Friday, December 23, 2011

Tactical Safety: Beginner's Luck

Beginners Luck

By Ray McCormack

Everyone hopes for beginner's luck when they start a new endeavor. Success can be assisted by the luck of good timing or opportunity. For the new firefighter who is not totally comfortable with their surrounding or job, luck is just another positive assist to move you along. Beginners' firefighters are not very picky and often take information from all sources without much of a filter. At a recent fire operations seminar, one of the students was a new firefighter with only several months on the job. While attending his first seminar, he realized - along with many in attendance - that there is a lot more to firefighting than what is provided at rookie school and department texts (policies). This firefighter knew one key element: that you can make your own luck.

While attending firefighting operational seminars, you can pick up a tremendous amount of self-help. Ideas and tactics that work for all firefighters , whether urban or suburban, narrow the playing field, and dismiss cultural roadblocks that many throw around as devicive. Studying our profession is a journey that starts on day one - and doesn't end until you want it to. There is always a provider; your rate of information collection and capacity is up to you. Fireground tactics and base-knowledge culled from textbooks, media and studies all work to together to blend your continuing education.

While there are many programs that explore peripheral issues and rare emergency events, firefighter operational tactics need to be fully understood. Departmental and other institutional classes may be taught by instructors who lack subject matter experience; however, that is just the way it is in many structured educational programs. When you attend a class on your own time -and on your own dime - instructor experience is part of the educational package. Their bio says a lot; their bio 'blanks' say a lot more. Stay alert for signs of instructor distress when talk of experience comes up. Information served up on a plate that lacks subject matter experience doesn't provide for a balanced diet. The starch of experience never hurts. Maybe it doesn't matter who gives you the information as long as you "get it." Make sure you really get it by knowing where the product originated.

Some programming may be hard to recieve due to a poor fireground connection. The only way you can truly educate yourself is through research and self-study. Want to increase your tactical safety? Start with beginner's luck.

Next Tactical Safety: Annual Attack Certification

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tactical Safety: Laughing my Fire Assessment Off (LMFAO)

Laughing My Fire Assessment Off (LMFAO)

By Ray McCormack

Having the opportunity to create a fire assessment is not something that is just relegated to a promotional exam. Your opportunity to assess is there at every fire you attend. While a 360 may or may not be part of your pre-entry actions, there is still plenty to take in just from the front. The sides may be blank, and the rear might be done via radio. No assessment is a solitary event.

Depending upon your rank, your assessment needs to include more than just smoke reading, consider: life, rescue, extinguishment methods and entry decisions. While all of the arriving firefighters need to note this intel quickly - while performing other operational tasks that lead to stabilization - the amount of time spent on various aspects of the assessment differ with rank and assignment.

The assessment by a firefighter that handles 'truck work' is different than those bound to the task of extinguishment. This is just how it is: the brain is trained to look at different features due to indoctrination, repetition, and area of responsibility.

While we all believe the incident commander (IC) is taking in the 'big picture,' that may not be the case, especially if they can not see the fireground. If that is the reality, radio reports will have to fill in many blanks - Talk about old school! LMFAO.

Could you imagine bringing a fire photographer to the fire and telling them that staging a block away truly provides the best "picture" of the fire? Talk about progressive fire scene management! LMFAO.

If the amount of time taken for the assessment is too long, it can lead to incident decline and paralysis by analysis. Many fireground incidents are mismanaged, not because of a lack of effort, but a lack of know-how. Those that scoff at standardization, when the majority of the fire district contains similar structures, are inviting fireground troubles that flourish. This is based on a lack of planning, and beliefs that all fires are different. Fires are so different in our area that you can't have a plan, you have to be flexible! LMFAO.

Fires at their core are not different, they cover portions of building, spread and they endanger lives and properties. The way they are extinguished may vary, except for the fact that hose lines need to be stretched and nozzles opened into rooms to put fires out. Use your situational awareness at every fire, even the different ones, and don't get caught up in a tactical safety lapse by "LYourFAO."

Next Tactical Safety - Beginners Luck

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tactical Safety: The Fire Will See You, Now

The Fire Will See You Now

By Ray McCormack

Even with a scheduled appointment, your visit to the doctors office typically entails a waiting period: A time out in the waiting (reception) area where your choice of activities range from staring off into space, reading a magazine or perhaps using your smart phone. You are not in charge of the waiting period, the doctor is. The waiting period between fires can be back-to-back, or it can drag on and on. Once again, you're not in charge of the wait, that is up to the fire.

