these practices do not work. They are too harsh both with the application of high temperatures and particularly the use of bleach that destroys turnout clothing components.

Instead, the proven process is to use disinfection and sanitization agents that are registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has established specific requirements for qualifying these agents for significantly reducing infectious agents.

However, the tests do not cover all microorganisms and care must be exercised in choosing specific agents. For example, not all disinfectants and sanitization agents can be applied to protective clothing. Many are intended only for hard, non-porous surfaces and are not effective for textile-based clothing. Others may have unintended effects on the clothing, reducing its performance properties.

The fire service is always up against new threats and challenges as their mission roles change or expand. The new issues can be dealt with effectively but require new levels of vigilance and attention to details related to maintain adequate levels of safety and health, including the care of its personal protective equipment.

Greek tragedy for firefighters

Posted on Mon, 12 Jul 2010 21:35:47 UTC

By Jay Lowry

What does the Greek financial crisis that hit the headlines earlier in the summer have to do with fire stations being built?

A great deal. Unlike 20 years ago, we live in a very connected world and the global market is influenced by local events with repercussions felt in cities and towns across the United States.

When Greece received a bailout from the European Union, stocks plummeted in the United States — and didn't stop dropping for a while.

Why should firefighters or EMS care?

There is a steady drum beat for financial reform including pension reform, eliminating deficit spending and reducing salaries. These are local effects of a national and even international problem. NFPA 1710 staffing is being attacked as wasteful and the financial crisis helps those who want to have barebones service.

Some firefighters state this was the worst budget year in history. Not hardly.

In many areas, the big bust will be the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 budget cycles.

The mood of the country coupled with rising debt, deficit spending, massive entitlement programs and loss of investor confidence will combine to make the current situation look tame.

Warren Buffett is known as the "Oracle of Omaha" because of his financial acumen. Testifying before Congress last month, and in subsequent interviews, Buffett discussed rising concerns over municipal bonds.

He has divested, as have others, in muni-bonds because cities and counties are finding it very hard to make payments. This is very bad news.

All is not lost. Fire and EMS will survive but both must plan for tighter budgets while educating the public on the importance of the services performed.

The economy will rebound eventually but don't expect it to happen soon. Even so, the effects will have consequences for years to come.

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.

Safety tips for winter-weather response

Posted on Tue, 28 Jan 2014 16:28:50 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.

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.

Innovative EMS ideas are ripe for grant funding

Posted on Fri, 20 Jun 2014 00:11:54 UTC

A recent DOT-NTSA Innovation Grant opened its arms to a slew of game-changing ideas, and we can expect to see more of this in the future.

Although the submission deadline was June 6 for the grant “promoting innovation for emergency medical services,” I don’t think it’s over by a long shot. More of these types of grans will likely be offered in the future, so the DOT/NTSA process will be onto watch all way through, from award to implementation.

The award winner will receive $100,000 to $225,000 for a solutions-based pilot project implementation, and there is a lot to learn about which agencies get funding and why.

Which ideas are award-winning?

While the application cited integrated mobile health care programs, the grant was open to all types of EMS delivery solutions.

For instance, EMS organizations that want to implement a returning veterans outreach program or a new EMS neighborhood watch program may be considered for an award. Community EMS training and/or EMS citizens’ academies might also catch the eye of grantors.

Much like the Regional EMS Authority in Reno, Nevada, which received a CMS Innovation Grant that collaborates with the University of Nevada Reno Medical School as a grant requirement, the DOT/NTSA’s awardee will engage with its respective state’s oversight agency while implementing the awarded “legal, regulatory and financial frameworks” for the selected pilot project.

As a result of such collaboration, the DOT project innovators must show their solution(s) as offering consistent quality and safety controls, quality medical direction, meticulous data collection, and eventually sustainable program financing.

As it goes with many of these types of projects, government agencies like CMS and the DOT are looking for solutions that may be replicated elsewhere.

Innovation grants will continue to grow

I believe these types of grants offered to innovative public and private for-profit and nonprofit EMS organizations present a win-win problem-solving strategy that is here to stay. What’s more, if the awardee is successful the grant is likely to become available again next year.

And, as a bonus, there is significant prestige and organizational growth that comes with winning and then producing a great solution.

