Monday, August 14, 2017

Playground, training ground, proving ground

Playground, training ground, proving ground

  Learning a skill set takes repetition under supervision from a skilled teacher. If practice makes permanent, be sure you are in fact practicing as perfectly as possible. If that is a firefighting skill, then shouldn’t that be with other firefighters?... more on that later. To move from the training ground to the proving ground is often done to early by necessity, but we should be very careful about setting lose our newly “trained” people into the fire. Yes we can measure how fast they can don their equipment, or how well they throw a ladder. We can measure how fast they can drag a hose, but sometimes the easiest things to measure are not what has the largest impact on achieving the goal.

  Having an extensive skill set that covers a vast horizon of fire/rescue seems to be a universal goal, but these advantages will diminish greatly when put into a low frequency event. Something like a building fire for the majority of the fire service. The way through this scenario is to stick the basic principles of the job. Namely to have good nozzle mechanics, a quality fire stream, and a crew that has practiced together at a realistic pace, and in a realistic place. Spending a lot of time on complex techniques is mostly a waste, unless you truly have mastered the basic skill sets that solve 90% of your scenarios. The reality is that you will not have the luxury of time or the pre thought process in a gritty situation.

  I work with a guy whose mantra is “It’s that simple”. He seems to have boiled down an ethos that got him through 3 decades of firefighting. If you are out there teaching skills that can’t be reinforced by on the job experiences, or get skill retention through moderate but regular practice, then you have lost most of the crew (and your reputation) in the first 10 minutes of your class.

  Am I telling you to that as a firefighter, you need to reduce your skill set? In a word – YES. If you are likely to face building fires from a hoseline, then you should be very focused on that threat. Consider all of this past years training experiences you may have had. What percentage of those where about your initial job title of “fire suppression specialist”?  You need a few basic skills mastered to the point where you can apply them to a majority of your possible incidents. Conscious apathy leads to cognitive atrophy.

   Reliable skills feel familiar under stress. Pulling a hose line into a building fire can be a stressful thing, and you should be concentrating on your decisions rather than your actual motions and actions. That is why it is important to train how you will work. I am from the camp of staying smooth rather than fast when it comes to line deployment. I see a lot of go getters running out the lines and masking up in 12 seconds, only to cross the threshold alone. So what else are you expected to do alone? That mindset is not reliable or realistic for me. I like the hustle but not at the sacrifice of teamwork. Teamwork is an essential part of your effectiveness and safety. If you practice like you’re in the engine Olympics, your medal maybe the one we give to your next of kin. I would prefer to walk with a lean - assess, make decisions, and move as a team.

  Practicing in an environment that is so different than your reality will also cause you to bare training scars. These are habits that will impede your decision making at an incident due to your un-realistic expectations. Stick with basic skills and practices while supervised by those that have done it. When those guys see you trying one of those youtube worthy tricks, and tell you “that looks like bull shit”. That’s because it likely is.

  After learning some reliable skills to a higher level, then ramp up the stress conditions.

  My wiser contemporary has us train people in cycles. We review basic skills and his vision of principles and practices. This is the who, what and why of our job, and it is sorely glossed over by so many others. I have seen it very useful for the younger folks to make the connections for their purpose and place on the attack line. We work in a static position, then move the line horizontally. After satisfaction we can go vertical and through some obstacles.  We ramp up the difficulty to find the spots that need improvement and practice those. Introducing stress after a reasonable level of competency actually assess the decision process of the crews as well as re-enforces the skill sets. I would like to express some caution here. Don’t seed overconfidence at this point. The trainees are better than they were, but remind them of staying in the decision making mind set - not the “beat the stop watch” mode. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.

  The proving grounds are your first due area, not the parking lots behind the fire station. We need to find those buildings where we can pull a line. “It’s that simple”.

Every shift should be droppin’ cotton to find out what their equipment and people can do. Just pulling a pre connect on the black top will offer you little in contrast to being at a place where some decisions need to made. This is the “advanced” skill some fire officers asking for. Basic skills being carried out with tried principles are the advanced firefighting techniques we are looking for.