How long we wait between fires is one issue; the other is what we do in the fire 'waiting room.' If you spend your time doing nothing to improve your response to the next fire, either formally or informally, operational improvements will be hard to come by.

When you respond to a fire on the fourth floor of a multiple dwelling, your wait for an operational hoseline should be longer than it would be for a fire in a one story ranch. How long does it take your crew to stretch one and get it ready for entry? After watching some recent extinguishment follies on video, maybe the fourth floor fire would be seen first.

There is one standard that all fire departments must follow: that is to get the attack hose line in service quickly and efficiently. An engine company crew that has difficulty with, and is sloppy about stretching a pre connect forty feet to the home's front door, should ban all on scene photography and get their act together.

For all the cultural change proponents out there, this is the culture that needs changing - A culture of apathy and excuses that allows substandard operations to take place when people's lives and property are at risk.

When a fire occurs in a dwelling, the risk of losing everything is heightened when the fire crew that shows up can not get the attack line in service quickly. We can attend all the schools and create all the programs that make us more business-like, but when the bell rings, extinguishment skills are the hallmark of the fire service's promise to it's community.

The need for fireground intervention, whether it's rapid or slow, increases proportionally to the time it takes to knock down the fire. Time and energy and training in extinguishment proficiency reduces the likely hood of intervention. Many videos tell us through shaky fireground imagery that operations would be best enhanced by a second function being brought into view than sidelining functional crews for potential intervention.

Your risk assessment will have to be dynamic if you do not focus on extinguishment as Job One. If you command even a portion of fireground operations, you'll be turning blue as you hold your breath and await extinguishment by some of the crews that call themselves firefighters. You don't have to throw in the cards yet, as long as you understand extinguishment skills are what fire departments are about. Don't believe it? Then change your title from firefighter to responder. If you lose your foundation or do not understand our core mission, then you may be acting in the next video we all laugh and cry at.

Keep your crew tactically safe by having a strong core understanding of what a fire department does and be great at it. Be ready for you next visit to the fire as you can never truly predict when "the fire will see you now."

Next Tactical Safety - LMFAO - Laughing My Fire Assessment Off

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tactical Safety: Never Mind My Air-Supply, How Much Gas is Left?

Never Mind My Air Supply, How Much Gas is Left?

By Ray McCormack

How much gas is left would depend on the amount you start with, and how quickly you use it up. Every firefighter's personal gas tank varies due to demand, capacity and efficiency. We can always spy a view of remaining air via the remote gauge, but your gas tank is not always so easily readable or reliable.

Roaming around the fireground uses up your air supply at different rates, depending upon the intensity of the performed tasks. It might seem correct to equate the two usages: air and gas; however not all fireground tasks require an air supply, but all require gas. Your personal gas usage is very important to you and your crew, and your capacity does not have to remain static, it can be increased before hand to limit rapid consumption.

Everyone's gas capacity diminishes over time. How long of a time period it takes is measured in minutes and years. Some firefighters run out of gas quickly while others take the long slow ride to diminished capacity. How do we maintain output while keeping a healthy reserve? We can always work smarter instead of harder, that helps a bit. We can make use of tools and techniques that lessen fatigue, and we can train our bodies for the work we do.

Your air supply is reduced as your demand increases; your level of air consumption even when increased does not increase your physical work capability, that is already predetermined by your fitness and recovery rate. I am not one to hammer anyone about fitness; however those are the facts. If you have a small gas tank or you rapidly deplete whatever your capacity is, you need additional capacity so that you can work beyond any artificial ceiling you've created for yourself.

While we should be concerned about our air supply when we turn that valve, a bigger concern is our capacity to work and finish the tasks at hand. If you are out of gas soon after climbing several flights of stairs, you need to do something about that. If you think that time-outs are something you can call for because you are winded, it's not going to happen, and if it does there should be consequences. Maybe the best consequence is that you get a wake up call and commit to a more efficient and capable you.

No one is telling you to do anything except to make sure you have the capacity to work when the time comes. Your air supply is there to help you gauge your level of need, listen to your rhythm of use and monitor how quickly the bell tolls for you. Realize that your tactical safety is based on every breath you take, ensure that you keep them coming with an enlightened commitment to physical capability.

