All posts by plamb

Think about why you are in the fire service.

My title for the commentary this week is a simple one and really needs no explanation, but sometimes when I am at a loss for what to write something falls across my desk and makes it easier.

I had such an experience this morning when I was forwarded and email and in the email was the tag line after the signature that read… can’t be a hero if you don’t take risks, or something like that I might have paraphrased it slightly.

Yes that’s right you can read it again if you want. I began to think about the statement and I reflected on how the fire service has changed. I also wanted desperately to know the origin of the quote because it really needs some background.

Here is my point. If that quote comes from a 30 year veteran metro firefighter, then I think it is right on point, I get the context whether or not I agree with it. If that quote is from a younger person then I am a little bit rattled. I have been in the fire service for 35 years and my thoughts and attitudes have changed dramatically. When I joined the fire service as a youngster I certainly was enamored by the adrenaline rush and at that time it was a few years after the book Report From Engine Co. 82 had been published, and the stories of the big city firefighters was a form of excitement, but never did I envision myself to be a hero, nor was that one of my goals. You see I am truly a bit old fashioned and a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to that. I just wanted to help people. I still desire just to help people. Even though I had the desire to help, it took many more years before I really got the concept of the word “service” …you know as used in the term “fire service”. It is about helping people, and about helping our brother and sister firefighters. There is no more, and no less.

Now after starting as a young volunteer, I went on and made a career in the service and I am certainly aware that we all have to be cognizant of our pay and benefits etc.. Sure we need to protect ourselves and our families, but that is where it being about us should stop. It is about helping others on the worst days of their lives.

I am not so sure I agree about the entire “customer service” aspect of the fire service, but I certainly agree that we should just simplify things a lot, by a couple of simple thoughts.

If you are here to take risks and become a hero, you might want to reconsider that thought. Think of your family and other members that might have to rescue you and disrupt fireground operations and maybe lose a civilian life, because of your risk. If you are more concerned about going out in a blaze of glory and a dramatic funeral, please rethink your position.

Lets all just put the service part back into the fire service. The taxpayers don’t have to like you, the politicians don’t have to like you, and really you may not like the persons you serve. But your job is to serve and that is what you signed up for. There is no mandatory draft service for the fire service. You selected it, fought for it, competitively tested for it, and now some of you are mad that you are here and nobody can do enough for YOU! Your fellow members, the citizens, the mayor and everybody cannot do enough. NEWSFLASH!!!!! IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU! It’s about the team, the community, and helping others

This first part of December 2012, just stop, take a breath, and get that spark back that originally made you want to be a part of the greatest profession in the world.

Refocus today, what if the MAYAN calendar is right?

Stay Safe, help when you can, and make your engine or truck company, make your station, make your shift or group, or make your department the best that they can be.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Is There An App For That? – NIOSH Chemical Guide

There is not a lot of detail to go over on this app as it is very straightforward.

This is the NIOSH pocket guide chemical reference.

This tool is great for an IC, the science person at a Haz mat scene, a fire inspector and any first responder that needs some detailed information that is beyond the DOT guide book.

As with any Haz mat reference this should be only one of the three to five references that you might want to use when identifying a substance.

Lets take a look.

The program starts with a pretty simple interface and then when a specific chemical is selected you get a detailed information page.

This is a great program, a great way to have this excellent reference tool with you all the time, in a very easy to use intuitive interface.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Tactical fire problem – Passenger Bus

Lets take a look at a significant fire on a passenger coach bus. This really could be any variation of bus including a school bus, or a transit authority bus.
Lets look at this scenario.

Some considerations:
1.) How many people are threatened? It could just be a few if it is a light day, 60 on a school bus or 40 +/ – on a charter or more. Most departments today do not have enough manpower under normal circumstances to make a rescue of 3-4 never mind 40. What about the smoke toxicity and the people trying to self evacuate? What about the traffic hazard of operating in the middle of the street? (Yes I know traffic will be controlled but I would bet you would have some gawkers in a hurry trying o pass the flaming bus)
2.) How familiar are you with getting into the bus and dealing with emergency exit windows, air bag suspensions, and the operations of the doors?
3.) What is the fuel source for the bus, gasoline, propane, CNG?
Speaking of CNG, take a look at this VIDEO CLIP for the results of a CNG bus fire.
Would you be ready? If you ever have the opportunity to train with the local charter bus company or transit authority please do so. Ask them when they are getting rid of busses for scrap if your department can get one or training, but then make sure you are training Inge safely when you get it.
Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Tactical Fire Problem 2012-4 – Residential Garage

This week we will look at the hazards and challenges of the residential garage fire.

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Here are the thoughts for this week.

