Category Archives: Uncategorized

What is Acceptable on the fireground today?

This will be just a quick post to promote some thought. Like many of you, I continue to be a student of the trade and watch a bunch of youtube videos, read a bunch of blogs in my efforts to stay current. (It scares me that I do this regularly and cannot seem to learn enough and it scares the hell out of me to see people that try to learn nothing about their trade, but that is a completely different post!)

I won’t cite specific videos or departments but I will throw out a couple of examples just for discussion purposes.

I consistently see the incorrect line choice and placement at fires that are way beyond the capability of the rate of flow for the line chosen. How and why is this still occurring? Is it a failure of training? Is it a complacent attitude on the part of the first due? Is it lack of fortitude and direction from company and chief officers? If you are an officer and you see these things, fix them! I really don’t care that it happens, I care that it is not being addressed and fixed.

I still regularly see firefighters (volunteer, on call, and off duty paid firefighters) albeit well meaning, but operating within the hazard zone with no protective gear. Again I ask the same series of questions from the first one…. How and why? Now let me be clear about this, I have in the past, and I have witnessed and allowed off duty folks with no gear to assist outside the hazard area to change air bottles, operate REHAB and in some cases to even run pumps when we have operated short handed. I realize that even running the pump you could get whacked with a coupling etc., but a person with no gear should not be on a line, up a ladder, or entering the structure. It is just unacceptable today with all we know and all we have learned.

I consistently see haphazard PPE with SCBA half on, straps hanging etc. The way to fight a fire is from the inside. In today’s modern fire environment, protect yourself from any source of heat so that you can make the push when you have to under some difficult high heat conditions. Be responsible for your own SCBA and prevent yourself from being entangled in any way. (Before you go in, take a look at the curb and see who the RIT team is….then roll the dice!<grin>) If you don’t dress right and have to back out, what does that say about you and what you think of the crew you work with?

I see incident commanders distracted, getting involved in fire operations, rather than directing.

I see ladder pipes spraying ineffective streams at un-opened roofs when there could be hand lines using that precious wasted water, making a direct attack on the seat of the fire.

So what? All of you folks see it too, what I am ranting about?

We cannot fix anything that we see on the news feeds that we follow, but we can take care of us, our personnel and our own department.

Here is what we can do:

Wear ALL of our PPE, wear our SCBA correctly and BE READY to enter a crappy environment and do our absolute very best until we are spent and can give no more before we have to leave.

Train, train and train.

If you are a supervisor, then damn it all supervise, give orders and stop waiting for somebody else to fix, what you know should be fixed now. I don’t care what rank or what level, intervene.

If a fire stream is having no apparent effect on the fire, pay attention, redirect, increase flow or shut it down and redeploy it, or fix the supply problem. We are the fire department and it is out job to move water. They give us hose, fittings and pumpers, and then we say we have water supply problems! (I made this mistake of saying this once and get seriously chewed out by a friend and mentor and he pointed out that it was what I was paid to do)

If you are an incident commander, take a position where you feel comfortable either on Side A, or a corner position or whatever works. After you are in a position where you think you want to be, look at the distance you are from the incident and double it! Thats right back up, see the entire picture. I am serious give it a try. You will be surprised what you now can see in your area of vision. (I am not going to discuss the “command from the front seat of a closed car” mode) You should remain in a fixed position wherever you land.

Develop the concept of a command team with specific duties. If you are the IC somebody else has to run the accountability and status board. You can be near them to have voice contact but the IC should be paying attention to what is going on. Train, understand your limitations and how the stimulus of the scene will affect you. (Follow SA Matters for a ton of great information on this theory)

That is enough for now, lots more to come.
Share your thoughts using the send voicemail folder tab on the side of this page.
Stay Safe, and Stay Thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Harrison New Jersey – Random thoughts

By now everyone has seen the video, the links, still shots and maybe have even weighed in on what the cause was and whether is was a backdraft or smoke explosion and everything else about this incident.

Here is the link VIDEO

After seeing a lot of stuff about this on social media I had a few thoughts that I will offer for consideration. These are in no specific order.

This is a significant incident that was captured on tape. It should be studied and not critiqued. The departments involved should do a post incident analysis, not the viewers from afar.(I have been guilty of this myself in the past and have learned from my errors)

Whatever it is investigated and determined to be (either backdraft or smoke explosion) it clearly was a catastrophic foreground event. Use this video experience to determine what you would have done just after this explosion.

If you are a chief officer what would your actions be, a deputy or safety chief, a company officer, or a firefighter on the line…..what would you want to do versus what would you do?

Give your thoughts to the department and the members that were injured and to their families. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in these dramatic videos we forget about the human consequences that result. How do you think any of the injured firefighters significant others will feel after watching this video? We need to support them so they can support the injured personnel to return to work.