Next Tactical Safety - The Fire Will See You Now

Sent from my iPad

Monday, October 31, 2011

Tactical Safety: Getting an Opinion

Get an Opinion

By Ray McCormack
Getting an opinion from a firefighter is not usually something you have to request, they are generally handed out like candy on Halloween by the full. What do firefighters have to say on grant money, cutbacks, and the future of fire attack, just to name a few? Many will say something on cutbacks; some might say something about grant money, but many are silent on the future of fire attack. Why is our range of pertinent subjects so vague when we have abundant media available to us, as well as an instant knowledge extension? This may hurt a few of you out there, but you don't have a solid opinion because you don't care enough to bother. Cutbacks hurt us in many ways: from service arrival delays to accomplishment barriers and a loss of livelihood for some. Our profession is more than just a job, and to lose that center in your life is very difficult and painful. We can share that opinion and for most of us any depth beyond the surface will suffice; however when we want to do more than hope and dream, an education in government and economic factors are the lessons we need to brush up on. So why don't we do more? We have the time, we have collective thought opportunities; we have media access, but we are lacking one basic – and that is we don't care enough! Looking for leadership is just another example of waiting on the sidelines and being told what to do. Forget leadership and act. Doing something on our own and owning it is leadership. You don't have to ‘knight’ someone special, knight yourself and then do the work. Grant money is a wonderful thing, and the fire service should get its piece of the pie so that we can test theories, tools and products. Do you know who gets the biggest dollar grants and how much they receive? And have you ever seen the results of all this Federal largess? Most of us have not and why is that, what excuse sounds the most plausible? Go and look up the Fire Prevention and Safety Grant program (it's under FEMA) and see for yourself. It's not that any monies have been misappropriated, it is about educating yourself; information that the well rounded opinionated firefighter should possess. You might be surprised at how the money is dispersed. Thirty six million so far this year, ($36,000,000) just to associations and colleges – not fire departments! The future of fire attack is another interesting topic that many in the fire service have no real clue about. Things will change on the fireground, and if we look around, many places do it differently from the way you do it already. You must look beyond tools and technology and examine trends that are being pushed forward and by whom. You must also understand the impact of independent testing events and how event outcomes morph into new operational guidelines often without proper vetting. A new future on the fireground is up to you to develop or you can just pick a prepackaged option from the shelf it is up to you. Dig deep. It is certainly worth your time and effort to see how the playing field is set up, who plays, and what the score is on many fronts. If you do or do not like what you see, then that is a reward for personal research. An opinion that is based on knowledge allows you to decide what is good or bad for yourself and anytime we are thinking things through our tactical safety will benefit. Next Tactical Safety - Never Mind My Air Supply, How Much Gas is Left?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tactical Safety: Demolition Derby

By Ray McCormack

I went back and forth on this piece trying to decide what the title should relate to – at least this time around. There are good things that occur in the fire service that move us along in a positive direction, and there are other events and movements that can set us back a bit. I know because even I have been accused of the latter. In a Demolition Derby, the last car banged up, but still limping along wins. So the fire department that takes the hits and keeps going wins in the end? Perhaps; however, not without adapting and modifying. The hits can accumulate as small dents or as a devastating blow; it depends, and no department remains unscathed, eventually the dents occur.

Using modern technology to send an electronic dent is very popular these days. There is no shortage of fire folks who wait like snakes in the grass to spit their venom and put their fangs into their latest victim. It's okay to dislike something that has occurred, we are still entailed to a free will and mind, but doing it as sport is another thing. There are web sites where individuals base their whole existence on going against the grain, and it's not about opinion, it's about being noticed and spreading angst. Their enlightenment of the rest of us grows tedious; without a true identity, you are masked and can be seen, too and not just heard.

So what do we do? Take it! Take it all in, and hold it up for appraisal and then move forward.

What type of fire department would you be if your work load changed to a steady diet of multiple fires in vacant buildings? You would be forced to adapt your current model for sure. What you ended up with would be quite different than the utopia you dream of, and if you don't think so take a better look. The dings that are so freely exchanged and expressed towards fire department models we don't fully understand should give us pause. The fire service derby will never end, but maybe we should all do a few laps under the caution flag.

I appreciate something substantial that can be tried, not just phrases linked together that sound like something. This ‘something’ being a mystery to most readers, until the developer finally figures out a way to attach the catch phrase to a previously understood model, thereby making it palatable for general consumption – but not always.

