Thursday, November 12, 2015

Keep the criticism in context

Keep the criticism in context

  A few more words regarding the SLICERS Side Show post, and the larger context of where my opinion comes from. First, for the very few (Less than 10 in 4k views) that had some not so flattering comments for me or my opinion, I would ask that you read editorials like this one with more of an objective mindset rather than the defensive posture you seem to be in. My purpose for self-publishing  these ideas of mine are to gain more personal understanding of fighting fire in my part of the world. Detractors are free to call my deductions as bullshit, as I do of anyone else’s. As it is, I am a skeptic that will always jealousy defend the principles and traditions of the fire service. If you do not share that mindset, so be it.

      The push back against the ISFSI Slice RS agenda is making an impact. If you can look past the pride, politics, career advancement hopes, and money being generated you see more intelligent conversations about what the fire service is doing and what it is all about. The most recent interview of Mr. Buchanan regarding the origins of ISFSI, and their movement I think is a testament to this statement. To some this means the message has been sharpened and better to understand. To others it looks like they are pumping the brakes and readjusting the bullet points to better fit the majority of the dissenting opinion.

      The ISFSI youtube channel has as of September 2015, a series of videos explaining the SLICE RS acronym. The 16 minute summary video narrated by E.B. is the one that was included in the State of Ohio Modern Fire Behavior class I was auditing last month.Video 1 
Obviously the series is much more detailed than the summary hyperlinked above yet there is still a few larger issues worth my time, and maybe yours. Let’s get started.
      The first question to pose when presented with someone’s interpretation of new information is to ask, where is this coming from? As far as I can tell E.Buchanan comes from suburban to rural district with varying staffing levels including volunteers, part time and full time suppression staff. If you do not work in that environment, then the logical thought is to consider this system in a skeptical light. Secondly, I would propose that any organization should have it’s priorities published and understood before heading out the door to do work. Much like the Prince George County fire department has recently done. That department reclassified the acronym to put the “R” first. Words matter, and the play book title is an extremely important message for all the players. Perhaps you missed this point made on another blog last September…  . Lastly, the ISFSI likes to continually make the statement of the need to have thinking fire officers. I propose that the next review of the acronym marketing should include changing this to “thinking firefighters”. If you can’t agree with me on this one, please stop reading and move on.

      The above issues are an oversight by many perhaps because of the generational shift that is always in progress in the fire service. In my opinion, most of the fire service lacks exposure to our past training or practical experiences. Some of us have an opportunity to sit down with a trusted senior man and talk these out, but most do not. If we can’t flush out an idea with a person who has a historical perspective then you are forced to re do a lot of the trial and error that has already been done. A trusted senior man is one that won’t simply answer “that won’t work.” Instead he will tell you why your proposal won’t work. (Mainly because us 1990’s guys have been asking them “why” for 25 years..)

      Firefighting in the US is very regionally specific. In construction/occupancy, to water infrastructure, to staffing levels and equipment, and even to the mindset and expectations of the firefighters. All of these variables demand that you know what you are working with. This is the overriding issue with a 1 size fits all strategy whether you are proposing an interior attack with a pre connected 1 ½ or throwing water from the outside. Your way is likely not our way, regardless of the proliferation of federally funded programs or the privatization of our state firefighting curriculum's.

The brass Tacks…
      Size up. In the late 1900’s (yes only 15 years ago), we were trained that size up started the first day on the job. Learning your first due, your equipment, and your department’s capabilities. A more detailed explanation was taught with John Normans “COAL WAS WEALTH”. Look it up young’ins… I bring this up because the size up slide from ISFSI keeps it’s focus on the narrow perspective through the screen of a TIC. The TIC is arguably one of the greatest and most underused tool in the fire service. That being said, it can turn into a pacifier if you lack the basic training of understanding of building construction and smoke identification. In addition, the deceleration of the arriving companies strategies based on statements from the public who may or may not know about the building, the occupants or the fire is a dangerous precedent. You may have reason to trust your public, other firefighters may or do not. When I hear this kind of statement “everyone is out” I like to keep that in my pocket and keep my firefighters sharp and looking for fire and victims. That information will be useful after I get a primary search done.

