After a long debate last night with a few old guys, new guys and anyone that would listen we talked about how come fire numbers are going down and LODD and injuries are going up?
One point we all agreed on is new gear and equipment is part of the issue. Back in the dark ages when we had rubber boots and long coats and no hoods we knew it was time to get out when your ears turned in marshmallows and we had to back up, new gear and hoods are allow a false sense of security and pushing people in deeper then they should be, and then there is the 30 minute tanks that did not allow the same amount of time working and cutting back on the number of heart attacks and other exertion issues.
I am not saying we should go backwards on the gear, God knows I like my ears and back of my neck but I think we need to work on more training of warning signs when its time to get out or time to go to rehab. If heat can not be you warning something needs to be. So whats your 2 cents?
Yeah was a time I rode a tail board and now can't wear a helmet in the truck but I am not against progress!
I think the key word here is training, which several people have mentioned. Just becuase we have improved gear does not mean we are unable to recognize signs around us that it is time to get out. Education about building construction, fire behavior and tactics well clue us in to our environment. It is important now, more than ever, for officers to become efficient in these areas and pass them along to the new groups coming on board. It is crucial for all to operate on the safe side and not afraid to retreat when conditions warrant. Most of the LODD are related to overlooking common sense recommendations by NFPA and training by basic firefighting education. We should always strive to get improved equipment, it's protecting our own back-literally. There is always that potential that despite following all the rules and recommendations, that something can go wrong on the inside and knowing that you have a little bit better equipment than they did 20 years ago might just be the difference between getting out alive or not.
I do agree to an extent. it's a doble edged sword for sure. You want to be well protected incase you become trapped or otherwise unable to escape a super heated situation quickly, but on the other hand, you want to see it coming.
Two stories come to mind.
1. a crew is in a large building (not a warehouse, museum type of building, lots of rooms), they press on and on into the building fighting the fire and searching. Before they know it, the heat has become incredibly intense, enough to feel it through their coats. They make for the door, but are so far in, they suffer burns before making it out.
2. a crew becomes trapped on the third floor by a second floor flashover. The conditions were almost clear upon entrance, they were searching for a victim they were told was still on the third floor. Conditions changed so rapidly they went from conditions you could survive without gear, to burning through their gear in a matter of seconds. Three members jumped from the third floor, their officer suffered incredible burns on his arms and back, he is scarred and has lost some range of motion due to scar tissue. The gear saved him from suffering even more severe burns that would have kept him from ever returning to the job. As it was, he spent 12 months off the floor recovering from burns and other major injuries.
So... to me, it's a toss up. You're right, the improved gear may hurt us, but that is, in many cases, more due to not being aware of surroundings, not being aware of other warning signs of impending changes. Sometimes, as in example #2, you can't see these changes if they are happening a floor below. You can be ever aware that something could change drastically at any moment, but sometimes you are going to get caught, and this is where the improved gear can save your life. We should all be learning more and more about rollovers, smoke reading, listening for changes (Sean, I thought of the iPod too), thinking of escape plans, etc, etc).
Basically, training. You can't just BE a firefighter, you must continually learn to be a firefighter. We all have lives to go home to at the end of the day, I plan to continue to do so.
It's a melting pot of things we we could claim but it's not just one or two things.
Yes the gear plays a part, protecting us more. My neck and ears still are my temp gauge, but I've learn when to say when even through the hoods of today.
BUT training is the biggest key- the instructors of yester year that got me started could tell you what a good structure fire a week was all about.
the instructors of today are my age - and more time reading about fires than putting them out.
A ton of people don't get hands on fire recognition nad fire behavior. And with the goverment whining about live burns most people wont get close to know when is when
One of the problems that I have found in the last ten years is that the people we bring in are really not here for the same reasons we were when we started. Fires have gone down thats true, but so has the time we spend in training these new recruits. I am one of many instructors in my department and we were having a in-house training and while I was trying to get a point across I noticed that two of the senior members were joking and not paying attention, a comment was made as to these individuals obviously didn't need to pay attention. Well I continued to teach the class but I let it be known that there wasn't but two firefighters that I had gone into a fire with in the whole room, and that we need to stay up on our training due to the fact that we don't get many fires. It's bad enough that it's has been getting harder and harder to get people who want to volunteer their time or who really want this job as a career. Training never stops, we are responsible for what happens at an emergency scene and if our training is sub-par then we have no one to blame when it shows at that scene. Everyone likes to point the finger, but when it's all said and done, it always come back home. When we start ignoring the fact that these LODD in most cases can be avoided the numbers will continue to increase. I think the turnout gear is a plus for us but we still need to remember the basics, we cannot rely on technology only, our training and skills have to also come into play. Use common sense, take a full look at the situation, do a full walk around if possible, don't be in such a rush to get into the action, it's not going anywhere and besides there will be plenty more in the future. I saw a sign on a bay door that said (EVERYBODY GOES HOME). If we all keep that saying in the back of our minds and trained properly and do proper size up and understand that every call we go on could be our last I think we might cut down on the LODD'S. One last statement: I am one of the worst when it comes to physical training, but if you are over weight and out of shape then you are a liability to your fellow firefighters or ems personel, as well as your department. So if nothing else get out and walk for twenty minutes to a half an hour, lets try not to become a statistic.