 “Firefighting is circumstantial”, and so is the training. Your expected situations, strengths of your crew/equipment, and your experience all play a roll. There is a lot of gray area in the training realm. So find someone with a bit of gray to help you through it.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Avoiding reality, risk aversion, or just plain laziness

Avoiding reality, risk aversion, or just plain laziness are human instincts that can cost you your well-being. At a minimum, the lack of dedication to hands on training as it relates to fire ground operations can cost other people their property or their lives. Simply put, your possession of a fire academy certification, a 20 year anniversary, or a blue colored and recertified command card does not make you a skilled firefighter or commander.

Physical and cognitive ability will always be a big part of the job. Sometimes a guy has 1 of the 2 and they assume that 1 will cover for the other. Though not a popular thing to say or recognize these days is that not everyone is cut out for this job. A really “smart” guy with little physical ability has no more reason to be on the engine as the person who just can’t make good choices with limited information. This leads to a larger issue as I will outline below.

With the naturally smart athlete aside, humans are not born to be firefighters. The physical and mental skills are to be learned and, repeatedly trained on if mastery is to be gained. The associated recognition component is the most difficult to master as real life repetition for most firefighters is not even possible due to the lack of fire duty in their respective district. Film study and simulators, both physical and video can help. Exposure to those that do or have done the job regularly is even better. This is  why we as a service honor seniority.

The gap in cognitive recognition at fire scenes can be somewhat filled with physical training that is carefully crafted around the principles of effective operations. To do that, staffed fire departments should be following the historic principles that our busy urban departments are following. While we suburb (cross staffing) guys are training on everything from rapid sequence intubation, bailing out of a window and community paramedicine, the urban firefighters are going to small and large fires and then are practicing on…. You guessed it. Getting the hose out to efficiently use the stream, and setting ladders up and reviewing building construction. Most of the fire service is not getting enough repetitions on skills that can make a difference on the front end of a incident.

Attitude is the elephant in the room. Let’s face it. Guys that only train when mandated are the norm. We can’t mandate a positive attitude but we can foster one from a cadet’s start in the business. Continue to work the new people into the fold with physical job related tasks. The common way of caving into the laziness and whining will cement the lowest possible standard for the organization for years to come (where some of us are now). Terms such as “good enough” and “all fires go out” are for the weak. They are weak physically and weak mentally. Don’t rely on that attitude of being an EMS department that occasionally goes to fires either. 

 Apathy will lead to complacency and that will lead to catastrophe.

Ego can be a positive thing when hitched to a good attitude. As the fire service follows society into this abyss of self-doubting fickle Charlie Browns, it becomes increasing harder to identify what and WHO is to blame for subpar performances. We need confident people who can arrive at a large incident and say to themselves “I can fix this.” Years ago it was a good thing to be confident rather than under stated. This may be why there is a palpable disrespect for the dinosaurs out there…

Some modern firefighters have merged their false ego with their career choice. These men have seldom if ever attended a single professional training course where the methods were not predetermined, and certainly no scenario based decision making. These guys argue for hours over the merits of this or that type of tactic, and which is better for fighting fires. They argue about temperatures, direction of air tracts and cite these controlled testing’s as the only way to qualify strategies. Examples are “penciling", using a “hydro-vent”, or ultra high pressure "fog nails”, and my personal favorite “aggressive defensive attack”. All the while the vast majority of these modern experts have very little real world, uncontrolled incidents under their belt. Traditionalist “believe” and the modern man “knows” right?

 There are some common tactics between the 2 camps, but I will say that these agreements are on what the dinosaurs were doing all along as the scenario dictated. You don’t get to be a dinosaur by getting yourself killed or hurt right?

The influence of your trainer will set the course of your attitude and skill set. If you want to meet the public expectation of aggressive fire fighting, then you need to be trained by an experienced teacher.  Time tested principles work in uncontrolled and unplanned events. Know that.

hydro vent.jpg

Be honest to yourself and your community about your FD capabilities. If the traditional expectations of firefighters are not to be lauded by your modern group, explain to your “customers” that these "new tools in the tool box" are “acceptable practices” and that the “science is settled” before you let the entire apartment building burn down.

