If you havent seen this then you need to its a video of a Houston Fire Capt. getting trapped in a highrise. The video on the website is cut down to 20 mins. you can buy the full version from the website. Trust me the 20 mins is enough to make your skin crawl.

http://www.thebravestonline.com/news.html?view=1&id=1619

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I just saw it yesterday. First off, why was he alone, but the other two in his team get out? Next, WAY too much radio traffic on the channel. Should be a lot of lessons learned from this one where the trapped FF is still alive. But we still get ourselves killed or injured over & over again. We need to wake up & learn from these mistakes, not repeat them.
I hate to armchair Fire Chief this or any fire but I think I need to throw my two cents in here before it gets sporty as I suspect it will after the last comment. Joe, first off I would like to clarify that I was not at this fire nor do I work for the Houston Fire Department. I have not watched this video yet because my computer wont play it but I've read some transcripts and listened to some dispatch tapes as well as talked to some HFD guys who were there. I refuse to disparage Capt Abbt's or his crew's actions because I don't know exactly what happened. Do you? You weren't there... only Capt Abbt and his crew know.

However from what was told to me, Capt Abbt got seperated from his crew while searching for the numerous victims known to be in the structure. He got disoriented in the heavy smoke and heat and began to run low on air. Thats when he called the Mayday and the RIT team was activated. I think he did an excellent job keeping his head about him and let Command and RIT know his basic location in the structure. That being said I'd also like to address your statement about his crew making it out without him- if Capt Abbt was running so low on air, then doubtless his crew was too. They were completely seperated and had no knowledge of where he was in the large building. How can you expect them to stay in a smoke charged IDLH atmosphere if they have no realistic hope of meeting up with their crewmate? They'd be giving the RIT team 3 victims to find and rescue rather than 1. Personally, if I knew where my lost crewmate was and I thought I had even the slightest chance of making it to him, I would try. However there is a line between taking a risk to watch your brother's back and senselessly creating more victims. Oh yea and in a fire this big (4-11 or 4-alarm), there are 20+ crews working it on multiple floors, window rescues, and a heavy fire load. How can you expect there to be little radio traffic? Its not like a bread and butter room and contents fire...
This isn't an arm chair quaterback session and I don't think anyone has gotten that far yet anyway. I thought this would be a great learning tool for everybody out there. That being said in order to learn you have to critique. Sometimes peoples feelings get hurt when you do that but thats the nature of the beast as long as you are respectful then there is usually no problem. I even ordered the DVD cause there is supposed to be more content on it.

No I wasn't there but I don't have to be in order to pick things up that I could do better at my next fire, and neither does anyone else.

I hope this breads some good tactical discussion about command, accountability, RIT, and fire attack in a high rise. Ill get it started.

1. What kind of accountability system do they have?
2. What were the engine company hose line selections?
3. Was there any other kind of ventilation attempted befor the MAYDAY?
4. Were was the RIT staged?
5. How many FF's were assigned the RIT function?
6. How many RIT's were there?
Damn that was a little intense...
I agree with this. To add to the list...

1. Why didnt the team realize they were minus one firefighter?
2. why didnt the team if they lost contact issue a report to command that they had lost contact.
3. they mention the 2 hoselines (engine companies) on the stairwell wher ethe Captain was last seen, but they never report on radio.


Things to be thankful for...

1. It was a seasoned Captain who knew enough to find his way out.
2. Although the command was a little stressed, he maintained a fairly level coolness.
3. NO lives were lost thanks to the captain finding the ladder in the window.

My personal opinion is just that, opinion. At the moment the team lost contact with the Captain, they should have asked for help, or at least notified command. If they were out of air, or injured the 2 hoselines in the stairwell should have been hustled up to the last known location, and a Primary search completed to find the missing comrade. Especially with todays Thermal Imagry camera's the chance that that Captain would have had to endure that much heat and smoke would have been dwindled down. One thing I did not hear anything about was a PASS device. This is a critical instrument in saving lives. Be well and stay safe out there.
Jason, first off, no I wasn't there. Second, what's the SOP/SOG for a search? Basically, it usually includes to search with at least one partner. You go in alone, you are tempting disaster. Third, with a large department like that, it would seem logical to use multiple radio channels which would be monitored at the unified command post. Since the original taem got separated, why did they continue on instead of trying to regroup? SOPs/SOGs are written for a purpose: to get the job done safely. Yes, there are times you need to go outside them, but that should not be encouraged. No matter how seasoned a firefighter is, his training never ends. This training comes from classroom/practical courses as well as on the job.

