Thursday, April 4, 2013

Whats your training life like

How often are you training? Monthly, weekly, daily? Are your troops getting out of it what the intended message was? Our they learning? And lastly our the performing at there A+ game on the fire ground, or are you noticing alot of reoccurring problems?
To me your training life should be very important to your career and I always hear the quotes.
"train like your life depends on it because it does."
"train as if its the real thing."
We have them on posters hanging in our stations, t-shirts, some even have them tattooed on there body.
But are we really "training as if its the real thing" or are we getting tied up with the "gift wrapped" training (aka manufactured PowerPoint's).
Now before you go and condemn me to death hear me out, I do not have a grudge against manufactured powerpoints and I feel that they are a good TOOL that is all they are, they are not a cover and fix all training package.
I have seen some departments that spend more time going over manufactured PowerPoint's than they do covering hands on topics such as ladder deployment or handline deployments.
But why?
What is it that drives the modern day fire service to rely solely on a computer program?
I mean how are we going to learn motor skills in the fire service if we don't get out there and do it.

Now lets cover the hands on portion of trainings with one I see alot of times.
How many times have you been on a training burn where we flow 3 seconds worth of water then turn around and back out?
YET when our new firefighters do it, we blame the training. But here's the kicker question. Why were they not taught about "real world fire flow" in rookie schools?

I want to talk now about the Rohrerstown Fire Company. This is a company of volunteers who are constantly training. When I talked with Lt Hamby he explained in depth there desire to train.
In the summer they train outside alot, yet in the winter they have props indoors that they can use. They don't center there training around a manufactured PowerPoint program.They strive to train on something everyday. When you look at the pictures below you will get a feel for there typical drills.

I am not saying nobody else does this in the world, rather we as firefighters need to be doing more of this hands on training. We need to ensure that our crews are getting everything that they need to help the citizens when it comes to there education.
So tell me whats your training life like
Big thanks to Lt Hamby of Co 67

Monday, January 14, 2013

Estimating the preconnect???????

If you have anything to do with the engine you have heard of the problems surrounding the pre-connect line. But the one I hear and have seen in first person is "not enough hose to reach the fire".
But do you know how to determine what length you will need? You should.
If you get to an incident and you go and pull the 150ft line and you fall short by a length of hose say a 50 footer, its not a good feeling is it. Especially when you have a 200 off the rear of the truck.
That is the point of this piece. Just because you have pre-connects on your engine don't forget how to estimate your stretch.
There are cases out there where pulling the wrong pre-connect has resulted in problems.
As stated in other blogs on Fire Engineering having a selection is the best option but you need to know which one to pull and when to pull it as well as when to switch to a court yard stretch.
Lets say you have the 150 and you cant reach your objective, in the time it takes for you to get another 50ft roll (or 75 to 100 whatever you use) how far along is that fire going to be? It is not going to wait on you is it. And lets say you reach the seat by stream again no good.
We are getting there when it comes to the loads we carry such as 150, 200, 300 then courtyard per say but with this comes the problem of knowing which one is the most appropriate for the situation given.
What kind of obstacles do you have to go around over or thru? How deep is the fire into the structure? How much involvement is there will one line work or might I need more if so will a courtyard be best suited for the job? These are some of the questions we need to ask ourselves when dealing with pre-connected lines. Those questions are used for static loads, so why do we need them? Simple, estimating your stretch will help you understand which line needs to be pulled off the truck. This is will eliminate that short stretch and over stretch.
Some simple drills that can help you with your estimation one I like is to walk it off for instance take a building in your first due you can walk thru and such. Then before walking the route you would take with your hose estimate just how much hose you will need for that stretch  so lets say you pull up to a Dr office and you need to go to the break room say 200ft will work. Now walk it out the way you would stretch your line and see what you get. This not only works on your estimations but it also allows you to basically pre plan so your killing two birds with one stone so to speak
Lets look at it like this. We have to asses the situation as to picking the correct line (2.5, 1.75,etc.). Is it any different regarding length?
photo 1

photo 2

Look at Photo 1 what do we see? we have shrubs and a porch wall to deal with on this stretch. Or what if its on the charlie side?

