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.
Surprise! Bleeding control is not about emergency medical care. It is however, the midpoint of an series of checks that should be performed by the hoseline attack team so that they lessen their need for future medical care, or worse. Bleeding control is about removing the entrained air contained within your hoseline. It is also about where and when to perform this vital operational component of fire attack.
Remember, it is the little things that lead us down the tunnel of trouble. There are no little things when getting the hoseline into proper service. The cornerstone of all successful fire attack operations is the role of the engine company: The type of attack, appliance or hoseline chosen must be correct, as well as having proper integration at the fire’s seat. The knowledgeable use of hoselines (management) is extremely critical because hoselines bring us inside the fire building.
This interior attack capability not only allows for the seat of the fire to be hit most directly, it also provides: egress protection, search orientation and a rescue path. If your fire attack normally starts with outside streams into the fire building through windows, then bleeding control is not a factor; nor is inadequate flow, because you were in an outside safe zone when you started. When that line eventually goes interior, you must compensate for your new environment by having adequate flow which creates your best effort interior safe zone. This is one example of the importance of fully understanding fire attack. Having a properly charged hoseline for interior work is about flow rate. Nozzle technique now becomes the crux of operational tactical safety when we advance through the interior. You will have to do a lot more than just aim at windows now.
An initial LODD report of a charged handline in operation was further clarified later to report that an uncharged handline was deployed inside the fire building. To understand why such an event might occur, we have to examine several factors and mindsets: First, where do you believe the attack line should be bleed? To develop a sound understanding of when and where to perform this operational check, you must first understand protective building features. Private homes should be considered the fire area because they rarely provide safety barriers to an uncharged hoseline and its crew. The fire area is an area that either contains fire, or includes an area of extension that does not provide reasonable safety.
Single story homes should be assigned the rule that entry with an uncharged hoseline is unacceptable. Why be so rigid? This proclamation when followed will go a long way in providing tactical safety for a future crew. By always insisting that the hoseline be charged before entry we are doing all we can for ourselves and others. Taking a charged hoseline into every house develops a fire-smart mentality that provides the best safety insurance we can buy and optimizes our effectiveness against sudden fire development.
If we enter a two-story home and the fire appears above the first floor, shouldn’t we just charge the line on the second floor or the stairway? When an engine company gets into trouble because they have a dry line, then we really have a problem. If your size up was incorrect and fire is below you, will have a charged line ready to handle that oversight. The role of the engine company is to raise the safety level on the fireground, not lower it.
Firefighters should not call themselves such if they cannot stretch a charged hoseline up a flight of stairs. Period! The effort expended to complete that task is not a viable excuse in the face of professionalism, and understanding the principle of being covered for unexpected fire events.
A variation of hoseline bleeding control occurs when we operate in code-compliant multifamily dwellings and within protected stairways. Buildings that contain fire-rated doors and hallways allow us to stretch dry hoseline closer to the point of operation. Private homes typically do not provide such protection.
Bleeding a hoseline is simple stuff really; it is the location you choose to do it in that becomes the critical element. Placing your attack team inside the belly of the beast is bad policy. The biggest problem is you don’t always know that you are already inside. Bleed then proceed - toward tactical safety.
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