Carbon Monoxide Response – Quick Tips

We are all handling more CO alarms than ever. In fact when many of us started in the fire service there was no such thing as a Carbon Monoxide alarm at all.

I have a concern that many of the alarms we are answering are false, and / or malfunctions. This can lead us to a false sense of security on our parts, so I felt a review of CO would be a good one.

Carbon monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, toxic, and flammable gas, generated by incomplete combustion.

Carbon monoxide inhibits the ability of the blood to deliver oxygen throughout the body.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea, drowsiness, vomiting, cherry red skin color, coma, and death.

Monitors and detectors used by the fire service should be calibrated per manufacturer’s instructions but every six months would be an absolute minimum.

Meters and monitors should be tested on a weekly basis as a minimum and test should be documented.

Actions upon arrival should include but not be limited to:

Evaluate occupants for CO Poisoning.

Determine if any combustion devices have been in use.

If the unit (home detector) was purchased prior to 10 years ago then suggest a replacement.

Determine if a smoke detector is or was sounding as well.

Personnel shall wear full PPE and have SCBA at the ready for donning.

Document all the readings you receive in the structure, and near the various sources.

Check all of the following: Car in garage, chimney obstructions, furnace area, BBQ grill to close to residence and open windows, gas, wood, and coal fireplaces, kerosene heaters,gas ranges, stoves, ovens, gas refrigerator, portable heaters, gas dryer, gas hot water heater, non vented heater, and others.

Remember to treat these as serious calls, don’t become complacent. Create and use a form for documentation for you and the resident if necessary. If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen!

This is not a complete SOP and it is not supposed to be, but just an overview and some thoughts. Give serious trout about creating someway to record readings so if the event happens again you have a baseline.

Stay safe, and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

Tactical Fire Problem – Small Cottage

This week we are looking at a small residential structure.

1.) How advanced is this fire based upon the visual presented?

2.) Is the smoke coming from the roof vents a sign of a problem, or should that be expected behavior?

3.) Is the a basement under this structure? Slab only? Crawl space? What do each of these mean to your tactical considerations? Does it matter?

4.) List some difficulties in operating with a crew and hand lines in a smaller structure.

5.) Use caution when operating with a crew of personnel and a line when you are standing on a home built deck. Most of these are always ok, but putting 750-1000 pounds of personnel and a hose stream is a pretty significant live load. Make sure the deck is real!

Send any comments or your thoughts using the send voicemail tab on the right hand side of the page, or just email

Stay safe, and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

New exciting stuff…..1st radio show! – Episode 1 – Rescue Profile and Search

I just launched a new radio show today about firefighter training. It may not be for everybody but I want to try and provide all forms of media.

This first episode is about 23 minutes long, but has a bunch of preliminary stuff explaining what is going on, before the actual training segment.

Take a listen and use the send voicemail tab on the right hand side of this page to send feedback.

After listening I already have some modifications to make but I am satisfied with my first attempt. Maybe the luck of the Irish will be with me.

You can listen to the showHERE.

Stay safe, and stay thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

St Patrick’s Day Musings

Because it is St. Paddy’s Day this weekend and because of my Irish heritage I thought it only appropriate that I would make some Irish analogies that might relate to the fire service this week. My dad always made a great deal about St. Patrick’s Day as my grandfather came directly from Ireland during the large migration. My Grandfather and his brothers ( Patrick, Mike, James, and Edward ….go figure!) lived in America all of their adult lives but always enjoyed and re-surfaced their Irish heritage at any moment they thought they could gain some mileage out of it!

Isn’t the fire service like an old traditional Irish family? We complain criticize and beat the heck out of one another verbally and critically in the fire station. Let some other person outside of the fire service criticize some of those same people and we immediately rush to their defense! It’s OK if we do it ” …’cause we are family and brothers!”

The legend goes that St. Patrick chased the snakes out of Ireland. Why the hell did he do that? Now the have only become politicians!

(Hey I was one, I can say that! – Lighten up will you!)

The Irish are noted for the quick temper, tenacious spirit, and a willingness to fight. OK, OK, maybe there could be some connection to the fire service there, let me think about that one.

There is always discussion about the luck of the Irish! Remember that there could be a significant difference between the luck of the Irish and the fire service. In this case I always refer to the saying that has been around for many years, and that is the difference between skill and luck is how long it lasts! A narrow escape is a free pass and a stroke of luck, skill allows you not to happen again!

An Irish toast and greeting says “May the road rise to meet you, and may the wind be always be at your back….” Who would have thought that they were talking about a hazardous materials incident where you should be upwind and uphill all the time!

Then there is the Blarney Stone…..hmmmm a connection between Blarney (Bologna) and the fire service, wait I can do this …wait I know I can!

Leprechauns….those little mischievous guys that play tricks on other mortals all the time. Maybe, just maybe those are the guys that keep moving the equipment around on the apparatus and that’s why we can never find anything. Maybe that’s why all the stuff from our food locker is gone, and maybe just maybe they are the guys who throw dirt on the floor, because after all I know I did my house duties, honest I did!

The “pot o’ gold” and the rainbow. I always liked those and I think the easiest thing I could write about those is a very simple message. The pot of gold and the rainbow vary from person to person and in some cases from day to day. Chase an elusive dream that may be waiting for you and when you get to the end instead of being disappointed, think about the treasure you really have. Your friends, your family, your health and all of the things that really matter. The chase and the dream are fun but do not lose sight of the things you have that allow you to get there!

The Irish can make a seven course meal out of a six pack and a boiled potato! Have you ever seen how a meal is prepared in a fire house. The only thing better than a large fire house meal is working the next night when there will be some extravaganza made from the leftovers!

If you want a neat Irish Story go searching around for some information on a guy by the name of Ronan Tynon one of the three now famous Irish Tenors. I just learned some pretty neat things about him this weekend, and you should take a look as well…he has an entirely different profession, has faced some enormous physical obstacles, and has a personal passion for many things that should be admired. You can’t get more Irish than that!

Hey, lets get serious here this is not all fun and games…the Irish are a dedicated, hard working, fun loving people who share a spirit of family and friends and life’s simple pleasures. Hey maybe that is the best analogy and description of the fire service I know!

No Serious message this week just a chance to smile and relax and not take life so serious. I need to do that and I thought I would share these whimsical thoughts with you. As we as a country move forward in very uncertain times, a smile here or there can’t hurt.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and for all of my Italian friends Happy St. Joseph’s Day Too!

(reposted from an few years back on my website)

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013

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

Tactical Fire Problem – Loading Dock Fire

This week, the cab of a tractor trailer at a loading dock. Take a look.

1.) Let us start with the basics, what size and how many lines, how much water and how many personnel?
2.) Under the category of where is it going, what it is in the box trailer, is it empty be cause it was just unloaded, or is it full because it was just loaded? Have you ever operated at a fully loaded tractor trailer fire? What is it like to get water at the seat of the fire and what is it like to overhaul?
3.) I believe extension into the building is not likely at the moment, and hopefully the building is sprinklered but what is your plan to make sure fire does not get in? How much manpower does that take?
4.) While I don’t believe there will be extension, I certainly believe there will be extensive smoke spread into the building. What is your department’s plan to clear smoke out of a structure this large?
5.) Get out I your response district and look for the large buildings and develop a plan before you need one!
If you want to leave feedback or interact use the send voicemail tab at the side of the page.

Stay safe, and stay thinking!
Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
For information contact

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

"Changing the fire service, one mind at a time"