It’s been about two years since we published our article about radio straps and turnout gear. It has been shared throughout various magazines and training pages. A few readers asked about our ideas and pointed out that we didn’t address enough when firefighters are wearing the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). We took that point and went out to take a few more photos to assist with our findings.
The original article discussed the differences between wearing your radio strap either under or over your turnout jacket. We know the advantages and disadvantages of both without an SCBA on.
To the right we have the radio strap under the coat with the SCBA on. It is beneficial because it protects the radio and the cable of the extended speaker-mic. When all buttoned up, the speaker-mic may be clipped on to the front closure flap. This allows it to be accessible in a functional area when on air compared to using the collar tab or chest tab that often falls inline with the shoulder strap of the SCBA. Also with these morning pride jackets, it take a little effort to fold up the name plate in order to access the top controls of the radio should you need them.
The radio strap over the coat and under the SCBA method is another configuration that is used. This leaves everything exposed to the elements. The speaker-mic is accessible and not hindered at all. The SCBA straps secure the radio and straps however the waist strap interferes with the use of the radio controls. This may be overcome by extending the radio strap which will leave the radio hanging lower.
This style above is when the radio strap is equipped last, on top of the SCBA. This leaves everything out and the radio strap unsecured. This also allows for the radio controls to be easily operated including the speaker-mic. This style unfortunately heightens a firefighter’s entanglement potential because the unsecured weight of the radio will allow it to move in all directions. Using an anti-sway strap may be difficult in this situation because of the way the coat will have to be manipulated in order to access the belt area of the pants.
Here’s a quick method that was shared to us by one of our followers. If you don’t have a radio strap or don’t like to use the radio pocket on the jacket, you may use the standard interior pocket of the jacket. This is best used when you can “set and forget” the controls of the radio because once buttoned up, you will not be able to access the controls. Then the speaker-mic may be affixed to the front closure of the jacket in a similar manner that the radio strap under the coat method is used. Another potential con of this method is that it will be bulky in the area of the radio. Once the SCBA is equipped, it may even sit more to one side. Again, this is just another potential way of wearing your radio.
As mentioned earlier in this article, here is the difference between using the coat’s mic tab versus the flap of the front closure. Again, both have pros and cons. Using the coat’s mic tab will better secure the mic however it may be keyed up unintentionally when moving around. Using the front closure of the coat may be less secure however it will allow for better usage.
Size up begins after a call is dispatched. On the ride to the scene, all members should start to think about all potential impacts that the location will have on the type of incident. Upon arrival of the first due officer in charge he or she should give a detailed description of the incident over dispatch to advised all in coming units of the situation.
The on scene size up should be transmitted in a clear and understandable manner. It should contain specific details regarding the location, type of incident and any other important information that may be a factor in brining the incident under control. There are many different types of templates for the report. The photo below shows a guide that was created for and is used by the Allendale Volunteer Fire Department.
The Structure Fire guide consists of seven steps; confirm the address, describe the number of floors, occupancy, conditions found, water supply, mode of attack, and finally establish command.
Setting the Scene
When arriving on scene it is extremely important to confirm the dispatch address because you want all incoming units to know the correct address. It may determine certain special tactics such as condo complex or an occupied multiple dwelling.
Announcing the number of floors and occupancy is vital because it will allow for units to begin thinking about what tools and methods they may use at the incident. For example a one story residential type dwelling the truck company may use more ground ladders around the entire structure compared to a high-rise incident. Occupancy is a key component to the report because it will dictate certain operational tactics based on the risk-benefit analysis of life safety.
Pertinent information is vital due to the fact that it may completely alter your plan of attack. If the dwelling is set far back in a gated area then maybe the rig won’t be able to make it into the property. You can also be faced with a natural factor where the landscape changes in the rear of the structure and what was initially a one-story dwelling is in fact two stories from the rear.
Water Supply and layout info is important for incoming engines because it allows them to get an idea of where the nearest hydrant is or even a static supply such as a pond or river.
Mode of attack describes whether units are investigating the scene, offensively or defensively attacking the fire. Investigative mode refers to units arriving to a reported fire and finding nothing visible on arrival however units continue to search before deeming it unfounded. Offensively attacking and making a push allows for incoming units to understand that they will most likely be assisting with interior operations, search, etc. The defensive attack refers to an exterior approach that may require master streams, ladder pipes, and a larger water supply. (The photo to the right shows a well off end unit of a condo complex. Tactical considerations must be made such as setting up master streams to control it while protecting the exposures and potential extension to other units.)
