Anyone else in the Volunteer side have the problem of members not masking up or atleast have a pack on and a mask close when going into a structure that you were called to for either A. a fire alarm or B. a CO alarm with or with out ill effects? Any fire alarm we get its either only me or me and another person with packs on and a mask with us and has a hand tool. Noone else has anything with them. We might get lucky if they grab the TIC. At CO alarms its the same thing its either only me or me and another person with packs on. Usally when our chief or first engine gets on scene they start checking with for a leak if they find one they exit the building and then tell us to mask up. Anyone else have this problem with noone having packs one with a mask close if not on? What do you do to make them have packs on so when you actually have a fire or CO leak your ready to do work and you dont gotta run for stuff..

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For fire calls, there is no reason you shouldn't have PPE on and have a tool. Something tripped the alarm, so crews should be ready in case it was a fire condition. In order to accomplish results it starts at the top and this should be either a work order or SOP established by the dept. For those failing to comply, then there should be disciplinary actions.

For us, we will be have PPE, SCBA, hand tool, TIC, and water can. The only time we wouldn't be wearing PPE is if we have confirmation of a false alarm, or that it was a pull station actionvation by a kid, etc.


When it comes to CO alarms, I don't agree with having on full PPE or even an SCBA. If you are checking CO levels, you should have a meter that should alarm at a lower exposure limit, which means you can check levels and have a chance to get an SCBA if needed. Most times a CO call can be fixed with simple ventilation and most CO detectors and meters are set to alarm earlier, so you don't need to be going in on air or even packed up.

As John mentioned everything begins at the top. Your chief and your training officer are your best authorities in this case. They should be setting the examples.

Another idea: Find a retired firefighter in your area who has or knows of someone who has even the slightest respiratory condition or worse --- is dealing with something like lung cancer. Ask him to come speak to your guys about wearing your SCBA. We can look at powerpoints and videos all day long, but the real deal makes a lasting impression.

I beleive it is in our SOPs to have gear and an SCBA on for fire alarms but its not enforced at all and everyone slacks. Like i said its only me and sometimes another person if he shows up that has a pack and a tool. Its kinda like they dont care in a way and its seeming like theres no way to fix this issue until it bits them in the ass by us investigaating an alarm and theres fire.

I will admit in my volunteer dept we also have that problem we have stricter sogs now and we look out for each other to make sure we have it or keep it close by if we find a problem on a call we address it immediately no if and or buts about it if they still don't comply with the safety or oic we do a write up if it persists suspension and if they still don't get it they are withdrawn from the dept and we also try to educate them about it ppe is no joke to be taken lightly its a matter of life or death I try to express to them whenever you have a structure vehicle fire alarm co alarm you should always pack and mask up because you never know what you are breathing in and it's just an extra measure of protecting yourself. Outside a structure and vehicle fires I prefer to pack out and mask out I know some people laugh at me about it but I don't care because I want to make sure I'm protecting myself and educating the members on why its good practice to do it the equipment to do the job and keep you safe is there for a reason so use it and its also a liability say if you got a inhalation accident of one of your members they will let you get treated but after if you have long term effects from it you may not be covered because you were not using the provided equipment that's why its important to harp on educating your department members

I with wearing full PPE when responding to an alram call.  Something I see a lot, however, with volunteer departments is everyone thinking they have to run around inside trying to figure out which detector head set the alarm off.  What happens if you actually find a fire?  Everyone has to run back outside, possibly downstairs, and get a line, get the truck set up, get a hydrant, get tools.  Then, after they get back to the fire area, they're sucking so much air that they go through their SCBA bottle before they can even begin to mount a respectable attack. 


I used to think everyone needed to be packed up for CO calls also.  When I started working for a paid department, and starting going to CO calls nonemergent, with one truck, in station clothes, I asked a couple people why?  It was explained to me that, provided there is no one needing rescued, we're going in with a 4 gas meter and if it starts going off we're going back out and calling the utility company to come deal with it.  We don't have the tools or the knowledge to fix the various causes of CO leaks. 

We don't have the tools or the knowledge to fix the various causes of CO leaks.


Just curious, Curt, if crews stick around while the utility company is on scene and use that education? I would think there is a multitude reasons for CO that the FD can easily take care of on their own.


For instance, starting a vehicle and letting it run while it is in the garage, even with the garage door open, is a common cause for a CO alarm. Doing a lot of cooking, like say for a holiday meal, on a gas stove, with windows closed and low ventilation is another common cause. An obstructed chimney or closed damper is another cause, etc.



We have many CO calls and most of them can be easily pinpointed to a common cause. There have been a couple times that the utility company was called and the FD would stay on scene to assist as needed, or to ventilate, etc. From such calls, there was much learned and we were able to check out a few other causes of CO on later calls etc.


