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 – Gasoline Tanker Delivery

Lets take a look at this problem found in almost every community.

1.) When was the last training you had dealing with the gasoline tank truck? How is it piped, what are the safety features?

2.) Will the stations canopy extinguishing system be effective on this fire? What is the coverage area? Have you ever witnessed one going off?

3.) What is the life hazard? Where is the driver? Where are the civilians in and around the pumps or convenience store?

4.) Where is this fuel going? Storm drain?

5.) What is your department’s capability to handle this emergency? How much alcohol resistant foam do you have? When was your last foam training?

Think about this one this week, and as you drive by a gas station with a tanker making a delivery, look around at the area and the people and the surroundings….then ask yourself…..what if?

Thanks and stay safe!

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Tactical Fire Problem – Apartment Fire

This week we take a look at a fire in an apartment complex.

1.) Estimate what you believe to be the amount of interior involvement in this scenario. What do you determine by the black smoke along the eave line?

2.) This appears to be a daytime scenario. Do the old rules of maybe nobody home daytime apply? Many more people working from home, moms doing babysitting to raise additional money, people out of work?

3.) Looking at the layout, what room is that fire room most likely, and why?

4.) Does the construction of this building (and buildings like it) present any additional tactical considerations as related to fire spread and exposures?

5.) What is the definition of a “firewall”? Look up the definition, then check your building codes, then go out and actually take a look at 5/8 sheet rock on both sides that may or may not be staggered and properly taped, and that also has utility penetrations through it. Also consider the age of construction, is I full dimensional lumber on the roof or lightweight truss construction?

After using this scenario, go out and take a look in your response area and find a similar building and come up with a plan.

Stay safe!

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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Tactical Fire Problem – Vacant Factory

This week we are talking about an abandoned run down industrial property that could be found anywhere in the country.

Lets take a look.

The questions this week are not so much about individual tactics but more about strategies, and bigger picture thoughts.

1.) What is your department response to this facility? How many personnel will be needed?

2.) How well have you determined or preplan need your water supply issues for this building and others? We often handle so many 1-2 line fires, what is the experience level of our pump operators when we really need to flow large amounts of water? Ask your crew when the last time they were the operator for 3-4 big lines or ladder pipe operations. Set up a drill.

3.) What is your department plan for rehab and crew rotations?

4.) What is your plan for flying embers and brands?

I know of some Nw England cities that would look at this scenario and yawn, because they have handled so many large mill building fires like this, but the scenario this week is really a test for the small suburban department across middle America that does not have these every year.

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