Monday, February 14, 2011

When 250 Equals 250

Recently, Traditions Training was invited to teach a program for a fire department in a “not so urban” area of the country. Being that most of our instructors come from busy urban or suburban fire companies, 250 calls a month or more for a particular station or individual unit is not uncommon. With that amount of activity comes more chances to refine and polish our craft. It also allows for more chances to utilize the “tricks of the trade” that were passed on by our senior men and our company officers. Often, in these busy companies, you find highly motivated firefighters… always looking to find the next tool or technique that will let them do the job in a more efficient manner. Or for you type “A” personalities, how they can do it better and faster than the next company.

The Rack/Bundle

Well, this particular fire company that we were working with runs 250 calls for the whole year.

After the first day of teaching I went out to the apparatus floor to look at the rigs. I was taken back by the way their rigs were set up and the equipment that they were carrying. Not to mention that the rigs were clean, well cared for and the attack and supply lines were flawlessly racked. Not flawlessly parade racked but “Combat Ready” racked. Looking inside the rigs, the tools and equipment were laid out in such a way that each person’s assignment was well defined and the tools were right there for quick deployment. The hand tools were wrapped, clean and ready for action. Each seated position had an assignment, pre-established tasks to be completed and a tool requirement. Each engine had a “rack” or “bundle load” of attack line ready to extend a pre-existing hose line or for the use of a three inch line to feed into it. All the companies nozzles were break-away type, thus lowering the in service time of an attack line extension. They were not using the “rack” or “bundle load” that was common for some urban and suburban companies but a “rack” that worked for their area!

This showed us that they had actually tested the concept and realized it didn’t work for their area and modified it for their community. They were not just copying a “big city” tool or technique and placing it in service because “the XYZ Engine Company that ran 250 calls last month has one,” but evaluated the needs of their response area and made the tool or technique work for them. This list of “area customized” observations could go on for a couple paragraphs.

In reality, it does not matter if your engine company in the “city” runs 250 calls a month or if the engine in your “rural community” runs 250 calls for the whole year. What matters is how you prepare yourself and your apparatus to answer youremergencies and the level of commitment, pride, training and dedication you have for your profession. You should never stand still and say “this has always worked this way” and “we should stop looking for the next technique or trend”. Seek to find those opportunities, learn about them and train with them. If you can make it work for your department, excellent… incorporate the change, lay out your expectations for your company, and train your members until those changes become second nature. Your community and fire service members will not be disappointed by your effort and dedication.

It was a great weekend teaching and learning with this group of motivated firefighters and their surrounding departments.

5 Hour Energy Drink and Forcible Entry

Recently, after a long afternoon of dull fire department paperwork, a trip to 7-11 was needed to boost the energy for the rest of the workday. As I walked into the store I stopped and took a look at the lock on the front entry door. This quick, passing glance made me realize how I had gotten out of the habit of conducting an on-going size-up of my surroundings before they were on fire. My size-ups had grown to a different level and the tasks that I do not perform everyday had fallen off my radar.

As a company officer, driver, or the person riding in the back you have to look at every trip to a store or an errand you run as a training experience. This quick run to the store made me look at the lock and dissect and evaluate my forcible entry strategy. This process of evaluation included posing myself a series of questions (not out aloud, of course), here are some that I think any firefighter should ask themselves when they complete their own size-up of the lock at the 7-11.

  • What is the name of this lock?
  • How does the lock work?
  • How deep is the throw?
  • What is the construction of the door?
  • Is there a difference in forcing this door if it is a fire or a non-emergency?
  • What are the tools on the rig that I will need to get in this door?
  • Do I really know how to use those tools?
  • Did I check those tools out today?
  • Are all the keys with the K-tool?
  • Have I only read about this lock and never actually opened one?
  • When was the last time I forced this lock?
  • What method did I use to get in?
  • Can I recall my training on this door?
  • Did my ego get in the way of asking questions about this lock?
  • How will I use my tools to get in this door?
  • Did I watch a TV show or play on the computer rather than learn about this lock?
  • How is it going to look if I cannot get in this lock?

So obviously by this series of questions I have way to many thoughts about a simple lock or I am having an adverse reaction to my Five Hour Energy Drink. Either way it made me review the mortise lock and then go to the lock board and practice with my tools. Even though it is not my primary job to complete this forcible entry task everyday it is still important to be competent in the skill set. For all those firefighters that it is your job, get out there! Take every opportunity to look at those locks on all the buildings you walk in on a daily basis and figure out how to get in them.

Firefighters, approach your officers, allow them to help you understand forcible entry and guide you in the proper techniques.

Officers, stay sharp on your skills and challenge your firefighters every chance you get on these tasks. Challenge your department to get you the training to master these forcible entry problems so your company will shine on the fireground.

Chief Officers, understand where your companies need training and get it for them! Remain vigilant and ensure your company officers are training their crews and challenging them on a daily basis.