Unless there is a “car in the driveway” or a victim begging you, every building is vacant and “we only risk a lot to save a lot”. 

So remember, the first thing to do is establish command and run a lap every time, but don’t open a door to get a look, because Air is FUEL!! Give an extensive radio report without any tactical direction,  keep those Velcro tags ready because company concept is something only the dinosaurs used. HEY!! Who has rehab? Is my PIO enroute? Did I remember to turn on my GoPro? Check those boxes, and keep that Pack Tracker close because the sky is falling don’t you know…

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Triple H.... Is that a catchy enough phrase?

 It has been quite some time since I have put mind to matter here at the blog, and honestly I haven’t been able to zero in on what has been on my mind. Recently I found myself surrounded by micro beers, hipsters and the microbrew of the fire service. The Portland fire expo was a huge success by raising tens of thousands for the Sons of the Flag organization as well as the spirits of those that attended. If you had to miss this year’s effort, please follow Cody Trestrail and watch for next year’s offering.
 Now the brass tacks… I am currently what I would call a “tweener” in the fire education circuit. I have the great opportunity to work with and, learn from those that have been in this job longer than I have been breathing…. 1973 btw. I am between having a level of confidence that is needed to accomplish my job yet, still see the distance I need to make up to be at that higher level of understanding of the fire service, adult learning and how to stay as motivated and driven as those that are 20+ my age.. I also see the valuable lessons of keeping your sense of humor as we break our backs (sometimes literally) working towards the unattainable goal of being the best we can be at this vocation. Without the humor, we can quickly circle the drain of animosity and apathy. If you aren’t enjoying this ride then go do something else.

 Being quiet enough to learn from others is key. I have seen veteran mentors be humble enough to learn from those different and/or younger than themselves. Even when faced with a technique totally foreign or a statement believed to be complete bull shit, a measured reaction is always best. After understanding it from the other’s perspective then you call it as you see it. I have seen how an overlooked conversation can set off a chain reaction of events which have literally revolutionized the fire service. There is no unimportant conversation, there is no time wasted when spent with people who want to learn from each other. The intensity and the intelligence of today’s fire service is growing like it never has due to the networking over the web. Sure there has been some casualties as this fire service hive mind comes to life but, the fire culture IS better for it.

 The most important lesson for me has been to stay focused on the mission. Do you know what your mission is? I have heard many of my friends say that it is “about them”. OK, if that is what works for you than I’m ok with that. However, I see the mission very differently. The reality is that this job will eat you up emotionally, physically, and financially if you always lead with your heart and not your head. For me, the work is the reward and if that includes a save then congratulations to all involved. Execute the tactics that meet the strategic goals. My mission is about caring to do your job right.

 My mission is to know what needs to be done at a moment when some people go into vapor lock. To be able to make decisions when others are to close to the ball to see the whole field. I want to train hard enough so that I know what doesn’t work and why.  Regardless of my previous ideas or prejudices or even past capabilities, I want to know how to perform the skills within the principles of a disciplined firefighter. I see this as an unsolvable puzzle that I just can’t stop trying to solve.

 My mentor has explained his position on professional and personal topics to me over the last few years. My summary is an oversimplification but here it is: The genuine teachers are those that want to know, not those that want to be known. Being ruthlessly honest with yourself and your peers will ultimately make us all better. 

 Maybe that is why the profiteers (those with a professional marketing campaign or grant funding) amongst us make my skin crawl so much. Making an honest buck does mean something! It is never to late to repent and stop being a sellout. Donate some classes every year, and give yourself time to take other classes, and for God’s sake take the ones that make you sweat! 