Now is the time to get prepared for the next big opportunity. Treat your new EMS delivery idea like any circumspect entrepreneur by writing a business plan.

Declare on paper the vision and mission for your project. Describe who benefits from the implementation of your program, cite up-front who might disagree or compete with you, and mitigate any opposition.

Be ready to describe the human resources and capital equipment your idea requires, and record the implementation milestones and timelines that will make your idea a real-time solution.

Almost every innovation grant requires proving your idea’s sustainability, so remember to include how your project can continue to fund itself after the grant runs out.

Food for Thought at the Firehouse Kitchen

Posted on Mon, 7 Jan 2008 22:21:04 UTC
I always think outsiders would be amazed to see what goes on in the firehouse kitchen, as members try to outdo each other with personal attacks on each other. But these attacks are never spewed with hate or venom in my experience, just good-natured ribbing that keeps everyone honest.

During my early years on the job, I would not even think of ribbing my officer or the chiefs. But today, with a smile, some of the guys will forward funny dialogue in my direction. Although I could take this as a sign of disrespect, it is nothing even close to that. Not always, but sometimes, I kind of set these guys up to give it to me good, and boy do they do so.

Guess what? It is OK because in the firehouse we can have all the fun we want, but on the fireground it must be business and only business. Once that line is clearly defined there are few if any problems concerning fire or emergency operations. And brothers and sisters, do not think for one moment I do not shovel it back in their direction — I can be kind of funny myself at times. Usually when I think about a particular ribbing they gave me, it brings a little smile to my face and I get another chuckle out of a pretty funny line used on me.

The main point is that although we are laughing and fooling around, a lot of good, informative information can come out of these periods. If the group of brothers and sisters had a unique incident or a tragedy that occurred during the shift -- or tour, as we call it in NYC – it's often discussed at the kitchen table. Not only can you learn from some of this information, it is also a type of counseling in a way.

For much of the time, firefighters do not like to talk to strangers or professionals concerning their feelings, but will open up and talk freely with the other firefighters. I have found this to help tremendously in a personal way. This especially applied after 9/11, where your only focus was the task at hand, however enormous and daunting it was. I would sit sometimes with the other brothers and just talk; I didn't even need an answer, I was just getting things off my chest.

I am sure there were many of us in this position who were also helped by this informal session of therapy. So if and when you need to say something, throw it out on the kitchen table. There will be at least one brother or sister, possibly a senior firefighter or officer, who may just have an answer or a statement of support for you. In addition, officers should be aware that some of the statements made are signs that members need help. It all goes to show the value of this kitchen time.

Sharing information
The kitchen at the change of tours and the roll call can also allow officers and members to exchange a good amount of information concerning firefighting and emergencies, It provides a captive audience and the opportunity to discuss the possibilities of the upcoming tour as well as the events that transpired on the previous one. You usually receive your assignment during this period and your size-up of the tour should start at that moment.

Something as simple as the weather and a discussion can create possible scenarios you may encounter that day or night. I know for me a windy day conjures up many horrors that may occur if I respond to a fire: extension of fire to exposures especially attached wood frame structures has me thinking of multiple alarms; a high-rise fire could potentially become an extreme wind-driven fire that always brings problems to the fireground.

Forecasts of snow and ice will inhibit the rapid placement of hand lines to confine or extinguish the fire, and frozen or out–of-service hydrants will cause delays that could be potentially disastrous to the brothers and sisters, not to mention the unfortunate people whose house is on fire. For the left coast folks, I can only imagine what the chiefs are thinking about concerning winds and forest fires. There are numerous possibilities on issues to be discussed during these periods. Officers and firefighters should use this time and be pro-active by discussing a hot topic, a recent response or job and the possible problems that could arise during the tour.

Most importantly, be ready to ride if you are riding. If you relieve someone, ensure you are in your proper uniform, your gear is on the apparatus or at the assigned riding position and you have notified the officer so that he/she can amend the riding list. Do not board the apparatus if you are not expected to be on it, as how will the officer be accountable for you? These are just some of the things to think about during these times.