What do you guys mean when you say that fixing this problem comes down to "training"?
Lots of departments train all day on task-level and even tactical-level operations, but if you don't train on strategy, reading smoke, matching the IAP to the building construction and fire size/location/spread, then we're going to keep losing firefighters to LODDs.
Just "training" won't make the slightest little dent in the overall problem. It's targeted, specific training that covers all aspects of fireground and immediate post-fire deaths that will help reduce the LODD levels.
Most LODDs are due to heart attacks, and most of those are directly related to heat stress. The newer-style gear contributes to a little more heat stress for people that aren't inside with the fire, but it actually does a much better job of insulating us from heat stress than the older style gear...especially the gear that didn't have flash hoods or bunker pants.
I think we need to worry more about good strategy and tactics, good ventilation, staying out of Born Losers, stopping the ridiculous use of house fire tactics on Big Box and High Rise/Mid-Rise fires, and using Big Fire/Little Water tactics will do more for preventing LODDs than will worrying about turnout gear material specifics or whether or not we should wear flash hoods.
Oh, and NFPA 1984-compliant rehab and not letting firefighters refuse transport to the hospital if they need oxygen or IVs after/during a firefight should have an impact, especially on the heat stress heart attacks that kill around half of our LODDs.
The warning signs are: if it's on fire, and any of the following are not present:
1) The strategy and tactics aren't matched to the fire
2) PPE isn't available or properly worn,
3) Firefighters aren't accounted for or are allowed to freelance
4) You don't use NFPA 1984-compliant rehab at every working fire
OK, those aren't all of the warning signs, but they're a lot more important than the fabric from which your turnouts are constructed or if you like flash hoods or not.
This has been a great debate for years between leather lungers and the newbies. I lived through being harassed for wearing a BA to a dumpster or car fire in the early days.
I for one, believe the gear HAD to become better for a few different reasons, that were out of our control. The greatest invention of its time, (the SCBA) provided us with an opportunity to go in deeper than before, rescue people who were out of reach before, and also remain in there for longer to fight. Longer than our ears would allow. But lets back it up a bit, before BA's the leather lungers would hold their breath and go in for a hit or grab. (nuts) but that was the case and they were fighting fires more than us, but the fires were not the same as ours. They had to be concerned with primarily CO poisioning; they would go to at window, puke and go back in for more. Most of them have already past, lung CA, and if you still some who come in for Sunday coffee then they are the minority these days. GOD BLESS EM!
Our fires are hotter (BTU wise) because the manufacturing of new furnishings. Plastics, synthetics, etc. All in which we see in our routine building, car, or dumpster fire as a major HAZMAT of toxic chemicals. CO, Hydrogren Cyanide, Benzene, Tolulene, Acrolein, and on and on... All stuff that when super-heated will KILL US with one or two good breaths. Not to mention that the old days a 1100 degree flashover for CO was the common training benchmark. Remember, is the carpet off-gassing yet? then time to bail or vent immediately. Well new list of toxic chemicals of produce some unique hazards alone, Acrolein for instance has a flashpoint of 350-400 degrees (off the top of my head) Hello? now I see why almost everyday we hear of another crew getting caught in a flashover. Hell in the gear we are given today, most kids will never feel that little amount of heat. Why, because they have had little to ZERO true THERMAL INSULT RECOGNITION TRAINING. The SCBA came-a-long before the furnishings changed, but when they did, the manufacturer's made sure they kept the SCBA up on the chemical side; negative pressure or demand valves went bye-bye and positive pressure was in. So our lungs are protected as lonmg as you wear the damn thing, not get caught running out of air. Now our gear had to get better because the fires were hotter and the brothers were staying in longer with this great new SCBA, hence the common neck and ear burns of the early days. So we have been subjected to now being wrapped up or encapsulated in Full PPE, the stuff the new kids only know and have no clue why we actually have what we have today... OK enough history lesson, and I hope the juniors and newbies were listening.