Photo 2 shows how they have ample hose ready to reach the base of the fire. Making sure you pull the right size line is crucial in this aspect. To short you wont reach to long you end up with knots.

Photo credits to Bill Strite, Cincinnati, OH.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Techno aged fire service

So on this piece we are going to go over the new age in fire training and whats out there for us.
In today's world of technology we have found that it is now easier than ever to get information on all aspects of the job. We have groups such as UL and NIST that are coming out with all kinds of information from wind driven fires to basement fires. We have access to LODD reports by just clicking on a link! And we have simulators that can replicate a fire by using a computer or smart phone!!
As you read this keep in mind I am not trying to solicit a product. Rather explain what I have found out there that can help us in the service.
Simsushare is a program that allows the user to take photos of anything and everything then "make it a fire building" from gas line fires to auto ignition fires. Smoke ranging from slow moving lazy smoke to pressurized turbulent smoke. Its a very easy to use sim that is super easy to use and is very easy on your check book.
What I really like is how I can use my android to create these drills.
Your out in your first due take a photo with your phone and then you set it up for a drill. FLASHOVER, low banking smoke, smoke reading it can do a ton of things.
You can get it for your Droid, iPhone, Mac, or windows platform.
Check them out at
So why do we need these technical programs? We need them because we are seeing a decrease in fires in today's world and with that a lack of experience is resulting. Now with this tool we can visualize a scenario go over all the works from our stretch to forcible entry challenges. Then we need to hit the drill field and practice those skills. This program will help teach us what to do but we still need hands on to know how to do it.
I want to go ahead and say I am sorry for not getting anything published sooner. I had surgery early on in December and with the holidays I have been super busy.
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Friday, November 23, 2012

Dont have a meeting on the stairs.

I would be willing to bet that 99% of you have been to some sort of fire involving stairs be it a low to mid rise building all the way up to a 50 story high rise, as well as the common basement/cellar stairs that we all just love to go down right. Like these below.

But the point of this piece is to reiterate on how we can do the job without jamming up the stairs, and how to train for fires involving these conditions

There are many problems involving tight staircases as well as burned out and or burning stairs. If you take the stairs from the above picture FIGURE 2 they are burned up really bad so at that point would you want to proceed up the stairs with 12 other guys? I know I wouldn't want to be on them! Or FIGURE 1 with six guys packed in there and need to get out now due to worsening conditions, be it fire conditions or building conditions? Lots of people have died from overlooking the obvious.
Why do we pack them tight with people? Why do we go and cram ourselves into this death trap so to speak?
I believe it comes down to a couple of reasons one of which is the ease of use and the second of which is a lack of "thinking outside the box".
Lets go over the ease of use first. Now lets face it folks, going up the stair case is in most cases the most direct and the easiest way to get from point A (first floor) to point B (second floor) that's just simple common sense you know. That can give folks a bad sense of "that's the best way during this situation" that's not always the case. Like I have said if the engine crew is using the stairs or if they are burned out, well you can see there may be a faster way to get to the second floor.
The other issue is a lack of "thinking outside the box". By this I mean are you thinking all possibilities, for instance FIGURE 3 which shows how to VES.
This brings up the next section. Strategies and Tactics for getting up there.
This topic is rather simple to explain, in fact all of this is basic skills nothing fancy like tight roping from building to building, right?
VES is a real good method again FIGURE 3 this works very well. If your not familiar with VES this is it below.

So as you can see you can get up there.
A good 360 can also show you alternate stair cases leading to the second floor.
JUST REMEMBER, DON'T BUST OUT THE WINDOWS IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO!!!! Yes, if you need to take them to get in, then by all means do it, but if you don't need to, don't. Kinda like the old "try before you pry" regarding forcible entry
In closing there are always alternate routes to the second floor if the engine has the stairs occupied and or they are burned beyond use, go with the alternate route. And please don't go and have a meeting on the stairs. And Happy Thanksgiving........... Next time we go over super realistic hands on training centers and props....

