By Chelsea B. Sheasley
For the Christian Science Monitor
When Ken Willette started firefighting 35 years ago, his uniform left much to be desired. Little more than a raincoat with rubber boots and plastic gloves, the outfit was more likely to melt than sustain his job responsibilities.
Now, with improvements to firefighting equipment, as well as better safety standards, and a decrease in overall fires, the number of firefighter deaths has dropped by more than a third in the past three decades and has fallen to historic lows the past two years.
A total of 64 on-duty firefighters died in the US in 2012, marking the second consecutive year that the total has been below 65 deaths, the lowest level since statistics began to be tracked in 1977. The number of fatalities that occurred during actual firefighting also dropped to a record low.
By Bill Carey
Editor’s Note: The NFFF recently introduced a new Behavioral Health Model that changes the way the fire service assists firefighters and others on the path to healing. It is based on the concept that no two firefighters will necessarily have the same reaction to the same call. Considering the importance of this topic, FireRescue will cover what firefighters need to know about maintaining strong mental health amid a stressful job environment. In this first article, Bill Carey addresses the after-action report (aka curbside critique) and how this well-known element of the job—coupled with a new concept called Curbside Manner—can be employed to help firefighters handle potentially distressing calls.
A little after 0200 HRS, and a once-dark street is alive with the flashes of red and white lights and the drone of diesel engines. The front windows of a two-story row-home are blackened, the result of a fire that tore through the structure just moments earlier. The sidewalk is a clutter of hoselines, burnt window frames, a section of security bars now removed from a window, a PPV fan blowing fresh air, and electric cords running inside to light the darkened shell of the house.
It was a quick and nasty fire, with one person hanging out of a second-floor window when the fire department arrived. As he watches his crew talking about the fire, the lieutenant of the first-due truck thinks to himself, “The new guy with the irons—it took him a while to get that door, but he kept his calm and didn’t let it beat him.” He then decides to make the most of this moment, while the fire is still fresh in their minds, and walks over to discuss the incident with his crew.
From the NVFC
International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week starts on Sunday, and the NVFC encourages all departments and personnel to focus on behavioral health and other critical safety and health topics. As part of this year’s events, the NVFC has partnered with L&T Health and Fitness to hold four behavioral health webinars. Take part in these webinars as part of your Safety and Health Week activities.
Below is the Safety and Health Week webinar schedule. Register today at https://nvfc.webex.com in the Upcoming Sessions tab under Live Sessions. All courses are instructed by staff from L&T Health and Fitness.
By Mike Burzek
For Firefighting in Canada
In the wake of some very serious industrial accidents around the world, many countries recognized the need for hazard-specific emergency preparedness and response. Processes and procedures were quickly mandated and implemented, gradually morphing into a standardized emergency response plan (ERP). Nuclear plants, oil and natural gas refineries, and chemical and fertilizer processing facilities, are examples of activities that require emergency response plans for unique hazards. Over the past 30 years, national standards, have been developed to provide consistent guidelines for emergency management that are applicable to most industries. Many government regulators also have strict rules for emergency preparedness and response, including minimum requirements for emergency response plans. So, what is the value for firefighters of an emergency response plan? In a worst-case scenario, a well-designed plan makes all the difference in the world.
There are many good reasons for companies to develop emergency response plans. Essentially, every plan should provide emergency personnel with enough information to facilitate a timely and effective response. However, too much information and detail can be just as bad as inadequate information. Although no two plans will be exactly the same, they should meet strategic objectives in terms of protecting people, property and the environment. Thus, each plan must address hazards and risks specific to the operation and the location.
Emergency response plans aim to provide responders with critical information about products and operational processes. For example, emergency response personnel will want to know how much product is stored within a vessel or pipeline and the physical properties of the product. Detailed information is vital and ultimately can determine whether the response is a success or failure. What is the quickest way to shut in a facility or stop the flow of product? How will the product disperse in standard atmospheric conditions? What are the best methods for containment and suppression? How many occupied buildings need to be evacuated? The ERP must provide responders with enough information to answer these typical questions.
Engineers in the Coordinated Robotics Lab at the University of California, San Diego, have developed new image processing techniques for rapid exploration and characterization of structural fires by small Segway-like robotic vehicles.
A sophisticated on-board software system takes the thermal data recorded by the robot’s small infrared camera and maps it onto a 3D scene constructed from the images taken by a pair of stereo RGB cameras.
This allows small mobile robotic vehicles to create a virtual reality picture that includes a 3D map and temperature data that can be used immediately by first responders as the robot drives through a building on fire.
The research is part of a plan to develop novel robotic scouts that can help firefighters to assist in residential and commercial blazes. Researchers will present their results at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation to be held from May 31 to June 5, 2014, in Hong Kong.
Read more and watch a video here.
Photo Credit: Jacobs School of Engineering/UC San Diego
By Todd LeDuc
In Mutual Aid, a Fire Chief blog
A University of Cincinnati study shed light on the hidden dangers of carbon exposures on the fireground during overhaul operations. Researchers measured ultrafine particulates, valued at less than 0.1 micrometer, that are invisible to the eye during various fire scenarios, such as attic, bedroom, living room and automobile compartment fires and the subsequent overall stages.
The researchers found that ultrafine particulates were equally or more prevalent during the fire overhaul scenarios. This is particularly noteworthy for incident commanders and safety officers, as firefighters are less inclined to wear SCBA protection during overhaul operations.