Derby participants adapt to maintain tactical safety to their needs and circumstances; venomous observers and new age pontificators are off track.

Next Tactical Safety - Get an Opinion

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tactical Safety: Forcible Frustration

Forcible Frustration

By Ray McCormack

Have you ever experienced forcible frustration? You know, that special moment when the door you’re beating up punches back hitting you straight in the ego. Some doors are much better at resisting your forcible entry skills than others; some are set up to crush even the best practitioners. That’s why you should always carry “Humblers” insurance, so that when you meet your match, the secondary wallop from your coworkers should subside rather quickly. That’s only if you have minded your manners in the past and have resisted bragging over lesser opponents.

Sometimes it is the door that fights back and sometimes it is all about you and your lack of skill that gives the best fight. This occurs for several reasons: one of course is that the firefighter involved does not know what they are doing. I say firefighter singularly because the one with the Halligan is where the skill is centered. I never had a problem swinging the axe for an under experienced “Irons” because I knew that I would not waste my swings on a poorly positioned Halligan. Once you gain that understanding you will now be assisting with entry beyond just the power and accuracy of your swing.

Skill levels are best put to the test on tough doors. While formula-based entry is popular and assists many to remember what may be needed: step C, as step A can also work. I like to place my hands on the door to get its pulse and state “No ‘Shock’ Advised.” Which of course, I see as humorous and others see as step jumping and uncomfortable. When I worked as a firefighter, the irons position was not as democratic as I see today. If you were the ‘Jonnie,’ you assisted the irons firefighter until your graduation to another position. The benefit of course was that you learned by watching and developed a keen eye for spotting potential problems early while often enjoying forcible frustration as it played out on gifted firefighters.

As the swinger who delivers the force, you will see some interesting twists to gaining entry. It is not unusual to have to play along for a little while when some unorthodox or seemingly odd events take place in front of you on bended knee. Just remember to use your SA (Situational Aroundness) to evaluate whether what you’re witnessing is going to work or not. Number one on the top ten list, that the firefighter with the irons has no clue of, is when you see them spinning the Halligan around like they’re trying out for baton twirling team. “Houston, we have a problem!”

If our swinger is bad or weak, you may have to switch with the cheeseburger and manage both halves of the entry. This way at least power will be delivered to the Halligan. Do you want the door opened or not? You have to capitalize on your knowledge and that includes the realization that the firefighter with the axe stinks, and to get the door you will do the hitting while directing the Halligan’s movements, too. Don’t let your forcible frustration gab hold to such an extent that you become crippled – entry must be gained.

If the entry difficulty is manifested as a lack of skill, hydraulic entry is an option. If the problem is the door and its locks, the hydraulic ‘helper’ may work. Because you cannot always use the hydraulic entry tool due to door type your forcing, craft comes into play even more because of these limiting options. Your tactical safety is heightened when your forcible frustration is low. Knowing which tools to use and how to use them can stop a cheeseburger from giving you heartburn.

Next Tactical Safety – Demolition Derby

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Tactical Safety: Scaling Ladders

Scaling Ladders

By Ray McCormack

There is a good chance your apparatus does not carry a scaling ladder. Pompier ladder is the more traditional trade name for scaling ladder, derived from the French. Scaling ladders are single beam ladders that can allow the user to scale a building from floor to floor. In that case, it is like no other ladder in the fire service. It has been successfully used to reach victims trapped beyond the reach of aerials and platform ladders, and to beef up “personal comfort” of recruits to new heights and self determination. Can it make a comeback into today’s fire service specifically for VES or VESS?

Scaling ladders have remained fairly traditional in their style over the years with minor changes in design. Modern scaling ladders are made from aluminum which helps to keep their weight down. If you have never held one, they are top heavy, with the hook at the top always feeling like it’s looking to smash into something - which for firefighters is a good thing. This ladder functions like a giant hook; and can be used to take windows; however that is not its primary function. Its primary function is to move firefighters into windows and that’s where its value with regards to VES comes in.

Think of VES graduating from its present state now injected with additional tactical safety and usefulness: VES-S the additional S for scaling ladder. Using VESS, firefighters could still select their window of entry, clear it and make entry. The scaling ladder would then be placed in the opening. Now the original ladder used for entry can be moved to the next window of choice and the steps repeated. How does this increase our tactical safety?

