Considering the ongoing struggles most of us have with staffing problems at the fire scene, I will be conducting an upcoming training that will re-emphasize the incident scene tasks that can be accomplished by one firefighter. Obviously, this leads us quickly to outside support tasks; I am not condoning any kind of Lone Ranger stuff here.
I already have some things in mind and I am looking for anything our FFN brain trust has to provide. I find this topic a little difficult, I certainly don't want to give any decision making folks more ways to cut funding or staffing, but at the same time would like to provide ways for short staffed personnel to work smarter by simply learning and practicing some new skills to accomplish common tasks.
A local volunteer fire department has structured their department addressing both interior and exterior firefighters. Many of the exterior staff members are older and less physically/emotionally able to operate in the IDLH atmospheres. They are assigned other important duties required at every event, but isolated to the outside. Using Chief Loyd Laymen's acronim RECEO - LV - rescue, exposures, confine, extinguish, overhaul, ladders and ventilation, one can see that as many as 5 of these duties listed could be done from the exterior based on the problem and it's stage. Incident commandater, safety, accountability, water supplyand exterior sector control (based on event size, etc.) can also be added to this list.
This training can be as simple as putting pictures of building fires on a screen and addressing the "needs to be done" list among the participents, or filling an aquired structure/training building with smoke and having the department members do the "real time" operations required while showing the importance of all these exterior functions.
I will be drilling the firefighters on the tasks they could do on the scene. We are full time, very short on staff, and have POC come in to help out. We have to do the most we can with little help, especially initially, even auto aid is 10 minutes out.
My dept uses a riding assignment system. On the truck, there are two outside assignments (OVM and Roof) and both of these positions have task that are completed individually. They are still a team for two man tasks, like throwing the bigger ladders, roof venting and v.e.s., but their other tasks are easily performed alone.
OVM one man tasks include a 360 if possible and report findings, conduct outside rescues at windows, control and report on utilities (this usually just consists of shutting off the natural gas), venting windows as required in co-ordination with suppression ops, and throwing ground ladders.
The Roof guy is mostly throwing ground ladders, rescues and preparing for roof operations if needed.
If these two guys are needed to help interior ops then they are a two man team.
We used to have 2 dedicated positions that we called ladders, lights and fans. These were for newer guys or older guys that can't/shouldn't be doing interior operations. Their jobs were as the title suggests, throwing ladders, preparing fans and lighting. Now, these jobs are often taken care of by the driver, or the ovm and roof guy if they have the time.
Other outside jobs are mostly engine work type things like the break man (connect supply line to pump) and the layout guy (supply line to hydrant). Once the one man jobs are complete they team up to pull a back line and then go interior if they are suitable trained. Otherwise they can continue to operate alone performing tasks such as assisting with pulling and advancing lines, throwing ground ladders or setting up portable master streams.
We do not consider any of this type of thing to be free lancing since we all know what tasks will/should be undertaken and who will generally be doing them. Anything outside of the defined tasks obviously go through command first.
We must remember that there can be no freelancing, communications between command ,interior, and exterior operations, will be paramount. Timing between these operations will require each sector to be aware of conditions and requirements including completion or changes encountered during the executions of a given task
Thanks for the help so far.
I guess I should say that many of these "one firefighter" tasks will be the guys coming in to supplement the first-in shift on duty who already will be operating as directed by their OIC. These others will be assigned by Command to tasks as necessary, freelance actions are not accepted and rarely occur. These members also are assembled into teams and put to work.
I am just looking to make everyone more valuable in every action we take. My thought is a firefighter version of bigger, faster, stronger; but instead it's smarter, faster, better.
Using single firefighters to carry out assignments that are either pre-planned or that are assigned by Command isn't freelancing or anything like it. As long as the outside firefighters stay outside and don't enter an atmosphere that is IDLH or that may become IDLH, then single-firefighter assignments are OK. Not ideal...just OK. Obviously, teams are better, but you can't use firefighters you don't have.
Single Firefighter Exterior Assignment Possibilities
Horizontal vent, including selecting tools for windows of various heights above grade.
Single-firefighter ladder throws - up to 24-foot extension ladders can be thrown by firefighters in good shape.
Defensive 2-1/2 inch hoseline OperationsbStretching, positioning, looping, and operating
Staffing Division C - duties, responsibilities, what to look for, how to interact with units moving through the Division.
Clearing Obstructions - chainsawing wood fences and brush, hook drills for abandoned mattresses and furniture, etc.
Forcible Entry - Sledgehammer techniques, decorative door panel access, accessing cellar doors and crawl space doors.
Accountability Officer - collecting and organizing Passports or other ID tag systems, supporting Command, tracking on-air times and company locations while they're interior or on the roof.
Water Supply Officer - supervising the Water Supply operations for hydranted and/or unhydranted areas, depending upon what you have and the occupancy and fire size and location
Exposure Protection - operating small portable monitors in side or rear yards, down alleys, etc.
Rehab - setting up and operating a small Rehab operation with one firefighter, who is preferrably an EMT or a paramedic.
A good source for additional single-firefighter drills is the IFSTA Essentials of Firefighting, Edition 5.
Nobody is suggesting that using single firefighter deployment is freelancing just the need for a knowledge of what each unit is doing to co-ordinate activities which may effect another unit. An assignment from the I C obviously has been given with due concern for all operating units . It would only become freelancing if decisions such as ventilation or forcing entry were carried out by that individual without the prior knowledge or authorization of command. Sorry if I was unclear on my post.
We have a small area (<5 sq mi) and small pop. (<9000) people, and have probably 12 active firefighters....I think if someone can vent windows at the appropriate side of the building and that is also the person that tagged the hydrant...that's awesome.
If a chief comes to scene, and we have 2 in the structure, plus the hydrant tagged, and that person is the active OVM (Outside Vent Man) all on the first engine, and then can rely on the next engine to have the 2nd line (we have a dedicated RIT team from a station on our side of the county), then we are doing good.
This usually comes together within 15 minutes...which is awesome in our county on daylight hours.
Some of the smaller departments in our surrounding area have the same issue. I have been thinking of "sharing the wealth" with some of them who may not have given much thought to taking advantage of what one or two members outside can accomplish.