Friday, March 9, 2018

Essentials? Rewriting the book of firefighting over the years.

Essentials of Fire Fighting, First Edition (IFSTA, 1977)
Chapter 6 Fire Streams, Pages 174-176
Requirements For Extinguishing Structural Fires
Building fires may be divided into fires which are primarily confined within the walls, roof, and floor of a structure or building, and fires within a building which have ventilated
themselves to the extent that they are free burning into the open. Each of these conditions presents a different problem and fire fighting situation.
When fire is confined within the walls, ceiling, and/or roof of a room or building, the intense heat, smoke, and fire gases will also be confined in the burning space. The confined
building fire presents a situation that requires careful consideration to prevent further damage and to effect extinguishment. This type of fire may be considered in three different
phases for the purpose of deterring requirements. First, the Incipient or Beginning Phase; Second, the Free-Burning Phase; and Third, the Smoldering Phase. The major
difference between the three phases is from the standpoint of ventilation practices. Knowledge of these phases is also useful from a fire extinguishment point of view.
A fire in the incipient phase usually requires a direct application of water at the base of the fire to reduce the temperature of the fuel below ignition point. The amount of heat being
generated will increase as the fire progresses. Although the flame temperature will be well over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the room temperature may only be slightly increased.
The major consideration is reaching the fire.
In the second phase or free-burning phase, the area will be extremely hot. A confined building fire in the second phase required a reduction of atmospheric temperature to livable
conditions so that firefighters may enter and extinguish any remaining fires by direct application but protective breathing equipment will be required for the safety of those
entering.
In the third or smoldering phase, the heated area will be filled with hot smoke and fire gases. So far as the fire gases and smoke are concerned, firefighters could enter with
protective breathing equipment, but the heat would be unbearable. Experiments and tests have shown that a building containing a third phase fire may be made tenable by
applying water fog into the most highly heated upper levels. The heat will convert the finely divided particles of water into steam thereby reducing the temperature in the space.
The expansion of steam will further force smoke and gases from the space. In this phase, the heat must be reduced, and the smoke and gases must be displaced before fresh air
can be admitted.
An open or non confined building fire is one which has burned to the outside, releasing the heated smoke and gases. The entire building may be involved and these open fires
require long-range operations. The intense radiated heat from an open fire makes it difficult to apply water directly at the base of the fire. A large volume of water is usually
required to control and extinguish this type fire, which may require straight streams and long-range fog streams. This type of fire also requires careful consideration of exposures,
with equal consideration for fire streams to protect them
A Confined Strutural Fire
The conditions that may be found in a confined structural fire and the phases of its development have again been outlined by the Analysis Table, from which we may list the
important factors of applying fog streams. Some of these important factors are as follows:
• The fog stream should be projected into the hottest space, which may be the upper levels if the fire has burned for a considerable duration.
• If a short-reach, wide-angle fog pattern will cover the area, it should be projected upward into the heated area and worked into a circular motion for complete coverage.
• If the area is so large that it cannot be reached by the short-reach, wide-angle fog pattern, a long-reach fog pattern should be used to carry the droplets into the hottest space
and the nozzle worked back and forth for complete coverage.
• The number of fog streams to use should be determined by the cubic foot area involved and the volume of the nozzles.
• Enough water fog must be applied to absorb the heat faster than it is being generated.
• One or more extra lines should be supplied for auxiliary use. They may be used to extinguish remaining fire.
• The officer in charge should watch for displacement indications: first, smoke; second, smoke and condensed steam; and third, condensed steam.
• A fog stream should but shut off as soon as smoke and gas have been displaced by condensed steam.
• If the atmosphere is still too hot, a second burst of water fog may be required.
• All spot fires may be extinguished by direct application.
• When the application of water fog is made through an opening into a building, the firefighters should keep well out of line with the opening to protect themselves from the
expulsion of heated gases and steam back through the opening.
Essentials of Fire Fighting, Second Edition (IFSTA, 1983)
Chapter 14 Fire Suppression Techniques, Pages 340-341
(RED INDICATES CHANGES FROM FIRST EDITION)