It increases it in several ways: for those that like to have a physical marker of where they entered the room to bump into, the hook portion of the scaling ladder provides such an identifier extending into the room by several feet. Your ladder will not slide along the siding and fall down because it’s held into the opening of the window. The scaling ladder provides perfect placement, every time, of the “top rung” and does not interfere with your entry or exit into the room. Once in place, other firefighters automatically know that a search is being conducted in that room.

Utilizing the VESS method places scaling ladders at multiple windows and protects firefighters. Should scaling ladders be further modified? I believe they should be further refined just for VESS. Imagine hanging several of these ladders on your apparatus stacked neatly, compactly, and ready for deployment. Once in place, the scaling ladder provides an alternative to rope-based bail outs while providing a means for additional firefighters to enter your space if needed - and leaves the adjustable ladder available for other duties.

The scaling ladder can also be used on porch roofs where firefighters generally perform VES. Using the scaling ladder just placed in the window provides a ‘guide rail’ for anyone to stabilize and increase their footing on this incline.

This next generation of scaling ladder would allow for more efficient and logical VESS. Not everything old is out of style until we say so. Looking back at the scaling ladder provides new alternative uses for a reliable tool on the fireground while increasing your tactical safety.

Next Tactical Safety – Forcible Frustration

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tactical Safety: Hay Bales

Hay Bales

By Ray McCormack

I have never baled hay a day in my life, but I have burned with it. Most live burns use hay to function as the catalyst fuel source and fire development agent: to support combustion of wooden pallets, slower acceleration, as well as being used to ‘smudge’ areas. When damp, it creates a nice dark umber of a smoke (smudge). The other factor with using hay for live fire sets is that it is fairly predictable. The other factor about using hay for live fire sets is that it does not truly replicate the modern fire ground.

NFPA 1403 does not say that only hay must be used to provide the fire for the day: What it does state is that the burn materials used must have (known) burn characteristics. That is a fair policy and a sound approach to live fire fuels. If we wish to demonstrate to new firefighters what the modern fire environment is like, we should explore and investigate alternative Class A fuel packages.

The use of hay is not the real problem, hay is a great fuel. It can be easily placed, moved and spread about, it can be sprinkled and layered where needed, and it does a good job of creating and supporting fire. What it does not provide for students and instructors is the dense smoke that common home elements contain. Is that an issue, a problem?

Live fire training in many locations has been relegated to pit fires and flashover chambers. From the perspective of fire extinguishment, flashover chambers leave a lot to be desired: They represent a passive form of learning through observation of fire development. There are no turns or hallways to navigate with the hoseline; no coordinated extinguishment typical of a common house fire. Extinguishment of the chamber fire is typically handled by the training staff.

We need to examine realistically replicating modern fire conditions in a controlled live fire environment. We need stop vilifying the limited use of typical combustibles that are found in the modern house in live fire training. We need to validate the use of some alternative Class A combustibles that provide a more realistic, while safe fire environment, for firefighters. We should not run from using alternative burn materials, we should study them and find a workable mix that enhances live fire training.

When the use of live fire training is seen as too hazardous for new firefighters to experience, then we need to evaluate why that might be. If you just ban live fire training that may be the simple solution, but avoidance can cause a loss of firefighter awareness and skill development. If you want to know why some firefighters do not understand and operate properly at house fires, it is often due to a lack of basic fire knowledge gained through live fire training.

Model programs, that gradually takes students and instructors through the process of fire development, along with corresponding extinguishment techniques, helps to properly prepare our firefighters. If you think that live fire has no value, then you have probably never been exposed to a well-planned, comprehensive live burn program. If we think one cannot be developed, then we are selling ourselves short.

We have built live fire training classes on a hay and pallet foundation; we should now graduate to teaching current fire examples by tweaking the ‘mix.’ Give your firefighters and instructors the modern tools they need to stay tactically safe on the training ground and the fireground.

Next Tactical Safety – Scaling Ladders

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tactical Safety: The Lost Art Show

The Lost Art Show

By Ray McCormack

Firefighters may not stereotypically fall under the category of art lovers, but many, deep-down, should be. I am not talking about being a patron of modernist, or sculpture, but I have known a few who have worn both of those badges. No, the art show I am referring to is the show made up of lost fire tactics and principles: You know the lost art of VES, Aggressive Attack, and Forcible Entry. These three main categories make up the lost art show. Some towns lost their art years ago, some have turned a blind eye to its beauty, and, sad as it is to say, some in the fire service want the ban to continue, which will only expand lost art categories.

