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