Study the situation without making judgements about the operation. We are looking at a 30 second (+/-) video here, pretty hard to draw conclusions. Replay it and pause at various places.

It appears this event occurred on the B Bravo side of the building as shown by the google street view links. If you are the incident commander for your department where is your position usually? Side A? In the car? In a mobile command post? Circling the building? Inside the front door? How does the IC in your department receive information? What types of information should be reported?

If you watch the video and you notice some things that you may not like (smoke colors, movement etc.) how long did you have to react to it? Not very long at all. Things like collapse and explosions can not be “reacted” to in a timely manner.

I am not sure what point during the fire that this occurred, but this was a 4 or 5 alarm fire depending upon which report you read. To me this indicates some long duration and probably lots of personnel on the scene on most if not all sides of the building. Think about your own department’s accountability and incident management system and how it would work minutes before and minutes after the explosion

Remember that class in the early days of your recruit school about fire behavior? Fire behavior is truly science that continues to change as structures change, and fuel load and composition changes. Always continually study fire behavior and smoke movement. There is a ton of reading smoke training material out there, absorb it all like a sponge. NOTE: I am not in any way suggesting that the department did not read smoke, I am merely trying to make sure all of the readers use this incident as a teachable moment. The nature of the Internet and sharing of this video is a positive thing.

I personally hope to learn more about this incident as the days and weeks and months unfold, and I hope you will also.

Until we meet up next time, make sure you do whatever you can do at your rank, to prevent a catastrophic fire incident from happening at your next fire. If you cannot do anything to prevent it be sure that you come to work “expecting and anticipating it”, and be sure you are trained physically and mentally to be prepared to deal with it after it occurs.

Nobody expects anything less from you.

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

SCBA Blackout / Blindfold Drill

This is a repost of a previous article reprinted by request.

This week I will be talking about a blackout facemask drill. I will stress the objectives of this drill which is something I have been a bit remiss about doing in previous drills. This drill involves working in SCBA with a blackout mask, or wax paper obscuring the face piece, but it is not an SCBA drill per se. The purpose and objective of this drill is as follows:

The firefighters shall obtain a comfort level while working under air, in low visibility and gloved hands.

This drill should be to let personnel work in full turnout gear and also checks their familiarity of SCBA landmarks and equipment.

Drill set up: Get an open area that is large enough for about a 15 minute evolution. An apparatus bay is suitable but resist the attempt to make it too large so that it cannot be finished.

Instructors should be placed throughout the area and at each training station so that instructions can be given, and safety of students under blackouts can be monitored.

The drill can be timed or not and it can be repeated for a better proficiency level.

Students get in full gear and don blackout masks and then enter the area as individuals rather than teams.

Students begin crawling and either follow a hoseline or a wall depending upon what you choose.

They encounter a second pre set hoseline of 2 1/2″ or three inch and they are instructed to make up the couplings and put the hose together keeping their gloves on.

They proceed past that station and the instructor disconnects that second hose for the next student.

At the next station they discover they are given three nozzles and an 1 3/4 line and told to select a combination nozzle and set it on a straight or fog setting. They must connect the nozzle and then by the sense of feel adjust it correctly before proceeding. This line is uncharged and remains uncharged. The instructor then re prepares this for the next student.

At the next station they discover another air pack. They are to remove their airpack they are wearing and re don the one they find.

As they proceed further they must find a portable radio in a designated area, turn it on, place it on a designated channel transmit a message and then leave it.

At the next station they proceed to they should find a mannequin with an airpack on and they should find the regulator and place the regulator in the facepiece of a downed firefighter.

At the next stop they should be told to manually activate their own pass device for about 30 seconds and then reset it. The instructor should actually know and time with a stop watch if they realize at this point what 30 seconds is.

At the next station there is a pile of tools and they should be instructed to proceed to select a certain tool and then exit with it.

There are a number of variables that can be included in this scenario. The real issue is the student comfortable enough working under air, can they perform simple tasks by the sense of feel, and if you time the exercise there is an artificial sense of pressure.

After a student proceeds past the second station you can start another to help maintain the flow.

All students should be closely monitored for signs of difficulty and stress while under air.

Develop your own ideas of skills they can perform and add them at the next time you do this drill.

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

The Firefighter Academy Awards

I know, I know it was last week but I was a little busy, I’m sorry!

I really have very little interest in the Oscars and all of the phoniness that goes along with it, but it did cause me to pause and chuckle about what if the fire department hd it’s own version.

There should not be a department in this country that cannot relate to this one.