Thanks to Curt Isakson and County Fire Tactics for the use of there photos

and thanks to Gabriel Angemi for the use of his photos from his blog at

Friday, November 2, 2012

Dont be an Employee be a Firefighter

You know I won’t forget when I got my start in the fire service. And that's what this piece is going to be about.

You know when your a brand new fire fighter coming on to the job there are several things that can make or break you. And the two I'm going to talk about are mentors and the need to fit in.

Let’s cover the need to fit in first. Before someone has an MI let me explain. I have seen some new guys and girls come in and they fall in with the “in crowd". Yes it’s important to fit in with your crews you have to be weary of going and falling in with the wrong crowd. Don't be trying to fit in with the ones who are say employees, they are the ones who don't care for training don't have any pride in there company, rather sit around and watch TV than get out and drill to better themselves. That's not who you should strive to be like. Don't be the kind who is there just to collect a paycheck or badge if you’re a volunteer. Get your rear up off the couch and train, drill, STUDY!!!!!!! What's even more to your advantage is the Internet. We have information out the ears on every topic you can think of from ventilation to hose line selection. We have YouTube and helmet cams now on the computer so you can watch a fire that occurred in say California while sitting around your kitchen table in Kentucky. This allows us to see what they get and how they handle it. For instance the way they deal with a balloon frame fire may be different from what your department does it is a great way to learn new things and learn from other people's mistakes. The other deal is, who are the folks you should look to or who should be your mentors. Let me tell you about one of my mentors Captain Eddie Crews from Lexington. Capt Crews is always open to give you a bit of advice but he does it in a way you won’t feel like an idiot if it’s a simple answer. That advice thou does not have to be just about fire behavior or line stretches but also about the issues like career advancements and by showing an interest in your career. Basically he shows you he cares about your career as a firefighter. Folks that’s a mentor nobody has to care about you, and you will find some who don’t care whether you make it as a firefighter or you fail just as long as they collect there check, or badge and light and siren permits. But a mentor wants to help you succeed in your career (be it a paid career or volunteer career) they want to be there to help you with this and help you thru the problems you come across and things that will also save your life in the long run. They don’t have to always belong to your department, yes it helps but it’s not mandatory. There are lots of folks out there who are willing to help you out with your career.

 And a big shout out to the new Lexington Fire Department Explorer Post!!! Never forget you to are in the public eye and are a part of the department (you just might not be able to do as much) all of the above applies too you as well. As a former explorer I will tell you I always wanted to be "one of the guys" but just like the new firefighters you got to earn it. SO GET OUT THERE AND EARN THE RESPECT OF THE FIREFIGHTERS SHOW THEM YOU WANT THIS DON'T BE A SLACKER USE THIS AS A STEPPING STONE IN LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!! In closing I want to leave you young firefighters AND EXPLORERS with this. Train hard, and train often. Train as if your life depends on it. Never ever forget that you represent a brotherhood don’t embarrass it. Don’t be the employee be a firefighter!!!  There is more to being a firefighter than crawling down hot smoke filled houses, EMS, making grabs, and busting down doors. Good luck and God bless. And welcome to the greatest calling in the world brothers and sisters...
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if that don't work use this link TRUST ME YOU NEED TO WATCH THIS!!!! Not just you young guys and girls but you seasoned guys and girls as well!


