Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Firehouse Kitchen Table

“The Firehouse Kitchen Table”

By Mark Gregory

111 Truck, FDNY  (The Nuthouse)

There is a very important tool in the fire service that’s purpose is greatly underestimated by many. This tool has more hours of use than any piece of equipment stored on our apparatus. It is not the halligan tool or the lead attack line on your first due engine. Quite simply, it is “the firehouse kitchen table”. Now, some of you are probably saying “what the heck is Urban Firefighter Magazine running a post about a piece of furniture for?” Well my friends read on.

Firehouse kitchen tables have been around for hundreds of years; they come in various shapes and sizes. Some are very plain and business-like. Others are masterpieces that have been built from scratch. They are decorated with the names of our fallen comrades and the artwork of our company logos. The table we had in Rescue 2 was built from a cable reel and roping covered by numerous coats of polyurethane.  The ‘Nuthouse’ (Ladder 111) table is covered in gold leafing and supported by fire hydrants. No matter what type of table you have in your station, one thing that the table holds together for us all is tradition.

Issue 1

Greed Is Good-Ray McCormack

Ray McCormack Lieutenant, Ladder 28, FDNY. Ray speaks to the competitive spirit of firefighters who understand the importance of being in the game. His observations on developing a winning mind set enables any engine company to see why “Greed Is Good”. (Page 2)

Gene Rowell-Erich Roden

Erich profiles an exceptional firefighter from Chicago who talks about playing professional football and fighting fires; and why they both parallel each other in Gene Rowell’s world. (page 6)

The Garage Fire-Erich Roden

Erich discusses a common fire in the urban setting, the detached garage, and how to safely operate during these fires. (page 12)

Bill Noonan-Erich Roden

Erich Roden profiles legendary fire photographer: Bill Noonan, and gets his take on getting that iconic fire photo; and why it’s important to stick around after the fire. (page 32)

Ventilating Peaked-Roofs: The Milwaukee Method-David Rickert

David Rickert Firefighter, Truck 9 Milwaukee Fire Department. The Milwaukee Fire Department has a unique method of ventilating peaked-roofs; and David describes the equipment, tools and step-by-step process that make it the safest and efficient manner of peaked-roof ventilation. (Page 18)

Engine Company Door Control: Chocking the Door-John Newell

John Newell Chief Battalion 16, FDNY. John wants us all to understand the importance of every step in the hose-stretching process, and to never let a door close on you or your line. (Page 36)

Kansas City L.A.S.T.-Todd Ackerson

Todd Ackerson Rescue Division Chief, Kansas City (MO) Fire Department (KCFD). The KCFD developed an effective large area search procedure after a tragic line of duty death in Kansas City. Todd describes the steps developed and involved in searching for and removing downed-firefighters during large area search operations. (page 38)

The Outside Ventilation Firefighter-Nate Demarse

Nate Demarse Firefighter, Ladder 49 FDNY. Nate describes the role and operation of the most dynamic position in the truck company during two-story fires: the outside ventilation firefighter (OV). Knowing what to bring and do while you’re the OV is crucial; and Nate gives us the reasons for both. (page 46)

Means, Motive and Opportunity-Kevin Legacy

Kevin Legacy Firefighter, Squad 61 FDNY. Opportunity rarely knocks when attempting to pinpoint the life hazard in the fire building. Kevin describes the types of search fire departments attempt; and why it’s important to consider an aggressive search when opportunity does come knocking. (page 50)

Forcing Slide-Bolts Andrew Brassard

Andrew Brassard Firefighter, Milton (ON) Fire Department. Andrew tells us what secondary locking mechanisms we should expect to encounter.; and gives us several procedures and methods of getting  past them. (page 56)

They're Not Just Ladders- Pat Nichols

Pat Nichols Captain, Tower 10 Boston Fire Department. Throwing ladders to a fire building is usually deemed a secondary consideration by many. Pat doesn’t think that’s right and describes several reasons why, “They’re not Just Ladders!” (Page 68)

Search Operations on the Floor Above-Mark Gregory

Mark Gregory Lieutenant, Ladder 111, FDNY. Mark brings you along with America’s Truck as they go to work above the fire. Learn how the team puts it all together and covers this crucial assignment. (Page 74)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tactical Safety-Talking Fire

“The fire service’s weekly safety column”

By: Ray McCormack

Tactical Safety examines the process of firefighting to see if there is a better and safer way to operate.

Talking Fire

One of the best ways to learn our trade is to talk fire. The majority of the formal education a firefighter receives occurs early in their career. Some in the fire service continue accruing certifications and degrees, but those efforts don’t provide what ‘talking fire’ provides. There are lectures and conferences, journals and fire magazines, and all provide the framework for staying current and increasing one’s knowledge. Talking fire, however, should provide the most engaging, intimate and unvarnished view of tactics, tips and opinions by the group, for the group.

