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?

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