The portable monitor drill

Here is a quick and easy drill for this week. If your engine company has a deck gun that is capable of being portable and ground mounted, this is for you.

Pull into an open parking area, and set out some cones or a stationary “target” 300 feet away from the rig. It is even better if there can be a couple of twists or turn obstructions while you are at it.

Set up the gun 300 feet away from your rig as if you were ordered to get it in position into an alley for exposures or to the “Charlie” side for a heavy stream.

Once the gun is in place, charge it and flow tank water.

How long did it take you and your crew?

In a small department, did it take two companies to do it?

Is there an easier way to do it?

Do you have a BLITZFIRE gun, have you looked at them?

Can the gun be mounted on the rear step for easy access?

If you do not have a ground mounted gun, use a similar drill and put some cones out 100 feet from the apparatus, have the driver get into position with the rig, and operate the gun from the top and hit the right cone, then swing left twenty feet or so and hit the left cone to simulate directing a stream in an alley operation. Time that also and see how you did. Have the driver repeatedly try and spot where the top mounted gun has the best angle and use.

Deck guns are not used all the time, but when they are it is usually “the big one”. Those rare high risk, high hazard low frequency events when time means everything.

You don’t have to do it all the time, but when you do this little 1 hour hands on drill you might just make a difference and might make you the company that the chief is always happy to see at a big job!

And besides we both know that you can do it better and faster than….

The other shift……..the guys and gals at engine XYZ…….the neighboring department etc..

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Is There An App For That? – Tactical Fire Table

This week, the App for review is a great one with a lot of uses. Tactical Fire Table (and there is a tactical police table as well) allows the user to drag and drop icons, and mark up the screen with drawings for an actual graphical command worksheet. I have used the tool for actual incidents, planning events, and post incident analysis.

The software allows you to choose a photo from your camera roll, or any image you take, or it allows the background to be a map taken from an Apple Map search. (This was previously taken from a Google map search, but we all know the story about Apple and Google, so now it is Apple maps.)

Lets take a look.

In this case there is an overhead shot of a building and a parking area and I have just added hydrants in there.(Every icon can be resized and rotated as needed)

In this next screen I have added fire apparatus, a command post FD marker and I have hand drawn a large diameter hose line running in. I have added a fire icon to the building and I have freehand drawn X s to show which occupancies have been searched and cleared.

This screenshot shows some of the hazard icons available.

This shows some objects available.

Some of the unit designations.

Vehicles and other items.

And for folks involved in wild land firefighting all of the needed symbols there as well.

Remember in the beginning I said any graphic you had could become the background. Here is an example of a sample command worksheet that you can free hand mark off, put icons on or do whatever you need.

One other great feature is that the software has a replay mode and when you press it, it replays the sequence in which items were added and modified to the underlay image. You see what was done first second, third etc..

Bottom line for this one is easy. I think this is by far one of the most versatile pieces of IOS software on my iPad. It can be used for anything at all even for businesses outside of the fire service . The screen and icons are small when using an IPHONE, but that certainly cannot be discounted.

I might also add that the developer, (like many I have found) is extremely responsive to suggestions and feedback. There are lots more icons and things to see but I have given you the basics and you should try this great app. It’s use is rely only limited by your imagination.

Available in ITUNES.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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“Do The Right Thing”…..for whom?

The phrase “Do the right thing” is often heard in our modern life. It can be heard in a variety of places but certainly around the kitchen table of any firehouse. There are all sorts of meanings for this and I want to tell you today that much like “beauty”, “do the right thing” might be in the eye of the beholder also.

There has been a minor accident with the apparatus and at the kitchen table we hear the driver and other members say ” I hope that Captain “does the right thing, here”. Hmmm, just what exactly do you think they mean? Would the captain “cover” them, hide it from the deputy or the chief? Is that what they mean?

There has been a patient treatment error in the back of the ambulance and the driver says to the attendant in charge, “you need to do the right thing” about this incident. Is he suggesting that he knows something went wrong and he wants his partner to self report it to the ER Doc or the OIC on the job?

There is a horrible economic crisis and the fire chief has been ordered to make dramatic cuts to the department. The members are all around the table and say ” I hope the chief does the right thing” about these cuts. What is the expectation….the chief will fight for the appropriate level of fire protection, the chief will refuse a directive from the mayor and citizens, or the chief will do the best he can for the safety of his personnel and the taxpayers, and live to fight another budget battle for the department.

You see as I look at the phrase in the fire service world, it could mean any of the following examples:

Do the right thing for the member involved.
Do the right thing for the department as a whole.
Do the right thing for the union or volunteer or call association.
Do the right thing for the citizens and taxpayers.
Do the right thing for yourself and your family.
Do the right thing for the good of the entire fire service.
….and many other examples.

My point is, if your action does not fit in any of the categories above, then you are probably not doing the right thing. If it only benefits you and your family, then you might be a bit selfish and it may be good for you but not good for the organization. A good solution is some compromise that fits as many of the above categories as you can. That means you might be leaning towards doing the right thing.