Talking fire is not about formal critiques or “backstep briefings,” it is about firefighters who feel the need to share and express problems, solutions and their take on things. At the root of talking fire is a curiosity to learn how to perform better and problem solve. Talking fire allows for equality among participants to speak and listen.

There are many places to learn about firefighting. Those who understand the value of talking fire also know that there are many firefighters to learn from as well. The lessons shared can be distributed at any time day or night and many times will only have an audience of one. The lesson may be in story form allowing the listener(s) to draw their own personal conclusion and tuck it away for future sharing.

Passing it down or forward makes us better at what we do. The tip you discovered is much richer when shared. No firefighter has a monopoly on tips to share, but some are just better collectors. They listen for and uncover tips that other firefighters may not see the potential in. Sometimes, it is the little event or result factor that provides a springboard to more efficient and or safer operation.

Talking fire can be a brief conversation, or last a whole evening; it is solely up to the participants. When we hear the details of a story, we interpret the information and design our questions and opinions around what we have heard, and or read about, so that our feedback is an informed message which adds to the discussion. This close attention to detail, or the uncovering of new information by the listener, may or may not be able to be answered by the speaker; what it does rate is engagement. A high level of engagement is the key to further conversation and discovery.

Talking fire is not something an administration can either foster or curtail. I believe fire departments are best served by opinionated firefighters. When we do not have anything to say, how engaged are we? The more your people talk fire the better your operations will be, because your people care. When firefighters talk fire, they do not do it because it has been scheduled; it comes about because they have a deep commitment to firefighting and their fellow firefighters’ safety and professionalism.

Get firefighters together and listen when they start to talk fire, you will be amazed at what you can learn from those who talk the talk.

Next Tactical Safety – How Close Is Too Close?

Friday, March 26, 2010

One Picture

This installment of  'One Picture' gives us lots to talk about so let's toss out a few questions: Let's imagine we pull into the block on W. 163rd St. and find fire showing from side one (1) on the fifth floor. We must always consider where the fire is currently located and where it's going. What would we assume these two aerial ladders and the tower ladder were trying to accomplish with their placement? Did the first due roof firefighter(s) take the express to the roof (aerial ladder), or did they try the fire escape? Can we even get to the roof via a front fire escape? What can you tell us about the structure and its inherent hazards? Notice anything in the windows? Time for questions is over, now it's up to you to give us some answers...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Online Drills-Brotherhood Instructors, LLC.

Trench Cuts:  Where Do They Work?

By Nate Demarse

Nationwide, there seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the use of the trench cut. In this “Trench Cut” series, we will discuss the background of the trench cut and the specific types of structures for which it was designed. As with several concepts in the fire service, the trench cut has been adapted and is now being utilized on other building types. In some cases this adaptation may work. However, we will discuss specific building types where trench cuts may not be the answer to a successful outcome. In some cases, it may even hinder the operation by “distracting” essential resources which may be better utilized by attacking the fire where it is NOW, instead of backing off, writing off an entire portion of the building and stopping it LATER.  This is especially true in departments where manpower issues are common or constant.

The trench cut is one component of an overall strategy. Simply cutting a trench in a roof will not stop a rapidly extending cockloft fire. Several other things must be coordinated for a successful operation. Other components include: Removing and accounting for members from the area that we are giving up, completely pulling the ceilings directly below the trench and stretching additional lines to key locations above and below the trench. The overall strategy will be briefly touched in this drill. In an upcoming drill, step-by-step considerations for trench cuts will be discussed from a roof firefighters perspective

As stated above, the trench cut is one component in an overall strategy. Trench cuts can be used to cut off a rapidly extending cockloft fire at a pinch point. The pinch point or throat could be defined as an area where a building narrows sufficiently to perform a successful operation before the fire can extend past that point. This designated pinch point must be far enough ahead of the advancing fire to allow the trench to be completed, but not so far away that too much of the building is given up needlessly.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tactical Safety: Kneeling Down

“The fire service’s weekly safety column”

By: Ray McCormack

Tactical Safety examines the process of firefighting to see if there is a better and safer way to operate.

Kneeling Down

“If you can not see, then you should be crawling.” This adage makes a lot of sense, and allows firefighters to be more effective. Just because the fire has not taken away your ability to walk, does not automatically equate to operating in an upright position. Granted, we do not have to crawl all the time, however, staying close to floor level combined with the ability to move quickly is an unbeatable, tactically safe combination.

Some will claim that our gear, due to its protective properties, allow us to walk around more than before. I would say that walking is more of a choice than an unintended outcome of advanced PPE. We all make choices, however, kneeling down and advancing is much safer than being upright. As we enter the fire area, we should be low so that we can use smoke-lift to our full advantage. I believe it is much easier to maintain a sense of direction and object recognition when I am closer to items at floor level.

