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?

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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.

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Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, Leatherhead Instructors
Thursday, June 26th, 2014 9:06 am

Leatherhead Thursday: Today’s Air Packs

By J.R. Dennison
of the Leatherhead Instructors

The revolution of the air pack in the fire service today has been one of the most significant from thirty plus years ago.  There was a day when wearing an air pack was not a common practice and many departments did not even own them; today you will not find a fire house across the country that does not have them.  The point is that research has guided a lot of the technology that we have today; thirty years ago the information was not there.  You will find many variations of the same thing, but todays air packs have many of the same components.

I believe that the air pack is one of the most vital tools to our safety, but should we expect the equipment to benefit us if we do not care for it?  The air pack can be manufactured by one of many companies throughout the world, but they all have similar components and operations.  The air pack should have a cylinder, first stage regulator, second stage regulator, alarm system, mask, and backpack frame.  The system can be high or low pressure, but must be a closed type circuit (only breathing from the supplied air).

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Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, Leatherhead Instructors
Thursday, June 12th, 2014 9:06 am

Leatherhead Thursday: Where is the luster?

By J.R. Dennison
of the Leatherhead Instructors

I challenge you to pick up a fire service magazine of any type, read an article online, or search different online venues and find an article related to “how the fire service has distanced itself from tradition”.  It will be easy; I find these types of articles weekly in all different types of places discussing the distance that we have grown away from the traditions of the fire service.  How did we get there, what can we do to fix it, where has it gone?  It is ridiculous to ponder a question when the answer is obvious; it is our fault for allowing it to get here!

The service is falling by the wayside because we have lowered our standards.  I bet the “old guys” in your house will tell you that the trucks were always clean, the chores were done, guys were neatly dressed, and everyone ate together when they started.  I bet the old guys will tell you that there were certain ways of doing things, some of the ways have changed with training and technology, but there were some things that didn’t.  I bet that they won’t tell you that some SOP or SOG came down the pipe saying that it is not necessary to wear your duty shirt when working, or the trucks don’t need to look shiny all the time, or you do not need to wash your gear when you get back from a fire.  The reason that this has become acceptable is simple: somebody is not doing their damned job.

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Posted by Nick Hrkman | Leatherhead Instructors
Thursday, May 15th, 2014 9:05 am

Leatherhead Thursday: Staying on top of training

By J.R. Dennison
of the Leatherhead Instructors

Training is a part of our job that is essential if we want to truly protect our communities, one another, and ourselves.  It is also a part of our job that can be easily overlooked or be placed on the back burner when other things around the station seem to take priority, or as we step out of winter hibernation!  We are going to take the time to discuss some ways to incorporate training into our shift days or into our schedules if we are not on a regular shift.

Those of us that work a 24/ 48 or similar work schedule have no reason not to train; we are getting paid to be there!  It is easy to get caught up in the day and not take the time to have shift training, but if the training is planned at the beginning of the shift or on a monthly schedule; it will be easier to accommodate for it during the day.  The training does not need to be all day, make the session an hour or two, and be sure to keep things interesting.  Nobody stays on task or finds interest in things that are poorly delivered or structured.  Take the time to research what you are teaching and keep everyone involved during the delivery.  You will get out of the training what you are putting into it.

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Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, Leatherhead Instructors, Performance
Thursday, May 1st, 2014 9:05 am

Leatherhead Thursday: Are you “good enough”?

By J.R. Dennison
For the Leatherhead Instructors

The fire service is full of all types of people, from all walks of life, with many different goals.  Some of us are second, third, or fourth generation firefighters that have dreamed of the job since childhood.  Others discovered the fire service as young adults or even older adults.  The fire service is truly diverse in its makeup, but so are the standards that each firefighter holds him/ herself to.

Regardless of the age, gender, or ethnicity of the firefighter; they were probably quite ambitious at the beginning of their career.  You could follow this firefighter and find that their tools were clean and sharp, their S.C.B.A.’s were filled to their max, the knowledge and understanding of the equipment that they used was sharp, and they had an excitement about them for the job.  Time, influences, and laziness are all things that contribute to the demise of the new firefighter.  Making certain that our new firefighters are properly mentored can be the beginning or the beginning of the end for them; along with personal choices/ goals.

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Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, Leatherhead Instructors
Thursday, March 13th, 2014 10:03 am

Leatherhead Thursday: No Hydrants?

By J.R. Dennison
of the Leatherhead Instructors
To some this presents no problem, but if your only experience is with supplied water; you have a problem!  Most municipalities have the benefit of fire hydrants every block, and these firefighters have little to no experience with establishing a tanker shuttle or other means of getting the water to the scene.  It is not uncommon for these departments to not have hard suction, portable ponds, or tankers; they have no need for them.  The departments that have few or no hydrants are probably well educated on the procedures for getting water to the scene and the difficulties that can be present.

The department that I work for has hydrants in town, but the township has no hydrants.  We rely on tanker shuttles; fill sites, dry hydrants, and mutual aid when we have a fire outside of the city.  Adding to the difficulty of supplying your own water is the farm lanes and the distances off of the main road that many of these homes sit.  Many times there is a delay in getting more than the 500- 1000 gallons of water that the first arriving engine carries to the scene in a timely manner because of these situations.  It is certainly important to call for additional tankers and set up a “water supply officer” quickly.

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Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, Leatherhead Instructors
Thursday, February 27th, 2014 9:02 am

Leatherhead Thursday: Not what it seems…

By J.R. Dennison
of the Leatherhead Instructors

How many times have you heard your department, or any department, get dispatched to an emergency scene and the conditions upon arrival be significantly different than what was reported?  I will assume that your area is no different than mine, and you have encountered this situation many times to varying degrees.  It is not uncommon to receive inaccurate or conflicting information about an emergency prior to arrival, but what you do with that information is important.

Dispatch is tasked with a difficult job; to get information from folks in distress.  People do not generally speak accurately when they are dealing with an emergent situation and we should be less dependent upon the information received.  The information that we receive from dispatch regarding the call is what we use to “paint the picture” of the scene prior to arrival and form an initial plan, but should never be a final determining factor into that plan.  As with anything, you will finalize your thoughts once you get on the scene and can visually assess the situation.  Although the information received through dispatch is not always accurate; you can certainly find a great deal of benefit from it.

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Posted by Nick Hrkman | Fire and Rescue, Leatherhead Instructors, Safety
Thursday, February 13th, 2014 8:02 am

Leatherhead Thursday: Reflecting on two Toledo LODD’s

Photo by Andy Morrison for the Toledo Blade

By J.R. Dennison
of the Leatherhead Instructors

I would like to take this week and reflect on the loss of Firefighter Stephen Machinski and Firefighter James (Jamie) Dickman from the Toledo Ohio Fire Department while battling an apartment fire on Sunday, January 26th, 2014.  The loss of any firefighter is troubling enough, but losing two brothers locally really hits home for me; I find myself really thinking about how this has affected their families and their department, and what we can do to honor these two heroes.

On Thursday, January 30th, 2014, Toledo Fire Department held a “Last Alarm” ceremony honoring these two men, and I was fortunate enough to be present.  I was proud to look around and see so many firefighters from around the United States and Canada in this facility to pay respect to these men and their families, but listening to the words from those who knew them was much more touching.  These men made countless impacts in people’s lives, selflessly gave of themselves to others, loved the job, and deeply cared about making a difference in the service.  Jamie is survived by his wife, three year old daughter, and one month old son; Stephen is survived by his mother, father, brother, sister niece, and nephew.  These two men had amazing families that they loved dearly, and they were loved dearly by.

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