Best Actor / Actress
This is the guy or gal that hangs around the kitchen table and tells all the tall tales about fires that nobody ever remembers seeing them at. They tend to overcompensate for everything they have ever done, and they really might not be that good. They have 427 fire emblems and insignias and will be the first to tell you they are fearless but have no sick days left because they have called out for every hangnail they ever had!

Best supporting Actor / Actress
In my book this goes hands down to the best pump operators on all of your departments. There is some firefighter on the 6:00 PM news all dirty and macho, who would not be anything without the guy or gal that tied in their own feeder and managed a couple of handlines and maybe a master stream by them self!

Original Musical
Thats right, this is the guy or gal who makes more noise with the Federal Q or electronic siren and air horns while responding to a water emergency or pump out. You are all smiling right now because you are beginning to name names aren’t you?

Costume Design
These folks actually come in two categories. The ones that decorate their duty uniform or belt with more tactical or paramedical stuff then if batman were a surgeon. Then there are those that sew patches and add gadgets to their turnout gear. On some rare occasions you might find one that excls in both categories

Best Dance Direction
This usually has something to do with a production that involves much drama and usually some yelling around the front door. (Never actually entering the front door however!)

Makeup and Hairstyling
Don’t you just hate they guy or gal who can go through a second alarm, remove their helmet, remove their SCBA mask and they do not have a hair out of place? 20 years ago I worked with a guy who thought the front windshield of the truck was his makeup mirror. He would often be seen combing his hair while looking at his reflection in the window!

Hey have some fun with these, lighten up and smile this week. I am sure with this little seed there will be folks in stations actually making up their own actual little FF Oscars to be handed out in the kitchen at meal time!

Stay safe, and stay smiling! Firefighters have the greatest sense of humor of any profession.

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

The Best Job In The World

This is a repost of an article I wrote from a few years ago…..

Today I thought I would reflect and get us all to think about the fire service in general. Why did we get involved, what is it all really about?

In the movie Backdraft, one of the characters asked the other…”What’s this job really all about, Brian?”

There are those of us who may have had a family member in the fire department or were influenced by a close neighbor or family friend. We got involved in the “job” (paid or volunteer) because it was interesting, exciting, and we wanted to sincerely help others.

There are others who got into the job because it was a secure job and paid benefits for your family, the schedule was great and it allowed the ability to explore another job with minimal risks.

Maybe it was just for the thrill and excitement of interior structural firefighting.

Whatever your initial reasoning you actually made a conscious effort to join. You were not drafted, you probably jumped through several hoops to get here. Maybe it was a physical ability test, a written test, or whatever process is used in your organization.

When you joined the department what did you agree to? What did you sign up for? Have you forgotten?

Let’s review a couple of things:

You agreed to join a structured paramilitary organization that has rules and regulations. You do not have to ever like them. You do have to follow them.

You agreed to be inconvenienced to help and serve others on their worst day of their life. Your on duty time is never your own, and you are there to answer the calls presented to you, no matter how trivial they may seem to you….they are serious to someone else.

You agreed to join a team. The mission of the team is greater than your personal issues all of the time. If you are not a team player then the team might as well play without you.

You agreed you would keep yourself ready at all times to play with the team. You must be physically and mentally ready to be engaged while on duty.

You agreed that as a member of the fire service you would participate in whatever was thrown at you. As structure fires decline, other issues such as EMS, and prevention have come forward and they may not always seem as exciting as what you believed. They are part of the job you agreed to do.

You agreed to see tragedy, pain, and suffering and injustice and knew that it would have some impact on you and your family.

You agreed to work with and for the public, in a microscope of public opinion, where your name, salary, and all are public information instead of private.

There are many other things you actually agreed upon when you signed up for the Best Job in the world, the fire service, but we don’t even have enough time to go through them all.

My point was to make you refocus on these issues and when you are feeling like the city, town, or community “owe” you something, remember they may not really “owe” you as much as you have agreed to “owe” them.

Sure I know, we wear the “low bid” when we run into a fire, and there are equipment and manpower injustices that all departments face, but there is nobody that can convince me that this is not the most rewarding job in the world.

I am proud to be a member of the fire service. I make sure the people I meet know that. I make sure and work hard so I try to not make a blemish or a mark on the fire service.

If you are having a bad day at work, or have just had a rough company volunteer meeting, take this out or post it and remember why we are really all here.

Let’s put the “service” back in the Fire Service!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Blog feature – Voice Mail !

I am trying out a new feature that some of you might have noticed. It allows readers to send a voicemail, to interact with the tactical fire problems, or to contact me and request I formation.

On the right side of the blog there is a gray tab that says send voicemail.

It is a lively experiment and we will see how it goes. If it works I will keep it, if not, out it goes!

It is powered by speakpipe.com.