As we enter the fire area, we do not always know the path to the fire; it must be developed as we move along looking and feel for clues. There is so much to lose and miss when we are not close to the floor such as our balance and victims. When we are upright and we bump into something, our forward momentum can cause more problems than just an abrupt stop. If a stair railing is encountered, I would much rather bump it with my shoulder than my hip and flip over it. Being top-heavy is a concern even when we crawl. By having one leg stretched out in front of us, we can avoid a lot of balance problems and hazard issues that come with fireground operations.

For the nozzle firefighter, using the one-leg-forward technique allows for rapid identification of: steps, collapsed mattresses, holes in floors and other obstructions. It also allows most of the firefighter’s weight to be placed behind them on the kneeling knee while using the outstretched leg as a sliding indicator to identify what lies ahead.

Crawling firefighters will be better able to locate victims, because they cover a larger area than a firefighter who walks around. When you’re low to the floor, you can incorporate using your tool or hands to enlarge your search area sweep.

It is all a matter of what we are doing and the conditions we are in at the time. If you walk into someplace, then it should be virtually smoke-free, or the degree of visual limitation is minimal. The converse is also true when the smoke is down to the floor; then so should you be! We all want to complete our tasks rapidly; as time is always working against us, we must use techniques that are efficient so that we are not just bouncing off objects like a pinball. Many times operations are started in a walking position and then conditions change, and we are forced down and are now examining new territory. If you do walk around, at least stay mindful of lower landmarks, so when your vision is lost you will be much more prepared.

Remember, most victims are either on the floor or have fallen to a lower position; the ones you find standing just need direction, not rescue. The ones you miss while walking around will eventually be found by someone who knew enough to kneel down.

Next Tactical Safety – Talking Fire

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Secondary Means

By Erich Roden

Photos by author

Accessing the structure from a fire escape or rear porch to search and simultaneously ventilate finds us overcoming myriad means of preventing unlawful entry. Window slide-gates, bars, board-ups (HUDs/VPS), etc. certainly require some effort to overcome to ventilate and or enter the structure via a means other than the primary means of egress (interior stairs).  While these aforementioned means are easily noted from the exterior by outside-ventilation firefighters, they are rarely acknowledged by those operating in the interior.

This truism perhaps stems from the fact that we used the primary means of egress to enter the structure in the first place. When it’s time to exit the IDLH environment, we are not always considering the need to overcome gates and or board-ups when we stumble upon or need to exit via a secondary means of egress. Do we even carry the tools needed to overcome these “window treatments” to make it to the fire escape or rear porch?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

One Picture

Your fire is above the third floor, the engine officer has decided to utilize a key feature of the stairwell to make the stretch more efficient. The second-due engine officer felt the same. What do you see here in this photo? Why did the first and second-due engine officers opt for this type of stretch? What criteria must be met for us to incorporate this stretch? And what happened here? How do we fix it? It's up to you, here's your 'one picture:'

Tactical Safety: S.O.P.-Saving Our People

“The Fire Service’s Weekly Safety Column!”

By: Ray McCormack

Tactical Safety examines the process of firefighting to see if there is a better and safer way to operate.

SOP – Saving Our People

Saving someone implies that the person needs dramatic assistance so as to remove them from a threat or danger; they require rescue. What does saving our people mean? Some would point to: OSHA’s two-in-two-out; rapid intervention teams; safety officers; command and accountability; these are all components of saving our people, our firefighters. How do we save our other people, the civilians?

They are the first group that needs assistance when the call comes in. We arrive, assemble, and decide what actions are necessary to save our people from the event that has placed them on the endangered list. When we arrive, we assemble the necessary components of our priorities in order of need, so that saving our people has the highest chance of success. Deciding upon the plan may be straight forward, or require a unique deviation; however the goal is always noble, saving our people.

We do not always know that our operations will add another name into the saved column but we consciously focus our efforts in that direction. Sometimes we are kindly rewarded, and in others, our discovery and removal worked, but still required a component no firefighter can bring along with them: life. These people were found by firefighters’ efforts, but life could not be returned.

The effort to save our people is never in vain. Firefighters save people and firefighters save firefighters. When we examine the training and equipment dedicated to firefighter rescue, we should see a mirror image of that effort dedicated to civilian rescue.

Our people do not know our names, our rank, or positions on the fireground; they can not call out their “mayday,” all they know is the trust they have placed in us is universal and binding: to save them when called upon. We try with great effort to fulfill the highest of missions: saving our people.

We do not ask the rescuer for reckless disregard, nor do we encourage it. We do ask for effort commensurate within the limits presented, and call upon extraordinary skill and knowledge to process and execute the ‘saving of our people.’