Direct Attack
The most efficient use of water on freeburning fires is made by a direct attack from a close position with a solid stream or penetrating fog pattern (30 degree or less) on the base
of the fire. The water should be applied directly on the burning fuels in short bursts until the fire “darkens down”. Streams should not be applied for too long a time or the thermal
balance will be upset. Thermal balance is the movement of heated gases toward the ceiling and after the application of fire streams that includes the spread of expanding steam
to all areas of the confined space. If water streams are applied for an excessive length of time, the steam begins to condense causing the smoke to drop rapidly to the floor and
move sluggishly thereafter.
Indirect Attack
When firefighters are unable to enter the structure due to intense conditions in confined locations, an indirect attack can be made (Figure 14.2). This attack is not desirable where
victims may yet be trapped or where the spread of fire to uninvolved areas cannot be contained. The nozzle flow setting will range from a penetrating fog (30 degree) to moderate
angle fog (60 degree) and should be directed at the ceiling and played back and forth in the super heated gases at the ceiling level. Directing the stream into the superheated
atmosphere near the ceiling results in the production of large quantities of steam. One cubic foot of water (7.4 gallons) completely vaporized will create 1700 cubic feet of steam.
Once again, the stream should be shut down before disturbing the thermal balance. Once the fire has been darkened down the hose line can be advanced to extinguish any
remaining hot spots with a direct attack.
Combination Attack
The combination method utilizes the steam generating technique of ceiling level attack with an attack on materials burning near the floor level. The nozzle may be moved in a, “T,
Z, or O” pattern starting with a penetrating fog directed into the heated gases at the ceiling level and then dropped down to attack the combustibles burning near the floor level.
The “O” pattern of the combination attack is probably the most familiar and abused method of attack. When performing the “O” pattern the stream should be directed at the ceiling
and rotated clockwise with the stream edge reaching the ceiling , wall, floor, and opposite wall. Keep in mind that applying water to smoke does not extinguish the fire and only
causes unnecessary water damage and disturbance of the thermal balance.
Essentials of Fire Fighting, Third Edition (IFSTA, 1992)
Chapter 12 Fire Control, Pages 404-406
(RED INDICATES CHANGES FROM SECOND EDITION)


Direct Attack
The most efficient use of water on freeburning fires is made by a direct attack from a close position with a solid stream or
penetrating fog pattern (30 degree or less) on the base of the fire straight stream. The water should be applied in short bursts
directly on the burning fuels in short bursts until the fire “darkens down” (Figure 12.10). Streams Water should not be applied for
too long a time or the thermal balance layering (movement of heated gases toward the ceiling) will be upset. Thermal balance is
the movement of heated gases toward the ceiling and after the application of fire streams that includes the spread of expanding
steam to all areas of the confined space. If water streams are is applied for an excessive length of time, the steam begins to
condense causing the smoke to drop rapidly to the floor and move sluggishly thereafter.
Indirect Attack
When firefighters are unable to enter the structure or fire area due to intense fire conditions in confined locations, an indirect
attack can be made (Figure 12.11). This attack is not desirable where victims may yet be trapped or where the spread of fire to
uninvolved areas cannot be contained. The fire stream, which could be a solid , straight, or narrow fog pattern, The nozzle flow
setting will range from a penetrating fog (30 degree) to moderate angle fog (60 degree) and should be directed at the ceiling and
played back and forth in the super heated gases at the ceiling level. Directing the stream into the superheated atmosphere near
the ceiling results in the production of large quantities of steam. One cubic foot of water (7.4 gallons) completely vaporized will
create 1,700 cubic feet of steam. Once again, the stream should be shut down before disturbing it disturbs the thermal balance
layering. Once the fire has been darkened down, and the space has been ventilated, the hoseline can be advanced to extinguish
any remaining hot spots with a direct attack.
Combination Attack
The combination method utilizes uses the steam-generating technique of ceiling level attack combined with an attack on
materials burning near the floor level (Figure 12.12). The nozzle may be moved in a, “T, Z, or O” pattern starting with a solid,
straight, or penetrating fog directed into the heated gases at the ceiling level and then dropped down to attack the combustibles
burning near the floor level. The “O” pattern of the combination attack is probably the most familiar and abused method of attack.
When performing the “O” pattern, the stream should be directed at the ceiling and rotated clockwise with the stream edge
reaching the ceiling , wall, floor, and opposite wall. Firefighters should keep in mind that applying water to smoke does not
extinguish the fire and only causes unnecessary water damage and disturbance of the thermal balance layering.
Essentials of Fire Fighting, Fifth Edition (IFSTA, 2008)
Chapter 15 Fire Control, Pages 767-769
(RED INDICATES CHANGES FROM FOURTH EDITION)


