4 tips for EMS agencies to secure AFG funding

Posted on Wed, 19 Nov 2014 22:38:10 UTC

Since 2001, the Assistance to Firefighter Grant has helped firefighters and other first responders obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, vehicles, training and other resources to protect the public and emergency personnel from fire and related hazards.

Over the last couple of years the grant has shifted to include specific funding for EMS agencies as well. As this is one of the most competitive grants in the country, your agency must set itself apart from the thousands of other applicants to secure funding.

Here on four tips on how to craft a strong application.

1. Time pays off

Make your application a high priority and devote the time and energy necessary to tell your agency’s story.

2. Focus on safety

Focus on how your project enhances the safety and effectiveness of your providers, and demonstrate this in the application. Explain how enhancing EMS also enhances all of public safety.

3. Do your homework

Read and reread the application, guidelines, and all resources that FEMA provides. You don’t want your request to get denied because you missed an important detail.

4. Don't get discouraged

Just because your project was denied in 2013 does not mean it won’t be funded in 2014. Look over your application narratives and make them stronger.

Focus on the above while keeping them clear and concise, and you will improve your chances of receiving funding.

4 key areas for firefighters strength training

Posted on Mon, 29 Oct 2012 08:55:36 UTC

Whether dragging victims from a building or simply humping hose around the fireground, firefighting demands certain types of physical training in order to perform the job safely and effectively.

Traditional firefighter conditioning has revolved around cardiovascular training such as jogging or treadmill work. But the real world dictates that firefighters must have cardiovascular function with nearly 50 pounds of gear on their bodies.

This changes the equation drastically when it comes to being in shape. It dictates that maximal strength and the highest level of anaerobic endurance must be obtained.

To some extent maximal strength can dictate how much endurance you have. If your maximum-effort dead lift is 200 pounds and you're asked to carry a 200-pound person, you won't be moving that person far before running out of energy.

On the other side, if your dead lift is 600 pounds, then a 200-pound person can be moved with relative ease because it only requires 33 percent of your maximal strength.

3 problem areas
Statistics show that most firefighters' physical injuries involve the lower back, knees and shoulders. This is where strength training takes a specific route to bring up strength and decrease injury.

Lower-back injuries often come from lifting heavy patients. Any firefighter who has run ambulance calls has come across residents who weigh between 300 and 500 pounds, or more in rare cases. Obviously firefighters need to be strong enough for that type of duty.

Injuries occur here due to weak lower back muscles, little-to-no hamstring strength and improper technique while performing a task. The first issue is to bring up the lagging muscle groups, then teach form in order to be mechanically sound.


  • Reverse hyper extensions – This builds important lower erectors and glutes while tractioning the lower back.
  • Glute ham raises – This strengthens the hamstrings, glutes, lower back and calves. Working them with this exercise teaches all the posterior chain muscles to work together as they do on duty.

Knee issues can be more complicated, but often firefighters beat their knees up by having weak hips and hamstrings. When jumping, jogging and carrying equipment at a fast pace, the hips and hamstrings must take their share of the work. If they are lacking in strength, the knee extensors attempt to complete the work. Over time this over use of the knee starts to take its toll.

Pain and injury occurs here due to weak hamstrings, hips, vastus medialus muscles and improper form. Once the hamstrings get stronger, knee pain and injury decreases.


  • Glute ham raises – This builds the hamstring in a functional environment.
  • Straight leg deadlifts – This strengthens the hamstrings in a way they will be required to work.

Shoulder pain, tendonitis and injury usually start with a weak upper back. The upper back — which includes the lats, rear delts, rhomboids and sub scapular muscles — needs to be strong in order to hold the shoulder joint in place under strain and to maintain correct posture while performing various tasks.


  • Rear delt row – This directly builds the rear delt and sub scapular muscles.
  • Bent over row – This builds the lats and also the rhomboids, traps.
  • Lat pulldown – This builds the lats, rear delts and most minor muscles groups of the back.

Cardiovascular endurance
Working on your cardiovascular endurance is important in maintaining your overall health and aiding your recovery. Many firefighters remain on the job well into their 50s; and some, especially volunteers, remain past 70.

High-impact activities, such as jogging, over time will increase injury and wear on the knees, back and hips. Therefore it is important to gain endurance with the least amount of negative impact on the skeletal system.

Sled dragging is one of the best overall tools to develop conditioning while building muscle in important areas. There is virtually no joint impact and with the proper weight can be just as intense as running is on your heart, lungs and lactic acid tolerance.

Dragging the sled backwards is similar to dragging people out of buildings.

Kettlebell swings are a very tough cardiovascular drill and very quickly improve the conditioning level of firefighters. I have seen U.S. Army Rangers buckle to the floor with 60 pounds in less than 5 minutes while doing swings, while it was no biggie for these guys to run more than 10 miles.

A strong lower back and abdominal base must be built before using this exercises with anything more than 25 pounds. The benefits of using a kettlebell is no joint impact and a great workout for the cardiovascular system and much of the entire muscular system.

Training on the job
It is important for firefighters to train at an optimal level of volume and intensity when on duty or scheduled for duty within 24 hours.

Firefighters must still be able to perform their job at any moment while on their shift. Totally wrecking the crew will not be optimal for a possible fire or other emergency. This is why training must be individualized for each person.

These issues are 90% of the problems I have seen in the four years of working with a large fire department. The variety of ages and body types means that training will require different starting points and constant revision to keep individuals progressing.

Unnoticed door locks increase firefighter risk

Posted on Tue, 17 Sep 2013 09:17:42 UTC

For many departments, the first-due engine is staffed with three to four firefighters, in some cases even fewer. There are five key job functions that must occur: size up, action plan, water supply, the initial stretch and forcible entry. These items will quickly tie up a short-staffed rig.

Luckily, in many parts of the country forcible entry is fairly simple. In many communities key-in-knob locks are the primary, if not the only device keeping the "bad guys" out of peoples homes. A short throw on the locking mechanism combined with wooden doorjambs means a very basic forcible-entry effort is all that's needed.

Recent UL studies — as well as years of studies from overseas, particularly Northern Europe — all point to the importance of door control on fire progression. Smooth forcible entry not only allows us to put the line in the right place, but also provides for better door control.

For many departments, the forcible-entry team will also be on the initial hand line. Quick and easy forcible entry allows for the team to still have the energy needed to make the attack.

Barring the way
It doesn't take more than a stroll through the local big-box home store to see that are several off-the-shelf devices to make door harder to force. These cheap and easy contraptions not only sell to homeowner's fears of invasion, but also require no skill to install.

The most prevalent are bars to buttress inward-swinging doors closed. And because they don't require additional hardware on the door or jamb, you won't necessarily know it is buttressed when sounding the door.

During a recent structure fire at a center hall colonial, after performing my 360 with no visible flame or smoke on the interior, it became clear that the unlocked side door gave the easiest, most direct line of attack for the first-due engine. The homeowners weren't home yet, but luckily the fire remained external due to a lightning strike. While walking through the house we discovered a store-bought device on the locked front door.

As we discussed the event later, some things became clear. Had the fire progressed to the interior, I would likely have placed the initial line through the front door.

The likely outcome
Our first-due engine would have begun forcible entry on that door and would have met with more resistance than seemed appropriate. The front door didn't have sidelights that would have made it possible to view the device from the exterior.

These slow downs would have likely led to a change in tactics, such as heading to the side door, and possible even a change in strategy given my team would have wasted time and energy on the front door.

Worse yet, had they headed in the side door, our truck crew would have begun to soften egress points incase the interior teams had to escape. Naturally the interior teams would consider the front door at the base of the stairs a natural exit, only to find it barricaded.

A quick web search of home door security bars will show the myriad of devices out there for the general public. Don't get me wrong; we can overcome these devices.

However, the standard size up isn't going to see the device and command is likely going to create an action plan that doesn't fit the tougher forcible-entry profile these devices create.

Add that to short staffing and everything slows down except the fire growth.

