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.
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Stay Safe, and Stay Thinking!

Pete Lamb
Copyright 2013