I recently wrote a column about working with older, less motivated crews. In this column, I said that officers must insist on accountability with their crews, but “you don’t have to be a jerk about it.”
In response to this column, a reader contacted me.
“What about the times when you have to be a jerk?” he said.
I asked him to clarify.
“Well, what about the situation where you’ve given a firefighter several warnings and he’s still coming to work late? Or a firefighter won’t wear full protective gear no matter what you do?”
“Write them up,” I said.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” he replied. “They force you to be a jerk and write them up.”
I wrote the blog two weeks ago pertaining to some of the available schools around the State of Ohio; I was fortunate enough to attend one of them last week. I attended the Heavy Rescue class at Bowling Green State Fire School that has been held for the past 15+ years with many of the same instructors, but countless new tactics. JD Vasbinder from Columbus Ohio Heavy Rescue 16 is the lead instructor and developer of the program. Many problems were presented that involved semi-trucks, school buses, heavy equipment, vehicles in water, and heavy objects. Holmatro, Genesis, Paratech, and TNT are just a few of the vendors that provided their latest and greatest for us to use over the 4-day class. There were about 30 students from Canada, The U.S., and Austria in the class, working together in three groups. I am going to talk about some of the highlights in the class and what I feel are the most important items to pass along.
Chicago’s famously known as the city of broad shoulders, and the iconic Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, accounts for a lot of the town’s architectural brawn. At 110 stories and 1,450 feet (442 meters) high, it’s the tallest building in the country, as well as in the Western Hemisphere. Its 4.5 million square feet (418,063 square meters) of floor space is home to offices, restaurants, shops, a U.S. Post Office, two chiropractors, and two dentist’s offices. Roughly 25,000 people pass through the building daily.
That’s why building management has teamed up with the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) to conduct an annual large-scale drill to test and fine-tune emergency-response procedures. Drills can number hundreds of participants, including firefighters and the building’s management, security, and engineering staffs. Journal asked Michael Schroeder, director of business continuity and life safety for U.S. Equities Asset Management, LLC, the company that manages the building, and Anthony VanBuskirk, a CFD deputy district chief (retired), to recount their experiences with a recent drill: what worked, what didn’t, and why cooperation is critical for protecting lives and property in one of the world’s most complex structures.
The accelerating pace of modern life is a common lament but American firefighters have more reason to complain than most. In the 1970s draughty homes filled with furniture made from natural materials were slow to burn. It typically took a quarter of an hour or more for an accidental fire to reach flashover, the point at which everything flammable in a room spontaneously ignites. These days, thanks to well-insulated modern homes and fixtures stuffed with hydrocarbon-based foams, flashover can happen in less than three minutes.
As a result, firefighters no longer have the luxury of scouting out a domestic blaze before it takes hold. That can be deadly. “If you’re caught in a room when flashover occurs, you’re pretty much guaranteed to die,” says Ed Walker, director of the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy. This is especially true in America, where firefighters “tend to be aggressive and want to go inside to fight fires”, he adds.
Tragically, flashovers have killed dozens of first responders in the past decade, despite improvements in protective clothing. Ironically, modern fireproof suits may themselves be partly to blame. In the past, firefighters would have physically felt the heat building towards flashover and have been forced to retreat. In today’s fully encapsulated suits, they must rely instead on visual cues that flashover is imminent, such as flames rolling over the ceiling or a scrumpled-up ball of paper bursting alight. These folkloric warnings are dangerously imprecise.
For the past five years scientists at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts have been trying to understand flashovers in order to predict exactly when they will occur.
The Chemical Safety Board (CSB), the federal agency charged with investigating industrial accidents, recently released a video underscoring the damage from the ammonium nitrate fertilizer explosion in West, Texas, that killed 14 people and injured about 200 others. Narrated by a CSB investigator, the video illustrates the destruction of schools, residences, a nursing home, playgrounds, and other locations.
“The community damage we saw in West was the worst of any chemical accident in the CSB’s history,” says CSB Managing Director Daniel Horowitz in the video.
It’s almost time for summer weather! Fighting fires takes its toll in cold temperatures, but heat stress is compounded by warmer weather. Do you understand the forces working against you on the fireground? LION Fire Academy offers several videos for instructors to teach firefighters about how to manage heat stress. The video below will cover how your body is affected during firefighting operations, including:
As I listen to the audio recording from the fire in Baltimore County, Md., that claimed the life of Firefighter Gene Kirschner, I reflect on a lesson learned from my recent rapid intervention train-the-trainer class. If a Mayday were to occur the firefighters most likely to facilitate a rescue are the ones already operating inside the structure.
If you have an emergency and need assistance, the firefighters nearest you will be in the best spot to help — if they are not experiencing the same emergency. Are you prepared to help a fellow firefighter in their time of need? Let’s take a look at some self-rescue and crew rescue situations where you can help save a brother or sister firefighter. Are you ready to manage a crew members Mayday?
The first and foremost thing that needs to be addressed in the event of an emergency is the need for help. The list of situations needing attention vary in each department but should always include things such as an SCBA emergency, entanglements, collapse, and disorientation. Each of these should remain constant on everyone’s list. If you think that you are in a tight spot, call the Mayday. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, even if the problem can be easily resolved.
To extinguish the digital flames, trainees must use the proper technique. If a firefighter fails to use proper hose line advancement and stream management techniques, the flames will grow in response. Flames can diminish, grow gradually or reignite at the touch of a button and now can be controlled with an iPad. Senior Mechanical Engineer Evan Ladd demonstrate the unit for FIRE CHIEF Editor Lisa Allegretti.
USFA and its partners will use the week of May 5-11 to focus public attention on residential arson and provide communities with tools to reduce the incidence of this crime. The goal for this year’s Arson Awareness Week is to provide all residents with strategies to combat arson in their neighborhoods.
Here are some statistics on residential arson in the U.S.: