From The Economist
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.
By Brian Schaeffer
For FireRescue Magazine
Learning your personal air consumption rate during routine fireground tasks is not difficult—but it can have an enormous impact on your safety and effectiveness in an environment that’s immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH). In fact, routine air-consumption drills may have the biggest “return on investment” of nearly all fireground training.
Over the years, the fire service has adopted several misleading terms with regard to SCBA use and air consumption. Example:referring to “30-minute bottles” or “45-minute bottles,” and referring to the end-of-service time indicator (EOSTI) as the “low-air alarm.” This confusion has created an air of mystery around SCBA and likely contributes to the overall miscalculation of air supply—which in turn can have drastic consequences when your life literally depends on it.
The bottom line: The way we define and think of air consumption must change if we want to endure the violent fire behavior conditions created by modern fuels, the constantly downsized staffing and the ever-increasing work demands placed on our people. And the best way we can do that is through regular, mandatory air-consumption drills.
Air-consumption drills should be a mandatory routine of every initial fire academy, recurrent training and whenever a firefighter has a significant body change, such as weight gain or loss, a medical illness or new medications that may impact performance. There are many psychological and physiological factors that can increase our air consumption while in an IDLH environment—and they are different for each of us. Air-consumption drills serve as a best practice for you to establish your own limitations through real experience, so you can better understand and control your air consumption during combat.
By Mary Rose Roberts
For Fire Chief
A NIOSH fatalities report led the National Fire Protection Association’s Technical Committee on Respiratory Protection Equipment to update NFPA 1981, a SCBA standard for emergency service, as part of its three-year revision cycle. The 2013 changes include improvements to voice intelligibility, face-piece thermal performance, reserve air requirements and performance requirements for optional buddy-breathing systems.
The standards council issued the change in the latest edition, with an effective date of Dec. 17, 2012. It officially was released to the public last month, said David Trebisacci, senior fire protection specialist at the NFPA. Trebisacci said the standards body modified the performance requirements for the non-electronic communications performance tests and supplementary voice communications systems performance test. In addition, Trebisacci said the committee added several additional tests including one for emergency breathing safety systems cold temperature performance tests (EBSS); a lens-radiant heat test; and a lens convective heat flame-resistance test.
As part of the update, NFPA 1404, Fire Service Respiratory Protection Training, now requires that “the individual shall exit from an IDLH atmosphere before consumption of reserve air supply begins,” while NFPA 1500, Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program, will require that an exit strategy is practiced when the SCBA cylinder reaches a reserve air volume of 600liters or more.
Read the full article here.
By Jon Anderson
The Hoover Fire Department has two new tools to help improve emergency medical care for Hoover residents and visitors to the city.
One is a carbon monoxide monitor that helps paramedics tell if people have been exposed to carbon monoxide and, if so, how much of it has entered their bloodstream.
The second is a handheld device that uses patented light technology to help paramedics find people’s veins so they can start IVs quickly and successfully.
The Hoover Fire Department has purchased nine carbon monoxide monitors, called RAD 57s, and will be putting one on each of the nine front-line engine companies spread across the city, said Hoover fire Capt. David Hambright, the department’s emergency medical services officer.
The department bought a dozen vein finders and will put one on each of the front-line engine companies and on each of the Fire Department’s three rescue units, Hambright said.
By Jeffrey O. and Grace G. Stull
Questions often arise as to the correct level of protection that should be applied during overhaul and other post-fire operations. A particularly common inquiry is the appropriate level of respiratory protection and how long the SCBA should be worn following a fire.
Certainly, practices have evolved over the past several years, where firefighters are more aware of hazards of exposure to contaminants both on the fireground and those that accumulate in clothing. Many departments have implemented operating procedures that requirement wearing PPE.
Nevertheless, we hear that many firefighters may be ignoring these procedures or simply making protection decisions based on incomplete information. We recently attended an Interagency Board (IAB) workshop where these issues were brought to the forefront.
The IAB is a panel of emergency preparedness and response practitioners from a wide array of professional disciplines representing the public safety sector at all levels of government.
Based on direct field experience, IAB members advocate for and assist the development and implementation of performance criteria, standards, test protocols, technical and operating guidance, and training requirements for all-hazards incident response with an additional special emphasis on Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive issues.
The IAB’s Equipment Sub Group focuses on identifying appropriate response equipment and promoting the development of associated standards and operational considerations. The IAB recommendations are published as the Standardized Equipment List found at bothwww.iab.gov and www.rkb.us.
