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
For information contact pete@petelamb.com

Salvage training?

Ahhhhhhh,……YAWN!….Stretch….

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
For information contact pete@petelamb.com

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
For information contact pete@petelamb.com

Tactical Fire Problem – Trailer Park Wind Driven Fire

This week we are adding a different type of scenario. We have a trailer park, with a 20 MPH wind coming from the top left and blowing toward the right and lower right. There has been some sort of explosion and you have multiple trailers damaged and on fire.

Take a look and give this one some thought.


1.) Under normal conditions, what is the average burn time like in these types of manufactured homes, or trailers?

2.) What is the water supply like in some of these trailer parks? Is it a private water system or a city maintained system, or will you rely on tankers? If you are using tankers what about the dump site and turning around in these congested areas?

3.) What size lines, and based upon the described weather, where would you place them?

4.) Fully involved trailers and bottled gas on each unit……how does that end?

5.) Take a ride through your mobile home parks if you have them. Can you maneuver apparatus and how will you decide if you are going to commit to a tightly congested area with these fire and wind conditions?

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

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
For information contact pete@petelamb.com

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…..you 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
For information contact pete@petelamb.com

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
For information contact pete@petelamb.com

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
For information contact pete@petelamb.com

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