 Humor, Humility and Honesty. Not always easy things to do or be but, if you’re going to stay on mission you will need all three.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Leadership in problem solving

Leading in Problem Solving
  Perhaps the very definition of a “good leader” is that of someone who can solve problems. Historically the best leaders are those who triumphed over great issues that affected large populations. With this as the backdrop let’s consider how we can be better problem solvers.
  When small issues turn into a malignant problem the quicker the diagnosis the better. You can do this by looking for the tangible impacts on your organization. The presence of a negative scenario or disruptive behavior that has measurable results such as injuries, cost expansions or employee retention are real problems. Sometimes we focus on the mere absence of a desired asset or an un-attained goal as a problem. If they do not produce any “pain” then temper your amount of attention to them. Save the leadership trust you have built for problems that are correctable and worth fighting for your department.
Getting started.
  Separate the facts from any opinions and contrast the facts with the rules and customs that apply. Consider the perspective of those who may be defending the problem and why. Most people who are “the problem” are motivated by the thought of loss of status, pay, or influence. Dealing with them personally and directly can have immediate results as long as they choose to change for the better. Some plans of attack are not as simple and you may need to consider a process of investigation to get to the root cause of the issue. An internal committee or even an outside group may be used if internal opinions cannot be separated from facts. The fire service has done this for many years under collective bargaining and the use of an arbitrator.
  Solutions to be considered are important enough to be written and listed for future reference. The more complicated the problem, the more likely that the first solution is too simple to fix it. Considering all of the unintended consequences is key to developing a long lasting solution. To do this you will need feedback from some or all levels of the organization. The solution should also remain consistent with the department’s policies so you can keep your credibility. Documenting what the solution will look like, or result in will provide a goal to work for. The finish line will be drawn and everyone will know when that problem has been satisfied.
  When performance IS the problem!
  Poor performance is a very difficult problem to address due to its systemic nature. Most performance failures are due to a poor leader that dropped the ball on any one of the following: They never communicated the expectations, provided the resources, taught the skills, or provided the time to develop the work force. The other contributing factor of sub-par performance is on the employees. If the staff is not held accountable for their professional behavior then there is not much hope for improvement. If there is little to no personal interest in the work effort then the organization will suffer the reputation as such. No amount of monetary or equipment resources can make up for people who do not care for what they are doing. The best case scenario is to change the attitudes and behaviors to be more in line with the department’s goals and mission. Doing so takes a commitment from both the leadership and the work force. For a successful mission the leadership needs to give what is necessary to improve the climate, and the employees must adapt to the mission or find another line of work. Great fire departments are so only because of the blue shirts making it so. The framework of leadership is needed but it is the work that is the most important!
  Improving individual performance must be documented, goal orientated and short in time range. We should as leaders be teaching the skills, coaching for performance and then counsel against any poor results. Your duties as a problem solver are very similar to operating on the scene of an emergency.
·        Distribute the work by setting priorities (assign the companies)
·        Monitor performance by promoting quality and safety (training and reviewing past experiences)
·        Provide feedback to enhance performance and getting personally involved is sometimes warranted to show the way. (putting on the gear and getting dirty)
These steps all use a model of communication that develop a personal relationship of interdependence and respect.
Start with you.
  Your responsibilities begin with yourself. You must maintain your personal integrity, positive attitude, and above all control how stress affects your behavior. Stress can be framed into 1 of 3 categories of personal control. 1 = no control, 2 = some control, and 3 = total control. We should try to apply our energy to the things we have total control first. Those things which we can somewhat control should have a long term plan of influence. Those things which we cannot control should be recognized as things we have to adapt to and deal with. Nobody said this was going to be easy!
  As a titled leader you will be expected to change things while being watched closely by both subordinates and supervisors. You are literally in the middle and are expected to absorb the pressure by walking the talk. If you are wondering if your attitude is not what it should be, ask yourself “Did I earn this position today?”
Understanding the bad attitude.
  Body language is the most understandable of all forms of communications. Without a word we decide many things about another person’s intentions. Behavior is the result of our thinking. Negative thinking is how we start down the bath of a bad attitude. The pillars of a negative attitude are selfishness, low self-worth, a weak moral baseline, the inability to adapt, fearing the loss of control or status, and only considering our own perception. An attitude adjustment takes a lot of energy. Most times a troubled person needs more than a professional influence to change the way they are thinking, feeling and what they focused on. These things require even larger efforts like developing better habits, associating with positive people, and above all having a desire to change. We as supervisors can do some of these things by holding our ground on what is expected from everyone under our command. Special treatment for 1 will lead to a failure of leadership. Re-establish the focus, teach, coach and monitor for progress. Follow through with reward and recognition if warranted. The objective should be clearly communicated to the person with the problem. If someone’s behavior is resulting in negative consequences for the group then a real solution is needed. A documented and structured discipline procedure is crucial. These procedures should list the expectations for the work force which should include a positive attitude and team work.
Keep the problems at bay.
  To ward off the spread of a bad attitude we should lead by example. By participating in the intentional disrespecting of anyone, you have condoned the bad attitudes. Sure, we all use some shades of dark humor and sarcasm to deal with this job, but that comes with the trust that our intentions are not to personally damage anyone. Especially our brethren! If you are a company or chief officer and have aired doubts or even insults about someone that was not in the room at the time, you have some work to do. Most of the people listening to you realize that it is only a matter of time before you pile on them, and no longer trust you. Without personal trust you cannot be a leader, just an in-effective manager with title only.
  Promote the attitude that succeeds. Offer solutions to complaints and call out the negativity as it happens. Most people will re-consider how they are thinking about an issue if their initial negative statements are challenged. Focus on making a positive impact on others and the organization. It’s quite simple; treat others as you would want to be treated and expect excellence