The lost art of VES: VES stands for vent enter search, a concept where firefighters enter rooms from the building’s exterior, conduct a search and then exit the same way(out the window). Now, some in the fire service see this search tactic as very dangerous; some see it as a tactic that places firefighters in less danger. A case can be made in either direction, however, when examined closely, we have a firefighter entering a room from outside (protected area), judging conditions and getting low upon entry; Closing the room door to provide additional search time and then leaving. It could be said that this technique places the firefighter in (less) danger for a shorter amount of time because the firefighter does not have to travel (less) distances inside the fire building to reach the search room: Less time inside, less travel distance inside - the art of VES. When the con version is allowed to flourish - usually without much constructive debate - then we have a lost art.

There is no mushy way to put this: ‘Aggressive Attack’ is how most fires are extinguished. The lost art of aggressive attack starts when we fail to understand the concept of interior-extinguishment - water versus fire. There will be future developments in extinguishment as there have always been and there will be those that bristle at such a term. Being ‘boldly assertive” (synonym) against a fire is fair play. The last thing we want, or do we, are fire operations based upon “passivity” (antonym). The lost art of aggressive attack is something that can become a lost art if we let it, if we as firefighters frown at hearing the term much less using it to our advantage then we have a lost art. If we are not engaged in battle to protect lives and property, then get some new signage; If we are not engaged when attack comes to the plate then the art has been lost.

Forcible entry is an art: Quality forcible entry is when you can get through anything put in front of you expeditiously. Not every firefighter who picks up the irons will be a master. To be a master you need quality tools and a rich canvas and engagement. ‘Mule kicking’ imprints can get it done, but are not highly valued at the art show. When forcible entry becomes a lost art, then we only have only ourselves to blame, because it only grows and flourishes from a local touch. The best techniques come for inquiry and patience and much practice like most good art.

Adding features to the lost art show is not something we should hope happens. Let’s bring back the principle players in the show and show the ‘non participants’ how great our craft looks, feels and sustains our tactical safety.

Next Tactical Safety – Hay Bales

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tactical Safety: Emotionally Charged Lines

By Ray McCormack

“Firefighter down; I’m running out of air; we can’t find the door. Children trapped!” These are some of the emotionally charged lines you may hear en route to the scene, or on scene. Some of these lines will be communicated to you for informational purposes and others will be a cry for help. When you hear these lines you must adjust accordingly.

Upon hearing “firefighter down,” you must listen for more detailed information - especially location. Are you nearby? Are you able to assist if the location is close? Will your assistance create a hardship or unsafe event to occur? If the event takes place out in front of the building your assistance may not even be required. Even if you feel your assistance is needed, just because the words were spoken, does not always pan out. If you wish to get involved, first make sure there is a need for your help. Make an inquiry and create a backup plan for the task your stopping and get permission.
“I am running out of air,” can occur from getting entangled, to losing your way. This personal distress call is time-sensitive. Our first question should be, “how much air do you have left?” An assistance plan will take in many components, the urgency is always there, but the urgency and plan of attack to resolve this announcement may involve more firefighters, and tactical changes depending upon the amount of reserve air available. While a firefighter rescue team may be standing by, and be used to remove this firefighter, additional reserve units may also assist, and a greater alarm struck to help resolve this issue as quickly as possible.

“We can’t find the door.” This tells us that we have multiple firefighters in trouble. This trouble is compounded when we are dealing with buildings that afford a limited amount of entry/escape openings. What has taken place here? The conditions have probably gotten worse, and what was thought to be memorable trail, is no longer true. We should always consider that things will get worse prior to improving. Sometimes the equipment needed is taken with the firefighters, but not used, because it did not appear necessary at the time.

“Children trapped.” This is given to you via dispatch and always cranks up the troops. Here again you must stay focused and take this information with a grain of salt. It may well be that children are trapped and it may just be someone’s way of trying to get us there quicker. Someone must ask a few questions such as the ages of the trapped and where they were located a few minutes ago. The age tells you if they are mobile, and the location may help speed up recovery.

We should always strive for focus. These and other emotionally charged lines can snap our focus. Listen up, know that you will hear many things like this on the fireground, keep your focus sharp, only then can we provide tactical safety for all.