Taking care of the rescued firefighter

Posted on Mon, 10 Nov 2014 16:11:00 UTC

We've all placed a great deal of emphasis on improving firefighter safety on the fireground by developing and implementing Rapid Intervention Team strategies, procedures and training. To date, many of those initiatives have focused on finding the firefighters in distress and removing them from the hazard area.

We have to be able to seamlessly move from firefighter rescue to firefighter patient care. And that will entail additional training and practice on the part of both firefighters and the EMS providers — who may not be firefighters.

Why? Because in addition to a firefighter who may be in need of life-saving medical intervention, such an event is also a workplace injury site if the firefighter survives, or the site of a line-of-duty death if resuscitation efforts are unsuccessful or the firefighter later succumbs to his injuries.

Therefore, firefighters and EMS providers alike must be trained and prepared to manage the scene from both the medical intervention and evidence preservation perspectives — think Chicago Fire meets CSI.

What's necessary?
The initial incident commander and those resources on the initial alarm must be proactive in their positioning of fire apparatus and ambulances. The commander must ensure that apparatus has not closed off all means of egress from the incident scene.

The responding ambulance crew must position their vehicle as close to the scene as possible, in the cold zone, and in the direction of travel away from the scene. Having a critically injured firefighter — or civilian — in the patient compartment is not the time to be trying to get the ambulance turned around and headed away from the scene.

Once their ambulance is properly positioned, weather permitting, the EMS crew should take the stretcher and initial patient care equipment bags and report to the commander. The EMS crew must ensure that their equipment cache includes:

  • EMS PPE (disposable gloves, masks and gowns) to prevent contact with soot and other carcinogenic substances that may be on the firefighter's PPE.
  • Evidence collection bags (preferably paper) to collect any clothing that's removed from the firefighter during patient care.
  • Large plastic bags (33-gallon) to collect the firefighter's structural PPE and SCBA.
  • Several bed sheets for use as temporary screens to shield the patient care efforts from the prying eyes of news media representatives and civilians with wireless phone cameras.

The incident commander should assign the crew to a position in the cold zone, as close to the primary means of egress being used by firefighters, for as long as firefighters are in the hazard area and actively conducting fire suppression operations.

Beyond treating the injured firefighter
The extraction of the injured firefighter from the fire building must continue until the patient is at the location of the EMS crew in the cold zone. Without this direction from the commander, patient care is going to start wherever the rescue team deposits the patient.

The front porch or the front yard at the base of the steps, the warm zone, is no place to properly and safely render patient care, even if the EMS providers are cross-trained firefighters.

The first patient care priority must be the safe removal of the firefighter's SCBA and PPE to ensure that EMS providers have maximum access for patient care interventions like IV access, drug administration, intubation, etc. All removed clothing, PPE, and SCBA should be promptly bagged so as not to lose or contaminate any items for the ensuing injury or death investigation.

Once the patient's airway, breathing and circulation have been secured, the patient should be quickly and safely moved to the ambulance via the stretcher. A fire officer should be assigned by the commander to accompany the patient as an official departmental liaison officer and to maintain communication with the on-scene commander.

Once the patient is safely aboard the ambulance, it should immediately proceed to the appropriate medical facility according to the EMS agency's medical protocols.

Practice protocols
The care and treatment of any injured firefighter is a critical responsibility for the commander and the foundation for that task must be put in place by the initial incident commander and the first arriving fire and EMS resources. This task becomes even more critical when the injured firefighter required extrication from a structure by a rescue team.

Fire departments should have this critical operation outlined for their personnel in the form of a Standard Operating Guideline. If the EMS agency that will provide patient care and transportation is a separate and autonomous organization, their leadership should be a part of the development of the SOG.

Just as important as having the SOG in place is practicing its implementation by all agencies involved. The time to test the SOG is not when a firefighter's life depends upon it working.

Can the fireground be research driven?

Posted on Tue, 11 Nov 2014 15:34:01 UTC

Evidence-based fire suppression strategy and tactics are being made available through the research being conducted by the NIST and UL.

However, the practices and solutions to fire suppression techniques are not always implemented on the street. In fact, many times the research is combated vigorously, occasionally almost violently.

In many cases the resistance is based upon the emotional attachment to the idea that we have to "fighting the red devil."

Traditionally, safety research has focused on data analyses to identify firefighter safety issues and to demonstrate that a new practice will lead to improved efficiency and firefighter safety. Much less research attention has been paid to how to implement practices.

Yet, only by putting into practice what is learned from research will firefighters become safer.

Implementation strategies
Implementing evidence-based safety practices are difficult and need strategies that address the complexity of fireground operations, individuality, leadership and ultimately changing the culture to be evidence-based safety practices environments.

Evidence-based practice is the conscientious and judicious use of current best evidence in conjunction with expertise and new values to guide fire service leaders through the decision-making and change-management process.

Best evidence includes empirical evidence from randomized controlled trials. UL and NIST are doing a significant amount of controlled trials in a variety of situations. This is the first time in the history of the fire service that we have research that is being used to validate, or not validate, our current strategy and tactics.

When you research how the theory of fire suppression was developed, it is very hard to find evidence-based research.

History of evidence
Chief Lloyd Layman is considered the father of fog firefighting tactical operations. He first presented a paper "Little Drops of Water" in 1950 at FDIC in Memphis, Tenn.

That paper was extremely radical for the time and coined the term "indirect attack." Most of the theory Chief Layman shared came from research conducted by the Coast Guard.

The fire service has not been blessed with a sufficient research base and therefore decision making is derived principally from experience. This has not always served the fire service in the most positive manner.

The books written in the fire service in most cases are based upon larger departments with adequate staff and equipment resources. Departments with limited resources or long response times try to emulate what is written in the tactics textbooks.

Each fire department needs to take the information being disseminated today and examine it to determine a course of action that matches their situation and the facts available.

The strategic decision making process is different for rural, suburban and urban departments based upon resources, response time and staff capability. Ultimately, the size and complexity of the fire will determine the strategy.

One of the new decision-making models developed by Hanover County (Va.) Fire-Rescue Div. Chief Eddie Buchanan and used by the International Society of Fire Service Instructors in their new video "Modern Fire Behavior" is SLICERS. The acronym stands for Size-up, Location of the fire, Isolate the flow path, Cool from a safe distance, Extinguish; Rescue and Salvage are added in as necessary.

This is all about hitting it hard from the yard for 15 seconds, then going inside to put it out. While most agree that the latest research can improve firefighter safety, they struggle to translate the research into fireground tactics and implement that change in a successful manner.

This program rethinks the tactics of old and incorporates the latest research into tactics using the SLICERS method. The concept has been vetted with the lead researchers involved and has their endorsement.

The acronym is designed to replace the well-known RECEO VS method that has been widely adopted by the fire service over the years. This program also discusses overcoming resistance to change and the lessons learned in real-world implementation.

SLICERS is one decision making model. If you are satisfied with the model you are currently using and you believe it gives you the required options to make the right decisions at the right time to ensure firefighter safety and appropriate tactical application.

Changing world
The REVAS model was an upgrade from the RECO model developed by Chief Lloyd Layman in the 1950s. RECEO was the foundation for Layman's 1953 book "Fire Fighting Tactics." His tactical priorities of Rescue, Exposures, Confinement, Extinguish and Overhaul were innovative, but were developed when a 2×4 was truly 2×4 inches, cut-and-stack framing still existed, and interior furnishings were still primarily made from natural materials.

Today, as we all know, the structural components are lighter and less capable of handling a fire of any consequence. Framing materials are now made from small dimensional lumber and engineered wood products. Floor plans are an open concept that includes many common spaces with few, if any, doors.

Lightweight trusses with gusset plates are the antigravity mechanisms of choice, and interior furnishings are primarily made out of plastics and hydrocarbons (comfortable gasoline). These interior furnishings burn more quickly and produce many times more BTUs and poisonous toxins than natural materials, creating atmospheres that are survivable only for a very short time.