    Locate the fire. Back to my point of firefighting being a regionally specific discipline, this step couldn’t be more flawed when applied to the cross section of our urban or rural settings. A 360 is not possible for the initial arriving officer of many urban fire departments. That job is likely not done until a roof assignment or second due assignment is done. A 360 may not be feasible to our rural officers either due to topography or the sheer size of the mansion set ½ mile or more off of the main road. In contrast my first due allows me to view 3 sides of most residential s as we arrive and pull past the address of alarm. For me, a 360 is possible and can be done by getting to the B/C corner. However; can you imagine an operation where this doesn’t happen? You should be able to! Trust your basic training and recognition of past experiences and then verify with a TIC. Relying on that tool will be your stumbling block when you don’t have a diagnosis of the fires location, or when the battery is dead! Knowing your construction, occupancy, your time of arrival vs the alarm, and your crew’s capabilities are the tools that will not fail you. In my opinion this ISFSI system does not consider these variables enough, and will lead the unknowing or the short attention spanned folks into a 1 size fits all approach.

     Identify and control the flow path. If seeing fire exhausting from a window gives you pause, then you haven’t seen enough fire yet. It is not to be ashamed of to recognize our deficiencies. What that scenario could tell me is that flash over has likely happened in that room and unless the wind is blowing into that window, I can take the rest of the air space in the building from the moment I open the door to attack. The attack crew can positively pressurize the approach hallway by flowing water as they advance towards the room of fire.

      I was happy to see the ISFSI give back the credit to the origin of the term Air Tract. I appreciate this redirection of language back to our fire service history. That history has told us to control the openings whenever possible to mitigate the smoke and fire’s effect on the building and its occupants. History has also showed us that finding adult victims has a high percentage chance of happening in areas of exit/entrance pathways. 

For example this police officer making this save.Video 2 
       This in contrast to the young fire officer seen in the ISFSI video series walking around the residential building closing windows and doors without first verifying that someone is not lying there within an arm’s reach!  Truly a disturbing image for anyone who has pulled a person from around an entrance doorway. … AT 8:52 Video 3

       Air control curtains are all the rage in the EU huh? Well is there any difference in their operations/buildings/codes/ and expectations compared to the US...? hmmm. The basic skills of stretching, masking up quickly, forcing entry and nozzle mechanics are not yet mastered by enough of the workforce to add curtains to our riding assignments. That is IF your department even has those! Flowing water moves air, and we will soon have some specifics on this from our friends (yes friends) at the UL/NIST. So if we are truly studying the results of these modern fire studies then we should be embracing the action of coordinated ventilation and embracing vertical ventilation when indicated. Simply put. Maintain the wind at your back, flow as you go and make the outside vent work for the nozzle man.

      Cooling from a safe location.Video 4 
I thoroughly enjoyed Van Dorps contribution to this series. In fact, if this video would have been the stand alone video in the class I attended I may not have been interested in engaging the ISFSI’s message again. In summary this video stated that this system does not mandate attacking fires from the outside rather, when there is a delay of entry (likely a training issue)  or an advanced fire condition (a matter of crews capabilities and perspective). Still not much talk or shown examples of taking a fire from the approach hallway or the bottom of the interior stairway though. In addition a clear re introduction of RECEO VS was done. There was also a No Fog Nozzle message, and lastly there was a demonstration of firefighters advancing a flowing hand line through a doorway to claim the air tract! Talk about staying ahead of the curve! This little tidbit in my opinion is giving credit to what is already understood by those who practice this tactic. Check this out…Video 5 
While all these messages are positive things for the fire service in general I would be remiss if I didn’t point out how these also highlight the inconsistencies of the message over the last 3-4 years from ISFSI. 

      Extinguish.  The ripple effect from this corporation’s curriculum is sometimes underestimated by some who blow this off as a fad. As each of the 50 states present this as the way to do it, and with the added detriment of the pro board process that has also taken over, we are left with a severe gap in expectations in our new people versus those of us already here in the job. The unrealistic training environment we put our cadets through is nearly sterile of any regional details or related tactics, much less realistic conditions. Here is an example of that type of training that is muddying the waters of expectations.Video 6  In this scenario the fuel load is much less than reality just as is the concrete bunker that they are burning it in. Even so the observation crew inside experiences the push of gasses into the adjoining room. Quoting an Instructor: “Shield yourself and don’t take a beating…” Did a conversation afterwards happen regarding the small fuel loads and the larger dimensions of the rooms/hallways? I don’t know but to me this is exactly what is wrong with the direction of live fire training. The impressionable firefighters at this session will likely come away with a positive opinion of this tactic without the perspective of what the reality will be. The time and money spent here would have been better done if the crews were working on the practices of an efficient engine company. Real time stretching, real time masking up, forcible entry, and attacking with a coordinated outside vent team. This would have shown what works and what to work on.

Is this ISFSI system giving you another tool in the toolbox or is it keeping you from using the tools you already don’t train enough with?