The Auto Accident side follows a similar method as the structure fire card. Again, confirm the dispatch address, and then begin to assess the scene. Announcing how many and the types of vehicles involved can assist with distinguishing the patients mechanism of injury such as with convertible rolling over units may be presented with a more traumatic patient rather than a door pop in the school parking lot. Describing the conditions found is also vital because it will allow for specialty units to think about how they will stabilize the vehicles and what other equipment they made need to safely extricate the patient.
A proper size up benefits everyone on scene and it also allows for the Incident Commander (IC) to set the expectations of the operation. If the IC sounds hyped up then there’s a chance that the responding personnel will also get in the same manner and there is potential for unorganized chaos on scene. If the IC is calm, cool, and collected, then he or she will be able to establish a presence that the incident will be handled in an organized and professional manner.
The size up report is one of the most important components of basic incident stabilization and operation. Make sure to check you department’s SOG regarding the size up and if you don’t have one established yet. Draft something up, suggest it, and start using it. Remember to stay rescue ready and always stay proactive. Remember that the size up is always on going as condition change. Things happen, be prepared for variations. Always have a plan A, a back up plan B, then begin thinking about a plan C, and so on for a successful operation.
As the fire service keeps evolving so do the tactics of company operations. Depending on the department and the respective jurisdiction everyone has their own special needs to better operate within their response area. Some area may require tankers/tenders due to their area lacking hydrants or a quint type of aerial apparatus may be better suited for an area that is isolated from other areas and has the potential to use the ladder for a rescue while a crew is stretching a hose line. The same concept may be applied to how engines are designed to be equipped with hose lines in different locations for better operability including traverse lines that may be deployed of either side of the apparatus, lines racked lines that allow for lines to be deployed off the rear, and lines that are designed in the front bumper. Each type of line location may have a different variation that allows for firefighters to deploy multiple lengths and in various directions.
The front bumper line is important to think about because it allows for multiple advantages when operating at an incident. Every department has their own operating procedure that details how apparatus shall respond and operate at an incident. The location of the line allows for the apparatus to be positioned nosed into the scene rather than pulling past or stopping directly parallel to the incident. This apparatus placement may benefit the operation in situations such as a vehicle incident in a roadway where there must be a constant flow of traffic, an incident at the end of a cul-de-sac where apparatus parking scarce, or at end of a property with an isolated driveway. As always department procedures and constant training with these types of set ups will better develop the skills and thought processes of your firefighters.
There are different ways of packing a bumper line ranging from a triple flat lay with ended loops to a double reverse doughnut roll that allows for one firefighter to deploy the line without much effort. Many departments differ the way they run their front bumper lines, and each department uses it for a different reason. Some departments need to run them as 1st in attack line due to home placement and apparatus positioning, others run them as car/trash fire lines. The photo above of Waldwick First Due Engines shows a 100ft of 1.75″ hose used primarily as a trash line. The hose is flat packed accordion style. This pack allows the department to deploy this hose in a timely matter when the incident does not dictate pulling a true attack line from the cross lays or the rear. This pack also allows the members to break the hose into a 50ft length, when 100ft is not needed. With this style of pack, the nozzle and backup firefighter just simply need to walk straight toward the incident, with little to no mess being made on the ground.
The modified triple horseshoe flat lay allows for the line to broken down into increments of 50’ in the case of this engine pictured . It works in a similar way as the accordion pack however the hose is vertically positioned and allows for a firefighter to either deploy directly out of the tray or pull the deployment loops on the left in order to take out each section out of the tray. The third photo shows a hose line on the front bumper of a quint that is designed for minor fires and incidents. This rack also features the reverse horseshoe with the loop closer to the piping rather than the opposite side. The way in which a line is racked depends on the apparatus, the personnel, and constant training. Every firefighter may have a preference to how and when to use the line but it the responsibility of the leadership to provide adequate training and guidelines on the usage of the dedicated line.
Robert Policht and Michael Ferrara
Establishing a water supply is one of the most important components in any successful firefighting operation. Without a stable water supply, fire suppression operations cannot continue which creates a web of other considerations that cannot continue such as search and rescue tactics. Tanker operations and tactics may be necessary in certain geographical areas due to lack of hydrants. It can also be used in a variety of situations where it makes more sense to set up a tanker shuttle operation in a dead hydrant area rather than dropping an excess of supply line and starting a relay pump operation. It all depends on a department’s standard operation guidelines and understanding the resources available for the incident. Some departments have automatic mutual aid agreements that detail which locations in their jurisdictions require this operations along with what special resources are to be requested to execute this game plan.