One final thing. For all you classic rock fans, a very important debate arose the other morning in the kitchen here. Which band had more musical talent: The Who or Led Zeppelin? Personally I stated Led Zeppelin but one of the senior firefighters sided with The Who. The members were kind of concerned because this senior firefighter keeps them nice and happy with his gourmet meals. But while I said that may well be the case, I pointed out that I do the payroll and that they all needed money to pay for those gourmet meals. Lots of silence and oh so golden!

Off-duty firefighter: playing 'what if'

Posted on Mon, 29 Sep 2014 17:30:00 UTC

Have you ever played the 'what if' game? It's not very hard to do, but there is at least one rule that I strongly suggest out of experience: never play if you are on a date, especially a date night with your spouse.

The game involves you looking at a structure, perhaps a new fast-food restaurant under construction, a business you're visiting for the first time, or a subdivision where friends may reside and you stop and say. The game requires you to consciously stop, look around starting with the exterior and begin to formulate a pre-incident plan in your mind.

Some of the things you'll want to include are looking for available building access and egress, fire lanes, water supply, type of construction, built-in fire protection such as sprinklers, automatic suppression systems in kitchens, computer rooms or vaults, and fire alarms.

Other factors might be the fire load, occupancy, life hazard, aisle space, security systems, locks, storage, offices, lighting and HVAC.

Want fries with that?
Let's use the fast-food restaurant as an example. Normally there is a fairly adequate parking area and predetermined number of entrances that also serve as exits.

What about the construction? If it's typical and relatively recent, you can bet that it is mostly wood-frame truss construction that is meant to support the roof and the very substantial HVAC.

What about the kitchen? How many cooking units, especially deep fryers does it have? Are they equipped with a suppression system covering all the fryers, grill surfaces and exhaust hoods?

Is the system both automatic using a fusible link and manual? Is it connected to the automatic fire alarm? What would be the more typical fires?

If you said, a grease fire, you'd most probably be correct, but where? Would it most likely be a surface grill, fryer, hood or grease trap? What is your access to each appliance?

Slip and fall
What special hazards have you observed? If you said watch out for the HVAC on the roof, you would be correct. But if you also mentioned the thin layer of grease on the floor, you get a gold star.

If you've ever walked onto the floor of a fast-food restaurant in fire boots, then you know how slippery it becomes. Losing your footing, falling down, or spraining an ankle can happen under the best of circumstances.

But think about how this would be if you were inside and realized that you were experiencing pre-flashover conditions — it might make you think about the option of knocking the fire down substantially from the exterior before making entry.

By the way, did anyone mention the playground inside? The plastic gym set not only adds to the fire load, but could also become a deadly maze for a firefighter in zero visibility.

Soft drink dangers
What type of ceiling do you see? If it's a drop ceiling, how is it hung and supported? Could a fire spread undetected above? Where would be a safe area to lift a tile or punch an inspection hole?

Where would you suspect the utility shut-off to be for natural or LP gas and the electricity? Can you spot any transformers or underground electrical utilities?

During a 360-degree walk around, look for a large intake valve on a remote side near the kitchen. If the restaurant is relatively new, it probably uses liquid carbon dioxide rather than compressed cylinders of CO2 to add the carbonation to its soft drink dispenser. It wasn't that long ago that the Phoenix Fire Department brought this to the attention of the fire service literally by accident.

That department made an EMS call for a person passed out at a recently finished location of a very popular fast-food restaurant chain. What started as a routine medical call wound up a critical incident involving an oxygen-deprived IDLH atmosphere where the rescuers almost became additional victims.

What the crew discovered was a major carbon dioxide leak at the fill valve for the newly installed liquid CO2 system. Since carbon dioxide displaces oxygen, not only the civilians reported to have passed out but also part of the responding medic crew fell victim to oxygen deprivation.

The engine company officer suspected something very wrong was happening and quickly had all hands retreat to safety, evacuate the premises and don full PPE to re-enter and investigate.

Now given the answers to all these questions, how would you attack a well involved kitchen fire reported just past midnight? Would your strategy change if the fire were reported at noon on a Saturday?

So how do like the 'What If' game so far? Remember that fast-food restaurants are probably the commercial occupancy we visit most frequently. Are you ready to take on the big-box hardware and lumber store? What about your friend's house in the new subdivision?

Each structure has its own hazards and requires us to think ahead of the fire by generally knowing what to expect even prior to our arrival, size-up, initial 360-degree walk around, or first attack line. That is the true value of the 'What If' game.

