In many areas of the country, we have to wait for spring and summer weather to conduct a good portion of our hands-on training if we do not want to have extra injuries due to the cold. This is not to say you cannot train in the winter and should have a few drills to understand your operations in the cold environment, but training is much more tolerated and productive if the participants are not suffering from hypothermia. So now that the warm weather is here, what do you plan to conduct for training. May I suggest the basics. While we have become a profession that needs to know a little about everything, many of our high priority events, such as structure fires are completed with the basic skills that we learned in recruit school. These will continue to be as important as the day you entered the fire service and many LODD reports show that these basic skills are what either contributed to the LODD or helped save a person from an LODD.
What Basic Skills Do You Need to Perform?
Hopefully throughout the year, you have some focus on the basic tasks that make up the basic skills, such as deploying a hoseline, masking up at the front door, starting a saw for ventilation. Now that the warm weather is in season, we can begin to put these basic tasks together to hone the basic skills, such as puling up in front of a structure and deploying a hoseline, masking up and making entry with and maneuvering hose through obstacles. Once you have some level of proficiency, you can begin to focus on efficiencies and time reduction. While hurrying and causing errors on the fireground is a mark of inexperience, the ability to practice to find efficiencies, such as walking in a certain pattern to ensure the hose lays out properly based on the distance from the pumper to the building or learning ways to arrange your gear that allow you to be on air quicker is a mark of a professional that believes in his or her craft and cares how their performance affects the crew and the public.
Learning how the flow path science affects our operations and how we can use the knowledge to our advantage. Learning behaviors that ensure we have a good 360-degree view of the structure, read the building to understand where the fire is likely located and what our best entry points are given the layout of the building. Practicing how we can ensure that ventilation openings (even the ones we must create to enter the building) are limited and timed properly based on our hose movement. When I began, the firefighter took the nozzle to the door, forced open the front door and I awaited the officer to return so that we could move into the building. Now we know that its best to have everything for hose movement, including the firefighters, ready prior to having any opening created. It may also be best to ensure that the ventilation team will be ready in a few seconds to be able to provide ventilation that is timed with the attack crew’s extinguishment of the fire. If this is not practiced prior to an event, it will likely not be thought of during an event. Aside from a few larger cities that have fires frequently, a fire event is stressful and very overwhelming for the first arriving crews, as the personnel are trying to remember all of the parts of the basic tasks that are needed to be successful.
Where are your Command Staff?
Often drills are conducted in a vacuum. Crews go out and perform these tasks and find ways to become proficient, but the fireground commanders are absent. The fireground commanders must understand crews that are proficient and those that may not be and set up their strategy and tactics based on this understanding. If the fireground commander assigns ventilation to a crew and does not understand the time needed, he or se may miss the timing or choose an improper strategy. The fireground commander must know how the fire is progressing and how this interacts with the time needed to complete tasks. Assigning a company to conduct a transitional attack with a 2.5 in handline and expecting water to be on the fire in 10 seconds is unrealistic. How long does this take in your department. What may be an offensive attack for an experienced and proficient crew could be a defensive fire for a new and inexperienced crew that is much slower at putting a hoseline in service.
Where are your safety officers? Often, I hear that safety officer are amazed that something happened or was performed in a certain way on the fireground. I would say that this was likely not the first time that something was tried, and it has occurred at a training prior. Quickness and efficiency are great, but if it is risking the safety of the firefighters performing the task, this will likely end poorly, as the parameters on the fireground are often harsher than the training ground and will provide many opportunities for an unsafe practice to yield injuries and stop or delay the task being performed. Watch in training and remind or coach crews through an unsafe practice and provide the ability to learn a safer practice.
Where is the operations or fire chief? We hear the complaints of a disconnect from the administration to the rank and file. This is often overheard when policies are updated, or purchases are made that are inconsistent with the needs. If the fire chief only sees the cost of an item and does not understand it practical benefit, it is likely the disconnect will be there. If the crews know that the fire chief has been there to observe the new procedure or equipment recommendation, it will go over better if these is a difference of opinion. Is the fire chief videoing the trainings? This can be very valuable when discussing needs with the elected officials that often do not understand what a cost translates into during an event. Seeing the difference between 2, 3, and 4 persons on an apparatus and the time difference, they can begin to understand how that affects the community.
Summer is here, get out and practice, but be sure the command staff is present.