Thursday, October 18, 2012

redlights+speed+tunnel vision=death

You know I constantly see where there are firefighters dieing all over the place due to driving. The below link is to a news story involving a kid who died GOING TO A BRUSH FIRE!!!!!!! And guess what is too blame (according to the article)?SPEED! The POV he was in struck a pole and then overturned.
Or there is this one
And if your like me and have dealings with water tenders theres this one
tailboard on a tanker.......enough of those
Whats the problem here? Lets take POV's (personally owned vehicles).
Should we be giving out lights and sirens permits to these people so they can respond to the stations? Or for that fact, do they really even get us there that much faster? In my experience no maybe seconds to a few minutes but in all honesty you will loose that again putting your turnouts on or getting out and too the rig. Even then you may have to wait for more FF's. So what is the problem? In my opinion, its a combination of things. Lack of SOP's, lack of training, tunnel vision, and a lack of calls are some of the main ones. The lack of calls may be the one I listed that may leave you scratching your head so I will explain. When you have maybe 10 runs a month as a volunteer department there is a "craving" so to speak to make that rig, its like the brand new probie wanting jobs. When they come in for the paid guys there right at the station for the volunteer they may be miles or so from the station and so you essentially haul the mail to make good and sure they get your spot on that rig. Which leads to speed.
Two of the links I listed involve POV incidents I don't know if there were SOP's in place regarding driving speeds, light and siren regulations, and consequences for poor driving habits. And if there were policy's in place, was there training involved with that? What department turns guys and girls over to driving the tower ladder or engine with no training on that piece of equipment .  I don't know of any departments that does that, and hope I never do hear of any. Its just crazy. So why not the same thing for POV's? I mean we train our crews on safe operations with the rig and how to handle it. How is the POV with a light and siren different? To me when your using your POV to respond to a call it becomes another piece of apparatus no different than say a mini rescue or brush unit. We train our folks on them and that's a pickup more often than not. In some cases I have seen people with POV"s bigger than what our brush trucks are. But we still train them to that rig don't we.
Now lets look at speed issues how can we stop this nonsense? I believe that you need a strong set of rules and regulations, SOP's, SOG's, what ever your department goes with. You need to have a plan on how to deal with these incidents, a stern talking to may work for some but often times I have seen it not work. What I have seen is the need to pull driving privileges as a firefighter, EMT, Medic, etc make it where they can't respond to runs using lights and sirens.
This is not just volunteer departments paid departments are just as bad. The biggest difference is 9 times out of 10 they wont have a POV accident for the simple reason that they don't drive POV's to the station when the tones drop, they are already there at the station. But you will see them in wrecks involving the rigs like this on Yes, some things you can't control; drivers who don't pay attention and hit you etc, but a lot of times these incidents can be avoided.
Tunnel vision is hard to deal with, its something that everyone will get at one time or another one thing I have found that helps me is to keep reminding myself " Chris if you don't get there at all you wont be able to help at all" it sounds cheesy, but it works for me. I also like to distract myself from the call by focusing on driving. If I need to catch my own plug (hydrant) worry about that when i get there This is where training comes in see when you train for success and train hard, it should not be hard for us to get to the incident and then go to work, in short you wont have to focus on the job while driving. You just have to focus on driving.
  So Please drive carefully out there don't become another NIOSH report.
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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Interview with Steve Kerber.