There are many different types of tankers out there ranging from tractor drawn rigs that carry thousands of gallons of water to highly developed vehicles that have multiple dump chutes that can be triggered on the fly. According to NFPA 1901 the minimum capacity shall be 1,000 gallons this means a vehicle being labeled a tanker can range greatly. This is why you have to be aware of your surrounding jurisdictions and what resources are available. Tanker operations require consistent training and teamwork among mutual aid. The most important aspect of a successful tanker operation is continuous training. The more you practice, the better you and your department will be at executing the tasks associated with setting up the operation.
Before jumping into training scenarios make sure to work with your mutual aid that would respond to assist with tanker operations. Host a round table discussion going over how everyone sets up their operations and go over the resources each unit has such as pools, tank capacity, and any other pertinent information. Some departments have tankers that carry over a thousand gallons of water however the vehicle only has a single dump valve that has to manually operated compared to a vehicle that has three dump chutes that can be opened from the cab while driving along the pools. This is important because the second vehicle will be able to empty it’s tank quicker and get back into the rotation quicker than the other.
There are a variety of ways that departments set up their tanker shuttle operation at a fire scene however there area a few basic components that are always in play. When a tanker shuttle is called a tanker will set up it’s pool close to the fire scene so that the dedicated engine that will draft from the pool to supply lines being operated on scene. After, multiple tankers will continue to cycle shuttling water from either a distant hydrant or from a static supply where another dedicated engine contains a draft to fill the rotating tankers. The cycle continues throughout the duration of the incident until the water supply can be broken down.
Make sure that a water supply officer (WSO) is appointed during the duration of the incident in order to ensure that the operation is progressing well. The WSO will be able to let incident command know how the operation is going and if more resources are needed. Think about assigning someone to assist the WSO with keeping the roadway clear so that the tankers are able to get to and from the fill site without any issues. Always be prepared for the unknown and call for more tankers. You can always implement a staging officer to monitor tankers in staging in the event you need more water quicker. Make sure that the WSO can maintain communications with all the resources involved in the tanker shuttle. This may require having spare radios available that are assigned to the vehicle when they arrive on scene. Don’t forget your basics and use components of the national incident management system in order to have a successful tanker shuttle operation.
*Photos courtesy of Mahwah Fire Company 4*
As firefighters, how do we take care and prepare ourselves to operate efficiently? We are all constantly working towards bettering ourselves through training, education, working out, and nutrition. The leading cause of firefighter deaths the past few decades has been linked to cardiac issues. Across the country there are a variety of different ways that brothers and sisters strive to better themselves and their bodies. Firefighting is an extremely physical filed that heavily relies on the abilities of a one’s physique.
Some departments have the capabilities to offer their members a full gym that may reflect a high school’s athletic program. This kind of facility may include treadmills, stationary spinning machines, various cable machines, advanced pressing machines, and free weights. Besides actually going to a gym this kind of facility allows members to conduct a variety of various workouts that will benefit themselves and in turn benefit the department while operating. Many of these departments have a few members that are certified fitness trainings that may assist the rest of the department with developing a workout regiment that will benefit everyone.
There are also departments that have gone on their own to develop their own gyms such as in Branchville, Maryland (PGFD Volunteer Station 811). The membership took one of the small bays in the apparatus garage and reconfigured it with just enough gym equipment to allow members to workout while still staffing the firehouse. Some of the equipment may include some cardio equipment, a bench-press, and miscellaneous free weights. This kind of set allow for members to training using weights while depending more on the body weight style exercises.
Then there are those departments that cannot afford to or do not have the resources to establish a gym within their firehouse. Some of the members of such departments take it upon themselves to workout in order to better themselves. They use whatever they can find around the firehouse including old tires from the rigs, ladders off the rigs, and even the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) that we use everyday. The rig itself may be used to assist with workouts. One workout endorsed by Pip of 555 Fitness is to use the back bumper as a box for step-ups and box jumps. Using the equipment in place of actual free weights allows you to do similar workouts such as the Turkish stand up exercise with the SCBA instead of a kettle bell. Small town departments may also have the possibilities of reaching out to the local high school or college and set up an assistance program to allow their members to workout that the gym on campus.