Gas Cooling
Gas cooling is not a fire extinguishment method but simply a way of reducing the hazard
presented by the hot gas layer. This technique is effective when faced with a shielded fire;
that is, one you cannot see from the doorway because objects are shielding it. In these
situations, you cannot apply water directly onto the burning material without entering the
room and working under the hot gas layer.
The hot gas layer accumulating in the upper levels of the compartment can present a
number of problems for you and other members of the hose team. Remember that smoke
is fuel, and it may transition to rollover, flashover or a smoke explosion at any time. In
addition, hot smoke radiates heat to furniture and other combustibles in the compartment.
This increases pyrolysis which adds more flammable fuel to the gas layer. Cooling the hot
gas layer mitigates these hazards by slowing the transfer of heat to other combustibles
and reducing the chances of the overhead gases igniting.
You can cool the hot gas layer by applying short pulses of water for into it. With the nozzle
set on a 40- to 60- degree fog pattern, direct it upward toward the gas layer and quickly
open and close it in one- to two second pulses (Figure 15.11). Remember that your intent
is to cool the gases, not to produce a large volume of steam. When water droplets begin
to fall out of the overhead smoke layer, it means that the gases have been cooled and
you can stop spraying water into the smoke. If the fire continues to burn unchecked, the
gas layer will regain its heat and the gas-cooling technique may have to be repeated.
The gas-cooling technique should be repeated as necessary while the hose team
advances under the gas layer toward the fire. In narrow hallways, the fog pattern may
need to be restricted. In large-volume compartments, the duration of the pulses may need
to be increased slightly.
Direct Attack
The most efficient use of water on free-burning fires is made by a direct attack on the
base of the fire - usually from with a solid stream or straight stream. The water should be
is applied in short bursts directly onto the burning fuels (often called “penciling”) until the
fire “darkens down” (Figure 15.12). Another effective technique (often called “painting”) is
to cool hot surfaces to slow or stop the pyrolysis process by gently applying water and
allowing it to run over the hot material. Water should not be applied for too long a time
otherwise thermal layering will be upset long enough to upset the thermal layering
(sometimes called thermal balance); the steam produced will begin to condense, causing
the smoke to drop rapidly to the floor and move sluggishly thereafter.
Essentials of Fire Fighting, Fifth Edition (IFSTA, 2008)
Chapter 15 Fire Control, Pages 767-769
(RED INDICATES CHANGES FROM FOURTH EDITION)
2008


Indirect Attack
When firefighters are unable to enter the structure or fire area due to a burning building or compartment because
of the intense fire conditions heat inside, an indirect attack can be made from outside the area compartment
through a doorway or window or other small opening (Figure 15.13). This method of attack is not desirable ideal
where victims building occupants may yet be trapped still be inside or where the spread of fire to uninvolved
areas cannot be contained. However, this may be the only method of attack possible until temperatures are
reduced. The fire stream, which could be a solid , straight, or narrow fog pattern, should be directed at the
ceiling and played back and forth in the superheated gases at the ceiling level.
To make an indirect attack on the fire, a fog stream is introduced through a small opening and directed at the
ceiling where the heat is the most intense. Directing the stream into the superheated atmosphere near the ceiling
results in the production of large quantities of steam, but the stream should be shut down before it disturbs the
thermal layering. The heat converts the water spray to steam, which fills the compartment and absorbs the bulk
of the heat. Once the fire has been darkened down and the space has been ventilated, the hose-lines can be
advanced to extinguish any remaining hot spots with a direct attack and water applied directly onto whatever is
burning.
Combination Attack
The combination attack method uses the heat-absorbing steam-generating technique of ceiling-level attack
cooling the hot gas layer combined followed by a heat-reducing with a direct attack on the materials burning near
the floor level. The attack starts with short bursts, known as penciling, from nozzle may be moved in a, T, Z, or O
pattern starting with a solid, straight, or a penetrating fog stream directed into the hot gas layer heated gases at
the ceiling level (gas cooling) (Figure 15.14). and then dropped down Then the attack switches to a straight
stream, known as painting, to attack the combustibles burning near the floor level. The O pattern of the
combination attack is probably the most familiar method of attack. When performing the O pattern, the stream
should be directed at the ceiling and rotated with the stream edge reaching the ceiling, wall, floor, and opposite
wall. Firefighters should keep in mind Remember that applying water to smoke does not extinguish the fire and
only causes unnecessary water damage and disturbance of the thermal layering
Essentials of Fire Fighting, Sixth Edition (IFSTA, 2013)
Chapter 17 Fire Control, Pages 1013-1016
(RED INDICATES CHANGES FROM FIFTH EDITION)