As many of you who have read my blog, I talked about doing an interview with Steve Kerber who works for Underwriters Laboratory and has lead numerous test involving the fire service. Steve has been involved with the testing of light weight construction and the effects of being on a floor constructed of light weight material above a fire. He has been involved in testing of wind driven fires and how to handle these fires. To the newest test which covered everything from basement fires to transitional attacks, Steve is not just a scientists, Steve has many years involved with the fire service. He is an honorary battalion chief in the FDNY (they don't pass that out like suckers in a candy store).
As one of us, he knows what it is like to crawl down that hot and smoke filled hallway.
ME: Steve, I understand you have a background with Volunteer Departments, can you tell me about that?
STEVE: I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and was a volunteer with the local volunteer department in Delaware County from when I was 16 up until I left for college. Then I joined the College Park Fire Department in Prince Georges County in college for about 11 years, until I moved to Chicago.
ME: With what you did with CFD and FDNY regarding wind driven fires, have you seen wind driven fires being confined to high rise buildings in the city and not a concern for smaller volunteer departments that don’t have any high rise buildings?
STEVE: That is not the case. You’re just as likely to have a wind issue while fighting a fire in a single family dwelling house fire as you are in a 50 story high rise. Granted a high rise is a different situation being the wind is often unimpeded but as Houston Fire Department unfortunately seen, wind can have a devastating effect, even on a single family dwelling.
ME: Now we do a lot of transitional attacks here where I am located. I heard you on the Mikey D and Mikey G show talk about transitional attacks and how the thought of pushing fire is not always the case. Can you talk about what you have seen first hand out of these tests?
STEVE: We have been looking at transitional attacks by directing a stream into a compartment from the outside and we are getting up near a 100 test amongst our selves, NIST, and some others. And everything we are seeing is the fire gets better when you put water on the fire.
ME: Now I heard you talk about basement fires and how the traditional route of going straight down the interior stairwell isn’t always the greatest option.
STEVE: Well the traditional thought of stretching a line into the first floor and protecting the interior stairwell and the search as well is not necessarily accomplishing what we thought it was. What we are seeing thru test is when we introduce the stream into the basement onto the fire first thing it makes the situation better throughout the house much faster. Remember when you go on to a floor with fire below it, the two main things you need to worry about is 1)collapse and falling thru the floor, and 2) getting caught in the flow path of the fire in the basement and the open front door you just came thru. Getting between the fire and where it wants to go. Both happen in an instant and you cannot possibly know everything you need to know to tell yourself whether one of those things will happen. You can’t control the flow path, you just don’t know how long that fire has been burning, so unless you can get a good look underneath that floor to see what shape its in which in itself is nearly impossible, you don’t have a real good reason to be on that floor because of the incredible risk, hopefully its calculated and thought out.
ME: If you can for me, talk about what you did test out with the FDNY on that study you just did. And some of the observations that you saw first hand.
STEVE: The FDNY had a great opportunity to use an island being renovated from a military base. We have done some test regarding wind driven fire stuff but in this we had two story town houses, there purpose was to bring UL and NIST together along with some of there members and test some of the conclusions regarding test done over the past five years or so basement fires, ventilation, and pushing fire. The mood was, lets get a bigger set of data and in different structures, different furnishings with the basement fires, try and push the fire up the stairs be it thru a window or thru a bulkhead door we also simulated a fire at the top of the stairs simulating trying to hold the stairs. On the first floor we looked at the pushing fire theory closer. Be it thru a door way or thru a window. We also looked at a popular style of construction called a railroad flat which is where you got a series of rooms in alignment on one side of the structure, there we looked at what happens if you flow from the floor below and flow into the first room can you wrap the fire around the room and it come behind the crew or if you put water thru the front window will you push it around or thru the structure. Then we looked at second floor fires where we were looking at the 2.5 gal cans ability to knock a bedroom fire back allowing the can man to shut the door and buy some time for the engine crew. Then we looked at some attic fires. What happens when you vent an attic fire does it localize it or allow it to spread, we also used a cockloft nozzle which is designed to flow water in both directions thru an attic hatch in an attempt to wet a large surface area. So we tested all these different things and like I said with the pushing fire theory we didn’t see it as readily as people expected to see it of course the testing instruments which consist of TIC’s and Thermo couplers etc will show the true data gained but the initial indication that we observed was that we didn’t see any fire pushed rather we observed fire actually pulling back towards the hose line which was very interesting. Some other things were if you vent a ventilation controlled fire it’s going to bigger, which shouldn’t be a surprise. On basement fires we saw a lot of creating a flow path from the stairwell to the front door on the first floor which created a very dangerous situation in which a crew making the push would be very hard pressed to make the stairs. We also saw a lot of issues around making it thru the front door and you protect the stairs the fire communicated to the first floor was not via the stairwell rather via the pipe chases in the kitchen and would come up behind the crew and creating a floor collapse situation in the kitchen area which would have been near the access to the basement stairs.
ME: Let me ask you how did that 2.5 gal can work?
STEVE: Well under the conditions we had which was a flashover bedroom it looked like potential was there to buy you enough time to get the door shut. But its not much time and its very temporary once out of your 2.5 gal and there’s not a continuous flow of water behind it, the fire comes back just as quickly as you darkened it down.
ME: Alright well let me ask you if there’s anybody reading this is there a good way to get a hold of you if they have questions regarding some test?
STEVE: Sure they can reach me at my email at or via our website at While they are there they can look at free online training programs. And due to a lot of request we are now giving CEU’s for the program for a small fee you can take the course and get good CEU’s if you need them for your training hours.
ME: Well Steve, I appreciate your time and thank you for your work.

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