You can always go out on your own and seek professional training at a facility such as LA Fitness, Retro Fitness, or a private trainer. Paramount Fitness founder and owner, Rob Kehoe, developed a daily workout that may be done anytime and anywhere (trainwithparamount.com). Paramount Fitness has one of the leading programs for developing student athletes from the high school level to the collegiate level and beyond. The workout consists of:
555 Fitness has a grant program available to all branches of first responders including police, fire, and ems departments that are seeking assistance in establishing a gym. 555 Fitness annually awards three departments the equipment including Brute Force Sandbags, Kettle bells from Kettlebells USA, an Assault Bike, and a squat/ pull-up bar. The nonprofit foundation is self funded and works towards helping to save the lives of the people we depend on when we need help. The foundation will also assist with partnering up with your local gym to help fundraise in order to purchase this kind of life saving equipment. This program supports the first responders in the community by doing fitness with likeminded people. Recently the Mount Laurel Fire Department teamed up with Crossfit Mount Laurel and hosted a team workout that lead to enough being raised to receive the assault bike, kettle bells, and sand bags. The foundation will supply you and your department with literally everything including daily workouts posted on their social media pages The only element not provided is your self-motivation. “Train hard, Do Work” (555 Fitness).
At the end of the day your fitness and performance potential is your responsibility. Whether you have a gym, go to a trainer, make your own gym, or go for a run, it’s all up to you. When you’re operating at an incident your physical and mental preparedness will allow you to operate more efficiently. Everyone has their own motivation and potential to succeed. Take the opportunity to better yourself to benefit yourself and your company. Its you versus you. Only you can seize the moment to be better prepared than you were yesterday.
Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and turnout gear properly is a fundamental skill that is often overlooked in many fire departments around the country. This constant routine of complacent actions ultimately leads the firefighter to believe that how he or she wears their gear is perfectly acceptable. Then, as these individuals move through the ranks, it becomes more and more acceptable for firefighters to not obey the gear wearing standards. This eventually breeds firefighters who are unknowingly putting themselves and their crews in danger. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has developed several documents regarding standards on PPE. NFPA 1971 details the standard on PPE regarding structural fire fighting and proximity fire fighting. These documents are a great resource for any individual who wants to better understand how their gear is developed. However, it does not teach how to wear gear in a safe and proper way.
NFPA Standard 1710 is significant because it sets the standard for firefighters to be able to don all of their structural firefighting equipment within 60-seconds. Donning all your gear within a minute is extremely vital skill when a department needs to quickly respond to an emergency. However, not many firefighters have this skill because previous members never kept up with this standard. Once again, Members have become accustomed to these low standards and will continue in this vicious cycle until someone decides to make a change. Many of the seemingly small elements of turning out, really have a much bigger impact than one would think.
PPE is extremely vital in the fire service today and it has evolved tremendously over the last thirty years. It is our responsibility to not waste the research and lessons learned from past experiences to better ourselves at the next incident.
A full set of turnout gear consists of boots, pants, jacket, nomex hood, structural firefighting gloves, helmet, portable radio, mask, and a self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). We are all issued this gear for our own safety. Without taking care of yourself you are only bringing down the rest of your company at the scene of an incident. You will not efficiently operate if you and your team are constantly worrying about being burned or being covered in residual debris. Another component that is often overlooked is the portable radio. It is a vital part of PPE because it is what keeps us in contact with everyone on scene especially in the event of a mayday or any urgent situational change on scene.
The way in which a firefighter wears his or her radio should also be thought about in the same manner in which we all wear our turnout gear. Many firefighters use their radio pocket that is designed into their jackets to keep the radio out of the member’s hands. However, the radio strap is the optimal option because it allows for the radio to be almost completely out of the way of the member.
There are two ways in which these straps are worn, under and over the jacket. The easiest way many firefighters wear their radio straps is over their jackets. This is a quick and simple way on putting it on. However, this method has proved to also have some issues. By having the radio and speaker mic exposed on top of all the gear it may get caught up on anything while moving around. Also under extremely high heat conditions the speaker mic may also begin to melt and fail, losing all radio contact with others on scene. As you see in this photo (right) high heat critically damages the speaker mic cable cutting it off from the rest of the unit.
The optimal way of wearing the radio strap is under the jacket. This allows for firefighters to be able to use the speaker mic and control the portable radio from their hip. The jacket protects the wiring and allows the firefighter to maneuver in any possible direction without worrying about getting the strap and speaker mic hooked up on anything while performing a bailout, venting, etc.
Wearing your turnout gear properly is a vital component of firefighting operations and the brotherhood of the fire service. Make sure to always be rescue ready and have all your gear on appropriately. It is also every firefighter’s responsibility to always help out those probies who may not know what they are doing incorrectly because one day they’ll be the ones passing knowledge on to the next generation of brothers and sisters.
