Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, Leatherhead Instructors
Thursday, July 24th, 2014 9:07 am

Leatherhead Thursday: Sirens on or off?

By Shane Wells
of the Leatherhead Instructors

We respond to numerous calls each and every day using lights and sirens, but should we? In the past when the call came in, we got in the truck and went blasting down the road lights on and sirens blaring regardless of the nature of the call.  It didn’t matter if it was to a structure fire or a simple patient assist; our lights and sirens were on.  In recent years there have been many studies involving the use of emergency responses.  The information found has shown us that this causes more wear on emergency vehicles, uses a larger amount of fuel, and causes more danger to the public; all unnecessarily.

Many departments across the United States have adopted policies for responding lights and sirens to their calls.  There are several ways in which departments have changed their SOP’s. Some departments have used automated dispatch which sends the closest unit to the call regardless of the department’s jurisdiction; this is dependent upon cooperation with separate departments and how they are staffed.  Another option may be to send an engine company that is closer to the scene first, and have the further out squad respond non-emergency.  Many departments have a pre-determined list of calls that they will respond to in emergency mode such as severe anaphylaxis, chest pains, shortness of breath, cardiac arrest, severe trauma, and hypovolemic shock, just to name a few. The real goal here is to serve the people and protect ourselves in as safe of a manner as possible.

There are many ways that we can be safer when responding using lights and sirens. Pre-empted traffic signals have taken off in recent years; when activated these devices give immediate right of way to the emergency vehicle and return to normal operation once the emergency vehicle has passed.  These can be operated by a switch at the fire station or from a dispatch center, or from a signal on the emergency vehicle as it approaches an intersection.   Our city is currently working on replacing all of our traffic signals through a grant, and we are adding preemptive devices to them all.  We have SOP’s that dictate how we respond to types of calls, based on their nature.  How does your department handle emergency calls?

Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, Performance
Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 2:07 pm

New NFPA 1670 chapter gives guidance on conducting animal technical rescues

By Ryan McGinnis
For NFPA Journal July/August

Two years ago, John Haven was sitting down to eat dinner with his wife in his Gainesville, Florida, home when his phone rang. It was a local fire chief calling with the news that a dog had fallen down a 50-foot sinkhole in a city park while playing fetch with its owner. First responders were on scene and preparing a rescue, but the chief was concerned about the plan, which involved an improvised rope-and-pulley system that would lower a responder into the hole, then lift him out as he held the dog in his arms. “Your team can do this better, smarter, and safer, right?” the chief asked.

“Sure,” Haven said. “We’ll be there in 30 minutes.”

Haven’s team is the University of Florida Veterinary Emergency Treatment Services, part of the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine, which Haven directs. The 50-member team includes a smaller core group trained in both advanced human technical rescue and animal technical rescue, and Haven was part of a five-member crew that responded to the chief’s request for assistance with the dog in the sinkhole. Haven’s group had conducted previous training exercises with Alachua County Fire Rescue, the first responders on the scene, and the team was in touch with the chief while they were en route to the park, allowing it to get a compete picture of the situation and assign tasks before it arrived. Haven described for the chief the type of rigging setup they’d need for the rescue, and the chief told him it would be ready to go when they got there.

Read the full article on NFPA Journal.

Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, PPE, Safety, Training
Friday, July 18th, 2014 9:07 am

Fire Academy Friday: Retirement of PPE

It’s Fire Academy Friday! LION Fire Academy provides fire department members with online training on PPE and Continuing Education Units for successful completion.  Fire instructors can incorporate PPE education into their classes and have their students earn credits.  If you are a fire student or contemplating a career in firefighting, you’ll find helpful quizzes, videos and links on PPE and other firefighting topics.

NFPA 1851 and NFPA 1500 training modules are valid for any brand of PPE.

This week’s video makes sure you know when your PPE has made its last run and how do to dispose of it.

After you’ve finished watching, take the test.

Posted by Nick Hrkman | General, Safety
Thursday, July 17th, 2014 10:07 am

Fire Prevention Week is Approaching – Enhance Your Efforts with Fire Corps

By the National Volunteer Fire Council

Fire Prevention Week is October 5-11, and fire departments around the country will be conducting activities to spread important fire prevention and safety messages in their community. Fire Corps can assist with these efforts and help departments keep fire prevention programs going all year long.