Next Tactical Safety – The Lost Art Show

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tactical Safety: You Have Some Nerve!

By Ray McCormack

I hope you have some nerve, not to be obnoxious, but to be aggressive. Firefighting is about nerve in a lot of respects. Some firefighters have nerves of steel, whether it is making decisions or a tough push. You need some nerve just to deal with the various incident types we face. Do you have the nerve to stand up for what is right? Do you have enough nerve to concentrate on the mission at hand? Do you see nerve displayed by others both good and bad? We are in the nerve business, and without some nerve you could be passed by, regret a lost opportunity, and be fooled.

Bluster and bravado are often spoken in coded language such as, “I’ve been crawling down hallways.’’ When you hear people describing themselves in such terms, chances are they have not done much hallway crawling at all. What is usually the case is the fact that they feel the need to identify with those who have. They have some nerve!

“Firefighter makes daring rescue!” Dare is measured differently in firefighting circles then by the civilian definition. When a firefighter is recognized by their peers, and their fellow firefighters actually talk about the rescue in glowing terms, then we truly have high praise. That rescue took some nerve!

Utilizing teachings from questionable sources and personalities, with limited depth and or experience, may be the wave of the future, but not yet. When you want to learn about this craft, find an instructional source that checks out. Learn the important lessons: firefighting is real, it is difficult, and it takes many intellectual skill sets; make sure you learn how to determine what should stick from what is ‘throwaway.’ Remember, firefighting takes nerve.

Tired of wondering how your beloved fire service could think certain things (were) a good idea? You need to get involved so the next change does not surprise you. Wondering what or who is driving these fire service agendas? It could be you if you take the time to research the organizations and their platforms. Think about using some of your precious in-between call time to get the information you need to place your ideas on the next steering committee. He has some nerve getting involved!

Becoming an excellent firefighter takes some nerve. Firefighters who search for excellence unfortunately are often taken to task by others for their intense interest in our craft. To those that aspire to become great through training and self improvement - and participation - it is a long steady climb. The five-year-wonder is only a wonder if handled correctly. The need for self-acclaim is a poor outgrowth for some interested firefighters. Your knowledge that you have absorbed in one form or another is nothing new, it is how we all learn. When you discover a new twist, enjoy your level of participation, and remember that all ideas were new once and only time will tell if it lasts. Don’t let your knowledge get on others’ nerves.

Use your nerve to stay tactically safe.

Next Tactical Safety – Emotionally Charged Lines

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tactical Safety: On Guard

By Ray McCormack

It seems that every classic movie scene with a sword fight starts with the phrase, “On Guard!” This simple statement declares, “here we go; game on; battle time.” The opponents back away for a second to collect themselves and stare their challenger directly in the eye - and then the fight begins in earnest. They are there to fight, they are equipped to fight, and their safety is in their skill. Every fire is a challenge to our skill and commitment. Are you incorporating an on guard before your attack?

Your safety is increased when you back away just before you start to do battle. This battle posture allows you to focus and put yourself in drive. This is your ‘on guard’ moment. When firefighters arrive unequipped to enter the battle, they defeat themselves and our cause. When firefighters enter the battle under-equipped to overpower the enemy, they are not playing smart. These two statements refer to some basic omissions on the part of our people, lack of tools, lack of SCBA, the lack of a charged hoseline, hard to believe you say? Watch some videos.

Your safety is about thinking smart, being prepared, and fighting to win. When you do not have the capability to bust down a door or hit an advancing fire, or continue a search due to smoke in your eyes, you’re not being a tough guy, you’re being a jerk! You have let us down with your inability to function at the most base level on the fireground. You know that certain tools are used at every fire, like charged hoselines, tools for entry, ladders and SCBA, why are they missing from your attack mode? Does your special presence on the fireground trump these tools somehow? If not, then how could you make such mistakes?

Firefighters who arrive looking and acting like they could be from another profession are not very effective under normal conditions, especially when the chips are down. The chips can come down at any moment, and not being ready is a sad excuse to have hanging around your neck after the battle. Any excuse supplied would be simply weak, if we would even care to listen.

To be effective, you must fight the fire with all the tools available to you. Firefighting begins with you, your training, your knowledge, and your dedication. You wanted to do this, make sure it’s more than just talk, and put it all together to be tactically safe. On guard!

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