Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Check your Dance Card, Part 2 "getting closer"

Getting Closer...

In part one of “Check your Dance Card” we discussed a few items to take a look at before we enter the fire building and start our dance with the “beauty of fire.” In part 2, we will discuss a few more specifics that we should note as we enter the structure. Make no mistake, a constant review of this Dance Card is a must for all members… take mental notes of what you see. You’re going to want to come home from your latest "dance" and tell all your friends all about this “beauty.”

"Ok, let's move" the boss said, after what seemed like an eternity to you. The reality, it was only mere seconds. We all know that reality is often suspended when you are out on that dimly lit dance floor. You, you’re an eager beaver, and chomping at the bit to get on with this next one. Your Officer is more cautious; he’s been burned by this “beauty” before. He remembers the sting of her touch, especially if you are caught moving too quickly on the dance floor. He is trying to show you the patience required, but you are still rather wet behind the ears and excitable…

This “beauty of fire” doesn’t make it easy; she beckons you closer with her dancing flames and warm lustrous glow. Again, the Officer reels you back in…one more review before we hit the dance floor.

As you enter the fire building…


Generally we have 2 types of tread design (on the staircase steps) and 2 types of staircases. They are either “Open” (having no sides, walls or doors at the top or bottom) or “Enclosed” (having sides, walls and doors at the top and bottom). Open tread and open staircases allow the passage of smoke, heat and fire to the floors above and are not friendly to our operation. Enclosed steps and enclosed staircases reduce the chances of fire spread in the building (if the doors are to remain in the closed position). It may be wise to announce the style and type of stairs to other units as they arrive, so that they know what to expect. This is of particular importance when in larger multiple dwellings or garden apartments and there are isolated, wing, or multiple staircases that serve specific lines of apartments (i.e. do not transverse the entire building). “Ladder X to Command; we have enclosed wing stairs, we will be using the A wing stairs to reach the fire apartment.”


The presence of a “Well Hole” the space created between the landing section of the stairs and the run of the steps themselves can be utilized for quick hoseline advancement. It must be rehearsed prior with the Engine Co. to achieve maximum effect. It reduces the amount of hose needed to be humped up the treads of the steps and around each newel post (i.e. 1-50’ length can travel vertically 5 floors in the well versus 1 length per floor if going up and around each set of steps, newel posts and associated landings). “Engine 22 to members, there is a well” should be enough to let the members know.


A quick stop on the floor below can get you a lay of the land. If you bypassed the lobby and forgot to count mailboxes, count the number and note location of the apartments that you see. Remember that depending of the way the stairs run (scissor, return etc), they may be slight variations in the layout when you get on the fire floor.


What may have appeared to be a fire on the 3rd floor from the street may turn out to on the second floor depending on the buildings configuration as it relates to the street level. Some buildings have lobby entrances that are raised above street level, which may change your initial fire floor notifications. Verify the fire floor and announce the apartment number or letter over the air, so that those who may be going above can pinpoint the direction they need to head.

Open Tread and Open Stairs

Well Hole

Enclosed Stairs

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Got Stickers?

Got Stickers?

Firefighters, absolutely love stickers and decals. I know that you know what I am talking about, and... it's ok. It is absolutely fine to be proud of who you are as a firefighter, be you a career or volunteer member. You should be proud of your fire company and your fire department. Affixing decals and stickers to your personal property is just one way for you to show that pride to others. I've seen fire department decals not only on personal vehicles, but boats, golf clubs, I've even seen decals on coolers... and so on and so on.

I've also seen some sort of decal on almost every rig I have come across. Some are big, some are small but they mean something to the members who put them there. I've seen decals with company slogans and nicknames, department mascots, company patches, memorial decals, the stickers run the gamut. While they all serve as reminders to the members, either in memory or to elicit a source of pride, but in aiding our functionality for fireground, eh...well the decals are really just for show.

Recently, I have taken notice of a few stickers and decals on rigs and placed on certain tools that are absolutely excellently placed for OUR increased safety, and will aid our operations on the fireground. Now, I will certainly not take credit for inventing any of them, I'm just not that smart. I just thought that they were great ideas and they can be incorporated into most companies and departments quickly, easily and relatively inexpensively. A sticker, believe it or not may just save a life!