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Leading Under Fire part 1

This article appeared in the inaugural issue of the Firemanship Journal via the Harrisburg PA fire department, March of 2016. I suggest you go find it and print the entire journal and share it with your department.

Leading Under Fire part 1

How is it that we recognize the need for leadership? We are considering our profession and reflecting on both the good and the bad. The current scenario versus the preferred outcome or direction. When considering these things the obvious conclusion is that we need someone to lead us. Are you ready to take up this challenge? What will you need to have to lead your organization or even the fire service as a whole?
The answers vary according to your organizations mission, however if your organization does not have it’s goal written and posted, then how can you expect anyone to work towards an ideal with any unity? Words matter. Our language defines everything and that is no different in our fire departments. We all need our collective goal clearly defined so when anyone is faced with a challenge of “what do we do now?” we can look to the goal and have clarity. Mission statements won’t change your department, but the attitude and work geared towards it will. A mission statement is a foundation stone to building a house with purpose.
The people who lead have the personal traits that attract others to follow them. Personal bearing, energy, and a good attitude with honesty are all mandatory. A leader is someone who can guide a group through changes in their environment. A capable manager maintains processes or things during a change. The best leaders can do both. These high achievers do this not only because they have the knowledge, skills, and abilities but because they have a belief in those they lead. Leaders do their job because they believe in the collective good of the organization.

Opportunity to lead
Change in the fire service can come from many different directions. The most common one is from financial and technological pressures. From training budgets to modern ppe and equipment, great strides can be made to improve a department’s capabilities and their moral if properly funded. Of course the inverse is true where the opposite has happened. However the staff’s moral can still maintain if the leadership is still dedicated to the mission. This is why some of the poorest and busiest fire houses in America are the best to work for. The mission is understood, and the shared sacrifice and hard work is the reward.
The change agents can vary from population shifts or a change in expectations. Either of these can completely change what it is we are charged to do. If the public elects a leader that campaigns on changing the way things are done, you can bet on that happening. If the mission is redefined, your choices are to lead an effort to match the organization, or galvanize your troops to stand your ground. An example of this happened in northern Ohio in 2015. A dual role fire/EMS department was nearly reduced to half of its membership by the politics that proclaimed the city could find cheaper EMS providers via the private sector. The townspeople and business leaders were educated on the fact that these paramedics were also their fire protection, and the political winds changed quickly in the fire department’s favor. In this case the leaders of the union and the administration of the fire department worked together to reach out to the community to change the mission of the civic leaders. Consider the trust needed between labor and management on this example.
Other wild cards can cause a dramatic shift in our purpose. Outbreaks of disease or disasters that damage infrastructure can reduce one part of our job and assign us new or even bigger responsibilities. New found resources can cause boom towns to pop up where there was once no need for organized services. Natural gas exploration has caused this scenario across Oh, Pa, and West Virginia.