If you are interested give it a try, or as always you can always email at pete@petelamb.com

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Basement fire random thoughts…

* After locating any victims that might be threatened by fire, locate the source of the main body of fire. If this fire is in the basement the entire structure is exposed and threatened.

* If this is a new residential structure immediately suspect lightweight construction of either truss or wooden “I” beam. This will fail extremely rapidly and firefighters can be dropped into infernos underneath them during initial advance and entry.

* If this is a commercial basement then consider large stockpiles of material, narrow or limited access. Also consider that with a significant fire load as described heavy large streams may be needed.

* Always expect high heat conditions and extremely limited ventilation options.

* In older residential and in many commercial basements be extremely suspicious and suspect of shaky wooden stairways that can easily fail under the weight of a firefighter and hoseline.

* In warmer temperatures, smoke coming from a chimney can be an indicator of a basement fire.

* Smoke universally on all floors can be an indicator of a basement fire.

* Basement fires can present challenges for initial attack. The first hoseline should generally protect interior stairways.

* Basement fires can present Rapid Intervention challenges, rescue of a firefighter up stairs, out of a basement window, and rescue from holes in the floors with and without fire.

* Basement 1/3 of height above ground. Cellar is less than 1/3 above ground. Small casement type windows as opposed to a full window.

* Learn how to open, force, and cut, steel bulkhead doors.

* Do not forget the use of cellar nozzles, baker nozzles, bresnan distributors as a last resort.

* During initial advance get to the base of stairs as quickly as possible….do not remain in the chimney! Have a backup line cover the stairway and your means of egress.

* If operating in the basement be aware of collapse of floor above that can trap you and block way out.

* Beware of rapid fire extension to upper floors and attic and loft spaces in older structures.

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

Training and speaking requests

I have been receiving some email request about whether or not I go out and conduct individual training sessions for departments.

The answer is yes!

I do programs on leadership, safety, tactical operations, command, simulation exercises, emergency management, and using technology (iPads, etc.) for the fire service.

I have also been doing some motivation discussions for business and private industry.

Please feel free to contact me for scheduling or hosting a class in your department.

In addition, I am just about a month away from offering online custom training programs for your department training night. There will be more information about this coming up.

Feel free to contact me @ Info@petelamb.com

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

Search and SCBA Training

This week I am asking for information as much as sharing information. The topic is basic firefighter search and rescue training. My question and ideas that I want to explore are pretty easy and straightforward as well as the questions that I am asking.

* About how many hours of actual SCBA training do your new firefighters receive before you allow them to become ‘interior”?

* What are you teaching them about “oriented search techniques” such as keeping a member in a stairwell or protected area, or such as using a person with a thermal imager to guide rescuers?

* What facilities or techniques are you using? Fire station with obstructions? An actual Maze or maze trailer? Acquired structures? Training facility building?

* Are you using live smoke, Roscoe machines with theatrical smoke? Blacked out masks?

* For obstructed masks there is black spray paint, crushed waxed paper, Nomex hood on backwards…and what else is out there that works and is effective?

* Have you done any experimentation with how much area a two person search team can search in about 15 minutes or one air bottle with escape time? What square footage can be searched? Is it different in a residential vs. a commercial?

* If you use search ropes what techniques are you using? Knotted rope? Un-Knotted rope? Knots every 20 feet? Knots every five feet? the one and two knot system? What guidelines are you using for when to use a rope search?

There are a lot of firefighters from a variety of departments that read these pages. I would hope if you have any questions you might email me and I answer any and all questions personally.

I hope I have made you think about some of these issues.

Stay Safe, & Stay Thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Aerial Ladder Consideration

In major cities, this problem is less prevalent then in small departments that might have minimal manpower and less fire duty and don’t use their aerial as much as others.

This is not an aerial ladder program by any means but just some random thoughts for a small training on aerial use.

Make sure all drivers and operators are specially trained and re-trained as necessary on a regular basis.

Do not overload or use beyond design strength or performance ratings.

Inspect after each use completely and document and report deficiencies.

Make sure that ladder and all ground ladders are tested annually.

Use extreme caution on any uneven surfaces and steep hills.

Ladder will have less load carrying at lower angles.

Ladder will have less load carrying at greater extension.

Use caution with loose gear around the turntable area.

Operators should be attentive to inclinometer during use.

Always be aware of overhead obstructions, wires, overhangs, etc.

Keep the tip visible and lit well during night operations.

Maintain hydraulic system constantly. Take precautions in extreme cold weather.

Operate within the manufacturer’s instructions and or specifications.

In general get the rig out and have operators perform certain designated tasks, such as placement drills, speed of set up (safely!), and smoothness in operation of controls.

Do not trust that an operator with only limited operating experience will be able to use this vital piece of equipment when needed.

Train with nightime operations as well!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013