The additional challenge we face today is that many times there is less staffing available for fire combat operations. This staffing reduction is caused by a variety of factors, but the incident commander must be aware of the staffing or lack of staffing issue.

The command component must develop a risk-management assessment and plan. A realistic assessment and plan will reduce the risk to firefighters and ultimately reduce injury and death.

Simultaneous vs. sequential
Chief Billy Goldfeder years ago talked about the fire departments' ability to deploy tactical operations simultaneously or sequentially. There is a huge difference between the actions tied to those two words.

If you have limited staffing or other resources that are not adequate, the commander must prioritize the tactical actions necessary that are logical and make sense. This is a part of the tactical decision making model and establishes the sequential priority to tactical actions.

This is part of the critical decision making process that needs to be enhanced. The effective incident commander must recognize that the sets of facts presented today may require a different response to a standard decision making process.

Accumulating the right experience is critical to growing in the role of competent incident commander and not making decisions based upon automatic responses to recognized patterns.

10 steps to buying the right TIC

Posted on Sat, 22 Nov 2014 00:05:17 UTC

Some key consideration when looking to buy a TIC include, but are not limited to, finding a model that offers the best value for the money, serves your long-term needs, and has the hardware and software features to provide the greatest use.

Regardless of the model a department's leaders chooses, quality and dependability, along with excellent technical support and service are also key purchasing factors.

The first step should be to conduct a thorough needs assessment based on the services that your department provides and the environments where the TIC will be used. The most obvious use for most departments will be during fire suppression operations, but what about other services provided by your department?

TICs are a valuable tool for other functions such as conducting fire code inspections for flammable liquid storage tanks and piping. Fire inspectors and investigators might benefit from a camera that provides flexible ergonomics, allowing them to comfortably point the imager around tight corners, down behind motors, or straight up for equipment inspections overhead.

Next, identify the intended users of the TIC you're looking to buy. Will they be primarily fire officers and firefighters using it for emergency responses? Or will it be used by both suppression and non-suppression personnel such as fire inspectors or investigators?

TIC technology changes rapidly, so make sure to include where thermal imaging technology is headed in your product research. Consider not just your current needs, but potential uses for the future and you'll have a better opportunity to "future-proof" your TIC investment.

Here are 10 steps that can help you when buying your next TIC.

1. Go for the highest image quality your budget allows.
Most infrared cameras have fewer pixels than visible-light cameras, so pay close attention to detector resolution. TICs with a higher resolution can measure smaller targets from farther away and create sharper thermal images.

The difference between detector and display resolution matters. Some manufacturers may boast about a high resolution LCD and hide their low-resolution detector when it's the detector resolution that matters most. Higher-resolution thermal imaging provides a more effective display of a TIC's findings, which leads to better fireground decisions.

2. Look for a built-in visible-light camera with an illuminator lamp and a laser pointer.
There's no need to carry a separate piece of equipment to take photos when many affordable TICs now include a built-in digital camera that simultaneously captures visible light and thermal images. Digital photos that correspond to your TIC's images will help you further document situations and share that information with others, like sharing images captured by the first-arriving officer with the assigned fire investigator.

Built-in laser pointers are also invaluable, especially for isolating the location of a target surrounded by similar-looking components, such as breakers, or for pinpointing problematic energized electrical equipment where you need to keep your distance. Laser markers show up clearly on visible-light pictures to provide a reliable reference.

3. Look for accurate and repeatable results.
TICs don't just let you see differences in heat, they let you measure those differences, which means the accuracy and consistency of the measurements is a very important factor when determining the value of a camera. For best results, look for a thermal imager that meets or exceeds plus or minus 2 percent (or 3.6°F) accuracy.

In order to produce correct and repeatable results, your thermal imager should include in-camera tools for entering both emissivity and reflected temperature values.

An infrared camera that gives you an easy way to input and adjust both of those parameters will produce the accurate temperature measurements you need in the field.

4. Look for a TIC that stores and outputs broadly supported standard file formats.
Many infrared cameras store images in a proprietary format that can only be read and analyzed with specialized software. Others have an optional JPEG storage capability that lacks temperature information.

Some cameras offer a standard JPEG with full temperature analysis embedded. This allows you to e-mail TIC images to your colleagues without losing vital information.

Also, consider TICs that allow you to stream MPEG 4 video via USB to computers and monitors. This is especially useful for letting the incident commander see what conditions interior crews are operating in or for use during training activities. New mobile applications also have been developed that allow streaming video over Wi-Fi.

5. Look for Wi-Fi app compatibility.
Cameras compatible with this leading technology allow personnel to connect with smartphone and tablets so that users can import TIC images to their mobile device for portable analysis, report generation and sharing.

Being able to send thermal images and infrared inspection reports wirelessly from one part of a facility to another or by email from the field can be huge when time is of the essence.

6. Look for ergonomic features.
Consider the camera's interactive controls. Does it have dedicated buttons, direct-access menus, or both? A few extra simple buttons that are intuitively positioned can actually make the camera easier to use instead of relying on one button to step through menu options.

Some cameras offer integrated touch screens as another advantageous way to access functions and features, including text and sketch notations.

7. Look for MSX thermal image enhancement or picture-in-picture.
These features will enable you to combine thermal and visible-light images for generating reports that are easier to understand. MSX instantaneously adds visible spectrum details like numbers, labels, signage, and texture to the thermal image without obscuring or diluting the infrared scene.

Picture-in-picture another onboard mode that can be used for clearer documentation, allowing the user to inset a thermal image over its corresponding visible light photo.

8. Try the reporting software products.
Report generation is becoming an indispensable feature for fire departments that use TICs. Many infrared cameras come with free software that allows you to perform basic image analysis and to create simple reports. Advanced software for more in-depth analysis and customizable reports is also available.

9. Look for a wide temperature range.
A camera's temperature range and sensitivity are important considerations, too. The range tells you what the minimum and maximum temperatures are that the camera can measure (-4°F to 2,192°F is a typical example).

Select a TIC with a temperature range broad enough to capture all of the temperatures of the objects or scenes your people typically encounter.

10. Consider service before and after the sale.
Ensure that your investment in a TIC is backed by a reputable manufacturer who will provide both initial and ongoing training along with technical support. Also, look for a TIC that comes with a comprehensive, extended-warranty program to protect your investment for the long haul.

Before you make the investment, ask for a demo in your work environment. Why? An infrared camera may work just fine in an air conditioned conference room, but you need to know how well it will perform under your department's real-world environmental conditions.

How the public sees a fire attack

Posted on Mon, 17 Nov 2014 15:15:33 UTC

The fire department responded to a liquor store and a cell phone store involved in fire. Ultimately, a total of nine agencies assisted in the suppression operations. The two stores were a loss, and a connecting church also sustained water and smoke damage.

And afterward that operation drew more than 30,000 views on YouTube.

Rather than discussing the firefighting tactical operations, let's look at how they are perceived by the general public and other firefighters. We all know that civilians and firefighters are using wireless phone cameras to capture more fire videos than ever before, and it is of the quality that not long ago required high-end equipment.

Once those videos hit the digital street via YouTube, Facebook and other media outlets, the commentary from all quarters can be quite damaging. The potential for a department's reputation to be damaged comes not only from the general public, but fellow firefighters as well.

Watch the video and use the discussion questions below before you review the written comments that accompany the video.

Discussion questions

  • What feelings and thoughts did you experienced while watching the video?
  • What feelings and thoughts would the average civilian in your community experience while watching the video?
  • What do you think the general opinion of the civilians in this community would be of their fire department after viewing the video?
  • What can fire department personnel do during tactical operations to proactively address what can show up on social media?

Why fire departments must become risk-reduction departments

Posted on Fri, 13 Jun 2014 01:00:00 UTC

By Douglas Cline
Feb. 8, 2011
Updated June 13, 2014

Some fire service leaders expect that fire departments across the United States will see a paradigm shift from just emergency response services to a comprehensive community risk reduction and management focus.

You hear it as you talk with fire service leaders across the nation. National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer research documents are being developed and presented on this very topic. It was a discussion topic at an International Association of Fire Chief's strategic planning meeting.