The currency of leadership is trust
When faced with good or negative changes a prolific leader makes all the difference. The process through a changing circumstance is to share the understanding so everyone knows where the organization is going and where they fit in. This kind of process takes trust. Trust is the currency of leadership. Trust cannot be established without some kind of relationship, and relationships are built on shared experiences or culture with a personal interest. This is why any great leader is lauded as not just a great leader but a friend, mentor or confidant. Followers will not be self-motivated to give their all to someone who they do not have a personal relationship.
It is the degree of risk that can define a leader. Most aspiring people want a difficult scenario to not only test themselves, but to also have an opportunity to earn their subordinates trust. The current fire service seems to be running towards risk aversion. Risk is a matter of perspective and the organization’s ability. To try to eliminate risk through policy is foolish and a symptom of a lack of leadership. Consider this example: A seasoned senior man (untitled leader) working inside of a burning building directing the attack line, and on the outside is the newly promoted incident commander from a different side of town. Whom do you think the firefighters are watching and listening to first? This is where risk aversion loses to risk analysis.
Experienced risk takers can be trusted but gamblers cannot. Regulating away risk is only a gamble in this profession and the odds are against us.

Leading is an action
Team leading is interdependent on the followers wanting to work for you. If you have to light fires under your people to get them to move, you are just a manager. If you light fires within your people to be self-motivated to accomplish more than is expected, you are a leader. Your job is to make people capable of filling your shoes in the future. This is why leadership failures impact is so long lasting. If there is no example of someone taking on the responsibility of directing the fire department an entire generation can slip into a lazy sea of apathy. Failures include complacency, giving into peer pressure, fear, and not defending your people. Perhaps the most common attribute of a leader who fails their people is one who has an infallible ego. Humility and humor go along way with personal relationships. Without personal relationships you cannot have trust, and without trust you are a one dimensional manager. As a leader you should be very concerned about your character and then let your reputation follow. Leaders know who they are and stay on course even if it means some degree of personal loss. The goal is to benefit the organization, not you.

Take on the role of a leader

Your role as a leader is to pull more than push, but you shouldn’t disregard the obligation to push those who need it. If you neglect those who resist or work against you, then those that are with you will slow down to the lowest expectation. Knowing your people and knowing their people (their motivators) gives you the insight to push them. Remember, you only appreciate being pushed by someone you respect. So value what is important to them, and they will most likely return the favor.  I will share some insight on problem solving in this article’s part 2. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

2" hose, The middle child of the fire service

                                    2" hose, the middle child of the fire service

 Here is some perspective on the parallels of the 2" fire hose and being the middle child. The latter as you might guess is the author, so I claim the authority to speak to those truths. The former is in most cases misunderstood, and in my opinion is an underutilized attack choice for specific scenarios.
Shupe, Lane, Campbell

 Where does the middle child of fire attack belong? That is a subjective question answered by an equally subjective statement. The 2" line belongs in the hands of a crew fighting an advanced fire condition with a doubtful outcome, and/or a situation that has an inherent delay of reaching the fire due to the distance from the pump to the seat of the fire. Understand that a doubtful fire for you and your organization is maybe not one for mine, or visa-versa. If you are not interested in thinking about the rate of water application vs nozzle reaction and the applicable maneuverability of the hose, then the 2" hose is not for you. I cannot speak to the history of the 2" hose but I can explain what it can do for a short staffed crew that is dealing with an identified target area that is topographically different than the bread and butter operation.

