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Ask not what your country can do……..

Most folks can finish the famous quote by President Kennedy, and this week I am applying it to the fire service.
I get a variety of emails each week some are good and some are not so good but at least I am provoking some thought and hopefully doing what the website says and that is “Changing the fire service, one mind at a time”.
This week I am once again talking about a problem that is a symptom of our society. The problem is that it is spilled into the fire service and as emails would tell me it is wide spread. The subject is entitlement.
I should preface this commentary by saying that I have over 30 years in the service in a variety of capacities and I have been involved in three departments and a statewide agency.
Nobody owes me anything, nor do I believe that on a daily basis. I chose this service to do just that and provide service to others.
The problem that I am noticing is that some of our younger members believe there is some entitlement or rights that come with being on the job for four years. Chief Billy Goldfeder coined a term 6/22 meaning someone who had been on the job six months and acted like they had been on 22 years. I think we all have these members.
These are the members who suddenly become veterans once they have been on past their one year probation. I made a previous reference to the person or member who recounts a story like they were there and they were not even on the job when it happened.
Some of the things that have been reported to me via email might sound familiar…. A member with three years explaining to someone else why they should get the assignment, because they are senior!
The members who are first worried about when they ran out of sick days because they have been on for two years and have no sick time. They make these stupid statements in front of firefighters who have not used sick time in twenty years but yet they need their entitlement.
What about the members who suddenly put themselves on the same plane as those who were killed in the 9/11 attacks. These younger firefighters who think that their application and successful appointment allows them to claim some act of heroism or bravery as their own. There is no comparison to those 343 member that gave their lives that morning. Simple. We have never seen anything like that since Texas City and I hope that I shall never see it again in my lifetime.
There are those members who think that some number of years months or hours in grade entitle them to some form of respect.
What tips can we offer to make sure that folks understand earning something versus an entitlement? I am not sure I have a conclusive list but I will offer some tips.
Make sure all new members are taught basic fire service history. If they understand the aims and ideals of those who came before us then maybe they will be less likely to feel entitled.
Make sure all new members meet and review your own department’s history with previous members who have gone before them. Members who may have worked 72 and 96 hours to get the provisions in the current contract that you now enjoy.
Lead by example even if you are not an officer but are in fact a “real” senior member then do not look for any give me yourself but always set an example that what you have is earned.
Teach all new members that their reputation and any ” entitlement” that they have is being earned each day they are on the job. They are entitled to a fair shake from their brothers and sisters and the boss, but anything else they earn such as their own reputation is their own choosing.
At the fire department funeral for a Boston Firefighter Fire Commissioner Martin Pierce made a statement about …”in this world there are givers and takers”…”The takers are easier to spot because they are always in front,…but there are few givers” This phrase has always stuck with me and it meant something as I always wanted to be a giver. It seemed like a better thing to do.
Hey that is why there are choices in this world of give and take. Decide where you want to be in your department and fire service career.
Let’s try to show the takers what they truly have been missing because this business would be a lot better off with less folks that feel the fire service owes them some entitlement to either pay, benefits, respect, trust and much more.
Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Tactical Fire Problem – Haz Mat

This week the scenario is an unknown vapor cloud from an industrial facility.
As always you can pause the scenario to review before it expands.

Some thoughts:

1.) One would hope that at a facility of this size there would be some sort of planning document available, maybe even with a tactical or operational pre-plan.

2.) At a facility with a large number of tanks there could be a variety of substances on site. The first rule of Haz mat is to identify the substance. What steps and methods and sources of information will you use to identify the product?

3.) Haz mats come in solids liquids and gases. The most difficult to mange is probably a gas because of the large volume and area it might cover. Solids can be contained, leaks can be plugged and patched, dammed and diked. A vapor leak will tend to travel. Using your departments resources and mutual aid, what is your course of action in this incident?(After identification of course)

4 ) On a sheet of paper, identify the agencies that might be called or might be involved in this incident.

5.) Based upon the video, how long will you be operating at this event and what does that mean for additional resources that might have to be called in?

If you do not have an industrial facility such as this in your area do you have one in the mutual aid area? How much do you know about it in advance? Have you trained with mutual aid in a field exercise or even a tabletop drill?

Think about, today might be the day to plan and review basic Haz mat concepts.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Water Thief Drill

Just a quick little discussion this week on the use of the water thief. Most folks are familiar with this term and usually relate to LDH and supply lines. Here is the device I am talking about.

I actually like this particular model because of the reinforced leather carrying handle and its lighter weight construction. (There are plenty of old gigantic brass ones kicking around firehouses) as you can see you have a 2 1/2″ line in and out controlled by a valve and 2 1 3/4″ lines out controlled by valves.

It is my belief that these should be on every engine company and on a ladder company to be used in conjunction with high rise packs. Just some random thoughts in no particular order about the water thief.

It gives a great advantage when making a stretch into a large Commericial structure. You lead in by pulling the 2 1/2″ pre connected line, remove the nozzle and leave it at the gate and then follow up with 2 high rise packs. My thought is you should probably just continue with the big line but if you feel you can do it with inch and three quarters you have the option.

If the situation escalates you have the nozzle for the big line there you just bring in more big line to complete the stretch and you are ready to go.

In the reverse situation the thief can be used when you have completed knocking down the fire with the big line you can reduce to the smaller lines and still have the piece of mine that the big line is there.

Having a shut off inside the building can be an advantage. (There are also some risks to this but that is the topic for another blog post. These valves can be kicked or snagged and accidentally shut off if not monitored .)

The thief can be used to obviously split directions if need be and remain as a single point of escape and return by following the big line back out.

Some thoughts for training:

Practice pulling your 2 1/2″ pure connect and attaching the thief and extending a high rise pack off of that. Time the drill.

Do the drill wearing blackout masks under air.

Call for additional 100 feet of big line and make the extension stretch.

Talk with your pump operators about how to pump this appliance and check your flows with flow meters to see what it does.

I think the device is under utilized in the service today. In my mind the fire scene has always been about versatility and options and the water thief certainly gives you some choices. I know of departments today where these devices were purchased to be kept attached on a big line for a stretch into commercials and company officers who did to understand the concepts cast them aside into a compartment, never to be seen again.

Remember, not all thiefs are bad thiefs!

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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My Friend Jack

Many of my readers that follow any of the large blogs and websites will have heard of the passing this week of a well known fire instructor, Jack Peltier.

Jack was a lot of things to lots of people, to some a mentor and a teacher, to some the largest thorn in their side!

Jack was my friend. Jack helped my in some personal and professional ways, always behind the scenes. Jack stood by me and supported me through some very difficult times and did not care if he took an unpopular view or a difficult stance.

I will miss him for all he did for me, and for the curmudgeon that he could be.

We laid Jack to rest yesterday, may he rest in peace.

(I am sure heaven will be redesigned and no one there will again rest in peace, but heck that is Jack)

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Newtown Connecticut

As a fire and emergency service blogger I am still unsure what to write some 48 hours after the events of Friday.

Unimaginable is the word that comes to mind first.

My thoughts and prayers are with this families that have lost loved ones at this festive and usually joyous time of year.

My thoughts also go out to the firefighters, EMS workers and police officers who have had to respond to this horrific event. Their lives have now been changed forever. I have often said that firefighters and police officers who get paid and are full time, and our nations volunteer fire and EMS responders should not be paid and recognized for what they do…….they should be recognized for what they have agreed and they are willing to do. They have agreed to serve their community regardless of pay or not and they have agreed to handle anything that comes along.

New town is a small town. I am sure that the police, fire and EMS may have known children or may have even had children of their own in that school as they responded. They were there and agreed to protect all of the children of that community.

How much these responders in Connecticut have given us on Friday and through the many hours even to today.

Local governments sometimes do not appreciate the value that a strong prepared emergency service organization brings, until we react to event such as these.

As we all move forward, and we must move forward it is the only direction we have, please keep the families that lost loved ones and small children and other family members in our prayers, thoughts and hearts.