1.) how is this one different from the residential house we showed previously? What are the ramifications if the garage is under the house, attached to the house, or detached?

2.) what size line do we need and does the smaller size of the one car garage increase the challenge of the storage problem? Do we need to be sending a firefighter inside there to get entangled?

3.) What can’t you see because of the smoke?

4.) which really is more dangerous, the 20lb propane tank or the steel gasoline can? Think about this one for a minute and think of construction, valves etc.

5.) Consider all the normal hazards of the car itself, fuel, tires, upholstering and stuff.

Thanks and stay safe!

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Is There An App for That? – IPAR Acountability

This week we are looking at an app that can be used by an incident commander for scene management and accountability. In addition quite frankly it could be used by the first arriving member in a small department, in conjunction with an iPhone to keep track of personnel as they arrive and as they deploy. I cannot possibly review every feature of this app here because it has a ton of features that are all important and great. Lets begin by looking at some screen shots.

Pretty easy opening screen, one button to touch to begin incident. I must also tell you that a great feature of the app is that after the first time you load it it takes you to a website where you can customize it for your own department. Add your personnel, your apparatus, mutual aid and designations for the fire ground the way you use it in your department. 100% customizable. After the first synch with the website you no longer need to be connected to use the software after that, it is on your device with all of your data. No connectivity.

The first screen you come to is all incident objectives. You see here I have clicked on some to indicate pending, handled or unsecured, meaning you have not addressed them. As you move along the bottom of the screen you come to assignments, lets go there next.

This is where you choose the stuff that you have already preprogrammed from the website. A real quick drop down list and you put check marks next to whatever apparatus is coming or whatever personnel are coming or arriving. The quick add feature let’s you type someone in on the spot.

You are then presented with a list of resources that need to be assigned.

In this example engine 1 is highlighted and I am sending them to floor 1 for fire attack. (You pick all of the items and terms on these selection wheels)

Now you see the screen has been chosen that places the companies in their respective geographic sectors or locations. Lets go to the next button across the bottom with the timer called PAR.

Now I have a view of where every company or resource is by location, but I also have how long they have been assigned in that area. The software will prompt you at whatever time you designate. I have mine set for 15 minutes based upon air consumption, but you can select whatever you want. Wen a unit gets close to time it will turn yellow from green and when the time elapses it will turn red and sound an audible signal to catch you attention.

If a unit gives a mayday, you select that units and acknowledge it. It then moves to the top of the list like the next example and shows the total time assigned, as well as the total elapsed time of the mayday. See below.

You can also take photos of the incident with your ipad or iPhone and they will become part of the log for this event. Each and every action selection or change of status you make is recorded and documented in a log which you can email to yourself as a PDF file.

In closing I would say this app needs to be part of any fire department arsenal that is using iPads and iPhones in the field. The cost of this app versus the cost of complicated accountability systems costing thousands of dollars is really negligible.

Incidentally how much is the safety of your firefighters worth anyway?

The IPAR App is highly recommended and it is available in the iTunes Store.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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For a number of years the topic of the mayday and mayday training has flooded the fire service. Most of the training that is out there is excellent and the range and scope is wide. We have classes for drags, carries, wide area searches, commanding the mayday, orientation training to help prevent mayday and a ton of SCBA training.
I am approaching this commentary on the prevention aspect and I want you to read it and take whatever action you can at your level in your department.
I want to consider those things that are occurring every day within you department that no one ” has the bravery” (yes, clearly I was going to use another term) to address.
A couple of weeks ago I think, Bill Carey at The Backstep Firefighter did a story on a tanker accident and the seatbelt pledge. Take a look by clicking the link.(if you haven’t been to the site before to check it out, there is great stuff there.)
Lets talk about some things that happen all the time that will get us in trouble.
The shift, group or member who really does not check equipment and tools and just pencil whips the check sheet. Wen a piece of critical equipment fails or spare air bottles are not filled, those things can cause a problem.
The firefighter in a department that everyone talks about at the kitchen table who just for whatever reason can no longer perform their job. (Or maybe they were a political hire and never could perform their job) do you want them on the initial attack to get lost injured or hurt, or do you want them as your RIT team while you are down and inside.
How about the driver you have that has hit everything but the lottery and we still let them drive. Speed through intersections, unable to secure a hydrant and a lousy pump operator to boot! (Ok, tell me you have never been waiting for water and had to go to the pump panel yourself to open the correct lever to charge the correct line)
How about the 375 pound career firefighter who is taking blood pressure pills like tic tacs? Or on call or volunteer member as well.
How about the volunteer or on call firefighter who has been with the company forever but is really too old or in poor health to continue, but we let them stay on the job because no one wants to hurt their feelings.
How about the person who cannot wear and SCBA or climb an aerial because of claustrophobia or a fear of heights and they have never been caught or discovered yet? They did it to get by recruit school and never since.
When was the last time you had a medical physical? A real one that complies with the NFPA standards. Even that won’t prevent everything but in many cases around the country it is finding health problems before they become an issue.
The list could go on and on, but I think you get my point. In every fire department, paid or volunteer , large or small, there are a variety of ticking time bombs waiting for us to be mixed with the right circumstance or incident and we will have an injury, mayday or worse a LODD.
We don’t have the strength to tell uncle Joe the older volunteer that he can’t respond anymore, because we will hurt his feelings or he will get mad, but we can somehow find the strength to let him suffer a heart attack and take him from his wife of thirty years and his grand children? There is something just wrong with our thinking. We have the strength for that?
Keep training on RIT and all of the current stuff we are doing. But while you and your department are doing that make some tough decisions and try to recent the things that we clearly know are wrong but we turn a blind eye to because of “the brotherhood”.
Brothers do not knowingly let brothers get killed, when it is preventable. We owe it to their families, the citizens we protect, and each other.
So I started this post with a countdown….5…4…3…2…1, I guess the question is was I talking about 5 years, 5 months, 5 weeks, 5 days, 5 hours, or 5 minutes?
Do not just go to work and be an “empty uniform” be fully engaged all the time. Give your best. Be the member in your department that everyone hopes is on the RIT team when they are in trouble. By in physical, medical and mental shape to prevent a MAYDAY.
Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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The gas leak….never let your guard down!