 Start from the water source when considering your fire attack equipment. In my area the water systems can be more than 100 years old which leads to slag coated mains that may be a 6" OD pipe, but are now only capable of flowing 3" of water. This effects strategies in a couple of different ways. The first is that we need to be as effective as possible with our tank water. Low pressure/High volume nozzles coupled to hose that has a low friction loss coefficient are essential. We need to put our on board 700 gallons into the seat of the fire, and not just into the leading edge that may be showing. Getting the 2nd due engine on the water supply and pumping to the attack engine before stretching the second line is essential on most of our operations, and for this scenario it is essential.

 A fire in a residential high rise built pre 1995, with no PRV’s is one of these special types of incidents. The stand pipe design was built around the 2½ hose and a low pressure nozzle. Specifically to get 250 GPM to a low pressure high volume tip fastened to 150 feet of hose. A mistake the fire service continues to make is one that the Elkhart Brass national trainer Jerry Herbst has summed up nicely. Mr. Herbst sums up the issue with "The fire service chooses to pump to comfort, and not to the needed flow." The comfort with the 1¾ hand line has some merit but this scenario does not allow for taking the easy way out. The same 1200sq ft. fire configured as a ranch home is much worse 70 feet in the air with limited access. If you think not, then wait 10 minutes on the street the next time you arrive at a bread and butter house fire, and see what gpm attack package you would rather use.

 In my own reality based back yard testing the modern 2" hose averages 20 - 24 pounds of friction loss per 50 ft. at about 220 gpm. The effective fire flow range of this attack hose is as much based on the hydraulics as it is the training and ability of the fire attack crew. The reaction force of a 1-1/8 smoothbore at 50 psi, or even 65 psi, is the same regardless of what hose is behind it. You need to practice handling these upper limit flows! Nozzle mechanics is a basic job requirement that is sorely glazed over.

  The next step is understanding the increased mobility of 2" vs 2 ½ . This is the "why" you should consider 2 inch hose!! The 2-½ is much heavier per length, and unless you have the bale 1/3 open, it is much harder to bend around a turn. The shear amount of water pushing against the inner wall of the deuce and a half resists any effort to bend the hose. I cannot offer a scientific measurement of the force needed to bend the 2" but I can tell you that the effort is easily half of what this 40 year old middle child needs to put a 2-½ in place.

Matier, Shupe, Herbst Denison Iowa

The 2" does have its limitations. It does not come from the same low friction loss pedigree as the 2½. The 2" has an effective length where it must operate to justify its use. Using it as a lead 100ft length on a residential stand pipe, or perhaps as a single 400 foot long 150 gpm pre connect is where this kid should play. Or even better use a 2½ for 300 of that 400 foot long line, and then top it off with 100 feet of 2". The lower pump discharge pressure and far reaching stream from the 1-3/8 ball shut off topped with a 1-1/16 smooth bore tip, will give more options to the crew when faced with a fire condition that has had more time to develop and is more than a room/contents fire.

  From the street - to the pump - to the discharge point - to the nozzle – to the seat of the fire. A simple plan but the choices of equipment effect your efficiency. If you have the benefit of multiple companies responding to one of these incidents, then I suggest you stick with the high volume with low pressure 2 ½ hose. If your organization could benefit from using this alternative, clearly map out where this should be used with the explanation of why. The 2" is not a replacement for the 2 ½!

 A target flow for the middle child of fire attack in my opinion is 220 to 250 gpm. I recognize this is not the higher level of fire attack via a 2½ at 265 gpm. However; I also recognize that I can get to 265 gpm by over pumping a 2" hose with the same 1-1/8 tip if need be. Look at your attack packages and evaluate the operational range. Get that hose wet with a pito tube, and find out what your crew can do with an under pumped nozzle as well as with the over pumped one. 50 psi at the smooth bore tip is the target but not always the "be all/end all".
Harting, Kappel

 The middle child takes the wisdom of the older 2½, and blends it with the speed of the younger, more deployable 1¾. The results are a hard hitting attack package that gives smaller crews a better chance at taking the building back from the fire. If you are not fortunate enough to work for a big organization that can put a couple dozen hands on a working fire, then consider a look at putting all of the fire service siblings in play.