When it comes to tools and knowledge, actually I would say most departments DO have both, especially if they have a 4 gas meter with a digital readout. The solution is ventilation, it doesn't take much to open windows etc. Checking the common sources of CO, furnace, water heater, stove, can be checked to rule out source. etc.


Our latest CO call I was on came in for an apartment complex where a resident called in because the CO alarm was sounding. Arriving on scene, our CO detector started alarming almost immediately and we had readings in the 40 ppm by the detector. We could also smell vehicle exhaust. We knocked on doors, got residents out and opened windows. This was a complex with 2 living units on the ground level and 4 on the second level with garage stalls on the first level. The readings on one end was in the 100's and the other was 350's. We opened the garage doors, set up a PPV fan and cleared the levels rather quick.


The source was asily pinpointed to a resident who started his vehicle and let it run for awhile to warm up. Easily identified and easily solved without having to contact the utility. Having a garage open and vehicle running is a common source in winter, but that open door doesn't necessarily vent, and depending on wind direction, can push CO into a home.

John, your dept has much more experience than ours with co alarms.  I am wondering if there are any liability issues with clearing the scene yourselves and not calling the utility company?



 I am wondering if there are any liability issues with clearing the scene yourselves and not calling the utility company?


It is our job to ensure the buildings are safe and part of the reason there are alarm systems for commercial and multifamily structures and why we have meters on the rigs, etc.

I understand there are differences in how services are set up, but if the utility company is to always be involved for such calls, why is the fire dept even being called out then?


I know it is a simple question, but too often it is easy to hide behind the liability factor for common causes of CO. Like in the car in the garage example above, if you get high readings by the garage service door, and nothing by other sources like the furnace, water heater, stove, etc, then the cause of the readings can be easily figured out. The solution to getting the CO out is to ventilate.


The issue should be about looking at potential sources of CO and get the readings by each source. This should help to pinpoint the area of a source leak. Then also question if a car was started, a fire started in the fireplace, cooking etc. CO is a result of incomplete combustion, so if you can rule out the source and reason for the CO, and subsequently eliminate or control it, there is no reason to call out the utility company for every call. If it is a furnace, water heater, stove etc as a problem, the utility company isn't going to fix it, nor is the fire dept. If that is the problem, the owner can be informed of actions taken (like shutting it down) and to call in a repair person or vendor, etc.




For us, we have trained with our utility company and have learned much from them to be able to proceed as we do. Most companies can and do give trainings out there and are good things to take advantage of and most times these are no fee training that they will do.


In our city, if a homeowner has a CO, smell of gas etc, and calls the FD, we come and check things out. If we can't pinpoint a source or reason for the alarm or odor, we will call the utility company. The nice thing for the homeowner and a PR case, is if the FD calls for the utility, the owner is not charged a service call. As such it keeps costs down for all customers of the utility while the FD is performing a service. If the owner called the utility directly, they are charged a service fee. So for the liability aspect, there really are no issues to clearing a scene, as long as the source is identified and appropriate actions taken.

I understand that it's our job to ensure the safety of buildings before we release them.  I also agree that dealing with CO problems caused by neglegence (cars in the garage, plugged chimneys, etc.) is an easy fix that we are more than capable of.  I think, however though, that we need to know our boundaries because there are many homeowners, business owners, and contractors that would get upset if we start tearing into a furnace or water heater, find there is a problem, then say here you go, get it fixed. 

While providing as complete and professional of service as possible, it's our responsibility to clear scenes as soon as possible so we are available if other emergencies arrise.  Taking time to dig farther into a CO related problem than we should so everyone can stand outside by the trucks with the lights going in all their gear for all their friends and neighbors to see them is really irresponsible and takes business away from local repair companies and creates friction between department members and employers who want them to get back to work.  We shouldnt have to worry about this but people are constantly becoming less concerned with helping the community and more concerned with maximum income and micromanaging their employees.  It's another one of the factors that we just have to learn to deal with.  If we strain that relationship too much they may stop letting employees leave for calls. 

Not sure exactly where you are coming from here Curt. I know you are replying to my remarks, but you are also imbelishing much more than the question I asked. I was curious as to the extent of not having the tools or knowledge to fix various CO leaks. The reality is the utility company also doesn't have that same knowledge or insight to fix the real problems either, especially if you are looking at a bad furnace, etc as the cause. I was curious as to why your dept would be calling out the utility company to come deal with the problems, I would say the FD can easily handle?



It really doesn't take the utility company to come out if CO is found inside a home or business, especially if the source can be narrowed down. It is not that time consuming to walk in and get a reading of say 45 ppm by a stove, and 2 by the furnace and water heater to narrow the source of the CO to a stove. Considering the time of year and amount of use going on, it doesn't mean it is a bad stove, just perhaps overused with inadequate ventilation. It doesn't take much to realize that you get a reading of 30 by the furnace and nothing by the stove, garage, water heater, to determine the source is a furnace issue. Calling out the utility does really nothing more than confirm still would take a contractor etc to get don to the source.