Direct Attack
The A direct attack on the fire using a solid or straight uses water most efficiently use of water
on free-burning fires (Figure 17.8) is made by a direct attack on the fire - usually from a solid
stream or straight stream. The water is applied in short bursts directly onto the burning fuels
(often called “penciling”) until the fire is extinguished “darkens down” (Figure 15.12). Another
effective technique (often called “painting”) is to direct the stream onto the ceiling and walls
cool hot surfaces which can to slow or stop the pyrolysis process on these hot surfaces by
gently applying water and allowing it to run over the hot material. Water should not be applied
long enough to upset the thermal layering (sometimes called thermal balance) in the
compartment; the steam produced will begin to condense, causing the smoke and heat to drop
rapidly to the floor and move sluggishly thereafter.
Indirect Attack
When firefighters are unable to enter a burning building or compartment because of the intense
heat inside, an indirect attack can be made from outside the structure or involved area
compartment through a window or other small opening (Figure 15.13). The attack is made
through a window or other opening, directing the stream toward the ceiling to cool the room
(Figure 17.9). This method of attack produces large quantities of steam and must be
coordinated with ventilation. is not ideal where building occupants may still be inside or where
the spread of fire to uninvolved areas cannot be contained. While an indirect attack cools the
fire environment, it results in a fairly uniform temperature from floor to ceiling and fills the
compartment with the combined mixture of smoke and steam. However, this may be the only
method of attack possible until temperatures are reduced.
To make an indirect attack on the fire, a fog stream is introduced through an small opening and
directed at the ceiling where the temperature is the highest heat is the most intense. The heat
converts the water spray to steam, which fills the compartment and absorbs the majority bulk of
the heat. Once the majority of the fire has been reduced in quantity darkened down and the
space has been ventilated, hoselines can be advanced inside and firefighters can make a
direct attack on the body of fire water applied directly onto whatever is burning.
Essentials of Fire Fighting, Sixth Edition (IFSTA, 2013)
Chapter 17 Fire Control, Pages 1013-1016
(RED INDICATES CHANGES FROM FIFTH EDITION)


Combination Attack
The combination attack uses the heat-absorbing technique of combines cooling the hot gas layer at the
ceiling level using an indirect attack with a followed by a heat-reducing direct attack on the materials fuels
burning near the floor level. The attack starts with short bursts, known as penciling, from a penetrating fog
stream directed into the hot gas layer at the ceiling level (gas cooling) (Figure 15.14). Then the attack
switches to a straight stream, known as painting, to attack the combustibles burning near the floor level.
To combine both attacks, move the nozzle from the area overhead to the floor in a Z, inverted T, or
rotational manner (Figure 17.10) Remember that applying Excessive application of water to smoke does
not extinguish the fire and only may causes unnecessary water damage and disturbance of the thermal
layering. Applying water to smoke that is not heated may disrupt the thermal layering which has a
tendency to decrease visibility if ventilation is not accomplished.
Gas Cooling
Gas cooling is not a fire extinguishment method but simply is a way of reducing the hazard presented by
heat release from the hot gas layer. This technique is effective when faced with a shielded fire; that is,
one you cannot see from the doorway because it is located in a remote part of the structure or objects are
shielding it the fire . In these situations, you cannot apply water directly onto the burning material without
entering the room and working under the hot gas layer.
The hot gas layer accumulating in the upper levels of the compartment can present a number of problems
for you and other members of the hoseline team crew. Remember that smoke is fuel, and it may transition
to rollover, flashover or a smoke explosion at any time. In addition, hot smoke radiates heat to furniture
and other combustibles in the compartment. This increases pyrolysis which adds more flammable fuel to
the gas layer. Cooling the hot gas layer mitigates these hazards by slowing slows the transfer of heat to
other combustibles and reducing reduces the chances of the overhead gases igniting.
You can To cool the hot gas layer, direct short bursts or by applying short pulses of water for into it. With
the nozzle set on a 40- to 60- degree fog pattern, direct it upward toward the gas layer and quickly and
smoothly open and close it in one- to two second pulses (Figure 17.11). The length of the pulse will
depend on the size of the space, varying from less than a second to much longer. The nozzle pattern may
need to be adjusted based on fire conditions in the compartment and its configuration and size. In narrow
hallways, the fog pattern may need to be restricted. In large-volume compartments or when the upper
layer temperature is extremely high, the duration of the pulses may need to be increased slightly.
The reach of the stream is also important for cooling the gas layer. Remember that Your intent is to cool
the gases, not to cool the ceiling produce a large volume of steam. Cooling the ceiling will produce a
large volume of steam. When If water droplets begin to fall out of the overhead smoke layer, it means that
the gases have been cooled and you can stop spraying water into the smoke. If the fire continues to burn
unchecked, the gas layer will regain its heat and the gas-cooling technique may have to be repeated.
The gas-cooling technique should be repeated as necessary while the hose team advances under the
gas layer toward the fire.
Essentials of Fire Fighting, Sixth Edition (IFSTA, 2013)
Chapter 17 Fire Control, Pages 1013-1016
(RED INDICATES CHANGES FROM FIFTH EDITION)
2013

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.