Ok, I've said it here before and I'm asking, no, begging for an answer for what I truly believe to be a very important question. I am a volunteer, along with a training officer, on a small department in very rural Iowa. We roll about 15-20 calls a year. We are currently in the process of updating our turnout gear and have it ordered to be delivered in about 4-6 weeks for the whole department, which I find to be an achievement as our current gear is approximately 22 years old.

That is what brings me to my question. As one of our three training officers, I find it extremely important to demonstrate proper fire ground tactics and using proper PPE. I usually wear at the very least my turnout pants (that include my gloves and tools) and boots on every call, (which most are field fires I don't find it completely necessary to wear my coat and helmet on a field fire when it's warm out) and structure fires I am in full turnout gear. When I joined the department 2 years ago, gear was not typically worn on any call. I have literally seen my veteran guys going into smoke filled houses in their street clothes with no SCBA or turnout gear what-so-ever.

It was noted at meeting after a structural fire in a large commercial facility (where most were not in gear) in our district about 9 months ago that we should be wearing turnout gear on every roll, to which everyone agreed and applauded at the time. Since then, we have had approximately 8 calls, 5-6 small structure fires including mutual aid. On those 8 calls I would say myself and 2 other members are the only ones who showed up in turnout gear every time, out of an average 7-10 responders.

Tonight, we rolled on a combine fire burning in a harvested corn field. Myself and one other member had gear on, out of 8 responders. The 2 of us were the only ones on the scene which I felt should do any work on the fire, because we were in proper PPE. Our assistant chief was on top of the machine in street clothes, and was the highest ranking officer on scene.

So, how do your departments mandate that members wear gear or get left out at the scene? Especially when the more higher ranking, more experienced members are not wearing gear. Our chief and assistant chief are some of the most guilty of being where they shouldn't when they are not wearing PPE or turnout gear, along with numerous other veteran members who apparently think they don't need it. I know that it's important to lead by example, and I am trying to lead that way considering I am one of the training officers, I am just wondering as a newer member how to correct this problem. I obviously don't want to see anyone hurt on a call and I know I want everyone to go home to their families when we are done with every roll out.

Thank you all for your answers as I'm sure I will get many helpful hints. I apologize for getting a little windy on this but I am very passionate about this issue.

Brent

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We are required to be in full turnout with SCBA on vehicle fires and structure fires, and turnout pants, gloves and helmet for grass or woods fires.

I find it amazing that any department at all is still in the mind set FD's were in YEARS ago, when houses were only made of wood and smoke was not toxic.  Thats our issue here and thats an angle you can use in training, allow me to elaborate for you;

Back in the '70's and '80's houses were still made of primarily wood, there was very little plastics and composites used.  For the most part smoke was an irritant, and not as toxic as it is today, it could still suffocate you and kill you, but most firefighters went interior without air packs because it was quicker to just grab the hose and put the wet stuff on the red stuff.  Guys used to laugh at those members that chose to take the time to don airpacks for interior work.  Peer pressure I guess you could call it, created that mind set you see today, all because some are more worried about what others think of them rather then safety, and they choose to not wear the packs to look cool, or experienced...all idiots.

Todays construction is almost a 180 degree twist; almost all plastics and composites with the added bonus of air-tight window and door seals making a home energy efficient...it also makes it a death trap waiting for that first ignorant un-trained firefighter to go "running" in to save the day but when they open the door you get Mr. Backdraft.

The mind set needs to change with the times...simply put.  You need the air pack for every structure fire, every vehicle fire (including cars, trucks, combines, tractors, boats, Etc Etc) and every carbon monoxide call you respond to, and even every time you go into the bathroom at some of the stations in this country. (especially after chile night)

Full turnouts are another issue; guys used to go into these "wooden" structures with only hip boots, rubber coat, leather helmet and gloves.  Why?  Because the houses were primarily made of wood and the temperatures they reached were not as bad, or as QUICK as it gets today with our modern, plastic. air tight energy efficient homes.  The guys used to gauge the temperature with their ears, or necks; if it got too tingly then they knew it was getting bad and had to back out.  Today, if someone were to do that the temp would rise TOO fast and you would get burned before you can even realise you need to get out.

Building construction for the fire service; Make sure every member has this training and pound it into them at drills.  Show them the coposite building materials, the plastics, the "OSB" material beeing used instead of real dimentional lumber, the fiberglass materials, all of which get hotter than wood and put off toxic gasses, even in the overhaul phase when everyone ALWAYS comes off air.

Too much to talk about here and I am sure there are others that will chime in with more, but you can send me a message and we can exchange contact info and chat more if you want.

For the most part though our department requires full PPE for all calls, we have safety officers to enforce this, and rehab sectors where we are required to be checked out after any interior work.  Some still abuse this and dont wear hoods, or just put the mask on but not the regulator with air, or do not wear safety goggles for rescue work.  For brush fires pants, gloves and a helmet with visor or safety goggles, we provide brush fire gear consisting of lightweight nomex pants and shirt with reflective striping and radio pockets but most refuse to wear it.

Stay Safe and stay protected out there.

You need new "chiefs". I use that term lightly. They are the ones responsible for setting and enforcing policy. They are clearly not doing it. You have so-called veterans walking unprotected into structural fires. What exactly are they veterans of? No "veteran" firefighter would do this. Someone will be hurt or killed if this isn't stopped. It's that simple. I'm not being overly dramatic. Fires can and will fool even the most experienced among us. The fact that you are a slow department makes it worse. There just isn't enough real fireground experience to be making this kind of judgment call. And couldn't a field fire be whipped up by a sudden wind change and burn someone?