A tip of the helmet
While recently driving across U.S. 30, I yielded to Ligonier (Pa.) Fire Department's heavy rescue truck approaching a motor vehicle accident scene. The driver and officer placed the vehicle across the affected lanes of the divided highway.

They then set up a safety zone with flares and traffic cones so the engine crew, chief officer, police and their crew could safely move about to attend to the driver and her severely damaged vehicle. Remember, always think safety on motor vehicle accident scenes and protect yourself and others by using your apparatus placement to help create a safe area to work.

How communication centers can aid incident commanders

Posted on Tue, 13 Jul 2010 21:03:09 UTC

By Bob Smith
Director of Strategic Development, APCO International

It's 0300 hours, you're in the front right seat of the first due engine on a multi-story residential structure fire with several exposures. As you climb out of the truck and start your size-up you've got about 10,000 things going through your head.

How many personnel are responding to this fire? Is that enough? What units are responding? Is that enough? Should I call for an additional alarm? Or two? Where should I position the ladder when it gets here? And dozens more. The number and complexity of those things you'll need to consider won't really start to dwindle until the clean-up is over and units are returning to the station.

One of the many things being considered during this process is that of personnel accountability. Who's on the scene, where are they and what are they doing? Another issue is incident development. How long has this fire been burning? How long have we been at this offensive interior attack? Is it time to switch tactics to a defensive exterior attack?

Well let's take a moment to discuss an often overlooked resource that can assist an incident commander with personnel accountability and monitoring incident progress — the communications center. An adequately trained and staffed comm center can assist incident commanders in a multitude of areas beyond the traditional dispatch, information management and resource tracking.

PARs in the fire service
Let's start with accountability. Conducting personnel accountability reports (PAR) during an event of any size has become second nature to the fire service. Effective department accountability programs should incorporate PARs on incidents of any size and of any nature.

A PAR is a tool that allows incident commanders to ensure all personnel on scene are safe and accounted for. This action can easily be carried out by the comm center and many jurisdictions have done just that by training their comm center personnel on how to conduct PARs and how to relay the PAR's findings to the IC. One less action needed to be carried out by the IC.

Another tool that comm centers can provide an IC to assist with personnel safety are regular time checks during an incident. Time checks can be designed so that beginning at a certain point in the incident — say 10 minutes after the first unit arrives on scene or the IC announces that knockdown has begun — the comm center staff will notify the IC every 10 to 20 minutes.

We all know that 10 minutes worth of free burning in a traditional structure fire can make the difference between a successful knockdown and leaving nothing but the foundation. Also, most departments have limits to the amount of time they will allow personnel to remain inside a building during interior attack modes.

This "heads up" from the comm center allows the IC to monitor the passage of time during an incident without having to actually watch a clock themselves. One less action needed to be carried out by the IC.

Emergency evacuations
Another area that allows for comm centers to assist ICs during an incident is playing a role in a department's emergency evacuation process. Many agencies across the country have developed emergency evacuation plans that incorporate steps such as having the comm center make evacuation announcements over primary and tactical channels and even activating pagers and radio alerts on scene.

To accomplish this, the comm center personnel must be trained in the department's evacuation plan and the plan must be tested regularly. In addition, comm centers that serve multiple fire departments should encourage all departments to adopt similar evacuation procedures to prevent confusion should a department need an evacuation announcement made during an incident.

All of these actions combined with routine responder safety actions such as monitoring the radio for Mayday calls or other unexpected traffic can increase the level of service and assistance your local comm center can provide to your department.

To accomplish this though, the comm center must have a highly trained and professional staff equipped with the most current tools and resources available. It is the responsibility of every firefighter and officer to encourage your local comm center to ensure their personnel are trained and equipped to the highest level. Because as the old saying goes, "the life you save may be your own."

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.

Apparatus Advances in 2007

Posted on Fri, 28 Dec 2007 18:00:00 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!

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.

3 exercises all firefighters should be doing

Posted on Thu, 25 Sep 2014 19:18:29 UTC

I recently taught a fireground fitness class for a small city fire department. This department has three stations and all the firefighters are full time, career.