Take a good look at the lead picture above and those below, courtesy of my friend Joe Brown from firehouse pride ( Ladder and tool wraps can greatly increase visibility of such important landmarks and vital equipment on the fireground. Also, they are great identifiers for your tools and equipment with your department or company name, letters or logo.

Another useful sticker found on fire apparatus that I have seen is this RIT/FAST one. In reality the sticker isn't for your members, they should know where all the equipment is on your rig... its is for everyone else! You never know when an additional compliment of RIT/FAST supplies may be needed at an incident. With this decals placement, there is no need to "compartment hunt" looking for the RIT/FAST pack or associated RIT/FAST tools on the rig that may be the closest one to the fire!

Label your RIT/FAST compartment

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Check your Dance Card

I admit it, it's happened to me... and I am sure that it's happened to you too. Honestly, it’s just easy to let it happen. You can try to justify it, in your own mind by saying that; it's just that we love what we do, and we want to do it all the time! When fire presents itself, we want to get right in there and go to work. While we know all too well the dangers and devastation that fire causes, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who rides firetrucks that doesn't want to go to them. That said, the tendency to rush into action can sometimes make "the job" more challenging. Even the best firefighters and company officers can, at times, be "blinded" by the auditory and visual display that is, the "Beauty of fire."

Bee-Boop...Engine, Ladder; now the adrenaline starts to build, interrupting what had been a rather slow Football Sunday. The cold snap is here, it’s winter, it's fire season. It's the middle of the afternoon, your on the apparatus floor as crisp winter chill hits and runs thru your bones, as the doors slowly rise open... that arctic air rushes in. Your rigs, your crew and you, gear up... to hit the street.

You are headed on a run for "a house on fire" when another round of adrenaline pops as we hear our friendly dispatcher announce "We are getting a few calls on this" or "Sounds like you might have something there" or better yet "PD is on the scene with fire showing."

Ah, it's going to be a worker... all the signs are right. As you turn the final corner you see the boss lean back, slide the window open to the crew and tell the backstep "looks like we got a job fellas." Whether it's "10-75 the box, K" or "Strike the Working Fire dispatch" it's on! Time to go to work, this is what we do best. We have trained ourselves to be a "Combat Ready" "Aggressive" firefighting team... everyone has the prepared, practiced and anticipated for our fire moment... and it is here, let's push right in!?!?

Whoa, fellas... the boss says: "one second"... What is he doing you wonder? Before he let's the team dance with this "Beauty of fire", he just wants to take one quick look at the dance card.

Before you enter the fire building...


Many times we receive the initial phone call reporting a fire that is: behind, adjacent, across from the address we are responding to. If you arrive and it is different, ANNOUNCE it! Give the remaining companies responding a chance to make adjustments and respond to the right address.


Take a lap for PD's (Private Dwellings), get reports from outside teams at MD's (Multiple Dwellings), or reports from units responding from an opposite direction. Note terrain variations making more stories in rear than front or vice versa, the presence of walk out basements, setbacks... etc.


Let the incoming companies know what you see on your arrival. A fire on the top floor IS different than a fire on the first floor (unless it is 1 story) ...from many operational and tactical standpoints.


Do occupants have the ability to self evacuate? What type and how many (if any) fire escapes are there? Are the civilians "really" in immediate peril or can we reassure them to shelter them in place? Should we make an internal or external (or both) attempt to rescue them? Remember LIP. Life Safety, Incident Stabilization, Property Conservation.


What are your exposures? This means both internal and external.

Internal: Within the fire building/apartment (a quick count mailboxes, doorbells, or a quick scan of the layout on the floor below can help here).

External: Outside the fire building. Fire communicating out windows impinging adjacent dwellings or auto exposing to the floor above might indicate a second alarm or additional resources being called for on your arrival.

KEEP YOUR HEAD UP AND BLINDERS OFF! The few seconds you take in the street may make up countless minutes once in the building. Stay Alert.