Ha! Ha! Ha! That’s Not Funny
By Ray McCormack
Do you suffer from a lack of (HA) Hoseline Awareness? Incident commanders, ladder companies, special units and even engine companies occasionally suffer disconnect from the importance of the initial, backup and supplemental hoselines. Who is the worst culprit is a matter of interpretation – and varies from fire to fire.
When an incident commander (IC) does not have a firm understanding of the value of the initial hoseline – from its size to placement and method of fire attack – we have a problem. Many reviews can find the first domino tilting from this disconnect. HA has not made its way to the list of classes of self-improvement for incident commanders whose choices seem to revolve around 360 degree ‘walk a rounds’ to being cognizant of all things, sans fire attack. HA is gleaned by remembering how it was done – watching and observing firsthand; not by peeking through a windshield. Engine company operations at the command level are different than at the operational level. Fair enough. What must be understood is that a parade around the fire building by all ‘arrivers,’ conjoined with a zero-vision of extinguishment, leads to ineffective fire operations and increased risk. Some risk we create and escalate not by recklessness but by omission of understanding: the significance of extinguishment.
The use of ladder company personnel to assist with hoselines depends upon which culture you live in – and can range from blasphemy to standard operating procedure (SOP). Ladder company assistance with hoseline advance is fairly common with initial forcible entry and site clearance. Any firefighter who does truck work knows that water is still their best friend. The need for the initial handline on the fireground is so paramount that even ladder company firefighters may be pressed into engine work and in the future. When these firefighters assist with the stretch and advancement, they do so with the knowledge that their work may be on hold; but the need for extinguishment is critical. Unfortunately, the level of hoseline awareness by some ‘truckies’ is only expressed with a muffled request when the fire requires rapid attention from the nozzle team.
Special units within fire departments are often too special to stretch hoselines and usually just request them. This often occurs because special units do not act primarily as engine companies. It is always okay to report fire extension to command – it is another thing to feel or believe that handline operations are something that is done by others. Being truly special is enhanced by providing excellent fire extinguishment.
When an engine company does not HA we are in trouble. How does that even occur? There are as many reasons as there are required subject topics in rookie school that do not correlate to effective fire extinguishment knowledge. When the trigger is pulled to attack a fire from the interior of a building, HA needs to be at the top of the list of operational priorities. The offensive phrase “aggressive interior attack” is simply reality when we force gallons per second of water at our target within a hostile environment. Interior fire operations are the real deal and being at the head of the spear is not a place for complacency, it is a place of honor. When a firefighter is given the nozzle, they are given an opportunity to save lives. How many lives are saved by a properly positioned hoseline? We are told that it is the best live saving tactic we have – and it is. The untold number of lives it saves is that of firefighters: who are spared injury due to rapid extinguishment.
Make sure you have a keen understanding of ‘HA’ and how it impacts our operations both positively and negatively. There are many skills to learn and many fads that distract. Increase your tactical safety by knowing your way around HA.
Next Tactical Safety – Lost and Found