When we apply tactical safety to rescue efforts, we use all we have learned; we understand both limits, opportunity, and work to overcome the limits by creating opportunity. Rescue is dependant upon ‘seizing the moment,’ moment-recognition comes to those who examine, weigh, and decide that the time is right, and the opportunity window is still open.

Rescue attempts are not always successful, and sometimes become rescues of their own; however, this is not the norm. Allowing exceptions to rule our efforts is flawed; a rescue decision needs be made based on the current event.

Our people know us by the many things we do: from educating, prevention, and multi-task delivery, but our people need to hear about how we save them as well. This is what they truly want from us; this is what they expect from us; and this is what only we provide. Firefighters save people, a message we rarely campaign around, but at the end of the day it is the reality that keeps us in demand and in high-esteem.

Next Tactical Safety – Kneeling Down

Thursday, March 11, 2010

One Picture

A picture is worth a thousand words; an overused adage you say? Simply take a look at any fire photo from one of the photographers on our Photo Gallery page; you’ll never be at a loss for words. However, it may not be the most dynamic photos that become the most telling; rather, it’s the simple ones too that can often lead us to the same conclusion. It further becomes the elements that are not readily seen in the picture that, when discovered, lead us to see the big picture after all. That’s the goal of Urban Firefighter Magazine’s One Picture column. In this column, we’ll provide you with the photo. It’s up to you to find the elements; discuss them; and help us all see the big picture.

Here’s the first one, a common sight in our urban cities: the store gate. What are the elements of the big picture that are missing from this photo? Where do we start? What are we thinking about when we see this gate in our response area(s)? We’ve asked the questions, now let’s get some answers!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spend a Day with Ray

Featuring FDNY's Lt. Ray McCormack!

The Chillum Adelphi Volunteer Fire Department, along with our co-sponsors, is proud to present a 2 part class featuring FDNY Lieutenant Ray McCormack here in the DC Metro Area!

The class will be held April 12, 2010 at 0830 hours

The morning session, "The Dirty Dozen", covers the 12 most common mistakes made during engine company operations in a variety of situations.

After lunch, Ray's "Line Boss" class will emphasize tactical decision making and effective tactics on the part of first due engine officers, and examine how these tactics influence the entire operation. For more information on the curriculum, take a look at the "About the Class" page.

Andrew Fredericks Training Days

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tactical Safety: What Type of Film is in Your Size-up Camera?

"The Fire Service's Weekly Safety Column!"

By Ray McCormack

Tactical Safety examines the process of firefighting to see if there is a better and safer way to operate.

What Type of Film is in Your Size-up Camera?

As we approach any incident, we are absorbing the elements that will form our initial size-up. As additional elements are added to the big picture, our size up not only increases in scope, it must also shrink, as not all size-up elements rate as critical. Size-up is fluid and or dynamic because what is seen on arrival for one individual’s interpretation later provides a different time-elapsed picture for another. These differences can be stubble or dramatic as they chart incident progression.

The interpretation of what is experienced forms a scene picture for our evaluation; the development of the “film” for some will be delayed, sent out to be developed, and processed over several minutes; for others, development time is quicker but still lags; for some, processing is instantaneous. The quicker the interpretation, the better, as the photos just keep coming, and interpretation is a step we can never skip.

We know that a size-up does not begin upon arrival at the scene; however, the arrival picture is the sweet-spot of the size-up because it answers many assumptions, descriptions and suspicions. Getting the big picture is the goal of every size up, which starts with knowledge of: your response area, common building types, construction, procedures for fire extinguishment, and water supply options to name a few.

Some in the fire service seem to breeze through decision making; easily developing what they see, hear and sense, transferring those elements into correct action plans while others send their film out and suffer from long action pauses.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Urban Firefighter Rewards Program

Urban Firefighter Rewards Program

Ray McCormack, Publisher and Senior Editor

When you read an article, blog, or look at a photo, or even watch a video, you should reap some type of reward from it; the reward of time well spent. At Urban Firefighter Magazine (UFM), we value your time and our content, delivery and access reflects that. UFM is diverse in content, yet measured so it is highly-focused.

The Modern delivery of content, and access to it, is instantaneous. Firefighters from across the world are now able to share tales, tactics and goings-on with a click of the mouse and a brush of the screen; moving us all a little closer to each other. UFM was designed according to what you’ve been looking for and quality was paramount on that list.

Today, we have seen ours and your dream come true and now it’s time to celebrate. UFM is now the bridge that spans fire service: knowledge, training, operations, and culture; each of these being the rewards you get through UFM; rewards that are more accessible than ever before. They say the best things in life are free, that’s what UFM is which makes your rewards priceless.

“Keep Urban Firefighter Magazine in your life”