We have all seen examples of firefighters getting into trouble and in many cases the thought of how any action might be construed or perceived, never enters their mind.

Try to “do the right thing” even when nobody is watching, it will always pay off in the long run.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Tactical Fire Problem 2012-03 – Storefront

This problem is a typical one found in an older city. There can be a number of solutions to this one and I want you to think it through for your own department and resources.
Remember you can use the video player controls to pause it between the periods of fire growth which are highly compressed in these short clips.

Some considerations…
1.) It appears the 1st floor storefronts are vacant? What does that say about conditions inside…abandoned stock still there, a set fire to get rid of the building, squatters or homeless,
2.) Second floor apartments above. Life hazard?
3.) Look at the windows on the second floor and think about approximate ceiling height? What do extremely high ceilings mean in terms of heat buildup etc.?
4.) Space between the top of the ceiling and roofline. Cockloft?
5.) What type of roof would you expect and what ventilation challenges might be expected?

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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60 Second Safety – P C A N

I am trying a new feature where I will give 1 minute little podcasts that might just be a small tidbit that you can use. We will try it out and see what folks think.

Let me know by sending an email to

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Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Veterans Day November 11

There certainly are not enough words to portray my thanks for all of our veterans. I was fortunate to have been brought up in a family where my dad was a WW II veteran from the Pacific Theater of operations.

I was taught at very young age to have respect for our flag, our country and our veterans. Many, many years ago the VFW had a program called “Sons of the VFW” which my dad got me involved in. (Later in my life other words followed sons of, when describing me, but i digress) It allowed me to be around a number of WW II veterans and I helped with fund raising, scraping and painting and maintaining cemetery grave markers and on holidays going out and putting the flags and flag stands on grave sites to honor and remember the fallen.

I found a couple of images and a link to a YouTube video that I thought could better express my feelings about the day. I thought that these things would be my simple and humble little way of saying thanks to those who served.

I know this is a fire service blog, and firefighters, paramedics and EMTs do great things everyday in this country. I have been proud to be a firefighter for much of my life. Many times people refer to us as heroes, and often rightfully so.

Lets save the term hero for our veterans. We are what we are, and have what we have because of a veteran!

I found this floating around the Internet and it struck me, because some people don’t remove their hats anymore when the National Anthem is played, sometimes people don’t show the simple respect that they should. In my minds eye this is probably an older veteran who is doing all that he physically can do honor the Marine Honor Guard walking by with our flag. I like it.

The picture above was from a tweet received from Danny “mav” Robson who has a twitter name of #soldier_danny. It speaks about remembering and taking time today to honor our veterans. It touched me and I wanted to share it with you.

Here is a link to a seven minuteYOUTUBE VIDEO. This video is from a retired naval corpsman that served in Vietnam and the Gulf war. It is a speech he gave at an elementary school. I am not sure if the young children got it but I did!

It is worth a listen to a perspective of someone who has had their life changed by serving.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Fire from the outside in.

In the wake of the Chicago LODD last week (Herbert Johnson) there was a flurry of articles about flashover and attic fires.

All of these were great stuff and right on point. I wanted to take an opportunity while we were talking about these topics to talk about fires that start on the outside, climb and penetrate the building sheathing and wall covering and then we get the call.

There have been many circumstances where this type of situation has occurred, not the least of which was the Kyle Wilson incident.

My comments and thoughts below are not about any specific fire but just about these types of fires in general.

How do they start?

There are a variety of ways these fires can start. A gas grill fire that extends, grass and brush and mulch fires in contact with wood siding, careless disposal of smoking materials, external electrical (decorative lights cord) and many, many others.

In many if not all of the circumstances I will be referencing will be TYPE V wood frame construction.

Fire will generally enter an attic space through the small overhang of the roof line. This fire entering the soffit can rapidly find fuel (exposed wood Andorra attic storage) and rapidly spread. There is clearly an upward draft which exists and usually more than enough air to sustain free burning and fire growth.

There is generally little or no detection in uninhabitable attic spaces.

If occupants are home, they hear no alarms, see no smoke, and feel little or no heat . The fire continues to develop until it actually burns through or generates enough smoke that might be seen by a neighbor.

We arrive and have a well developed fire in a building void apace. Usually our best access (at least here in the northeast) will be a small 2 x 2 scuttle hole or attic hatch , with or without a ladder.

I have previously described and painted a pretty good picture of the conditions in the attic, now lets add some air from underneath. If the fire has free burned through the roof and venting well, things might be ok. If the fire has started to burn through but not quite, there is a tremendous amount of built up heat, products of combustion (read flammable gases) which might very well be forced down upon the scuttle opening with explosive force.

In addition certainly in wood frame construction there will be some drop fire down wooden petitions etc. balloon frame construction should be considered depending upon the age of the structure.

The bullet points or take aways from this quick post should be this:

Fires that spread from the outside in will generally have a pretty god head start.