But as first responders, lets us remember our police and fire and EMS brothers and sisters who gave some much of themselves both physically, mentally and spiritually to help others.

We owe it to one another. If ever there was a time for the word Brotherhood, or Sisterhood, it is today.

When this incident unwinds over the next weeks we should think of things we can do to support them.

God Bless the community of Newtown Connecticut.

God Bless Cops, Firemen, and EMTS, and Medics.

God Bless us, everyone.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Some SCBA questions for review.

I am using the Essentials of Firefighting Manual 4th Edition and I will pose the following questions. If you can answer them fine, but the point is, you should use these as the basis for a drill for your people. We will do some detailed SCBA training in other posts but this is a little thought primer and review.

How much variation is accepted as a difference between a remote gauge and the cylinder gauge? Do you always check cylinder gauge before donning?

Name one situation where you should use the purge valve? ( And its not to clear your mask either!)

Approximately how many seconds does it take for a PASS device to activate?

How often are you supposed to retrain on the use of PASS devices? When was the last time you were trained on yours?

Can you manually operate your PASS device with a gloved hand without looking? ( Sounds like a good company drill to me, have everyone line up and see who is the quickest)

What percentage of cylinder capacity is considered full? What is the psi?

How often should scba be inspected? Have you read NFPA 1500 and 1404?

How do you clean and dry a facepiece?

How often do composite air cylinders have to be tested? What are the hydrostatic test dates on your cylinders?

How long should it take you to don an SCBA and be fully dressed in turnout gear ready to go? How long does it actually take?

Take these questions have a company drill, and review all of the answers with your personnel. It adds some flavor to the donning and doffing drills that become mundane.

When you are beginning the drill empty and lower the air pressure in a couple of spares before hand so as the drill progresses you can see if people are actually checking the cylinder gauge or are the just verbalizing it and not really checking.

Be sure all packs and cylinders are checked and ready to go at the completion of the drill.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Salvage training?


Salvage training what are you crazy, we don’t do that we barely have enough manpower to stretch lines, now you want us to throw covers! I want to throw up!

Wait………Don’t stop reading yet!

Salvage is an often neglected part of our job for those very reasons….we don’t do it often enough, and we can barely have the manpower to do everything else we are supposed to do.

This week I have some random disorganzied thoughts about salvage and a couple of interesting ideas for salvage drills.

Why the hell do we always teach and say Salvage and Overhaul? One doesn’t have as much to do with the other as we would believe and before I leave the fire service we might actually separate the two!

Some occupanices might require salvage to become a higher priority: These might include libraries, churches, city and town halls, museums where records and articatcs might in fact be irreplaceable. I am not suggesting that we lose any lives for property under any circumstances but it certainly moves salvage up on the priorities in any of the above mentioned occupancies.

Think about salvage considerations when you are shoveling out people’s possessions into the front yard. That couch with the quilt on it is a smoldering wreck and it’s in your way, but to the owner that is the quilt that now dead aunt Sadie crocheted by hand.

Salvage drills mostly consist of pulling the apparatus out, showing folds rolls etc., and maybe trying to cover some furniture strategically placed in the day room. While I know most of these are necessary and are recognized as skills we need, I have yet to be able to do the “two man, inflate a throw- balloon method” that they teach in the essentials manuals. Usually I knock over a precious vase and stain and or ruin the eight foot normal ceiling that prevents me from doing that in the first place!

Train on rolls and folds that one or two people can do easily.

Empty the apparatus room / bay. Take a 10 foot step ladder and have someone stand at the top of it with a garden hose. Have other members form teams. Give them a designated task like the following: This is an overhead light fixture or pipe leak and you are unable to shut off the flow: The water must be directed out a side door or window. After the instructions start a gentle flow of water from the garden hose and let the crews make chutes, use ladders, pike poles, and catchalls to direct and divert the flow. When they are done, roughly chalk out the amount of spill that hit the floor. Start the next team as the first and chalk out their puddle. The group with the smallest amount of water on the floor is the winner. Things like this make it interesting challenging and more real life and your personnel will become very creative in their methods.

