Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Automatic Fire Alarm Complacency

Automatic Fire Alarm Complacency

By: Tony Kelleher and Ricky Riley

Recently, we have had several discussions; both within my own areas fire department and in other departments across the country with regard to their policy and attitudes towards automatic fire alarms.  While we at Traditions Training continue to preach our Combat Ready attitude to firefighters and officers, the topic of automatic fire alarms continues to creep into the conversation.  The focus, mainly on the attitude that firefighters and their respective departments take on these type of alarms.

While we fully understand the consistent physical and mental drain on personnel and resources while we respond to a great many of these alarms, we must not allow the complacency that many times accompanies these repetitive calls for service to creep into the way we answer them.


·      What is the number and type of apparatus are you sending to your automatic fire alarms?

·      With your current response policy, if units find a fire or other emergency, will they be able to operate in a timely and safe fashion?

·      How long may initial units have to wait to operate to ensure they achieve ‘two in, two out’ or your individual cities or towns policy on entering a structure with an IDLH environment?

·      What mode are the units responding in ‘non-emergency’ or ‘emergency’ or a combination of both?

·      Are you sending a command officer to supervise the units?

Recently outside of Washington D.C. a single engine company was sent to an automatic fire alarm. This call was received at 3am and the dispatch center received no more supporting calls to which was sent a single engine response. This engine arrived to find a working fire in a split foyer home with confirmed civilian trapped. The company worked diligently to complete all their tactical tasks and rescue the civilian. Unfortunately the civilian succumbed to her injuries the next day.

We certainly do not like to ‘Monday morning quarterback’ at Traditions Training, but, we can ask ourselves for our own departments: “what can we do to dispatch the right amount of units to incidents like an automatic fire alarm.” Would increasing the response to an engine and truck/squad better assist civilians and firefighters and provide a better outcome if confronted with a true fire-situation? This high frequency/low probability type incident should be afforded the correct resources based on your local jurisdictions area and resources.


·      What is the common attitude among the firefighters and officers concerning their response to automatic fire alarms?

·      Does the company and the officer fully dress out for fire alarms regardless of the number of units dispatched or if you are going emergency or non-emergency response?

·      How quickly do you think that your personnel and equipment can recover from a complacent attitude, if we arrive and find a true fire emergency?

·      If you have to play catch-up by putting your gear on, are we really delivering the service that our citizens expect of us?

A department in Pennsylvania that Traditions Training has had the good fortune to instruct with over the last few years responded to two automatic fire alarms in a 36-hour period. Upon arrival at one they were greeted with heavy fire and smoke from a commercial structure, which eventually required three alarms to control. At the second, once again they were greeted with another working fire.

The outcome of these incidents lays squarely on the department’s commitment to being ‘Combat Ready’ and their understanding that automatic fire alarms cannot be taken lightly. They had dispatched the appropriate number of apparatus and the personnel were fully dressed and ready to go to work. This commitment and understanding should be the norm rather than the exception.

We fully recognize the determination, dedication and energy that it takes to always be Combat Ready when responding to automatic fire alarms. But, we as the fire service must take all of them seriously till we arrive (with the correct number of apparatus dispatched and personnel fully prepared) and determine the cause of the alarm and that there is no true fire emergency.

We should all remember that regardless of the ratio of true fire events to faulty alarms, it only takes ONE lapse in our approach that can increase property damage to a structure or home of our citizens or worse, a civilian or firefighter death or injury.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Mentor and Friend

June 14th, 2005 is a day that lives with all of us at Traditions Training, The FDNY, Kentland VFD and the Lund Family. That was the day we lost Peter Lund in a hometown house fire in Woodmere, N.Y. Seven years have passed and although the days have not gotten any easier without talking to him, his knowledge and experience is passed on everyday. As a founding member of Traditions Training, he just wanted to get out and share all that he had learned in his storied career in the FDNY, and the experiences as a volunteer firefighter in his hometown and at Kentland. His teaching method was by far not from any book or class. His own unique style could capture any audience from the youngest firefighter in the room to the veterans. And although his vast knowledge was passed on, sometimes you would not even know you were learning something. He would tell you one of his famous stories and relate all the details in his unique NY accent and humor. This humor would usually have you laughing so hard that your stomach hurt and you were crying. But when the story was over and you thought about it, you were always able to extract the information he was trying to get across. And God knows he had a lot of stories to tell you. To the members of his "Rescue 2" in New York he was known as Lt. Vulcan "God of Fire", and those of us that were not as fortunate as the men he worked with,we can only imagine how he earned that name.

When you talk about Pete, or hear people talk about Pete it is usually the same sentiments. Humble, Always ready to listen, Loved to talk, always willing and able to spread his knowledge to any firefighter regardless of rank, age or experience and above all a great friend. Seven years have gone by and there is not a class that Traditions Training teaches that we do not honor him and pass on the lessons that he passed on to us. What anyone of us would give to hear one more story and see that smile or hear that accent. And although we lost a great fireman and instructor, we have to remember that he also was a fabulous father and husband. And our thought are always with Andrea, Matt and Val.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Waving Red Flags on the Fireground

Thanks goes to Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell and Chief Halton as Traditions Training Instructors Larry Schultz (DCFD) and Ricky Riley (Clearwater Fire and Kentland VFD) have been chosen to present our "Waving Red Flags on the Fireground" class. This class will be given Monday morning on April 16th at 0800 hours. At many incidents, all the signs and sounds are there for the firefighters and incident commanders to predict that an emergency or injury is about to happen. This class will set a foundation for companies to have a plan in place to take away some of these issues and problems. Learn how these firefights can be successful through the model of an SOP-driven fire where tactical assignments are already preplanned and assigned to companies prior to the fire happening, thus reducing the unknowns and frantic calls on the radio. This approach will teach you to be proactive and not reactive to problems as they arise on the fireground. But with every plan there are issues that can arise, and the IC and company officers should be prepared to react and have the ability to accomplish tasks without delay. Will we use a series of videos and audio to illustrate some of these flags, and help you develop a series of incident commander habits to make your incident scene a better fireground.

We know that you have a lot of choices on this day, but we hope you can join us for our program. And as always "Stay Combat Ready"