By Mark Heeren
For Fire Engineering
Members of both career and volunteer fire departments know that budgets have gotten tighter over the years, and often the training budget is one of the first areas to get reduced. What money left in the training budget seems to be reserved for the development and refreshing of basic skills, with officer development becoming a low priority. The good news is there are free, nationally recognized courses online, and any fire department member can take them.
The National Fire Academy (NFA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) both have online courses specifically for developing officers as leaders. With these courses you do not have to already be an officer to take them, which allows those striving to become an officer to start preparing to move up the ranks. The courses are also a great refresher for those who are already an officer by revisiting topics such as different management styles, how to improve communications, mentoring, and how to motivate your crew members. The courses offered by FEMA and NFA contain the fundamental ideas, theories, and skill builders every officer needs. Some of the courses are more in-depth and take more dedication, but the payoff is well worth it. The courses take anywhere from two hours to 14 hours to complete and none of them have to be done at one sitting, which allows for great flexibility.
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.
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 Ryan Pennington
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.
By John B. Tippett Jr.
The perfectly executed, well-coordinated fire attack is, for many of us, the Holy Grail. We read about it, train for it and plan relentlessly to make it happen. Then the alert comes in announcing a structure fire. We don our PPE, board the apparatus, buckle up and head to the scene, all the while expecting that our planning and training will pay off. The plan seems to work exceedingly well in our heads, on white boards and table tops, and even in scenario-based drills.
Then the first engine company makes a wrong turn or misses the plug or parks right in front of the occupancy, blocking out the truck company. The domino effect continues if other firefighters—secret members of the Murphy’s Law Society—don’t follow the attack plan. Perhaps the back-up line goes to the opposite side of the structure from the attack line and begins to put its own hit on the fire from the outside. Flow dynamics are reversed, driving punishing heat and smoke back onto the interior attack team. Or perhaps an individual or crew enters the scene with a different vision of how the plan should be executed and imparts their own will, derailing all efforts to put out the fire in an organized fashion. Colin Powell once said, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” This applies to our world: There are fire attacks destined for success due to intricate planning, only to be overturned by people who don’t follow the plan.
So how do we leverage all the energy we put into planning as we transition from the drill scene to the emergency scene? It takes work, discipline and an unwavering commitment to team performance. It takes study, repetition and a focus on balancing risk with worthwhile outcomes. Part of the process includes absorbing all that we can from the lessons of others—both the good and the not-so-good. Let’s focus on the lessons aspect by analyzing an excerpt from Near-Miss Report #08-334, as well as several other resources, to improve our opportunity for success.
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 Michael Martinez
Of all the scenarios firefighters train for, confronting a hostage-taker might not seem to be high on the list. Or suddenly dodging a sniper’s deadly aim.
But training and keeping calm apparently did come into play Wednesday when four Gwinnett County, Georgia, firefighters became hostages while a gunman held off authorities. The situation ended with the firefighters free and the gunman dead at the hands of police.
That incident highlighted a fact of life for firefighters — their life-saving work can sometimes put them in the middle of criminal situations.
The Georgia event is akin to last year’s New York state incident in which a sniper ambushed and killed two firefighters responding to his burning home, one expert said Thursday.
Firefighters are trained to call police if they sense a potentially violent situation, but the Georgia and New York episodes involved surprise attacks.
“It’s almost impossible to prepare for that situation if there’s no indication of any potential threat,” said Philip Stittleburg, chairman of the National Volunteer Fire Council and the National Fire Protection Association.
“Tragic as these situations are, they are relatively rare,” Stittleburg added.