After arrival of the FD we have a couple of tasks….search for life and search for the source of the fire. If interior companies are having trouble locating the source of the fire consider void space fires.

Exterior conditions might give the incident commander a better picture, because interior crews may not see and feel much from the inside.

Use EXTREME caution if you suspect lightweight roof construction. Consider the length of burning time and the fact these structural members are ready to fail.

Fire attack with simultaneous ventilation is always the solution to these problems, but more and more small suburban departments may not have the personnel immediately on scene to accomplish this. I am currently working on an article which discusses what we could do in the cases. Do I deploy all of my resources at the ventilation task while delaying attack, or do I start a cautious attack, knowing that my ability to advance might be limited, until ventilation occurs? (More on that later on)

Think about what we have discussed here today. Basement fires with extension, balloon frame construction issues etc, all present a similar circumstance, but when it comes from the outside in there are some different considerations.

Take a minute this week to review any case histories you know about, and talk its up around the kitchen table about any of these fires you might have responded Tao and operated at.

Stay safe!

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Is There An App For That? -This week Emerald Timestamp

This week we are talking about an IOS application called Emerald Time Stamp that can be found in the App Store. I am not sure if this is available for Android but you can check that out yourself.

The app is just plain and simple, but has a couple of great features that I believe have a direct emergency services use.

Lets look at the main screen.

Pretty simple, huh? Whenever you want to timestamp something you touch the green bar. In some cases the green bar is yellow when it has not say he’d exactly with the atomic clock and could be off by several milliseconds.
Yes I said milliseconds on a fire service blog, sort of a contradiction in terms I know.

Once you tap the bar it inserts the time in a format you have previously set up. You can then tap on the time just inserted and go to a second screen.

This screen allows you to type a specific note concerning the time stamp. I. This case I have just typed…type whatever you want on the line. This screen also allows you to email a single time and note or all events.

One of the last features I like the best. There is an options button in the bottom center of the main screen which allows you to “pre configure” some buttons. In the screen shot below you see that I have created ON SCENE, RESOURCE ORDERED and TASK COMPLETED buttons. They replace the main green bar.

Now if you have repetitive known times that you will be recording you can hit the right button, it automatically labels it and you move to the next item. You can still add a note if you need to or want to.

Who can use this?

How about this on an IPHONE in the incident commanders hands as he indicates some benchmarks? How about a paramedic recording treatment and medication administration ? How about in dispatch for a bunch of reasons. Using this software in an emergency operations center as a log of events.

How about fire investigators, fire inspectors, police officers and others.

The bottom line is that it is an inexpensive time stamping device in your pocket that has its uses only limited by the imagination of the user.

I would love to hear any other uses you might have, so drop an email if you like and we can chat.

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Marine Corps

(Image from the Internet , unknown source)

Thank you to all have served proudly in the marines and on this Veteran’s Day weekend, thank you to all of our veterans.

We have all that we have because of you! NEVER FORGET!

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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Qualifications? Or Qualifiers?

There were a couple of things that crossed my desk last week and a couple of conversations that I had that lead me to this quick thought for the week.

One of the articles I read on The Backstep Firefighter was written by Ron Ayotte , Deputy Chief in Marlborough Massachusetts. In the article he speaks about “The job” and hinges like personal pride etc..

My thought is pretty specific and I want you to ask yourself as you go to your next shift or if you are a call or volunteer person, think about it the next time you go to the station.

When you go to the station bring all of your qualifications with you. That is remember and practice all of the skills and things you have been taught. All of that old firefighter I and II stuff and officer I or what ever training you have. Don’t do the job half way.(Those that know me real well were not expecting the word way after the word half!)

Qualification are a good thing to bring to the station, work, and “The Job”.

So what is a qualifier, then?

Qualifiers are what all human beings bring with them all day long. It is part of their everyday carry items.

” I am not going to do house duties today, because the other shift did not do it yesterday”.

“I am not going to train today because Captain XYZ does make his shift train, I worked there the other day and they don’t do anything”

“I am going to do as little as I can today because the city doesn’t care about the firefighters”

“I am not going to be nice to anybody today because……(and you can fill in the blanks here, because each of you now know what I am talking about)

I will do my job with all of these extra qualifiers which determine how well and how effective I am going to be.

I have a simple message for all firefighters and it is similar to the article I referenced earlier or a recent fire engineering article by Assistant Chief Tom Warren on a similar subject.

The fire service is the best job in the world, everyday we may be called upon to play the Super Bowl , handling an incident we never dreamed of, everyday we are thrust into people’s lives on the worst day the have ever had…..there is no room for qualifiers.

I am guilty of this same thing at many points in my career so I am certainly not without fault. I am trying to help folks not make similar mistakes that I have made in the past.

When you go on duty, bring and use all of your qualifications, but leave the qualifiers in storage where they belong!

Stay Safe and have a great week!

Pete Lamb @ Copyright 2012
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"Changing the fire service, one mind at a time"