Friday, December 23, 2011

Tactical Safety: Beginner's Luck

Beginners Luck

By Ray McCormack

Everyone hopes for beginner's luck when they start a new endeavor. Success can be assisted by the luck of good timing or opportunity. For the new firefighter who is not totally comfortable with their surrounding or job, luck is just another positive assist to move you along. Beginners' firefighters are not very picky and often take information from all sources without much of a filter. At a recent fire operations seminar, one of the students was a new firefighter with only several months on the job. While attending his first seminar, he realized - along with many in attendance - that there is a lot more to firefighting than what is provided at rookie school and department texts (policies). This firefighter knew one key element: that you can make your own luck.

While attending firefighting operational seminars, you can pick up a tremendous amount of self-help. Ideas and tactics that work for all firefighters , whether urban or suburban, narrow the playing field, and dismiss cultural roadblocks that many throw around as devicive. Studying our profession is a journey that starts on day one - and doesn't end until you want it to. There is always a provider; your rate of information collection and capacity is up to you. Fireground tactics and base-knowledge culled from textbooks, media and studies all work to together to blend your continuing education.

While there are many programs that explore peripheral issues and rare emergency events, firefighter operational tactics need to be fully understood. Departmental and other institutional classes may be taught by instructors who lack subject matter experience; however, that is just the way it is in many structured educational programs. When you attend a class on your own time -and on your own dime - instructor experience is part of the educational package. Their bio says a lot; their bio 'blanks' say a lot more. Stay alert for signs of instructor distress when talk of experience comes up. Information served up on a plate that lacks subject matter experience doesn't provide for a balanced diet. The starch of experience never hurts. Maybe it doesn't matter who gives you the information as long as you "get it." Make sure you really get it by knowing where the product originated.

Some programming may be hard to recieve due to a poor fireground connection. The only way you can truly educate yourself is through research and self-study. Want to increase your tactical safety? Start with beginner's luck.

Next Tactical Safety: Annual Attack Certification

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tactical Safety: Laughing my Fire Assessment Off (LMFAO)

Laughing My Fire Assessment Off (LMFAO)

By Ray McCormack

Having the opportunity to create a fire assessment is not something that is just relegated to a promotional exam. Your opportunity to assess is there at every fire you attend. While a 360 may or may not be part of your pre-entry actions, there is still plenty to take in just from the front. The sides may be blank, and the rear might be done via radio. No assessment is a solitary event.

Depending upon your rank, your assessment needs to include more than just smoke reading, consider: life, rescue, extinguishment methods and entry decisions. While all of the arriving firefighters need to note this intel quickly - while performing other operational tasks that lead to stabilization - the amount of time spent on various aspects of the assessment differ with rank and assignment.

The assessment by a firefighter that handles 'truck work' is different than those bound to the task of extinguishment. This is just how it is: the brain is trained to look at different features due to indoctrination, repetition, and area of responsibility.

While we all believe the incident commander (IC) is taking in the 'big picture,' that may not be the case, especially if they can not see the fireground. If that is the reality, radio reports will have to fill in many blanks - Talk about old school! LMFAO.

Could you imagine bringing a fire photographer to the fire and telling them that staging a block away truly provides the best "picture" of the fire? Talk about progressive fire scene management! LMFAO.

If the amount of time taken for the assessment is too long, it can lead to incident decline and paralysis by analysis. Many fireground incidents are mismanaged, not because of a lack of effort, but a lack of know-how. Those that scoff at standardization, when the majority of the fire district contains similar structures, are inviting fireground troubles that flourish. This is based on a lack of planning, and beliefs that all fires are different. Fires are so different in our area that you can't have a plan, you have to be flexible! LMFAO.

Fires at their core are not different, they cover portions of building, spread and they endanger lives and properties. The way they are extinguished may vary, except for the fact that hose lines need to be stretched and nozzles opened into rooms to put fires out. Use your situational awareness at every fire, even the different ones, and don't get caught up in a tactical safety lapse by "LYourFAO."

Next Tactical Safety - Beginners Luck