So why do we need to change directions?

The fire service already handles the majority of emergencies and crisis within the community. We need to focus on a proactive approach.

This would allow for not only a safer community but help focus on the quality of life of our residents. Preventing incidents from occurring significantly reduces cost, improves the quality of life and increases the potential for economic sustainability.

New rules of engagement
The impact of budget cuts is witnessed almost daily in the fire service with browning out of stations, closing of companies, staff reduction through attrition and yes even critical staffing reductions by employees being laid off. The fire service has reached a new fold in its history.

With this new fold occurring we must adapt our philosophies, strategies and even our beloved tactics.

When corporations and builders engineer and construct disposable buildings then we need to tactically focus our efforts on engineering and code requirements of automatic fire suppression systems and early detection systems. When the owners and builders ignore this option and a fire catastrophe strikes, we need to use the new rules of tactical engagement.

Fire departments will need to shift from traditional emergency responses services and transition into a combination of emergency responses services with a primary focus on being a community reduction team focusing on public safety in a multidimensional approach of safe buildings through code enforcement, building requirements, environmental impact, community safety, responder safety, community health and wellness and community risk reduction through research and education.

We will become the mother ship that guides critical thinking in all aspects of safety throughout our community.

The fire service will need to focus on assembling a set of best practices in risk reduction and work diligently to manage risk via educating our communities, proactive engineering practices and code enforcement.

However, the fire service does not collect data well at all. We have to transition to being very analytical of collecting certain complete and accurate quantifiable data based upon a standard data model for comparative benchmarking studies.

The battle is won however on the proactive side through risk reduction and risk management. The long-term impacts will benefit everyone. Our success will be determined by not solely the retrospective data but community and family buy in. This relates to the true potential risk that exists, verses how it has been reduced

Fire cadets and fire departments

Posted on Thu, 22 Dec 2011 12:22:38 UTC

Fire cadets play an important role in assisting local fire departments. They also are a great way to encourage young people to go into firefighting careers and EMS programs. While cadet programs aren't considered direct recruiting tools, they are ways to expose students to the life of a firefighter so they can decide if it might be the right career path for them.

Many people aren't even aware that fire cadet programs exist. What are fire cadets and what are their duties? Here's a brief breakdown of how these young future firefighters contribute to local fire departments.

Generally, programs for fire cadets accept people between the age of 16 and 20. Some require that they be at least in the 10th grade. If they're still in high school, most programs require that students maintain at least a 2.0 grade average in order to remain active in the program. If they've graduated from high school, they should be in college and maintaining a good grade average.

Application acceptance for fire cadet programs can be ongoing through local fire departments, or it can be limited to once or twice a year. Applicants must have undergone CPA training and certification prior to applying. If accepted, cadets go through a training program.

The cadet basic training program teaches them introductory level knowledge of firefighting skills, tools, equipment and fire science. It also helps cadets develop positive mentoring relationships with firefighters. The cadet instructors evaluate the students during basic training to assess their ability to undertake duties and their commitment to becoming a fire cadet. Proficiency exercises take place at this level to assess the student's physical abilities.

Some fire cadet basic training programs also require that trainees participate in ride-alongs with firefighters and

Fire cadets generally spend about 100 hours or three to six months in supervised cadet training activities. After that, they are considered for ride-along certification, which gives them an opportunity to accompany firefighters to emergency calls. During this phase of training cadets can spend anywhere from 12 to 24 hours on a firefighting under the supervision of a mentor or instructor.

Although special instructors are responsible for fire cadet training, fire station personnel also sometimes assist with basic training.

Once they've been certified as fire cadets, inductees are allowed to assist fire departments in a non-hazardous capacity. Their duties might include cleaning equipment, restocking supplies and helping to clean up fire scenes.


Sorry, our Department Can't Comply with Rehab Standards

Posted on Mon, 24 Nov 2008 13:19:30 UTC

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1584 Standard on the Rehabilitation Process for Members During Emergency Operations and Training Exercises, attained "standard" status in March of 2008. Emergency services organizations must begin implementing the standard this year. Certainly it is the desire of every fire and EMS administrator to protect their department members in the areas of health and safety. As time proceeds, it will be interesting to monitor the a cceptance and practical application of these standards. Can we expect the "perfect emergency scene" to exist throughout the nation consistently? Where will departments fall short? Are these mandates doable, especially with shrinking budgets and manpower limitations?

Let's look at the nine key components of NFPA 1584, highlighting some practical concerns. I will be taking the "devil's advocate" role in responding to the requirements of the standard. You may note an air of cynicism that is seldom heard in the fire service. This is a very serious topic and my approach is only to show that "If there is a will, there is a way." Organize your team and resources and continue networking in order to achieve success.

Relief from climatic (weather/environmental) conditions:
Firefighting is done in extreme weather conditions. Mother Nature doesn't provide our world with moderate temperatures and working conditions. How can we escape the extreme heat or cold? We just won't respond to calls if it is too hot or cold.

Rest and recovery:
Depending on how many units are in staging, I'd love to take a 30 minute break with every bottle change. We operate two-man engine companies and the closest mutual aid company is twelve minutes out. "Hey chief, I'm tired, can I go lay down?"
We need a 3rd alarm just to get enough bodies to the scene.

Cooling or re-warming:
The only heat source is the inferno we're here to put out. Wearing all this turnout gear causes me to dehydrate before I even get into the structure. City council dinged our request for air conditioned cabs. We're lucky they let us have the air conditioners on at the firehouse. My idea of cooling is sit in the shade of the ladder truck.

Where's the closest vending machine? No one filled the engines water cooler today.
We used to carry bottled water on the rigs but the guys would drink them during truck checks. Hopefully the neighbors will show up with some lemonade to help out America's Bravest. Fire trucks have water in them, don't they? Drink that water.

Calorie and electrolyte replacement:
Hey neighbor, while you're making that lemonade, how about a turkey on rye with extra pickles? No name, free game. The mobile canteen showed up with day old doughnuts and week old bologna sandwiches. Luckily I ate a big lunch because this looks like a long one. That's why we never implemented a physical training program. We like to have our guys with some extra fat on them.

Medical Monitoring:
What do you mean my pulse and blood pressure are too high? That is my NORMAL resting pulse and BP. Maybe these extra few pounds I've been carrying around make it tough. After a couple cups of coffee and some doughnuts, they will go back to normal.
Chief needs three more hand lines stretched and we need all bodies.

EMS Treatment in accordance with local protocol:
Where are the medics? We've got an apartment building roaring and the EMS rigs are two blocks away. Just give me some O2 and I will be fine. It's not bad chest pain. Probably the chili dogs with onion I ate for lunch. I don't want to look soft in front of the young guys.

Member accountability:
I lost my tags. My crew got split up and the captain detailed me to re-fill air bottles.
I don't want to look soft by hanging out in rehab.

Release from rehabilitation:
This will not be a problem. You either get back to work or go to the hospital in the bus.
It feels kinda good here in the air conditioned rehab unit. With all that 5" that needs to be re-loaded, maybe I need to drink another liter of juice.

We all know that changing old habits comes slow for some. Budget constraints do create real challenges in meeting the needs of your department. Truly, for any department to be 100 % compliant in meeting these standards, much planning and focusing will be required. Develop a team of interested staff members to research, develop and implement these life-saving standards. Although it may take months to reach your ultimate goal, it is never too late to make improvements. Best of luck with your efforts to ensure the health and safety of your people. They are worth it!

Eight Things to Do for Your Crew in 2008

Posted on Wed, 2 Jan 2008 12:23:09 UTC

With 2008 under way, it's time for us to reflect on the year past and to begin developing our plans for the future. Here are eight straightforward ideas that company officers can use right now to help their crews stay ahead in 2008.

1. Be an informer
Passing on relevant information about decisions, plans and activities to the people (your firefighters) who need it to do their work is vital. You can't expect them to accomplish goals that they know nothing about. Discuss the daily objectives at the morning briefing, including any training, inspections, pre-fire plans or scheduled community education. You can never provide too much information to your people.