Although this is a small department, they received a grant for equipment and had built a good gym. But that's where it stopped; this department has mandatory workout time of 60 minutes every shift.

Upon questioning their physical fitness trainers and fitness fanatics, what we found was fairly common. The answer went something like this.

"Well, there is about 20 percent that exercise all the time, 30 percent or so that exercise some of the time and well … the rest just sit on the bench and watch the rest of us work out. Sure sometimes they 'stroll' on the treadmill but that's it, just enough to say they worked out."

My question back: "Are you choosing exercises that are job specific, but that everyone can benefit from?"

"We all kind of do our own thing. Some put on SCBA and flip tires and swing sledge hammers while others do curls and bench presses. We make them workout, but we do not tell them what they have to do."

Working out or training
What's happening here, and in most of the departments we work with, is that the crews are working out when they should be training.

Working out has no goal in mind. It does not take into account factors like time of year, weather or when yearly firefighter fitness tests are done. A workout has no long-term focus; it's short-sighted and often creates many underlying biomechanical issues that have been proven to cause injury.

For example, most workouts tend to focus on "gym science." Monday is chest and tris; Tuesday is back and bis; Wednesday is legs, which most skip and then go back Friday to do chest and arms again. Sound familiar?

A scientifically designed training program specific to firefighters will look like this three-step program.

Week 1 to 3: Foam rolling and active stretching, stabilization training, core conditioning and moderate cardio.

Week 4 to 6: Foam roll and active stretch, 2-to-1 pull/push ratio strength training to begin correcting agonist-antagonist imbalances in the body, advanced core conditioning and moderate cardio.

Week 7 to 9: Foam roll, active stretch, basic power development and high-intensity interval training.

This example shows that timing, phases and exercise order are very important. Physiologically, it makes no sense to train to sheer exhaustion on your long week; that fatigue goes with you the rest of the shift.

Train hard on your short week. Focus on power, mobility and stabilization exercises during your long week. What the research has clearly shown is that it's volume not load that causes most of the on-duty fitness injuries. Not picking on cross fit, but their exercises are almost all high-volume and low-load — sets to failure.

International Association of Fire Fighters' data has shown that 33 percent of all injuries occur from training to not get hurt; too much volume (intensity) causes these injuries. What we are seeing now is that heavier weight (load) is safer when on duty during the long week as high-load, low-rep exercises cause less fatigue, which equates to a lower on-duty risk of injury.

Try these three exercise sequences when on duty to get fit, include all personnel and, maybe, even have fun.

1. Kettle bell progressions
I love kettle bells for the fire service. Hands down, it is one of the best tools a firefighter can use to get fit and build freaky job-specific fitness.

There are hundreds of kettle bell exercises, but this progression has served my departments well. It builds strength, power, core strength and stability. Plus, the first four exercises are self-diagnostic; if you cannot do them properly (heels pop up, you rotate or lean or have pain) go back to your corrective steps: roll and stretch.

Do two sets of 12 to 15 for the first four exercises. Do two to three laps for the remaining exercises.

2. Suspension trainer progressions
There is no fitness tool available that provides as much bang for the buck as a suspension trainer. Plus, it needs very little space, and it can even be attached to the back of your truck. It also works well with all levels of fitness while always building stability, balance, strength and power.

Doing three sets to failure works well with this progression. You can do a straight three weeks of nothing but suspension training and you will have wild success, especially for those firefighters who have let their fitness go.

I strongly recommend watching all the how-to videos, or, even better, get certified as a TRX coach. There is lot to know about this tool.

3. Primal patterns
Part of your job involves crawling, actually, a lot of your job does. Crawling patterns are how we learned to move as children; as adults we often forget how to do these basic, yet vital patterns.

Doing bear crawls forward and back, crab walks, balance beam, ladder crawls (on the ground) are all excellent exercises that build primal fitness, core strength, stability and are truly job specific. After you master the basic patterns and can keep your hips down, strap on your gear or weighted vest.

The bottom line is to move well and move often. Movement matters, but keep the movements (exercises) job specific and safe. If you are unable to do an exercise properly or your form is off, the exercise cannot fix that.

Get on the foam roller, use a tennis ball for self-massage, stretch, and by all means, stay hydrated. Most of your workout should be spent getting ready to train; it's an investment in your career.

