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

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