2. Promote the team
Crew cohesion, or working together as a team, is an important human factor in firefighter safety and for getting things done. Problems with crew cohesion have been identified with several near-misses and tragic accidents. Look for and promote good work practices that safely and effectively accomplish team objectives. Stress the importance of how individual capabilities contribute to the team's success.

3. Create a training plan to keep your crew ready Your training goal should be to prepare your firefighters to be ready to operate safely and effectively at any intensity level, anywhere, anytime, and to return home alive. Readiness training demands teamwork, dedication and sustained practice. Create a flexible and believable training plan that addresses the training needs for your crew while prioritizing those training needs, focusing on safety first.

4. Address problems as they occur
Be willing to confront problems head on and have those tough conversations with your firefighters. A team that is comfortable talking openly with each other, and willing to air their disagreements or problems, will move forward together. Identify and remediate all performance issues immediately, understanding that everyone operates at a different level.

5. Define your expectations and keep them believable
It's pretty simple. Let your crew know what you expect of them. Here are a few examples: Be safe by responding safely, following operational policies, maintaining and operating equipment properly, and practicing personnel accountability. Be proficient by training for readiness and improvement, arriving on scene ready to work, communicating effectively, and following the chain of command. Be professional by practicing a positive image all the time, everywhere you go. Be nice to each other and everyone you meet. If your team makes an effort to follow these basic expectations, you will have a safe and rewarding year.

6. Motivate them
Recognize the likes and differences of your firefighters to help you motivate them to be a more productive team. Appeal to their individual emotions and values to generate enthusiasm for their work. Invite their participation when making decisions, and allow them to have responsibility in carrying out their work activities.

7. Recognize and praise them, at the right time
Provide praise and recognition for excellent (not ordinary) performance. If it's really good work, put it in writing. Be specific about what you are praising. Give praise for weak performance that’s improving. Recognizing their efforts shows your appreciation for the work they do.

8. Support and mentor them
Act friendly and considerate. Be patient and helpful. Do things to facilitate your firefighters' skill development and career enhancement. Be responsive to their requests for assistance or support, and set an example for proper behavior. Be their leader.

Take some time and see if you can add a few ideas to the list. Even if you can only address a few of these recommendations you'll be on the road to developing a fresh attitude and healthy approach for a new and exciting year.

Another great CFSI dinner in the books

Posted on Fri, 30 May 2014 13:47:41 UTC

Each year, the Congressional Fire Services Institute has the distinct honor of hosting the annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner and Seminars Program. The event brings together fire and emergency services leaders from across the country to our nation's capital.

During their stay, they meet with their members of Congress, attend the CFSI seminars program, and come together as one fire service for a special dinner program honoring the dedication and service of our nation's one million first responders.

The theme of the 26th annual program, which took place on April 30-May 1 in Washington, D.C., was "Cultivating Relationships." Upwards of 2,000 fire service leaders from across the country attended the program.

This was not a social gathering by any stretch, but a unique opportunity to learn and participate in the legislative- and policy-implementation processes. For veterans and neophytes of this program alike, important work is accomplished at the annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner and Seminars Program that has a far-reaching effect on federal programs that benefit our nation's first responders.

This is why CFSI continues to conduct this event and encourage a large turnout — to cultivate relationships with political leaders who determine the federal government's commitment to important fire and emergency services programs.

Getting educated
Before commenting on the dinner, I'd like to discuss the seminars program. No other event in the fire service covers such a broad range of important federal issues — nor does any other event feature such a broad array of distinguished and knowledgeable experts on national fire service issues.

Our seminar presenters included 32 association leaders, six federal officials, and eight members of Congress. They are experts in such areas as first responder communications, emergency medical services, building codes, leadership, public safety education, health and wellness, and lobbying.

Our federal presenters were there to listen how our government can be more responsive to the concerns and needs of the fire and emergency services.

While CFSI was delivering an educational experience for all attendees, there were separate meetings and business taking place by other organizations and individual groups. There is not another opportunity during the year for such meetings between leaders of so many diverse organizations.

Business cards were exchanged and new business relationships were formed. Industry leaders conversed with fire officials, while many of our participants were walking the halls of Congress and meeting with their elected representatives.

The best ever
This was my 19th dinner as CFSI's executive director and arguably the best one from my perspective. Five of our fire caucus leaders participated in the dinner program. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Peter King (R-N.Y), and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) all addressed the dinner attendees, while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) once again addressed our board of directors reception.

Many members of Congress would relish the opportunity to address such a large and esteemed audience of fire service officials, but few deserve the time behind the podium — most notably these members in addition to our three other caucus co-chairs — Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), who addressed the opening session of our seminars program.

These are members who understand our issues, members who work with us on a daily basis to help the fire service become better prepared and trained. They understand our culture, our traditions and our language.

Grant programs aren't funded on their own, nor are federal agencies like the U.S. Fire Administration or the National Fire Academy. Positive changes to the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program require support from the Capitol Hill, as do efforts to enhance first responder communications.

Recognizing excellence
To a large extent, we have our caucus leaders to thank for this work, which is why we always look forward to paying proper tribute to them at the dinner.

The dinner also provides an opportunity to acknowledge fire service leaders and organizations for outstanding leadership.

Since 1999, CFSI and Motorola Solutions have presented the Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award to an individual for exemplary leadership at the local, state and national levels. This year's recipient was the Hon. James M. Shannon, president of the National Fire Protection Association who will be retiring shortly following an illustrious 23-year career with NFPA.

CFSI co-sponsor an award with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation that recognizes organizations for outstanding leadership to advance the cause of firefighter health and safety. This year we honored a government agency (the Office of the Fire Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) and a partnership between two organizations (the Oklahoma Council on Firefighter Training and Ingegris Heart Hospital). The central focus of the award is to recognize organizations that are helping to advance the 16 Life Safety Initiatives developed by fire service leaders at Tampa, Fla. in 2004.

We also present two other prestigious awards: the Dr. Anne W. Phillips Award for Leadership in Fire Safety Education and the Excellence in Fire Service-Based EMS Awards.

With the support of the International Fire Service Training Association, we recognized Mary Marchone of the National Fire Academy with the Phillips awards. The EMS award, co-sponsored by the MedicAlert Foundation, honored three recipients from the volunteer, career and combination categories: the Cullman County (Ala.) Association of Volunteer Fire Departments, the Memphis (Tenn.) Fire Department and the Howard County (Md.) Department of Fire and Rescue Services, respectively.

These are competitive awards with formal application processes. It is indeed a distinct honor for the recipients to stand before national fire service leaders and receive these recognitions. They have worked hard to achieve these honors and by doing so, have made the fire service stronger and communities across the nation safer.

We extend our thanks and appreciation to our co-sponsors for their continued support of the awards program. Without them, this program would not be possible.

From the administration
Our keynote speaker was Secretary Jeh Johnson of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In his speech, the secretary pledge to grow the department's relationships with the fire and emergency service, stating that the department will continue to listen to the fire service to better understand our needs and concerns.

He spoke of the department's commitment to the SAFER and AFG grant programs, enumerating the many ways both programs have addressed the needs of fire departments across the nation. He also recognized our Fire Administrator Chief Ernie Mitchell and the leadership he continues to provide at the federal level.

Cultivating relationships is the mission of the Congressional Fire Services Institute. The fire and emergency services stand to gain when nearly 2,000 fire and emergency services officials from all disciplines can gather together in Washington, D.C. and present a unified image to our leaders on both ends of Pennsylvania Ave.

We thank those who attended for their support and encourage others to contact our office to learn how they can engage in our efforts not only at our 2015 program, but every day during the year. You can reach us at 202-371-1277 or update@cfsi.org

Safety tips for winter-weather response

Posted on Tue, 28 Jan 2014 08:28:50 UTC

Winter has settled in with record lows, dangerous wind chills and significant snowfall covering much of the nation. Unfortunately, how people respond to these weather events can result in house fires, automobile crashes, carbon monoxide poisonings and personal injuries.

