Friday, March 30, 2012

Dearborn, Mi Close Call

As many of you have may seen on Statter 911, there was a close call for some firefighters in Dearborn, Michigan while operating at a fire in a cleaning facility.  The firefighters were ventilating the roof, when the roof collapsed, nearly taking two of them with it.  The roof covering appears to have help enough weight to prevent the guys from taking a fall and the Captain recognized what was happening just in time to make his way to safety to help his "guys".

This video shows me that as an officer, we need to stand back and not be involved in the cutting, not only because of safety in incidents like this, but also so that I can communicate with command and other units on the fireground.  An officer should be watching the big picture and it appears this one was.  Now, that same officer should go back to the firehouse and put on a helmet chinstrap training evolution since neither guy was wearing his chinstrap.  Wear your helmet, wear your hood, we never think it could happen to us, but it can.  I'm sure both of them would have needed that helmet and the one would have needed his hood had they actually fallen.

Be safe out there.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Abilene Paradox

Most of you are thinking what the hell is his guy doing?  Why does he think I care about whatever the heck a paradox is?  For those still reading give about five minutes of your time and you will easily relate.  If you haven't figured out by now, I am a Union Fireman, a Union Officer, and a huge advocate of the IAFF.  I don't agree with everything that the organization does, but I know there is no other organization doing as much for the fire service as the IAFF.  I was reviewing the student handbook from the IAFF Fireground Safety and Survival class I took this past year and read an excerpt I had missed the first time around.  It discussed something called the abilene paradox and how it can affect your actions as a firefighter.

Since your attention is waning, I'll give you the cliff notes version........It is where everyone agrees to do something out of fear of being different even though no one in the group agrees with it.  To put it in firefighter terms, its where you assume everyone wants to do something, but in reality no one wants any part of it, but for whatever reason everyone agrees to do it.  When I read this, I thought about many times of being in fires where I was thinking "Why are we in here?" only to find out 5 minutes later my partner was thinking the same thing.  What does this say about us as a fire service?  We continuously tell recruits in the academy or in their basic training "If you ever see a safety issue, you can stop the dangerous action" but really how often does that happen?  I don't think too many of us say anything to draw attention to ourselves when we are new, so we learn a macho culture of type A personalities that sometimes does some really dumb stuff.  I am not saying we need to be a bunch of safety sally's but I think we are at a crossroads in the fire service.  My home state is currently designing/offering a pilot program for exterior firefighting.  this certification will be for those who operate outside the IDLH, and to offer some departments a guideline for those who don't want to be interior firefighters.  Well, I thought that was called being an explorer, or being in the ladies auxiliary, but I guess I'm wrong.  I personally feel if you don't want to be an interior firefighter, then you don't want to be a firefighter at all.  I realize there are some who have done their time and are too old to go inside, but they can pump a truck or fill air cylinders and still be a part, all the while they are still Firefighter I or II certified.  Also, more importantly they have pulled their time inside of fires. 

The old timers in the departments are telling us we are too scared now, but science and experience is telling us we aren't safe enough... So where should an aggressive fireman go then?  In my opinion, we stay aggressive, but begin to side on the safety of our members just a bit more.  I hate to be the one on the fireground who has to call out the punt team and go defensive, but sometimes there is no reason to risk our members lives.  But, our first instinct shouldn't be to stand outside and hit the fire from there.  We all took an oath when we go on the fire department whether formally or just by accepting that pager and gear, to serve and protect the public all the while knowing that what we will do is inherently dangerous.  We are fighting a force of nature after all, and sometimes we actually win. 

I have experienced this paradox many times, but I can remember one specific instance when I actually bucked it and threw in the towel.  I was operating on the second division of a working house fire with the Volly department I run with.  I was backing up a rookie on the nozzle and could feel we weren't making any headway, and in fact things were getting worse.  When we starting breathing hot air in our masks, I tapped him and said hey lets get out of here and make sure they are cutting the roof for us.  When I walked outside this is what I saw:

Obviously something bad is going to happen here unless we get that roof cut.  Soon after they cut the roof, the smoke lifted, and the attack team on the first floor got the fire knocked down and we saved most on the house.  It also helped that the downstairs hose team located the seat of the fire. I think we all know that this could have gone alot differently.  The reason why we were so hot on the 2nd floor was that the floor had burned out in the room we we attempting to enter (directly over the fire).  Then as you can see in the picture, the smoke was thick, turbulent, and hot inside especially on the second floor.  When the rookie and I got out, he told me he was miserable up there too and when we all saw the smoke outside we knew it was the right decision. (BTW I know there are too many folks on the ladder before anyone comments on that)  Call it what you will,I called it a good decision then and I continue to now.  I do want to admit also, that I am not perfect and I do make mistakes....Just ask anyone who knows me.