So when you talk about taking business from local repair companies, I ask where you get that gist from? I never once stated the FD should be doing repairs, in fact I did mention that a source can be identified and owner notified to contact a vendor or repair person to fix the issue. It can be the FD's job to identify, isolate, and ventilate the structure so people can stay....not to fix the problem. HOWEVER, is it fair to tell an owner there is a high CO level and they need to call a furnace, water heater, chimney sweep, nd appliance repair person because the source of CO wasn't identified? No. Does the utility company really need to come out and confirm the same thing? That answer may vary upon depts, but my answer from my experiences would be no, especially if the source can be identified.


As for standing outside by the trucks in all their gear....not sure how your dept is doing CO calls, but if that is the case for any dept, it is overkill. A CO call should be a service call and shouldn't take really any more than one company with a gas meter to handle the call. In some cses they may be available for other calls, otherwise a single company on a call and having anothe call come in is part of the job.


My whole point here is that there is quite a bit the FD can do, in relatively short order, to identify a CO problem, and to mitigate it if necessary. Most cases have been easily fixed with just opening some windows. The times for the FD, for us, to have to call the utility company was seldom for the number of calls we do get. Those calls where the utility was called, helped us learn some more as to sources, or why CO readings may be high in a back bedroom because of cooking, etc. I never once seen the FD look to repair a faulty appliance, but plenty of times where the appliance was identified.

makes good sense to train with the utility.  I also see your point about a car running in the garage.....CO source pretty east to spot there.  I couldn't swear to it but I think the utility is automatically called by dispatch when a CO alarm is called in.  When the utility gets there we go home.  Kinda a missed training opertunity.  We go in with SCBA due to our lack of experience with CO and also at the prompting of our State Fire Instructor.  He cited the example of a couple of family members that died over two days in a house with no CO detectors.  Two were dead before someone thought CO.  I realize dectectors alarm at low levels, that is just our SOG.

Couple things there Jim. I don't now how your dept is set up and if the utility is called wen a CO comes in, that is how things are done there. I would disagree with that concept because there are many false CO alarms where it is a detector malfunction or low battery, with no CO present at all. So if the utility is called right away on the FD dispatch, then I would say it is a bit of overkill.


I say it is overkill because if the FD has a meter, they should be able to identify if there is a problem  and if the utility is needed. Even in cases where there is CO present, this incident really is not an emergency situation where the utilty would need to be dispatched immediately. The FD just needs to get people outside, and then ventilate the structure. It isn't like a structure fire, or gas leak, etc (A gas leak I can understand the utility being dispatched at the same time). For a CO incident, as long as people are outside, they are safe. To mitigate the scene, it only takes some simple ventilation to make the structure safe I would disagree with the utility being notified right away for a CO call. But if that is your protocol, it is your protocol, go with it.


I also don't necessarily agree with going into a structure with SCBAs, especially if you have a meter. Most meters are set to alarm at the permissible level of CO, so if the meter alarms at the door, then perhaps think about putting on an SCBA. If not, go in and investigate without wearing an SCBA. It is too easy to knock things over etc with an SCBA on and potentially breaking the owner's property inadvertently, this isn't a structure fire or smoke investigation.


The example used with people found dead is a good reason to consider CO, especially if going for an EMS type of call. If responding on a CO call, then you pretty much have an idea what you are going for, no need to worry about packing up unless readings dictate high CO levels. Now if responding for an EMS call with multiple sick people or person down, then think about checking the CO levels.



In my years on the jb, I have only been on one CO call where an SCBA was warranted. We had high CO readings at the door and the windows needed to be open, so to do so, I went on air. The utility was contacted and the various sources for CO checked with the highest readings oming from the furnace/boiler area. When the utility got on scene, we learned about checking the pilot flames and saw how inadequate ventilation led to the CO and that it was a chimney issue.


I've been on CO where it was cooking related and several times, the highest CO accumulation was in one of the bedrooms. In all the cases the cause was overuse of cooking using multiple burners over prolonged periods of time, without adequate ventilation. All it takes is a kitchen window cracked open to handle the issue.


Most CO calls tend to be automobile related....either letting a vehicle run in the garage or just outside the garage with the door open and wind pushing the CO into the house. Pretty easily solved. There were a couple EMS related calls of a person unresponsive and CO was found. One was contractors running a gas powered concrete saw in the basement.




I'm not downplaying the nature of CO calls, but most times they are easily mitigated and much can be learned from the utilities if you stick around a little bit. This especially helps if you have newer people and they can learn how to check the different gas powered appliances or sources of CO. Most of the CO calls can be easily mitigated by a FD without having the utilty on scene for every call.



Finally, I will put it out there for everyone when it comes to meters. Make sure you are in a clean air environment when starting them up. Don't be close to the rig exhaust etc, especially if zeroing the meter. Don't start it up inside the home either because it will be calibrating to the ambient air, which may have CO present.  

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