Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Fire Department Polio Vaccine

by Ray McCormack

This week marks the anniversary of the distribution of the polio vaccine to American children. The significance of this endeavor was that Polio was virtually eliminated as a debilitating disease: A disease that struck children, the effects of which stayed with them forever. The fire service needs a vaccine as well when it comes to educational intervention and firefighter safety and effectiveness. This “shot-in-the-arm” needs to be bottled and dispensed at every fire academy - and some providers of which need to wrap their heads around some basic principles of firefighting that some have not passed on. Incomplete foundational firefighting principles are being dispensed to a large portion of the fire service and this ‘placebo’ can hurt us.

The other day, I read a statement by a firefighter who stated we should never attack a fire ‘head-on.’ There were further comments that went on to inform this apparently young firefighter that he was mistaken; and other comments stating that he was at least partially mistaken. None of his detractors spoke to the root cause of his confusion. Can we all have an opinion? Of course! Don’t we all come with one already? That is not the issue; the issue is the fact that many do not understand the role of the hoseline. See, once you understand its primary function, it’s positioning follows suit. Unfortunately, this firefighter’s dilemma was that he was taught wrong. Some fire academy instructors apparently do not understand the role of the hoseline either. If they did, operational discord would be quieted, and the voice of confusion would be lessened.

For a firefighter to say that we never attack a fire head on is just plain, well…unbelievable. This firefighter owes his ignorance to some academy staff somewhere. I’m sorry if you disagree or are offended. If you are, then maybe you believe as he did in a strategy that is not only inefficient, but dangerous. If our new firefighters coming into the fire service are not being taught properly - and this has nothing to do with new techniques or scientific studies; this has everything to do with basic fire extinguishment - then we really do have an epidemic of lost, base knowledge. We are still the fire department - and if we poison our recruits with bad information, then not only will our results be shameful to watch, our people will be in danger as they operate under a cloak of confusion.

You see, the primary function of the hoseline is to protect egress. When hoselines are mistakenly placed in areas that do not protect civilian egress, you’re in the wrong spot. Protect life then property. Yes it’s a simple theory, but it’s more than a theory, it’s a fact. Does it vary at times? It can, but that is not the point. The point remains that you need to understand the initial consideration. If you do not know where your hoseline should be placed initially - or your initial placement is backwards - then of course you don’t get it - and you have been taught without foundation. Remember, civilian egress is the first part of egress protection; firefighter egress is also accomplished once the line is where it needs to be; Think direct access and protection of hallways and stairways.

The biggest problem is in the educational delivery: The fire service which differs on just about everything needs some consensus on this front because it is so (basic). Protecting egress affords us the proper use of our greatest life saving tool: a properly positioned hoseline - Fire extinguishment is the bonus.

So if you have the pleasure to instruct new recruits and old veterans alike, get one thing right: the hierarchy of hoseline placement. Let’s eradicate this illness from the fire service once and for all and put our students on the right track. Proper line placement is the key to fireground success for everyone. Now that didn’t hurt did it?

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Aggressees

The Aggressees

by Ray McCormack

Many do not understand the Agressees at all

Prefering to think them a bit outta sync

Some call it old school, with a snicker and scowl

Old school or new, the Agressees adapt

for a 360 is simply a lap

easily done in a snap

for the Agressees, its simple, flat out is the speed

Which is always best tempered by need

Many do not understand the Agressees at all

Who love to kill the enemy, spring, summer, winter and fall

They break things; and move forward to battle the beast

Hit em’ with water to melt em’ away

Some still do not understand the need for a good spray

They look for the hidden, who are hidden indeed

To find them fills our core need

The Agressees are chided for being so bold

But you have to remember, their just doing as told

For them, its simple, kill the beast and go home

And when you save a life, is a treat all its own

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tactical Safety: Popping Doors

Popping Doors

By Ray McCormack

Mysteries abound on the fireground behind doors that need popping. Yes, we can have smoke behind doors in states varying from seeping to pumping, but the mystery is still not solved with a barrier between us and the fire; Getting in also ranges from clumsy kicks to a studied-entry technique for a worthy opponent. To have never faced such a door is a shame, because the great challenge is something all firefighters should experience.

There is a difference between wood and steel. There is a difference between well-lit and smoked-out, but in talented hands, it makes little difference. Knowledge of forcible entry is the corner stone of truck work. Some may find that a debatable point, but without entry, we have no interior fire attack. Our interior launching pad only lifts off when entry is accomplished.

Doors range from moderate to extremely difficult to open: The makings of a tough forcible entry situation are not strictly based upon lock load. Tight spaces that restrict movement may have to be made more user-friendly by taking out the wall covering and creating the room we seek. Angles that cause us to work from a different approach than the norm can give us all pause; however, the biggest obstacle any firefighter will face from a door starts long before they arrive at the welcome mat if their knowledge of technique is as rusty as an ax left out in the rain.

Forcible entry technique needs to be understood from the basic steps through multi-lock doors. Why? Even if you never face a tight door with a few locks, the techniques of tool movement and placement - and leverage - principles are never wasted – and can be utilized for other operational fireground tasks. I worked with a firefighter who not only exuded confidence, he proved it, and feared no door. He relished the challenge and worked his skill-set beyond what others knew so that he could pass on the how-to of the majority forcible entry situations; however, knowledge is not enough: you need skill and a mind-set that aggressively attacks the challenge.

Your knowledge and experience blend together with a positive attitude that says, “I will get through this door,” establishes you as someone who should have this assignment. There are many soft evaluations and considerations that we can fumble through, and the answer we receive can be right or wrong and no one gets hurt - forcible entry is not one of those.

When it comes down to it, and we arrive at the fire building and start operating, the locked door needs to be opened; It needs to be opened quickly and thoroughly – and the people assigned to that task must have the skill-sets necessary to handle what is thrown at them. Their task may be difficult, but their training and determination will see them through their best efforts. Play time is over. It is now time to pop the door and start operations. Knowing your way through doors increases your tactical safety. See you on the other side.

Next Tactical Safety - Benchmarks