Why fire departments must become risk-reduction departments

Posted on Fri, 13 Jun 2014 08:00:00 UTC

By Douglas Cline
Feb. 8, 2011
Updated June 13, 2014

Some fire service leaders expect that fire departments across the United States will see a paradigm shift from just emergency response services to a comprehensive community risk reduction and management focus.

You hear it as you talk with fire service leaders across the nation. National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer research documents are being developed and presented on this very topic. It was a discussion topic at an International Association of Fire Chief's strategic planning meeting.

So why do we need to change directions?

The fire service already handles the majority of emergencies and crisis within the community. We need to focus on a proactive approach.

This would allow for not only a safer community but help focus on the quality of life of our residents. Preventing incidents from occurring significantly reduces cost, improves the quality of life and increases the potential for economic sustainability.

New rules of engagement
The impact of budget cuts is witnessed almost daily in the fire service with browning out of stations, closing of companies, staff reduction through attrition and yes even critical staffing reductions by employees being laid off. The fire service has reached a new fold in its history.

With this new fold occurring we must adapt our philosophies, strategies and even our beloved tactics.

When corporations and builders engineer and construct disposable buildings then we need to tactically focus our efforts on engineering and code requirements of automatic fire suppression systems and early detection systems. When the owners and builders ignore this option and a fire catastrophe strikes, we need to use the new rules of tactical engagement.

Fire departments will need to shift from traditional emergency responses services and transition into a combination of emergency responses services with a primary focus on being a community reduction team focusing on public safety in a multidimensional approach of safe buildings through code enforcement, building requirements, environmental impact, community safety, responder safety, community health and wellness and community risk reduction through research and education.

We will become the mother ship that guides critical thinking in all aspects of safety throughout our community.

The fire service will need to focus on assembling a set of best practices in risk reduction and work diligently to manage risk via educating our communities, proactive engineering practices and code enforcement.

However, the fire service does not collect data well at all. We have to transition to being very analytical of collecting certain complete and accurate quantifiable data based upon a standard data model for comparative benchmarking studies.

The battle is won however on the proactive side through risk reduction and risk management. The long-term impacts will benefit everyone. Our success will be determined by not solely the retrospective data but community and family buy in. This relates to the true potential risk that exists, verses how it has been reduced

Lessons from real and simulated events

Posted on Mon, 14 Jan 2013 18:17:45 UTC

"Science with its 'dust free' environments and 'laboratory conditions,' has given us a pattern for approaching the natural world of things: we stabilize the environment, bring together a number of elements, and observe the results. We call those results 'facts.'" — Thomas Cloakley, Command and Control for War and Peace

I sat through a simulated event. There were pictures in front of me of a structure fire. I had a pencil and a radio and one of those paper command sheets that encourage the fine art of box checking. In the scenario one of my crews experienced an emergency soon after I arrived on scene.

A few days earlier I was present at a real call. A real call that was possibly a big deal but probably not. I found it difficult to manage, not so much because there were a lot of people in some danger, but rather because the potential for some people to be in a lot of danger was high.

The difference between the two events was striking. In the simulation I was faced with a once in a career high-stress event. In the simulation it was quite likely that two firefighters were in the process of dying right in front of me.

However, in the sanitized world of simulations I did not find my self under any stress. My voice was not cracking; I did not feel the characteristic tightening of the shoulders and gut. It was just a game.

"Facts are very comfortable things to deal with because they are so stable. What was a fact yesterday will be a fact tomorrow, so long as the environment stays the same." — Cloakley

Crucial part of practice
I realize that simulations are more than games. They are a crucial part of practice and can provide critical insights into how one might behave when faced with the real thing. They are not to be taken lightly, but then they are not real in the same way that toy cars are not real cars.

A few days earlier I was present at a real call. It was not so real that it made the evening news, not real enough to warrant a mention in the local newspaper. But is was real in the way that makes your shoulders tighten, your perception narrow and your heart rate increase just enough to fog over your processes.

What I think I learned, or perhaps re-learned, is that nothing can simulate the physiological and psychological effects of being placed under critically stressful conditions. In real life people don't answer the radio, or if they do you might miss the transmission.