Brent, you note that you are a training officer. I suggest that you speak with your chiefs about a full on training campain to get the members to wear their protective gear. Point out to the chiefs that they are the key. They set policy. If they wear the gear, everyone will know their serious. Schedule a series of drills that deal with PPE, try to get some pictures or video of burn victims to show what happens when gear isn't worn. Try to get the dept. to adopt a NO GEAR-NO WORK policy. This needn't be a confrontation with the chiefs. Your asking for their help in protecting the members, present it to them like that. The wearing of PPE cannot be optional it has to be mandatory.

I agree, This is something no veteran firefighter would ever do. We wear PPe for a reason! I strongly suggest you as a training officer question the administration as to why they are not wearing proper ppe and than show them just how vital it is to a successful and living firefighter.

Brent,

When you train do you wear your full turn outs?  I ask this question because i am the Training Officer for 2 Volunteer FDs and we had a huge battle on both of them a while back about beards and scba.  As training officer I felt because our state administrative codes adopted the NFPA standard on SCBA that prohibits use of scba with any facial hair between the seal of the mask and your skin, that I should not be training anyone with a beard to use scba.  I further stated that if that was to continue that I would step down as training officer, and I meant it.  It was not a hollow threat.  Both FDs now have a policy in place requiring you to be clean shaven, other than a mustache, if you are going to use scba.

If you allow people to train without their full PPE what message does that send for fire ground ops?  You need to get the chief behind you on this.  Explain your liability and then his too.  What do you think investigators and eventually lawyers will say if one of those guys that goes inside without gear gets serious hurt or killed?  You won't have a leg to stand on.  Get it changed or walk away from the training officer position while you still own your house and personal property.

Aside from the other suggestions, which I agree with (needing new leadership, mandate gear at training, etc) I can understand you are essentially affiliated with a Good Ol Boys dept and not a fire dept. If you were with a fire dept, this wouldn't even be a question, thus showing a change is needed in leadership.

 

I DO applaud you for looking for suggestions to change instead of the new adage of today of "don't like it, quit". I agree with Don in requiring PPe while training and to look at fostering that notion of wearing gear regardless of situation. Go to the chief and AC and talk with them on concerns and express your concerns of the AC not wearing gear etc. Put it out there that wearing PPE is important on every call, it is easier to be ready and dress down than need it and lose time dressing out. To further drive the point home, start putting safety messages out regarding PPE. Don't expect change overnight, but don't give up and don't miss an opportunity to speak up to reiterate wearing gear.

 

As a training officer, start instilling the priority to wear gear and if the member refuses, kick them out of the training. DOCUMENT it, document every time a member rebuffs the wearing of proper PPE for training. Document it when you see them not wearing it on calls. Document what you have done to try and get members to wear the gear, because if and when something happens, you have documentation covering your arse, especially if your mgmt feels less concerned about wearing gear.

John,

I think your posting this "I DO applaud you for looking for suggestions to change instead of the new adage of today of "don't like it, quit"." in reference to my comment isn't really a fair assessment of what I said.  Frankly, when the shit hits the fan at an incident and someone is hurt or killed they look to two things ultimately to place blame, command and training.  I refused to be placed into a situation where the training I would be doing not only violated all SCBA manufacturers recommendations, but OSHA, and NFPA as well.  Further, Wisconsin has adopted the NFPA SCBA standard as Administrative Code that clearly states that no facial hair shall come between the seal of the mask and the skin of the wearer. 

I saw it as a completely unwinnable situation if someone with a beard, trained by me, was injured or killed at an incident because of the beard interfering with the seal.  Therefore to protect MY financial status and my family I made the stand I did.  It wasn't a hold my breath type of thing.  I clearly stated why and frankly expected to be told to go pound sand , but when I pointed out to the chief that they could and more than likely would be held liable for any injuries or deaths the lightbulb came on and they decided to make it mandatory that no one with facial hair could wear and scba in training or at calls.

Actually not Don. I didn't even see that line in your post until just now. I skimmed the other responses before making my own to ensure I wasn't just repeating what everyone else said.

 

The statement of looking to change things actually stemmed from a conversation I had earlier today in regards to unions etc. It seems more often the statement of "don't like it, quit" has become too easily thrown about and does not make things better, especially in regards to such gross negligence as the OP's department shows. Just saying I applaud him for looking for advice in an effort to change things as opposed to being just another FF in name only and part of some good ol' boys club.

On our Department Jackson Fire/Rescue in Clay county Indiana. We respond to 145 to 160 call a year. I feel you should lead by example the SOP'S for our Department are very clear if you are assigned to work in or near an area that is IDLH or has the potential to change to a IDHL with out warning all PPE must be on. Membres who say I have been here 20 + years I know what im doing this will place every member on the scene at risk. It's like saying we dont need to conduct MCI training we don't have an airport, train station or an interstate system. That may well be true. But this Sunday you respond to a gas leak in a church only to turn into an explosion with 165 people burned killed or missing. Not to mention a school buss roll over next week with 63 kids inside eather one is an MCI and with no training how's that going to work out. But its still in your respones area. As Paton said if your in command command it's a fire station not a day care.

Here's the short version

We are required to wear appropriate PPE on every incident. We're full service fire/rescue/medical dept. In short, on every call we respond to, we're wearing some sort of PPE, but here's the highlights: 

Structure fire we're in turnouts with SCBAs.

Wildfires we're in brush gear with fire shelters. 

Car crashes we're required to wear turnouts with traffic vests

Otherwise I can only echo what has been said. Require PPE during training, try and get everyone to buy in to wearing their gear and run the issue up the chain till you find someone concerned with making this change happen.

This question came up on a mutal aid fire tha I was safety officer for a volunteer fire department: I set the company home for not being in the gear for a fire and reported to there chief as what, also quoted s.o.p., to the department officer which was agree to by there company.

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