Likewise, how you respond to incidents when the weather is a factor requires extra consideration to ensure your safety as well as those who've called for our help.

Statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association confirm what most of us know from our experience in the fire service: that house fires increase during the winter months. The majority of these fires are a result of food left on the stove, candles left near flammable items like decorations or curtains, or space heaters left unattended and close to flammable objects.

When we're called to a winter house fire, we're not just attacking the fire and smoke in the structure or searching for potential victims. We also have to be attuned to what's happening as a result of snow, ice, freezing rain or wind. Snow accumulation on the house and tree limbs, ice that may already be surrounding the house or that will develop from flowing water, and low-hanging or downed wires can all impede our work.

Maintaining situational awareness is imperative. Pay attention to what's going on around you on the scene, including with the structure and your crew. Proper ladder placement is critical in any incident, but when these harsh weather conditions come into play, we must be extra diligent. When possible get someone to heel the ladder for extra stability.

Road safety
Similarly, how people drive can be affected by the weather. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly 24 percent of all vehicle crashes in the United States occur during rain, sleet, snow or fog, and the slick pavement it produces.

Keep this in mind when responding to the scene of a crash during bad weather: If the driver who you are on your way to assist had difficulty seeing due to fog, heavy rain or blowing snow, or hit black ice, you should expect to experience the same conditions. While it's important to arrive to a scene quickly, it's far more important that you arrive safely.

It's also critical to be conscientious of how you and others around you are driving at all times. It's common for motorists to become nervous behind the wheel in inclement weather.

That level of uneasiness only increases when they hear sirens or see lights behind them. Their reactions, such as stopping short in front of you or skidding into oncoming traffic, may result in another incident.

Drive appropriately for the weather conditions. And remember that driving defensively doesn't mean driving aggressively.

Above all else, use your seat belts every time wheels roll. Whether you're responding in your personal vehicle or department apparatus, it's imperative that you buckle up. It’s that simple.

The bottom line: Stay alert, drive smart, be safe and stay warm.

Otterbox cases offer robust smartphone protection

Posted on Tue, 21 Jun 2011 15:03:20 UTC

With each new iteration of the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry or Android phone, consumers are faced with the same question: "How will I protect this device from the inevitable drops, falls, bangs, dings, and scratches that inevitably arise from daily use?"

That is even more relevant for first responders who, with the ever-growing use of fire, EMS and police apps, are becoming increasingly dependent on these pocket-sized computers to do their jobs.

For civilians, a broken smartphone means an interruption in their quest to defeat Angry Birds. For first responders, a broken smartphone could mean a lost life or a hamstrung investigation.

OtterBox, with their heavy-duty Defender Series cases, has created a level of smartphone protection that will keep your mobile device well protected through month after month of heavy-duty daily use.

OtterBox sent me a Defender Series case to try out with my new iPhone 4, but they also manufacture models for Blackberry, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, HTC, and LG smartphones, as well as the Apple iPad.

The effectiveness of the Defender Series comes from its layered design. Instead of a simple plastic or rubber case that clips around your phone, the Defender has several layers of protection to keep the phone safe from drops and scratches.

The first layer is a polycarbonate shell that clips snugly around the phone. A plastic membrane on the front of the shell offers durable screen protection, making an adhesive screen protection film unnecessary.

Installing the shell took less than a minute and, once in place, it felt totally secure; pulling on the front and back of the case didn't offer any give.

Surrounding the base shell is a silicon cover that smoothes over the base layer's hard edges and creates another level of shock protection. The silicon layer has flaps that cover all the iPhone's ports and clip securely shut, but can easily be pulled open for access to the charging port, headphone jack, and volume buttons.

With the first two layers in place, the protected iPhone then clips into a polycarbonate holster that holds the device face in or face out.

The holster is, essentially, a case for your case, and with the phone clipped into all three (polycarbonate shell, silicone layer, and holster), the phone feels extremely secure.

It's bulky, but not overly so, and for the day I wore it clipped to my belt it never felt intrusive or uncomfortable. Firefighters, Medics or cops — who are used to having gadgets hanging from their utility belts — won't notice the added bulk.

But the real question when it comes to smartphone cases is: How far can you drop it?

I tested it for myself, dropping my Defender-wrapped iPhone from waist height, and then chest height. No damage whatsoever. I was tempted to drop it off our balcony, but the memory of replacing the glass backing of my iPhone a few months ago stopped me.

I asked OtterBox' Public Relations Specialist Kristen Tatti about the case's dropping capability, and she said their rule is "Three feet to concrete," meaning you can drop it from your pocket without risk of damage.

Tatti added that local firefighters in Fort Collins, Colo., (OtterBox' home) have been outfitted with the cases, and all have raved about the Defender's durability.

"They say it's nice to have something sturdy so they don't have to worry about their phones," she said. "With more and more firefighters getting emergency pages on their smartphones, a broken device can really ruin your day."

OtterBox also makes lines of cases more sleek than the Defender, including the "Commuter" (a simpler polycarbonate and silicone combination) and the "Impact" (just a silicon shell). Visit OtterBox' website to learn about all their smartphone and tablet cases.

How a 1942 fire changed fire safety

Posted on Tue, 11 Nov 2014 16:04:19 UTC

Quickly after the Japanese attack on the American naval fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor, Americans prepared for fighting on a global scale. The war ultimately brought far ranging and unprecedented social, economic and technological change on a scale that no one could have then predicted.

The wartime awareness that people you knew might be killed very soon meant making the most of the time you had to share. That was the case in Boston on a Saturday evening late in November with a crowd expecting an evening of entertainment and fun with family and friends.

But those expectations would not be fulfilled. Instead, a nightclub fire would change not only their lives, it would impact the very future of fire and life safety for buildings.

The burn victims of the fire that evening at the Coconut Grove paid the greatest price for society's failure to enforce minimum safety requirements.

Massachusetts General
But they also served as test patients for the medical treatment of severe burns, and what was learned would help many military personnel burned in both accidents and combat. This new medical knowledge also would be used to treat the civilian burn victims of the Hartford Circus Fire almost two years later.

That night, Dr. Oliver Cope of Massachusetts General Hospital, having just participated in a research project on burn treatment, would have the opportunity to test the new methods on the Coconut Grove victims.

The fire was also a test of Massachusetts General's newly developed war disaster plan. That night and through their long treatment and recovery, the burn victims received penicillin, a relatively new drug at the time, to fight wound infection.

Box 1521
"It's the Coconut Grove and it's going like hell!"

These were the words shouted by a Boston police officer from a radio-equipped patrol car as it passed the dooryard of the firehouse where Ladder 15 and its crew were moving to answer a third alarm for Box 1521.

The date was Nov. 28, 1942. The time was 10:23 p.m., and by a twist of fate, the Boston Fire Department had responded to a car fire near Box 1541 about 15 minutes earlier — roughly three blocks from the Cocoanut Grove.

The firefighters of Engine 22 and Ladder 13 found a vehicle fire on Stuart Street. While picking up after extinguishing the minor car fire, a civilian ran to them and told 22's captain, John Glynn, of a fire at the Coconut Grove. The officer quickly ordered the apparatus to respond to check out the report.

Inside Coconut Grove
From outside the Coconut Grove looked inconsequential. The structure was originally built as a garage and later housed a film distribution business. But the Cocoanut Grove was now an overcrowded nightclub where no one present expected anything but fun, much less a fire.

However, around 10:15 p.m., a fire broke out in the crowded Melody Lounge in the basement. The fire quickly developed spreading fire, heat and smoke vertically to the foyer upstairs and across the ceiling into the main dining area. The fierce flames then raced horizontally through a passageway and into the Broadway Lounge. The fire's deadly path covered approximately 225 feet and involved two levels of the building, from end to end, in about five minutes.

On the outside, the quick arriving firefighters found heavy smoke pushing from the building as patrons and employees fled. At 10:20 p.m., Boston's Fire Alarm Office received Box 1521 for Church and Winchester Streets (pulled by a civilian bystander).