So where do we go from here. Well the PPE and SCBA is here to stay, going backwards is not an option in my opinion. If big cities want to go backwards with hip boots and no hoods, that is there choice, but let the brothers have the option to wear all that is available to us. You see, in today's Cold Smoke Explosion (obscure Vinnie Dunn reference) I love the guy, he used to preach that and people would pretty much laugh in the early days, but he was looking at the newer furnishings and seeing brothers say it wasn't that hot Chief? but the place some-how flashed. This was all before the labs and testing we have today... So I for one am going to be all covered up and ready for the possible bad shit.
Being better prepared is the key. The Flashover simulator is OK in my eyes, but we are burning class A material and it is not producing the same flashovers as you see in the real world. It is much safer though. I think if taught to us, that hey this is what it will look like but be advised the temps may be ALOT lower guys... that would be beneficial. REMEMBER PENCIL, PENCIL, FOG, identify the insult! Also good quality THERMAL INSULT RECOGNITION training. This is something I have been doing and focusing on with my training business. Really showing guys what 300, 400, 600, 800 degrees feels like, and telling them the temps from the gauges. Guys can see the fire, feel the heat or what little heat they can through the gear at the time. Give them the temps and that registers in their head. When you call out 800 and they are on their knees (moving, figiting like a little kid needig to go pee, LOL) they know that those signs or indicators are REAL and will remember its time to get out or vent immeidately. I wrote an article in Fire Engineering, Feb. 2007 called "Interior Benchmarking" which is something I developed from years of live fire training. It teaches us to benchmark our progress throughout the structure and take note of conditions/surroundings. If you have a old copy kicking around, check it out.
New gear is great but only if we train, train, train and I don't mean crawling around the firestation following an uncharged hoseline with wax paper on our masks. I mean in some REAL heat brother! Stay safe. Bill
Or how about the pass devices we all are suppose to have on our gear, They do have the ones to alert you when temps reach the get out now situation. Yes they are expensive and we do our fund drives but they work.
But I agree with Dan and Sean, I to joined the fire service in the days that your ears were the indicators, and riding the beaver tail of the engine. 24 years now and myself and some of us old timers still go to training and classes. Because things do change from day to day.
My company we train every chance we get and take classes and review.
Training and learning is a daily process.
Keep up the good work everyone and Stay safe. Everyone goes Home.
The Firemen's Association of the State of NY (FASNY) and VFIS have partnered up to deliver "Fire Combat: Rules of Engagement" across New York State this fall.
This 3 hour class will define and advocate the need for a cultural change within the fire service relating to safety, supervision, accountability and personal responsibility. Focusing greater attention on the integration of risk management within incident management at all levels, attendees will enhance their personal and organizational accountability for health and safety throughout the fire service.
In other words.....Take the time to make an informed risk assessment on scene....and if you see something that looks dicey that "Upper Management' might have missed, speak up!!
We lost 9 firefighters in Charleston for what? To save some burning sofas?
Here's the training schedule thus far for anyone in NY or surrounding areas...
• Tuesday, Oct. 7: Kingsbury Volunteer Hose Co. # 1, Kingsbury NY, 7-10 pm.
• Wednesday, Oct. 8: East Syracuse-Minoa Central H.S., East Syracuse, NY, 7-10 pm.
• Thursday, Oct. 9: North Bay F.D. , North Bay, NY, 7-10 pm.
• Thursday, Oct. 16: Erie County Training Ctr., Cheektowaga, NY, 7-10 pm.
• Tuesday, Oct. 21: Colonie Fire Company: Colonie, NY, 7-10 pm.
• Wednesday, Oct. 22: Chenango County Training Ctr., Norwich, NY, 7-10 pm.
• Thursday, Oct. 23: Putnam County Fire Training Center: Carmel, NY, 7-10 pm.
• Tuesday, Nov. 11: Loch Sheldrake Fire Department. Sullivan County, 7-10 pm.
Mary, I am a major advocate towards firefighter safety, always have and always will be.
I am a little taken back by the choice of your words, "We lost 9 firefighters in Charleston for what? To save some burning sofas?"
The reports from the Charleston Super Sofa Store fire, cite flaws in many different aspects of that incident. But let's not forget that every guy at that fire was trying to save the lives, it wasn't about saving sofas. Audio tapes prove they had subject(s) trapped in the breakroom on a cellphone, they were attempting to locate him along with fighting the fire.
Comments like that are disrespectful to the brothers that gave their lives that day. Good men, good firefighters with all the best intentions. Godspeed the Charleston-9. May you rest in peace...
I think it is making things more difficult to sense when you have gone too far....the old days when you used your ears as a heat detector are gone.....thankfully....LOL...But now if we don't use our heads we may find ourselves in deep sh-t and past the point of safely operating.....New equipment may save your butt, but then only if you use it as it is intended.....remember the addage...."Risk a lot to save a lot, Risk a little to save a little..." Stay safe all and always keep the faith.....Paul