Through Fire Corps, which is administered nationally by the National Volunteer Fire Council, local fire departments bring in community members to help with non-emergency tasks, such as fire prevention and safety education. There are currently over 1,500 Fire Corps programs in 49 states. Starting a new Fire Corps program is easy – simply go to www.firecorps.org and register for free. This will give you access to a myriad of resources to help you start, implement, expand, and recruit for your local program.

The theme of the 2014 Fire Prevention Week is “Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month.” Activities Fire Corps can specifically assist with regarding fire prevention education and smoke alarm safety include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Coordinate an open house at the department
  • Conduct fire prevention education programming in schools, at senior centers, and among other high risk populations
  • Staff an information booth at local events or fairs
  • Perform home safety checks and smoke alarm installations in the community
  • Maintain department web sites and social media to disseminate information

To assist local Fire Corps teams with these efforts, the national Fire Corps program offers many resources, including:

  • Fire Corps Academy courses such as FC-303: Fire Corps in Public Education and FC-304: Conducting Home Safety Checks
  • Fire Corps Guide to Fire and Life Safety Education
  • Home Safety Checklist
  • First Alert Smoke Alarm Donation Program, in which registered Fire Corps programs can request free First Alert smoke alarms to install in their community
  • Customizable outreach materials promoting a smoke alarm check/installation program
  • Fire prevention tips sheets

Find all of these resources and more on the Fire Corps web site at www.firecorps.org. Learn more about Fire Prevention Week at www.fpw.org.

Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, PPE, Performance
Monday, July 14th, 2014 10:07 am

Flame Resistant T-Shirts May Replace Cotton

By Guy Lucas
for Safety Components

The Firehouse Industry Insights blogs are contributed by experts in various areas of the fire service industry.

A hot topic being discussed these days is the idea of fire departments adopting flame resistant base layer garments to replace 100% cotton t-shirts or polyester t-shirts. The U.S. military has already gone through similar evaluations and found inherently flame resistant knits like Sigma™ as the optimum fabric for flame resistant base layers. Explored below are a few reasons why your department may be on the brink of retiring cotton and should be banning polyester t-shirts.

Why replace 100% cotton t-shirts?

100% cotton t-shirts are good for one reason and one reason only…price. Cotton shirts are made of inexpensive cotton fiber and therefore produce inexpensive cotton t-shirts.

The downside of cotton is threefold: poor moisture management, poor color retention, and poor durability.

Moisture Management – You can drop water on top of cotton fabric and it will disappear quickly—the same way certain thermal liner face cloths perform. What happened of course is that the fabric simply absorbed the water, it didn’t wick the moisture, which is an important part of good moisture management. The cotton absorbing fabric becomes heavier and stays wetter for a longer period of time (like thermal liner face cloths that perform the same way). This type of poor performance increases fatigue and makes working conditions hotter and more difficult for the firefighter. It is important that firefighters do not confuse “water absorbent fabrics” like cotton as having good “moisture management”.

Poor Color Retention—Image is Everything - In a time where firefighter budgets are threatened every day, the look and image of the firefighter is as important as ever. The fire service needs the support of the public, and a good image is critical in influencing a positive opinion. A shirt that retains color/looks newer for a longer period of time is one that will aid in presenting the firefighter in a positive light. Shirts made of cotton fade and wash out quickly—reducing the usable life of the shirt or risk displaying an unprofessional image.

Subpar DurabilityDurability is the final Achilles heel to cotton under garments. Aside from color retention, cotton wears out quickly and loses strength much faster than fabrics made of high performance fibers.

Read the full article on Firehouse.com.

Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, PPE, Training
Friday, July 11th, 2014 10:07 am

Fire Academy Friday: Proper storage of PPE

LION Fire Academy provides fire department members with online training on PPE and Continuing Education Units for successful completion.  Fire instructors can incorporate PPE education into their classes and have their students earn credits.  If you are a fire student or contemplating a career in firefighting, you’ll find helpful quizzes, videos and links on PPE and other firefighting topics.

NFPA 1851 and NFPA 1500 training modules are valid for any brand of PPE.

This week’s video examines the negative impact of direct light on PPE and proper storage and transportation of your PPE.