The fire chief on scene ordered his aide to skip the second alarm and go straight to a third alarm, via fire alarm telegraph, from Box 1521. This order transmitted at 10:23 p.m. was followed quickly by a fourth alarm at 10:24 p.m. and a fifth alarm at 11:02 p.m.

Rose and Estes
Riding the tailboard of Engine 22, Boston firefighters Johnny Rose and Bill Estes were eyewitnesses to the scene of horror and death in the doorway of the Grove's Broadway Lounge. The firefighters reacted quickly, connected to a hydrant, and advanced a line, as pump operator Joe McNeil charged the line to feed their nozzle.

The two firefighters faced a plug of humans jammed in the exit with flames spitting over their heads. The roaring fire was in search of the necessary oxygen needed to sustain its combustion and it was in the same path as the means of escape.

With no chance of helping the burning victims by pulling them out, Rose and Estes tipped their nozzle upward into the flame-path to cool the heat. As the stream struck the ceiling and broke into droplets of spray, the water provided at least some protection to those jammed in the exit.

The narrow and congested streets around the Grove clogged with fire apparatus, police cars and ambulances.

The fire, although extinguished in short order, took a great toll in lives. Although rescue and body recovery operations began immediately near the exits, firefighters would find greater horrors deep inside the building. Patrons who had exited collapsed in the street and stacks of bodies, both living and dead, piled up by the exits.

The final death count established by the investigating commission was 490 dead and 166 injured. The number of injured was a count of those treated at a hospital and later released. Many more patrons were injured and did not seek hospitalization. As the years went by, the recognized number of fatalities became 492.

Lessons learned
After a thorough investigation of the fire, officials focused on improving safety in similar venues by reclassifying restaurants and nightclubs as places of public assembly thereby mandating more stringent regulations. Automatic fire sprinkler system requirements were included, depending on occupant load and building configuration.

Regulations for emergency exit doors were changed to ensure that all exit doors swing outward. Illuminated exit signage and emergency lighting was required. Requirements for widely separated means of egress for higher occupancy loads and minimum exit widths were established. More attention was given to flame spread and smoke development.

Another important change involved revolving doors. Such doors would be required to have the individual leaves collapse and fold backward or out of the way to permit passage on both sides of the hinge or alternatively to have conventional doors on both or either side of revolving doors depending on occupant load.

Around the fire service today you hear the phrase, "expect fire" and you might wonder what that really means. Don't we always expect fire?

Clearly civilians tend not to expect fire, but firefighter should and must expect fire and always expect the fire to be the worst. You can read more about the historic Coconut Grove fire at: http://www.cocoanutgrovefire.org/ and as you read, imagine if you had been riding Engine 22 that night.

11 McMansion challenges for firefighters

Posted on Sun, 7 Sep 2014 19:11:36 UTC

The size of the average American home has more than doubled since the 1950s; it now stands at 2,349 square feet. Whether it's a 5,000- to 10,000-square-foot mega home — or McMansion — in a wealthy neighborhood, or a bigger, cheaper house in the exurbs, the move toward ever-larger homes has been accelerating for years.

The continued growth in large residential structures has created overwhelming challenges for fire departments that are unprepared, untrained, understaffed, and underestimate the operational demands of a rapid developing fire in one of these residential structures.

This single-family mega home was destroyed on March 19, 2011 in Huntington, Md. and resulted in a mayday situation with nine firefighters injured after fire spread rapidly from a basement level chimney void into the 10,000-square-foot attic space.

Large home fires cannot be treated with the same conventional mind-set as a home built decades ago. Fires involving today's residential structures demand a strategic and tactical approach that is focused on training, pre-incident planning, and well-defined tactics based on current technology.

Plan and plan some more
Pre-incident planning is essential. This is especially true when it comes to access, water supply, and hose lay distances. Large residential structures are not bound by the same code requirements for sprinklers and draft stopping of void spaces as similar sized commercial structures.

Essentially, a fire involving a large wood frame home should be treated like a commercial building fire.

In addition to the lightweight construction concerns, and rapid fire spread potential, here are 11 unique challenges of large home fires.

  • Large open floor plan design.
  • Very large void spaces created.
  • Concealed rooms built within attic voids.
  • Fire scene staffing.
  • Lack of adequate road surface.
  • Water supply issues.
  • Large sections of unsupported brick veneer.
  • Extended hose lay distances.
  • Limited access.
  • Large and complex search areas.
  • Long driveways and gates.

How prepared is your department to adequately and safely respond to this unique and growing challenge?

How communication centers can aid incident commanders

Posted on Tue, 13 Jul 2010 14:03:09 UTC

By Bob Smith
Director of Strategic Development, APCO International

It's 0300 hours, you're in the front right seat of the first due engine on a multi-story residential structure fire with several exposures. As you climb out of the truck and start your size-up you've got about 10,000 things going through your head.

How many personnel are responding to this fire? Is that enough? What units are responding? Is that enough? Should I call for an additional alarm? Or two? Where should I position the ladder when it gets here? And dozens more. The number and complexity of those things you'll need to consider won't really start to dwindle until the clean-up is over and units are returning to the station.

One of the many things being considered during this process is that of personnel accountability. Who's on the scene, where are they and what are they doing? Another issue is incident development. How long has this fire been burning? How long have we been at this offensive interior attack? Is it time to switch tactics to a defensive exterior attack?

Well let's take a moment to discuss an often overlooked resource that can assist an incident commander with personnel accountability and monitoring incident progress — the communications center. An adequately trained and staffed comm center can assist incident commanders in a multitude of areas beyond the traditional dispatch, information management and resource tracking.

PARs in the fire service
Let's start with accountability. Conducting personnel accountability reports (PAR) during an event of any size has become second nature to the fire service. Effective department accountability programs should incorporate PARs on incidents of any size and of any nature.

A PAR is a tool that allows incident commanders to ensure all personnel on scene are safe and accounted for. This action can easily be carried out by the comm center and many jurisdictions have done just that by training their comm center personnel on how to conduct PARs and how to relay the PAR's findings to the IC. One less action needed to be carried out by the IC.

Another tool that comm centers can provide an IC to assist with personnel safety are regular time checks during an incident. Time checks can be designed so that beginning at a certain point in the incident — say 10 minutes after the first unit arrives on scene or the IC announces that knockdown has begun — the comm center staff will notify the IC every 10 to 20 minutes.

We all know that 10 minutes worth of free burning in a traditional structure fire can make the difference between a successful knockdown and leaving nothing but the foundation. Also, most departments have limits to the amount of time they will allow personnel to remain inside a building during interior attack modes.

This "heads up" from the comm center allows the IC to monitor the passage of time during an incident without having to actually watch a clock themselves. One less action needed to be carried out by the IC.

Emergency evacuations
Another area that allows for comm centers to assist ICs during an incident is playing a role in a department's emergency evacuation process. Many agencies across the country have developed emergency evacuation plans that incorporate steps such as having the comm center make evacuation announcements over primary and tactical channels and even activating pagers and radio alerts on scene.

To accomplish this, the comm center personnel must be trained in the department's evacuation plan and the plan must be tested regularly. In addition, comm centers that serve multiple fire departments should encourage all departments to adopt similar evacuation procedures to prevent confusion should a department need an evacuation announcement made during an incident.

All of these actions combined with routine responder safety actions such as monitoring the radio for Mayday calls or other unexpected traffic can increase the level of service and assistance your local comm center can provide to your department.

To accomplish this though, the comm center must have a highly trained and professional staff equipped with the most current tools and resources available. It is the responsibility of every firefighter and officer to encourage your local comm center to ensure their personnel are trained and equipped to the highest level. Because as the old saying goes, "the life you save may be your own."

Top 3 products you can't get in the US — yet

Posted on Mon, 22 Oct 2012 16:40:56 UTC

Three interesting products were demonstrated at the European Resuscitation Council 2012 Congress in Vienna, Austria, last week. They are all so brand-new that they're not even available in the U.S. yet.