REPORT: Ultrafine Particle Exposure During Fire Suppression — Is It an Important Contributory Factor for Coronary Heart Disease in Firefighters? (PDF)
The report’s principle investigator, C. Stuart Baxter, relayed the physiological response of the body to exposure to these ultrafine particulates by releasing inflammation-related factors into the circulatory system that affect internal organs such as the heart and brain and lead to potential damage. Additionally, research has suggested that as few as the first severe carbon monoxide poisoning event nearly doubles the long-term risk of death. Given the affinity of carbon monoxide to deprive the brain of oxygen, firefighters who are not adequately protected with SCBA during overhaul operations may be prone to impaired decision-making and faced with unnecessary rates.
Continue reading here.
By Fred Durso, Jr.
NFPA Journal®, March/April 2013
It may be the world’s largest office building, but the Pentagon is more analogous to a city. Located in Arlington, Virginia, and home to the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense, the structure includes about 3.7 million square feet (344,000 square meters) of office space. Add all the other elements of this city-under-one-roof — a bank, post office, hair salon, dental office, pharmacy, a collection of big-box stores, 43 eateries, and more — and the total swells to around 6.5 million square feet (604,000 square meters), according to the Pentagon. The building’s series of five concentric rings hold more than 23,000 military and civilian employees, with a maximum capacity of about 28,000.
By Desmond Fulton
For Firefighter Nation
In the movie “Any Given Sunday,” Al Pacino gives a motivational speech that refers to football as a “game of inches.” Throughout this speech, the term of one or two inches is synonymous with winning or losing, success or failure. Similarly, when it comes to extrication/heavy lifting, firefighters need to have a “game of inches” mentality, as there are often times when we need to move or manipulate metal merely inches to free a trapped victim or to gain access to a part of the vehicle.
As firefighters, we have access to many tools and/or techniques that can assist us with creating these needed inches. One of our most useful tools is the lifting air bag, aka the high-pressure bag. We may not use them at the scene of an extrication very often, but when we need those additional inches, these tools prove invaluable.
In this article, we’ll focus on the components associated with a high-pressure air bag, the roles and responsibilities of those on scene, how to determine lifting capacity, what must always accompany high-pressure air bags and, most importantly, safety precautions and training.
Safety & Training
The first step in operating any high-pressure air bag safely is to familiarize yourself with the operator’s manual; all safety precautions will be listed there. Once all members who will be in contact with the air bags are well versed in the operator’s manual, it’s time to familiarize all other members with the operating components, their proper names, and how and why each piece operates the way it does.
Read the full article here.
By Mary Rose Roberts
For Fire Chief
An EF-5 tornado devastated Moore, Okla., on Monday, killing at least 24. In response, first responders self-deployed to the disaster area, causing problems for local emergency management officials, said Sandy Davis, director of the Caddo-Bossier (La.) Office of Homeland Security. Oklahoma state emergency management officials still are in the assessment mode and have asked first responders to stay at home because “they were overwhelmed with people who were self-deploying,” Davis said.
In the first 24 to 48 hours, the command staff still was determining what resources need to come from outside the region. Davis said that’s why self-deployed first responders create issues. First, such responders break the National Incident Command System. Second, those who deploy are without lodging, food and supplies. Finally, they may be exhausted from immediate deployment and may be unable to serve a week or so later when an official call for resources is pronounced.
“That’s a big problem at every event we have of national significance,” he said. “Because the first-responder community is so generous at volunteering time and their resources, they self-deploy and become a part of the problem instead of the solution.”
Self-deployment must be addressed, Davis said. For example, he already has fielded calls from law-enforcement agencies in Louisiana who planned to deploy resources to the region without a request from Oklahoma City. He told them to stand down.
By Ryan Pennington
For Firefighting In Canada
As I sit and listen for the 100th time to the recording of the Toronto Fire Services response to the hoarding fire on the 20th floor of 200 Wellesley St. in September 2010, one thing stands out: firefighters could not attack from the sides.
Over the past two years, during which I have taken on the topic of fighting fires in hoarding conditions, one glaring similarity comes out every time I reach out to a fire department to learn from its experiences: the firefighters attacked from the sides. In the case of Wellesley Street – which was the worst hoarding fire in Canada – firefighters simply could not access the unit of origin from the sides given its location on an upper floor of the building. (See the December 2010 issue of Fire Fighting in Canada and the October 2011 issue of Canadian Firefighter and EMS Quarterly – at www.firefightingincanada.com – for more on the Wellesley Street fire.)
Attacking from the sides offers firefighters a safer environment, provides for more entry and exit points, and allows firefighters to make an assessment of the interior conditions before committing firefighters to the interior. Let’s take a look at this common attack strategy when it comes to dealing with fires in hoarding conditions.
Since the days of Homer and Langley Collyer in Manhattan – they were the first real documented hoarders, eccentric brothers who were found dead in March 1947 among the 140 tons of collected items in their Harlem home – the fire service has been dealing with the problem and challenges of hoarding. The reach of this disorder is being felt worldwide. Compulsive hoarding disorder crosses all borders, races, and income levels. It can affect people in your district the same as it did in Manhattan in the 1940s. One advantage today is the availability of information; a new awareness of this problem has been brought to the world by television shows that document the struggles of people who are affected by hoarding.
Read the full article here.