Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Urban Renaissance

The politicians in my town use to marvel at the renaissance underway downtown and in other parts of the City. Unfortunately, the recession has curbed much of it. Factories were becoming lofts; vacant lots were becoming new private and multiple dwellings; and streets were getting needed face-lifts. Yet, it's still the same town: same people, and the same fires...Urban Firefighter Magazine has just experienced its own renaissance too.

You may have noticed that the site has changed. We recently formed a partnership with Pennwell in order to expand Urban Firefighter Magazine. It only made sense for us to get a face- lift of our own to give you the very best of what Pennwell's fire group , FDIC and Urban Firefighter Magazine has to offer. Let us know what you think!

We want to thank everyone for their support during the launch of Urban Firefighter Magazine; The response has been humbling and far exceeded our expectations. If you are new to Urban Firefighter Magazine, welcome. Please delve into the magazine and website and keep the feedback coming. There are many more things in store as we grow and we especially thank Pennwell for all of their support!


Erich Roden
Publisher and Editor

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tactical Safety: Entry-Level Firefighters

The fire service’s weekly safety column

Examining firefighting to see if there is a better and safer way to operate.

Entry Level Firefighters

By Ray McCormack

All firefighters are not created equally, and that is a problem. Fire academies utilize curriculum based upon standards of training, however, they are not carbon copies of each other and even classes within the same institution will vary. This is accepted because base-knowledge for firefighting and firefighter development hinges upon known and accepted operational principles and regional aspects of needs. Academies strive to accomplish a difficult task, graduating firefighters. These newly created firefighters still have much to learn and absorb. Training does not end at rookie school; it continues, as there are different levels of training for different stages of firefighter development.

Skill development requires time and repetition to adhere properly; this process is started in the academy but must continue afterwards. For some firefighters it does, for some it does not and for the lucky few, training simply becomes a part of their routine. It is important to remember that we do not wish our firefighters to stay at the entry level beyond that limited time period.

Like any training schedule that must cover many topics, some topics will be covered amply while others will receive only cursory treatment. Academic schedules are tight and heavy: structured with the addition burden of including mandated educational tracts. One recent study complained that operational learning took up too much time.

If we do not obsess over operational function, then what level will our firefighters be at when they graduate? Could we reach a level below entry level? Yes, we could. We would develop Non-entry level firefighters who could help with tasks, except entry. What level of “fire service” will we be able to provide to others when we do not understand or haven’t learned how to perform entry level firefighting?

Looking at this study: if an academy wants to spend more time on non operational course development items, it will have to cut somewhere. Are you willing to eliminate or shorten training on PPE, or SCBA, or RIT, or any other life preserving operational tactic? Core training on firefighting is not negotiable. We can never ignore the reality of our profession no matter what the current climate or additional learning items are placed on the list.

If your vision is 20/20, you can see that entry-level training on firefighting practices does not contain deductable subjects, if you want your new firefighters to be safe and effective. Ongoing training based on entry level firefighter skills never gets old; it is the foundation on which all advanced training rests. We must make sure that what firefighters are learning at the entry level provides maximum tactical safety so that they are prepared when fire happens.

Next Tactical Safety – If Only Everyone Was A Firefighter

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tactical Safety: That's Wrong, Maybe

The fire service’s weekly safety column

Examining firefighting to see if there is a better and safer way to operate.

That’s Wrong, Maybe

By Ray McCormack

It was recently reported that students who took mathematics exams were receiving partial credit for incorrect answers. Most of us have never experienced such exams, especially dealing with what most people would consider a cut and dry topic. Two and two does equal four, but if you said five you can still earn points. How is that possible? Well, it depends not only on how things are graded, it depends upon on how one arrived at the answers. We would never allow this in the fire service or on the fireground!  Are you sure? Even firefighter entrance exams have employed this gradient.

I have always followed the tactic that the hoseline should be charged with water outside the fire area. Most would consider this a reasonably prudent operational directive and should not negatively impact on your extinguishment goal. The only rallying cry I hear against it becomes when the fire is above the first floor and you ask that the line be charged at ground level – translation- the line is heavy now.

So what happens if you stretch the hoseline correctly without service-interrupting kinks and call for water? And place your nozzle team inside the fire area while awaiting water? Is the operation wrong? Well no, it is only partially wrong if we follow the first rule. The problem with something that is only partially wrong is it may be just wrong enough to tip the scale in favor of getting you or others into real trouble.

So if we follow this stretch back a bit further and kink the hoseline severely enough to restrict water flow, but charge the line outside the fire area, we still have a stretching error. How wrong is this stretch? Once again, we have an error, but we also have a built in safety factor in that we have complied with rule one. If we do not fix the problem (kink), and enter (problem two) the fire area we could be facing real trouble.

Staying outside the fire area until we have a good water supply is the solution. Wait a minute, you never mentioned that a good water supply was needed! If we are to enter the fire area with a charged handline, we should know what caliber ammunition our hose stream possesses. Granted you will find out soon enough when your extinguishment is stalled.

We could stretch this new testing analogy further and get to the nitty gritty for some in the fire service; and ask what number of firefighters adds up to a sound engine crew. A recent study said four was a number that added up: A nozzle team is two firefighters; A nozzle team of one does not constitute a team. Your team of one does get partial credit but will probably only achieve partial operational effectiveness, however. To really make this crew operationally effective at a mixture of fire events, add two or three more firefighters until the magic answer is reached.

We also need a firefighter to assist with the line’s advance at a minimum unless of course our nozzle firefighter has worn that hat also. It is reality that firefighting operations don’t always add up, but we must at least try to get to the effective solution whenever we can to make our extinguishments, especially the challenging ones, add up to being tactically safe.

Next Tactical Safety – Entry Level Firefighters