I've commented and posted on some various blog sites on the issues related to engineer building construction components and assemblies. I posed some questions related to Engineered Structural Assemblies & Systems (ESS) and asked if you knew what they represent and how these components, assemblies and systems may affect or influence incident operations? I also presented some information on the pioneering efforts and quantitative results of the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) engineers and fire service representatives from the Chicago Fire Department, HERE and HERE.


If you've spent any amount of time reading through the NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program, LODD Reports or have invested time and effort to look through the data base of near miss reports and ROTW at the National Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting System, you'd recognize the magnitude of the issues and multi-faceted challenges confronting the U.S. Fire Services in the areas of engineered structural assemblies, components and building features.

Paul Comb's editorial image provides a poignant and distressing reality that the fire service needs to come to terms with, addressing and implementing the necessary components that assimilating refined combat firefighting techniques and methodologies; that align with the risks and hazards presented by current and emerging construction techniques, materials and consumer lifestyles that comprise our buildings and occupancies.


We need to start looking over our shoulders; we need redefined strategies and tactics for today's buildings and occupancies.


When we do have the opportunity to engage in firefighting with the dragon; we may not recognize the dragon has changed, it has evolved. Yet we stand poised to engage or take-on the dragon with faulted incident operations, strategic plans and tactical intentions that provide less than adequate results.


In those situations where we are deficient or we achieved less than expected results, we continue to miss the apparent or root causes and fall back on perceived notions and excuses. Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety; Understanding today's building construction, fire dynamics, fire loading and behaviors and instituting appropriate firefighting methodologies, we can achieve safe and successful fireground operations. Remember, the Predictability of Performance and the combat firefighting based upon Occupancy Risk not Occupany Type.


Have you and your company, battalion or department discussed limiting factors, enhanced firefighting tactics or operational experiences related to engineered systems, past fires, observed new construction or renovations and what it all means to your assigned duties or company assignments?


Are you and your company adequately trained to address "modern" construction, occupancies and conditions or is a much bigger dragon lurking in the shadows?


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Yes Sir we have....it is called.....are you ready for this....? TRAINING....there...I said it...and no I am not sorry that I did...although I am sure I chased away a good percentage of people from the site by saying that dirty little word.....I still find it hard to believe that some will do anything to get out of training when it is soething that may well save their ass.......
While training is indeed all important, my understanding of what Chris is talking about is NOT about training, it's about education, specifically, education about new building materials, technologies and methodologies.

Training says that when this happens, do that; when that happens do this. With proper training, when the time comes we (hopefully) will fall back on our default training. But how does that describe new building techniques? It doesn't. Education does.

And if training is going to scare people away, just imagine what education will do to them. As the saying goes, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."
There is a time and place for tradition,but when it comes to modern firefighting we can NOT go by the old adage that many departments embrace . . . "this is how we have always done it and that is how it is going to be done now!"

Yes, construction techniques have changed and new materials are being used along with every chemical imaginable. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that if you change the container and change the fuel that you will in some way change the fire.

Gone are the days of the old smoke-eaters. We know about the carciogenic effects of many products of combustion and the long term health risks. We know that we have better equipment that lets us get closer and stay longer in a hot fire. We know that we have advanced technologies (SCBA's, TIC's ect) that aid us in our firefighting efforts. We know about terrorits threats and homeland security.

So if we know all this other stuff why can't we get it through our heads that building construction has changed? And with those changes are inherent risks that firefighters of old did not have to contend with?

I'll echo Jack/dt thoughts. Training is important, but before we can be adequately trained we must be EDUCATED. If you train someone to do something perfectly but it is the wrong way then guess what? It is still done wrong.
Thanks for the thoughtful insights...it starts with Education and Knowledge..
I find that "training" IS education....not all training is run and gun...some of it requires us to sit and listen in a classroom setting.....Paul

Chris, First off, your discussion posts have been consistent in raising the bar for the quality and caliber of training materials presented to the readers. For that alone, I thank you. The things you question and share are always very relevant to the hazards presenting today's firefighter.

Like many other departments across the country, mine deals with a myriad of suburban developments that all use the pre-engineered construction that includes the use of gusset plates, laminated materials and pressboard that when left alone are just fine, but when exposed to heat has the potential for failure, which as you have pointed out and shared through research and data links, is killing us.

My department makes the attempt on every fire to learn from it and when new construction features are noted, our training section may or may not put together a training bulletin so all can benefit from someone else's experience. There is no longer adequate training to address the issue in my opinion. Budget cuts and other priorities do seem to get in the way. It's hard to compete against the many other mandatory training things we have to keep up with that include EMT, Hazmat, USAR, and Wildland. The only real identification of the hidden hazards from structure fires are things written and posted by folks such as you Chris. FD training divisions simply cut and paste your work, hopefully giving credit where credit is due.


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