All posts by plamb

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
For information contact pete@petelamb.com

Countdown..5…4…3…2…1…MAYDAY!

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
For information contact pete@petelamb.com

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
For information contact pete@petelamb.com

The portable monitor drill

Here is a quick and easy drill for this week. If your engine company has a deck gun that is capable of being portable and ground mounted, this is for you.

Pull into an open parking area, and set out some cones or a stationary “target” 300 feet away from the rig. It is even better if there can be a couple of twists or turn obstructions while you are at it.

Set up the gun 300 feet away from your rig as if you were ordered to get it in position into an alley for exposures or to the “Charlie” side for a heavy stream.

Once the gun is in place, charge it and flow tank water.

How long did it take you and your crew?

In a small department, did it take two companies to do it?

Is there an easier way to do it?

Do you have a BLITZFIRE gun, have you looked at them?

Can the gun be mounted on the rear step for easy access?

If you do not have a ground mounted gun, use a similar drill and put some cones out 100 feet from the apparatus, have the driver get into position with the rig, and operate the gun from the top and hit the right cone, then swing left twenty feet or so and hit the left cone to simulate directing a stream in an alley operation. Time that also and see how you did. Have the driver repeatedly try and spot where the top mounted gun has the best angle and use.

Deck guns are not used all the time, but when they are it is usually “the big one”. Those rare high risk, high hazard low frequency events when time means everything.

You don’t have to do it all the time, but when you do this little 1 hour hands on drill you might just make a difference and might make you the company that the chief is always happy to see at a big job!

And besides we both know that you can do it better and faster than….

The other shift……..the guys and gals at engine XYZ…….the neighboring department etc..

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
For information contact pete@petelamb.com

Is There An App For That? – Tactical Fire Table

This week, the App for review is a great one with a lot of uses. Tactical Fire Table (and there is a tactical police table as well) allows the user to drag and drop icons, and mark up the screen with drawings for an actual graphical command worksheet. I have used the tool for actual incidents, planning events, and post incident analysis.

The software allows you to choose a photo from your camera roll, or any image you take, or it allows the background to be a map taken from an Apple Map search. (This was previously taken from a Google map search, but we all know the story about Apple and Google, so now it is Apple maps.)

Lets take a look.

In this case there is an overhead shot of a building and a parking area and I have just added hydrants in there.(Every icon can be resized and rotated as needed)


In this next screen I have added fire apparatus, a command post FD marker and I have hand drawn a large diameter hose line running in. I have added a fire icon to the building and I have freehand drawn X s to show which occupancies have been searched and cleared.


This screenshot shows some of the hazard icons available.


This shows some objects available.


Some of the unit designations.


Vehicles and other items.


And for folks involved in wild land firefighting all of the needed symbols there as well.


Remember in the beginning I said any graphic you had could become the background. Here is an example of a sample command worksheet that you can free hand mark off, put icons on or do whatever you need.

One other great feature is that the software has a replay mode and when you press it, it replays the sequence in which items were added and modified to the underlay image. You see what was done first second, third etc..

Bottom line for this one is easy. I think this is by far one of the most versatile pieces of IOS software on my iPad. It can be used for anything at all even for businesses outside of the fire service . The screen and icons are small when using an IPHONE, but that certainly cannot be discounted.

I might also add that the developer, (like many I have found) is extremely responsive to suggestions and feedback. There are lots more icons and things to see but I have given you the basics and you should try this great app. It’s use is rely only limited by your imagination.

Available in ITUNES.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
For information contact pete@petelamb.com

“Do The Right Thing”…..for whom?

The phrase “Do the right thing” is often heard in our modern life. It can be heard in a variety of places but certainly around the kitchen table of any firehouse. There are all sorts of meanings for this and I want to tell you today that much like “beauty”, “do the right thing” might be in the eye of the beholder also.

There has been a minor accident with the apparatus and at the kitchen table we hear the driver and other members say ” I hope that Captain “does the right thing, here”. Hmmm, just what exactly do you think they mean? Would the captain “cover” them, hide it from the deputy or the chief? Is that what they mean?

There has been a patient treatment error in the back of the ambulance and the driver says to the attendant in charge, “you need to do the right thing” about this incident. Is he suggesting that he knows something went wrong and he wants his partner to self report it to the ER Doc or the OIC on the job?

There is a horrible economic crisis and the fire chief has been ordered to make dramatic cuts to the department. The members are all around the table and say ” I hope the chief does the right thing” about these cuts. What is the expectation….the chief will fight for the appropriate level of fire protection, the chief will refuse a directive from the mayor and citizens, or the chief will do the best he can for the safety of his personnel and the taxpayers, and live to fight another budget battle for the department.

You see as I look at the phrase in the fire service world, it could mean any of the following examples:

Do the right thing for the member involved.
Do the right thing for the department as a whole.
Do the right thing for the union or volunteer or call association.
Do the right thing for the citizens and taxpayers.
Do the right thing for yourself and your family.
Do the right thing for the good of the entire fire service.
….and many other examples.

My point is, if your action does not fit in any of the categories above, then you are probably not doing the right thing. If it only benefits you and your family, then you might be a bit selfish and it may be good for you but not good for the organization. A good solution is some compromise that fits as many of the above categories as you can. That means you might be leaning towards doing the right thing.

We have all seen examples of firefighters getting into trouble and in many cases the thought of how any action might be construed or perceived, never enters their mind.

Try to “do the right thing” even when nobody is watching, it will always pay off in the long run.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
For information contact pete@petelamb.com

Tactical Fire Problem 2012-03 – Storefront

This problem is a typical one found in an older city. There can be a number of solutions to this one and I want you to think it through for your own department and resources.
Remember you can use the video player controls to pause it between the periods of fire growth which are highly compressed in these short clips.


Some considerations…
1.) It appears the 1st floor storefronts are vacant? What does that say about conditions inside…abandoned stock still there, a set fire to get rid of the building, squatters or homeless,
2.) Second floor apartments above. Life hazard?
3.) Look at the windows on the second floor and think about approximate ceiling height? What do extremely high ceilings mean in terms of heat buildup etc.?
4.) Space between the top of the ceiling and roofline. Cockloft?
5.) What type of roof would you expect and what ventilation challenges might be expected?

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
For information contact pete@petelamb.com

60 Second Safety – P C A N

I am trying a new feature where I will give 1 minute little podcasts that might just be a small tidbit that you can use. We will try it out and see what folks think.

Let me know by sending an email to pete@petelamb.com

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Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
For information contact pete@petelamb.com