In real life the time pressure compounded by the temporal distortion is made worse by the lack of good information and topped off with excessive amounts of useless information, creating a potent recipe for disaster.

"…Unfortunately, that kind of fact-oriented approach does not work very well when we're dealing with people and people issues. Human dynamics are simply too complex." — Cloakley

I am a big fan of written control objectives; I believe in them. I preach control objectives to my subordinates.

However, in that real moment I found that I did not so much as write control objectives as I projected them in understated ways, cloaked in the thin veil of tactical orders. In many ways I was just doing stuff.

Seeing the big picture
Compared to the available research on such things, what I did was hardly different from what most people do under stress, but this time for some reason it felt more real.

What I think I learned is that it is always harder to step back and consider the big picture when you are tied up in the little picture. The world of real incidents cannot be summed up in simulations and it cannot be reliably dissected in post-mortem evaluations. This makes execution hard and it makes evaluation harder.

Colonel John Boyd is reported to have said:
"When thing went wrong at the Pentagon, really wrong, you'd always hear some bright guy in a business suit complaining that a country able to land a man on the moon should be able to carry out an operations on the earth: raid Hanoi, drop into Tehran, whatever. I always pointed out to these smart alecks that as I recalled, the moon didn't hide, move around under its own steam, or shoot back."

Maybe that is difference with real incidents — in many ways they hide, move and shoot back.

The best firefighters know when to get extreme

Posted on Thu, 25 Sep 2014 19:05:30 UTC

It seems normal is no longer in our vocabulary. There are extremes in all areas of our lives — extreme heat, cold, flooding, snow, wildland fires, mud slides, you name it.

Then there is the "biggie size" when you order your food. A small is now what was once a large. Nothing is small any more. It has all becoming extreme.

Our lives are extreme. Maybe it is part of the American culture — biggie size everything, right? Make it the extreme experience.

If we are in the era of extremes, why don't we do extreme training?

What is extreme?
We may have pushed the envelope using the term extreme by pushing our limits to the utmost. Do we really need to go to the extreme?

The answer lies partly in how you define extreme. Extreme is defined as reaching a high or highest degree or being very great.

This definition does not sound like a bad thing. We want the very best. If individuals want to be the best at what they do, they should push the limits to make themselves better.

We can look at this topic in two ways.

First, we should not push things above our limits. We should push forward and always try to better ourselves, but we don't need to make everything a biggie size.

If we think about the extremes of food and the biggie size, we need to change our mindset. Extremes in food results in extremes in body size. Our culture has become the culture of obesity. As a result, disease is running rampant in our society. We need to bring our size back to reasonable servings.

Weather the weather
Second, in contrast to getting away from the extremes in our eating, we need to get back to the extremes of training. If we are going to be good at what we do then we need to get off our backsides and get back to training.

The mind set in the fire service seems to have changed: 'Let's do training, but when it is convenient, and by the way, can we do it online?' We need to get back to training the way it was intended.

Doing an online class is not training; it is education. Can't figure out the difference. Let me help.

Your daughter comes home from school and tells you she is going to have sex training this year in school. What was the first thing you visualized. We immediately think of the action not the process. Hence, we should be training not just educating ourselves.

Balancing act
There are times for education and times for training, but without a balance of both we'll not have the knowledge and skills we need to do our job, which in many cases is under extreme circumstances.

Incident scene rehab training is no different. You can't experience setting up and managing a rehab sector by only reading about it. Get out and do it.

You should be practicing establishing and managing rehab at every training event. Get personnel used to having to go through rehab. Every meal you eat, every shift you work, practice rehab. Eat right, exercise, hydrate, and get to know the limitations of your body.

Extreme training should be part of our culture. It does not mean we work so hard that we collapse. It means to work to the highest degree to be the best we can.

When we have extreme weather it is the highest degree of heat, no pun intended, or the highest degree of flooding that could occur. Winter is fast approaching and we should not use that as an excuse to not train.

I know of a fire department that actually has it written in its collective bargaining agreement that they will only do training if it is below a certain temperature and above a certain temperature. Really? Give me a break. We function in extreme environments, we need to train in those environments so we know how we need to function when we are faced with those environments.

Be the best you can be at what you do. Go to the extreme and have the highest degree of trained personnel. It will pay dividends in the long run.