Take a garden hose, adapt it to a piece of 3/4″ copper pipe about 10 feet long. Make an irregular slice in the pipe with a sawzall or make a series of pinholes. Have personnel control water flow. By rotating the pipe in different directions the problem becomes serious.

Use sprinkler props and leaking overhead sprinkler prop pipes for salvage drills.

Using a roscoe smoke machine have two firefighters enter an area that is moderately smoky and return with simulated valuable items they can carry: Have the area stocked with wallets, purse, phtographs, insurance policy documents, business records, leger books etc.and other props that you devise., and then review what areticles they retrieve and discuss them with the group. This gets them operating under a mask as well.

We do still say we protect life and property don’t we? Well salvage is the property piece and by a little creative thinking you can do some innovative salvage drills that will make your troops at least think about it and be prepared to act when needed.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Is There An App For That – Hybrid Extrication

The app for this week is a good one for a lot of reasons. First you would never be able to remember all of these makes and models without having some reference right there with you I the field. Having the ability to reference both an overhead view and a side view of critical items, like high voltage, CNG cylinders and air bags etc, will greatly aid in extricating and also provide for a great deal of responder safety as well.

Lets take a look.

The first screen gives you a scrollable menu of choices where you can pick the manufacturer.

After you have selected a particular manufacturer you are then taken to another scrollable screen for makes and models.

In most all cases you will be given an overhead or top down view and a small legend of what is being highlighted for you.

You will then be presented with a side or sectional view.

I believe that an app like this really capitalizes on the benefits of a smart phone for fire and police officers. This type of critical data can make a difference and save some lives.

It is intuitive and very easy to navigate around and there have been frequent updates since I have owned it, so they are trying to stay current.

Bottom line: This is a great app that has good data, that is very easy to use.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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December 3, 1999 – Worcester Massachusetts

During this time we must pause and remember what happened on the night of December 3, 1999. The city of Worcester Massachusetts lost six of their own.

Firefighter Paul Brotherton 41 Rescue 1
Lieutenant Jeremiah Lucey 38 Rescue 1
Lieutenant Thomas Spencer 42 Ladder 2
Firefighter Timothy Jackson 51 Ladder 2
Firefighter James Lyons 34 Engine 3
Firefighter Joseph McGuirk 38 Engine 3

The story is now a familiar one for members of the fire service. If you do not know the details, please research in any way possible so that you know what really happened. Two firefighters from Rescue 1 went in to search and verify reports of homeless people that might have been in the building. These two firefighters got disoriented and low on air, and four additional firefighters were lost during the search for these members. There is a book published called 3000 degrees which covers many of the details and stories of that fateful night. In addition to the lives lost, there were many extraordinary acts of bravery, determination, and courage shown by many. These traits were demonstrated in extreme hostile environments, in stairwells, and from operational commanders.

The outpouring of support from the fire service was unlike anything I had seen previously from a LODD. The President of the United States was there and it was an emotionally overwhelming and unforgettable sight; to have taken part in that ceremony is not something I shall soon forget.

Many firefighters in Massachusetts and for that matter around the country now have a small decal or sticker on their helmet, or a small pin that is in memory of “The Worcester Six”.

The fire service pledges always to “Never Forget” and I believe that is true today some 13 years later.

These men did not die in vain. In the year following the tragedy the State of Massachusetts launched a massive training initiative, and a statewide equipment grant system to provide necessary training and equipment to many departments.

Around the nation, the fire service talked about and studied this incident at great length, resulting in a flood of rapid intervention training, thermal imaging training, and wide area search techniques.

The firefighters from Worcester lectured at national seminars and in fact they sponsored a number of safety and survival seminars in their own city.

On Monday December 3, 2012, resolve to do something at the company level, or station level to remember these men. Do a drill, review the case history, have a moment of reflection,or say a prayer. The actions and loss of these men have taught us all lessons, that may have already saved the lives of countless firefighters around the country.

I started this post with a picture of the members, and I will end it that way also, because it is about them.

Never forget them, never forget their families, never forget the circumstances of how they died, and most of all never forget what they taught you.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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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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