After you’ve finished watching, take the test.

Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, Leatherhead Instructors, PPE
Thursday, July 10th, 2014 9:07 am

Leatherhead Thursday: A firefighter’s helmet

By J.R. Dennison
of the Leatherhead Instructors

Firefighters have worn helmets for centuries to protect them from falling objects and debris, but the variations in style, material, and safety features have changed dramatically.  Helmets today have safety features like adjustable chin straps, adjustable head bands, impact shells, reflective emblems, unit identification, and eye protection integrated; these guidelines are described in NFPA 1971.  The modern day fire helmet has much tradition, but safety and protection is its primary purpose.

The career of a firefighter can often be seen through condition of his or her helmet.  It is long standing tradition in the fire service to maintain that smoke and fire stained helmet to show what kind of firefighter you are, but recent studies show that this may not be a good idea for our health.  Firefighter’s helmets may be burnt, damaged, or smoky; at some point the condition of your helmet may decrease the safety mechanisms that they are designed for.  Helmets today are still found in many styles, but comfort guides the buyers.


Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, Performance
Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 11:07 am

Fire Hazards of Exterior Wall Construction: An NFPA Research Report

By Owen Davis
For NFPA Today

In the commercial building industry, many combustible materials are used in exterior wall construction to improve energy performance, reduce water and air filtration and allow for aesthetic design flexibility. These exterior wall assemblies include Exterior Insulation Finish Systems (EIFS), metal composite claddings, high-pressure laminates, and weather-resistive barriers (WRB). Given a number of documented fire incidents involving combustible exterior walls, a better understanding of these incidents was needed to inform current material test methods and potential fire mitigation strategies.

The Fire Protection Research Foundation initiated a research project to develop the technical basis for fire mitigation strategies for fires involving exterior wall assemblies. The goal of this first phase project is to compile information on typical fire scenarios, relevant test methods and listing criteria, and approval/regulatory requirements for these systems. In addition, phase I worked to identify the knowledge gaps and the recommended fire scenarios and testing approach for potential future study.

The full report “Fire Hazards of Exterior Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible Components” is available as well as an executive summary.

Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, Safety
Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 10:07 am

Free fireworks safety resources for the 4th

Looking for fireworks safety tips for your department to distribute? Be sure to check out NFPA’s Fireworks Safety section:

  • In 2011, fireworks caused an estimated 17,800 reported fires, including 1,200 total structure fires, 400 vehicle fires, and 16,300 outside and other fires. These fires resulted in an estimated eight reported civilian deaths, 40 civilian injuries and $32 million in direct property damage.
  • In 2012, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,700 people for fireworks related injuries; 55% of 2012 emergency room fireworks-related injuries were to the extremities and 31% were to the head.
  • The risk of fireworks injury was highest for young people ages 15-24, followed by children under 10.
  • On Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other cause of fires.
Each July Fourth, thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured while using consumer fireworks. Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks – devastating burns, other injuries, fires, and even death.
You might also be interested in the NFPA-coordinated Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks:
The Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks is a group of health and safety organizations, coordinated by NFPA, that urges the public to avoid the use of consumer fireworks and instead, to enjoy displays of fireworks conducted by trained professionals.

NFPA’s infamous Dan Doofus character appears in this fireworks safety video:

And if you’re looking for shock value, Boston.com recently posted a pretty gruesome example of what happens when fireworks safety isn’t observed.

Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, Performance
Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 10:07 am

FireRescue1: 4 ways for fire chiefs to not get steamrolled by details

By Dennis Rubin
For FireRescue1.com

The top official of any agency is the responsibility party for everything that happens in the organization. During World War II President Harry S. Truman put it best: “The buck stops here.”

Truman was taking responsibility for the escalation of the war effort and placing the lives of many of America’s military members in harms way. The president took personal accountability for the decisions that were being made on the battlefield based on his position and authority to engage our nation in combat against a foreign enemy — that’s true leadership.

Make no mistake, the senior official of any organization must take the same approach and be held accountable for the actions (sometimes inactions) of the troops. If the big boss is going to be held accountable for everything occurring within their department, she must pay attention all of the time to all of the details.

That’s a huge responsibility for a fire chief and it is not fair. However, the community expects the top firefighter will lead and the rest of the outfit will follow.