On Friday night November 23, 2012 there was a catastrophic gas leak in the city of Springfield Massachusetts. I was not on scene and certainly do not know all of the facts, but this close call should be a time to review our normal procedures for gas leak responses.

From listening to the radio audio last night, seeing pictures and videos it appears that the SFD did a very good job in handling what could have been a horrible tragedy.

Lets just run through a basic “to do list” at this type of incident.

Treat the gas leak for what it is a hazmat response. Identify if it is natural gas or propane gas, and attempt to locate the source.

If the source can be located and shut down by fire department personnel, then do so, but notify the appropriate utility company upon your arrival anyway.

If firefighters are entering the hot zone then they should have metering capability and full protective gear. Expect explosion or ignition. ( I can tell you from experience that I have always been leery of gas emergencies ever since the Buffalo NY 5 LODD incident from the early 1980s but I will also tell you that there have been some times that I have not dressed appropriately at some gas emergencies that I responded to. Be different from me, be smart and not lucky!)

Isolate the area and deny entry and eliminate all sources of ignition, including us and the apparatus we drive in with. Consider eliminating electrical utilities if it can be done safely and remotely. Do not attempt to shut off mains etc, inside the building involved.

If there is so much gas when you arrive (that is to say that the gas is above the UEL or upper explosive limits) then as you passively ventilate the area the gas will pass through its explosive range, while you are on scene. This could occur some time after arrival and it is a time when on scene firefighters who do not have an assignment will tend to wander away. Strict scene control is important. Stage personnel behind fire apparatus whenever possible.

As I listened and watched the incident from afar last night here are some things I heard.

The first due company officer staged out of the way, established a hydrant line, met with gas company officials, correctly identified “free flowing gas” with an unknown source, called for electric company to secure power, called for additional resources and manpower, and had the police isolate and secure the area. It simply doesn’t get much better than that, and there was still an explosion the injured about 18 people, leveled 2 buildings and damaged many others. There are reports that the explosion was felt ten miles away.

This explosion occurred after the gas company had located and stopped the leak and SFD took it seriously throughout the incident and did not let their guard down.

So they have had the gas leak and the explosion and 9 firefighters, a couple of policemen and some gas company workers were injured. (Non life threatening), so what can we do who have not had this experience?

Over the next few days, learn study, research everything you can about this incident.

Make sure on Monday morning you find out from the chief if your meters have been calibrated and if you have meters on EVERY piece of apparatus. NO EXCEPTION. We have hose, air packs and nozzles, we should have meters….it is a life saving piece of gear that should be on all apparatus.

Read the DOT guidebook and look up the procedures and guide number for natural and propane gas. We handle these incidents so many times we never even look at the book anymore. Look at it on your next shift.

Study the properties of each gas, vapor density and flammable limits and understand what the mean. Use the NIOSH book, or MSDS sheets.

Make sure you know what your meter reads. Is your meter giving you percent of gas, or percent of LEL lower explosive limits?

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the first responders who were injured, and lets take this teachable moment and use it to help teach firefighters with less experience how to stay safe.

A gas leak is not over until we are back in service and back in quarters.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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