School Buses exist throughout every community in the United States and even more I suburban areas where students use the transportation to get to their schools. According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (2011) there were over 370,000 fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes and of those, over 1,200 were classified as school transportation-related (NHTSA). Only eight percent of those victims were occupants of school transportation vehicles but by understanding the anatomy and features of a standard school bus, it may assist with how fire/rescue units operate on scene. An incident that involves a school bus may have one patient or several and this potential stresses why it is important to be prepared to handle the situation as a mass causality incident, MCI. Whether the passengers are young or old it is important to know the exits of the vehicle and the capabilities of the vehicle to make more exits if needed.
This photo shows the orientation of an adult passenger when sitting in a normal position. Notice the three reinforced ribs on the side of the bus and how they line up on a person. The top rib is just under the shoulder, the middle rib is inline with the seat, and the bottom rib is just above floor level.
School bus accidents have the potential to be deemed as MCIs. This may require a mutual aid response from other fire/rescue agencies to assist with stabilization, patient care, and removal. Note the use of the emergency exit window, a short roof ladder can be affixed to the opening to create a stable ramp for a stokes basket. Using an A-frame ladder may also assist with operating with height to make certain cuts in the process.
The reinforced and colored ribs on the side of a bus are used as reference points for the seating area. When in tact it allows for the energy of an impact to be dispersed to the entire side of the vehicle rather the direct impact area.
The cutaway of the sidewall of the bus shows how thin the material is on interior/exterior walls and in between there is a packed insulation. Note the triangular form of the reinforcing ribs and how thin all of the material is.
Once the insulation is removed the vertical reinforcement that makes up the window frame continues through the body. Note again the reinforced ribs.
The cut away of the vertical posts when cut by a sawzall.
When using hydraulic cutting tools the brute force will cause the metal of the sidewall to become mangled and may make the operation a bit tougher. Once the area begins to open up the tool may not have enough space to continue fitting through the cut area. A good alternative is using finer tools such as sawzalls and circular saws.
Once the exterior layer is removed the more rigid kick paneling may be also removed in order to fully open up a section and gain access below the seating level.
This photo shows the top notch of the steel frame of the vehicle. On the sidewalls are removed this area will be exposed. The frame, as in most vehicles, is not designed to by cut easily due to the integrity of the material. This frame (as seen at the bottom half of photo 8) is the location where other smaller vehicle may become wedged under in a multi-car motor vehicle incident.
Last year, I had the opportunity to present a training on impalements and removal incidents. I had the opportunity to take the P.L. Vulcan class a few years ago and it got me thinking outside the box about using different tools to take care of certain types of scenarios. One of the most important takeaways was the portable bandsaw and what it is able to accomplish compared to other tools like hydraulic cutters and sawzalls. As Mark discussed in his class, some of the best pros include less heat production on the material being cut as well as the smooth transition of the material once cut. A hydraulic cutter will cause the material to pop due to the fracturing of the material. In the case of rebar the material will violently pop and displace compared to little to no movement when cut with the bandsaw. Rescue situations are focused on patient care. It is important to focus on medical elements in conjunction with rescue operations. Being able to determine the severity of injury is vital in determining how much time (the golden hour) and resources may be allotted on scene to get the patient the best chances of survival.
We developed our station using our homemade hose manikin, steel pipe, gate valves, and 1/2″ rebar. Using Mahwah Company 4‘s
ladder bailout simulator we set up two station on the existing prop. On the side we had a single gate valve to allow members to become aware of how the bandsaw will work during a basic cut of rebar.
Under the window we set up another gate with fitting to manipulate the angle of the rebar. The first scenario depicted a patient impaled through his back. Then the patient was stabilized on the window sill via a scoop. The scoop allowed for the patient to be supported while working around the rebar due the center opening of the equipment before being locked in. After EMS took care of packaging the wound and further securing the patient. At that time the rescue crew began the cut on the rebar using the portable bandsaw. As mentioned this created no movement and almost no heat. After as in many EMS scenarios the patient was moved through the window and “transported”.
The second scenario of the night involved a patient being impaled through their leg with the rest of the hips and upper body already through the window. This was done to create a limb impaled on a fence situation. Once again EMS stabilized and padded the rebar in the thigh area. Additionally a basic tourniquet was applied to mitigate a severed femoral artery in the evolution. After the upper body of the patient was supported, the rescue crew began working on the rebar. The bandsaw made the cut with no heat and no movement. This is vital on these types of situations because it creates less potential for further injury.