Photos are by the author.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

From Rookie to One of the Guys

As this article appeared in

From Rookie to One of the Guys



            “Hey kid, you’re in MY chair!”   21 Years ago I was 10 minutes into my first day at the Fire Department and I already screwed up! One of the guys saw me nervously standing near the kitchen before the on coming shift started, and “told” me to have a seat. Sitting down as a rookie is hazardous but this was, as I now see it, a perfect set-up job! I have since used it myself. This was the first of many mistakes that have left me with certain perspectives and life lessons that I still carry around today.

            As the weeks and months went by, I started to feel more at home at the station, but I always knew where my seat was at the table; and when I was allowed to use it. The current soft and cuddly “mentoring” wasn’t in style yet, so I was left to my own choices and a few “old Salts” that seasoned my time with sometimes painful insults and lessons in firefighting, union politics, and mostly station living/cleaning.

I have taken the liberty of listing some of the things that meant a lot to me as a rookie. Some of the suggestions were offered by other guys that knew I was putting this idea to paper. Most of them were suggested to me as a rookie firefighter by a great shift officer who had a true interest in my development as a firefighter as well as a person. I take no credit for this except for the fact of putting it all together for your use or amusement…

-Pay attention to details. Examples: Neat folds in the hose beds, clean tools, run the small engines for at least 20 minutes, have your face-piece pre fitted, and liquid disinfectant for the toilets while actually using the scrub brush.


-Understand and accept that the veterans will ware you down, you will always screw up, and you are expected to take you corrections without retort. Own your mistakes. Don’t make excuses and don’t try to explain why you did it wrong until you are asked.


-Show up at least 20 minutes before your shift starts. Think of coffee, dishes, paper, trash can and then your truck. Do the reverse order before the end of your shift.


-Keep a positive attitude and motivation. Just keep them in check. There is a line between excited to be there and being a kiss-ass know it all.


-Never “pencil whip” your truck check. Every cabinet, every piece of equipment, every morning.


-You will be the last to sit to eat, and the first to get up and do the dishes. BTW, your seat will have no view of the TV.


-2 ears and one mouth. Listen until asked to talk for the first few months. Choose you conversations carefully, and never start out with: “my first/other fire department does it different…..”


-Unless life depends on it, don’t talk over the radio.


-Don’t offer any fire tactic or strategic solutions. You are their probate no matter how long you did the job elsewhere.


-Know your role by asking. Ask the shift officer where he expects you on a variety of calls. Later in the day ask the same thing of the senior man and see if they match.


-Learn how to cook at least 3 meals for 5-10 men. BTW, they will tell you it taste terrible as they go for seconds…


-Always volunteer for the public appearances. Fire safety talks for the kids, a station tour, or any other event where a firefighter is requested.


-Take initiative on everything from house work, vehicle checks, daily drill and anything else that needs done. If your truly at a lost for what can be done ask someone.


-Beware of the station “Sissy”! He will be easy to spot. He is usually detached from the rest of the group and usually in a bad mood. This guy has all the complaints but usually none of the answers. You will be guilty by association by spending any idle time around him.


-Don’t suck up to the boss. Be respectful and follow orders to the letter, but don’t be another rug under the Chiefs/Capt/Lt’s desk.


-Work out every shift if your run volume and station allows. This job is physical and you should respect that.


-Use lunch time to study instead of sleep. You’re too young to be tired at noon!


-Money is easy to carry. Put a ten or twenty in your pocket before shift. No one likes an I.O.U. for dinner. An occasional ice cream or bagels for the shift doesn’t hurt either.


-Before you retire for the night, clean up the living quarters, kitchen and empty the trash. You don’t want the next shift deciding your reputation the next morning.


-Don’t let your first year be your best. Stay motivated by posting your 3,5,10 year goals at home. Where only you can see them and work towards them.


-Keep a journal. This is going be a great career.


- After a few weeks or months, feel free to bust balls. Just remember who you are. There is a pecking order.


In years past these things seemed to be just part of the job, but as I see it these days we need to have most things spelled out. Earn your way, do your time, and pass it on when you are the one with less/grey hair. The work is the reward so get to it!