Read the full article on FireRescue1.com.
By Jerry Knapp
Training fire department members is always a challenge. The purpose of this article is share a couple of thoughts that have been very successful for me as a department training officer and to present a type of drill that seems to always be successful.
There are essentially three types of firefighters that need training: probies, experienced firefighters and senior men, and leading firefighters and officers. For the purpose of this article, the term firefighter also means officers. In addition, there are three types of officer that parallel the categories of firefighters described above: the new lieutenant, the experienced captain, and the leading assistant chief or chief.
Training objectives vary for each of these disparate categories. When designing a training drill, how do you incorporate them all and impart information that is valuable to all of them?
Consider a “Do It” drill (I tend to call these “Do or Die Drills,” because they are scenario-based and you either succeed or the victim die. The training officer sets up the scenario. Clearly describe the situation to the officers that are in your training group; let them lead the members in a realistic way.
Although February is almost over, it’s never too late to follow these tips provided by the National Volunteer Fire Council.
February is American Heart Month, and now is a great time to focus on making healthy lifestyle changes that will keep your heart strong. Reducing your heart disease risk factors and improving your fitness and nutrition habits will help you be at your best as a first responder.
There are many benefits to living a heart-healthy lifestyle. Exercising, eating right, and managing your heart-health risk factors can result in increased energy, better sleep, decreased stress levels, enhanced quality of life, and feeling better overall. Being physically prepared for your responsibilities as a firefighter will also help you do the job to the best of your abilities.
The National Volunteer Fire Council’s Heart-Healthy Firefighter Program provides many tools and resources to help you focus on your heart health so you can be there for your family, department, and community. Visit the Heart-Healthy Firefighter web site at www.healthy-firefighter.org to find the following:
- Interactive fitness challenge with motivational rewards
- Functional fitness demonstration videos designed for firefighters
- Delicious heart-healthy recipes
- Tools and resources for starting and expanding a department health and wellness program
- Success stories from other health-conscious firefighters
- Health and wellness tips sheets
- Webinars on a variety of health and wellness topics
- Put It Out smoking cessation program
- Information and resources on topics including nutrition, fitness, heart basics, and lifestyle
Whether you are just starting on your path to heart health or are looking to reinvigorate your health and fitness program, now is the time to act. Visitwww.healthy-firefighter.org today!
By John McCreedie
For Fire Chief
The plating shop where chemicals were used to turn unfinished metals into a smooth and finished product was engulfed by flames as a Boulder County, Colo., fire truck arrived on-scene. Responders immediately took a defensive position. They extinguished the fire from outside positions to keep it contained and protect firefighters from billowing smoke potentially loaded with unknown chemicals.
The hazmat team arrived and determined the presence of hydrochloric acid, a highly corrosive solution that could cause dermal burns and damage firefighter gear. A standard decontamination zone was set up after a test-strip swipe of bunker gear revealed an acidic PH factor of 3, indicating that, despite their best efforts to stay back from the fire and its corrosive smoke, responders had been exposed.
“Decon can set the tone for the rest of the scene,” said t Lt. Mike Becker, an 18-year fire service veteran who coordinates hazmat response for the Longmont (Colo.) Fire Department. “If you don’t have things properly in place, you can drag contaminates all over God’s green earth. It’s critical to recognize upfront all the key issues and indicators; it’s important to have decon in place early on.”
Read the full article here.
By Stephen Thompson
For The Tampa Tribune
At 36, Tom Kras, a firefighter with St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue, has already had two knee surgeries. After the second surgery, he was on light duty for several months.
Kras wondered what would happen to him if he could no longer carry people down ladders or cut a car open to pull out an injured passenger.
That’s when he decided to make himself more marketable and become a nurse.
“I knew I never wanted to leave the fire department at this age to be a nurse,” said Kras. “It was more of a backup plan.”
Kras is one of a small, but growing, number of firefighters who are juggling their already-bizarre schedules to become registered nurses. It’s a shift happening in fire departments throughout the region.
Like Kras, many aren’t going to nursing school to change careers. In fact, many look at the added training as a way to improve their performance as paramedics. Their nursing training also helps them act with their patients’ longer-term needs in mind, rather than just patching them up well enough so they’re still alive when they reach the hospital.
But nursing is a good option for firefighters who are too old to run calls anymore, and it’s a better second job than what many firefighters do when they’re not at the fire station – jobs such as construction, landscaping, or air-conditioning repair, all of which can be nearly as hard on firefighters’ knees and backs as responding to fires and car wrecks.