From what i did hear in the video, the captain did relay his position several times & kept a cool head. He did not panic. However, if he would have stayed with his crew & monitored his air supply, this might not have happened. Yes, we as firefighters take risks, but they need to be measured risk versus gain. Actions like what this captain did can & will lead to more firefighter injuries & deaths. We need to fight the fires smarter, measure the risks & gains, follow SOPs/SOGs as much as possible & learn from the lessons taken from history, not repeat them.
Robert, I'll admit I probably jumped the gun a little bit. I am a little edgy sometimes just because I really hate how all too often people who weren't there take a portion of the information and start to criticize the people who were there. Especially online. I didnt like his approach... however you do bring up some good points. I can answer (or attempt to) a couple of your questions as well as EngCo513's. HFD uses an electronic accountability device that connects the PASS to a console carried in each District Chief's truck. My understanding is that the second or third-in chauffer generally takes over the accountability console for Command. Not 100% sure on that though. In the video there is one mention of the PASS device. At one point OEC (the dispatcher) calls in and notifies command that Engine-8A is in alarm. Thats the way they generally word it. Command called him several times with no answer. As far as RIT goes, their minimum daily manning is 4 per company so they would have had at least 3 (Capt, 2 FF) running RIT assuming they didnt pull their chauffer too. I've been told that the RIT SOP requires a minimum of 3 as well. Also, it is my understanding that Engine-27 and Rescue-42 were both RIT teams on this particular fire. Don't take my word as gospel but that's how I understand it.
Yes you do search with your crew... I dont know their exact SOPs but I do know that they are supposed to roll with at least one partner. However I dont believe (now I could be wrong but from what I've been told and what the video presents), he merely got seperated from his crew and wasn't just bailing off alone. Houston only has 7 tactical channels for the entire city including EMS. They may not have had an extra channel for the fire. I can't tell you what else was going on in the city. I do agree that it would be a good idea to try to seperate it out a little bit with multiple channels if they can. I think you are passing judgement on whether Capt Abbt freelanced or not based upon entirely too little information. Perhaps he did, I dont know but I think the key phrase there is that I don't know. I want to refrain from passing judgement until I know all the facts. That is why my first reply to you was worded as it was. I think discussing the fire and how to improve upon a bad situation is a great plan, I just dont like for people to take a small portion of information, make assumptions and then criticize a brother firefighter when he may very well be just a victim of "shit happens." I'm not saying he is, but I'm not saying he isn't either.
Jason thanks for your insite into this incident. The reasons I asked these questions is becuase it seemed to me from observing the video and having no knowledge of the Houston FD that it took along time to discover who was missing. I like the multiple RIT teams. I would love to have 3 on a building like that 1 the floor below the fire 1 in the lobby and one in reserve out side if one gets activated then you just send the lobby up to the floor below etc.

A comment about the radio issue. You can have 30 tacs but you have to have people to moitor them. I know in my FD we have 14 tac channels not including dispatch and business channels. We normally only have 2 dispatchers on duty 1 to dispatch the main channel and the other to monitor tacs. If it gets busy you MIGHT get a third but its highly unlikley. Also the command staff functions for the command post may be delayed. Again in our FD on a working fire you get 2 battalions thats it. You don't get anyone else until its a second alarm then they page the training division and the Admin but if they are off duty they could be coming from home.

So I guess what I am trying to say by that is yea splitting up the radio traffic is good but if you don't have anyone to listen its like calling in artillery on yourself.

Also please everyone take a deep breath this is supposed to be discussion not arguments.
I noticed the irregularity in the communications as well. I think that Command learned of the mayday rather quickly and started the rescue process at that time... probably with some of the commands being done face-to-face as we all know happens a lot on the fire ground. I think there is a lot that happened there that we didnt see/hear because it wasnt done over the radio. Then the other units and the dispatcher started clueing in at odd intervals later. It took a while. I'm not sure how many dispatchers they run to be honest. I know they have a lot- and they're all firefighters assigned to dispatch, not the other way around- but I'm not sure how many are on shift at a time. We couldnt run multiple channels very easily in my department. We run a one battalion system so unless you want to pull a Lt off an engine company or you get lucky and a Deputy Chief shows up too... one's all you get. But we're a relatively small department (6 Engine/Quint Companies and 6 Ambulances) so.... HFD probably had a half dozen district chiefs there.
Bumping this discussion up from the archives.
I've watched this video a number of times, and I believe that it is an excellent video for people to watch and learn from. For the situation that he was put into, I believe that Captain Abbt did the best he could do to remain calm. You can hear in his transmissions heavy and fast breathing, which we all know happens during a vigorous search and rescue operation, which he was performing when he lost contact with his crew so I cannot criticize him on that. All I can say is this, if you get separated, find your way to the nearest window or door, call for mayday, your last known position, activate your pass and calm down and control your breathing, your oxygen is better spent when you're under control.

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