Physio-Control based out of Redmond, Wash., unveiled its newest product, TrueCPR, a standalone CPR feedback device designed to provide rescuers with real-time feedback on chest compression depth, rate and quality. TrueCPR utilizes Triaxial Field Induction (TFI), a magnetic technology that overcomes erroneous overreporting of compression depth from devices currently on the market when used on a mattress or stretcher. Physio-Control expects to launch TrueCPR in Europe shortly and in the U.S. in 2013.

RhinoChill, a unique therapeutic hypothermia induction device, was on display by Benechill International, from Wallisellen, Switzerland. Designed for initial induction of therapeutic hypothermia in the pre-hospital environment, RhinoChill uses a nasal cannula like an intranasal cooling catheter to cool post-cardiac arrest victims rapidly. An inert coolant is delivered through the catheter while flowing oxygen or compressed air to facilitate evaporative cooling of the brain, effectively lowering core body temperature. BeneChill International currently markets RhinoChill in Europe and expects approval in the U.S. in the future.

The Corpuls CPR, a new automated CPR device, was introduced by Corpuls, Inc. of Kaufering, Germany. Expected to be released in Germany and the rest of Europe in 2013, the battery-operated device includes an integral long backboard and features adjustable depth and rate parameters. The manufacturer has no current plans to bring the device to the U.S. market.

Crisis intervention teams: Helping our own

Posted on Mon, 16 May 2011 10:01:15 UTC

In the public safety field, one of the least addressed topics is the mental wellness of our responders. When tragedy and violence hit, we're the first to be there. Having to care for people when they are at their worst, and having to deal with the impact of the call, can take its toll.

This tends to impact the first responders in many different ways. These individuals might be the first people to see the tragedy but they are the last to admit that it has had any emotional or mental effect to them. So, when an outside group comes in to intervene or defuse the situation, there is resistance from the first responders

First responders tend to rely on their comrades in the field. When outside groups or people try to intervene, the responders tend to be reluctant to their offers of help. "You have no idea what we do" is usually the cause for reluctance.

This is why we created a peer-driven support group that we call the Horry County Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). The team is made up of 11 peer support members, four councilors, one training instructor and one chaplain.

The CIT is continuing to grow and manage all of its internal staff as well as other departments in the local area. They are also recruiting police and 911 dispatchers to round off the group. This will make the CIT very versatile.

Horry County Fire Rescue covers more than 1,134 square miles and responds to more than 42,000 calls per year. The department is made up of 275 full-time uniformed staff and 200 volunteers.

The CIT for Horry County is no stranger to unique and very stressful calls. Some of the calls that the CIT has had to intervene with have been:

  • Horry County Fire Rescue roll-over engine call that had three firefighters and a lieutenant trapped
  • Horry County Fire Rescue volunteer went into cardiac arrest during a medical call and had to be intervened by the same members who responded with him
  • Horry County responded to a fellow firefighter's home, where he had already committed suicide. The crew prior to his shift from his own station responded
  • Multiple child abuse calls; some with death as a result
  • Multiple drowning calls involving children at local motel pools
  • Motor vehicle accident deaths involving children and infants
  • Multi- casualty incidents involving a large number of deaths

These are just some of the calls that have made an impact to Horry County Fire Rescue staff over the past couple of years. Those who responded to these have had the opportunity to get help from the CIT with positive results.

The CIT has also put together a White Paper to describe some of the statistics from the past three years. This paper will give other departments information in the field of crisis management so that they too can make their wellness program complete. Check it out here

11 clues you may have a chimney fire

Posted on Wed, 5 Nov 2014 15:26:56 UTC

Although our ancestors tamed fire as far back as 40,000 years ago, the Romans began using the first chimneys around the 12th century. A thing of the rich for many years, they became commonplace in many homes by the 18th century.

Imagine our pre-chimney cave-dwelling relatives and some concentrated kindling time. The occupants soon found themselves dealing with another discovery — ventilation, or in this case, the lack of it. Fanning wildly about, using any available branches or fur pelts, they did their best to move the smoke out the cave entrance as they disrupted the laminar flow.

Hunters, seeing an excess of smoke in their valley, arrived at the cave's entrance panting and filling their lungs with suspended particles of incomplete combustion and burnt ox hair. Charging in and out, they were the first pull-push ventilation system. The cave was saved.

The chimney has evolved from a crude hole in the rock to interior/exterior vertical shafts made from clay, building materials, sod, or simply more rock. In spite of increased technology applied to the fireplace and chimney, the principle tactical considerations for fires in these structures have remained the same.

Chimney 101
Chimney fires, and subsequently chimneys, share certain common characteristics and can be counted on to behave within predictable parameters.

11 clues of a chimney fire

  • Too much fuel for the size of the firebox.
  • No grate; fuel on floor of firebox.
  • Damper(s) compromised.
  • Physical blockage or damage.
  • New mantle or hearth.
  • Faulty gas igniter, connections or supply.
  • Wood stove, heat-efficient inserts or fan assemblies.
  • Excessive use of soft woods that increased creosote buildup.
  • Discoloring under mantle.
  • Multiple flues in chase assembly.
  • Angular flue design.

Heated air, smoke and flame will travel up a vertical shaft. This is the basic principle upon which a chimney is built and remains in effect until the structure is blocked or broken.

In the event of a blockage — such as creosote build-up, a bird's nest, or a damaged design — heat build-up is rapid and intense, smoke backs up and together they create the immediate potential for fire extension as well as a noxious interior atmosphere.

A creosote buildup explosion is the most spectacular for civilian eyes. Roaring like a jet with flames to match; an F-16 pilot would take notice.

Once the creosote reaches its ignition temperature, it sustains rapid fuel consumption as well as accelerated and expanding flame. However short lived, this pyrotechnic demonstration is impressive.

Full inspection
The result of such a flare-up is immediate fire department notification and building evacuation by the hapless tenants. With the advent of thermal imagers and when caught in time, overhaul is the only strategy needed — ventilation and mitigation of particle damage the leading tactics.

The critical job here is to confirm no exterior extension anywhere in the system and identify a lowering of heat in the firebox area. Firefighters are tasked with examining the entire system.

A solid and stately brick or stone chimney can hide a broken rock or loose mortar joint. This break or hole allows smoke with embers, radiant heat or direct flame impingement to leak in. These ignition vehicles can migrate outside the chimney structure itself and at any level of a fireplace and chimney system.

In the case of condominiums or connected townhomes, tin flues can conduct sufficient heat to cause a fire outside the chimney assembly regardless of location or design. This is especially true in buildings where multiple tin flues are disguised in singular chase full-frame construction.

Even when fire codes call for double- or triple-wall flues, fires can still occur when the framing is too close to tin or the basic design is flawed. Add to this deterioration from age, damage during remodeling and basic human error and you have the formula for a long morning of salvage.

No encores
Whatever the cause, a fire in the floor below or the wall above may not be immediately evident; it can linger for hours before structural damage or decay are revealed. A haze on the fourth floor could be a flue break on the third, leaking from a fireplace on the second.

Oftentimes such extension involves plaster and lath and nearby pipes in older buildings or framing, insulation and conduit in newer construction.

If you are an officer, take your time and let your firefighters work. Bring in a second crew regardless of size-up. This type of call is all about evidence and worth the time to educate firefighters.

Leaving too soon can be a critical mistake. Getting called back for confirmed fire extension is a difficult alarm on many levels and for many reasons. Working with insufficient resources or failure to identify the problem in a timely manner can result in a chimney fire rapidly turning into a structure fire.

Predicting and finding fire extension in a reported chimney fire is often difficult and frustrating and as firefighters we need to be wary of any "routine" call. Unfortunately the easiest problem to find is the worst to deal with, as extended exterior flame is the final clue for an accelerated chimney fire.

Until then, there is time for firefighters to investigate, locate and resolve any physical indicators, civilian testimony and the overall potential for a more difficult alarm fire.