My point of this whole thing is, we need experiences like this to check us up, to realize we might be too aggressive sometimes.  Guys with experience and officers have to step up and say, wait a second folks this is not a place we need to be.  We need the older folks to speak up and say get in there or get out of there to the new recruits, so they can be leaders when there time comes.  We are not invincible so let's not act like we are.  I am not advocating living by the Garth Brooks creed and "Standing Outside the Fire" but we all need to make sensible decisions on where we position ourselves.  Be aggressive, be smart, and be safe, it is possible to do all three.  We will never eliminate LODD's unfortunately, but we can minimize our chances of having one in our department, company, and region by being sensible.

I know this Abilene paradox happens to us all everyday at work, whether it picking what we are eating and everyone says "I don't care" or at a working fire.  Remember someone has to lead and speak up, be that firefighter, be the leader and not only will you eat what you want, you will have a safer company.

If you're coming to FDIC drop me a line, so we can catch up.  Working the Job and I are traveling together, and arriving early in the week.

 Until the next time.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Garland Tx. Accident

As I'm sure many of you have seen if you follow FF Close Calls, there was an incident involving an SCBA cylinder (The Army has tanks, babies have bottles, FD has Cylinders)  while filling a raft for water rescue in Garland, Tx.  I think the incident should serve as a reminder to all of us that SCBA cylinders are high pressure and they are dangerous.  I know all the departments I have ever been associated with use the SCBA cylinders in similar applications.  I know I have never considered something like this happening to me, but obviously it can, so be safe.  Well wishes go out to the Garland FD in this hard time, hopefully the brother will recover quickly and be back out in the field soon.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


If you don't know what the title of this means, look it up on you tube Google or somewhere.......Ok now that we have that out of the way it stands for NC Breathing Equipment School.  This class is held twice annually at Gaston College located in Dallas, NC.  To many, this facility is the center of all that is firefighter training, and after seeing the facility I think everyone would agree.  The facility is huge and allows for multiple drills to be run simultaneously within the same building without ever causing issues with one another.  I have had the distinct honor to participate, become an alumni and assist in teaching this program.  I enjoy going over there for at least one day during the 5 day course, and not even getting paid for it.  But, I do learn something new everytime I'm there, and have a great time, so its worth it to me. 

I have quite a few friends who are paid instructors in the program including my old fatheaded buddy Jason Jefferies from Working the Job.  They are joined by some of the greatest instructors in our state, region, and the Country for a 5 day survival and firefighter safety class.  Now we have all taken a RIT, FART, RIC, or otherwise referred to as self survival class in our career (If you haven't go take one).  But this class is different, not everyone graduates, it is realistic, and it is all done in live smoke, not kiddy fog.  After all of the studies showing the Recognition primed decision making is the way to go, we continue to use blackout masks, and concert fog to train our firefighters how to react in an emergency situation.  How is this recognition primed?  But many places lose sight of that and say its too dangerous to do.  Well I agree for the FFI and FF II class it is, but not for experienced folks.  Which for BES, these are prerequisites.  This class puts you in the real heat, smoke, and misery that you may feel during the time when the feces hits the oscillator.  You will learn proper bailout techniques, flashover recognition, firefighter packaging, lifting and moving a downed firefighter, SCBA connections, RIT rope management, and many other skills that can and will save your life everyday at work.

This type of training is hard to do, but this class allows it to happen.  Hell, who wouldn't take a class where the waiting list is 75 people long (and each class only has 60 in it)?  However, to me the best part of the class now for me, is surrounding myself with people who think, act, and carry themselves like me in a lot of ways.  I'm not saying I have half the knowledge of those guys teaching, but man can you learn something from them.  I mean I love going over there just to work with real firemen, many who are twice the firemen I even hope of ever becoming.  I stood side by side inside a smoke filled environment with a man who had done everything in his power (nearly dying himself in the process) to save his Captain in a real fire.  This is a guy who talks the talk and walked the walk.  He did it....what we all say we will, never leave a brother behind.  What class in this country can offer an instructor like that?  Where can you go and feel really miserable in a drill because you are getting beat down by radiant heat, but know every moment that you are as safe as you are on the front porch of your house?

The instructors of the NCBES get it, and I love that I can be associated with it, even if it is a support role.  My wife hates that I go spend 8 hours with a bunch of firemen and come home worn out, but she nor anyone else outside the fire service will ever get it.  Those of us who truly care about this job, dream of being able to complete a class like this, let alone assist in putting it on.  better yet, we get to go be firemen for a day, and hang out with some of the best and LEARN.  This class is incredible, and anyone who has taken it would agree that the job shirt you get at graduation is a badge and a brotherhood in itself.   People travel from all over the world, to take this class.  I had a guy who wore one of those funny helmets and fly over some pond to get here in my class.  That's right someone came to the thriving metropolis of Dallas, NC to take a firefighter class.  I just hope he didn't think that Dallas, NC represented the whole US.......If you want some more information on this class please email me @ and I will get it to you.  Check out Jason's blog as well for some great still pics of this past class.

In closing please support the Asheville Fire Department's effort to help out the family of Captain Jeffrey Bowen who perished on July 28, 2011 at 445 Biltmore Ave.    Visit Captain Jeffrey Bowen .com to find out how you can support them.  They are selling some great T-Shirts that are raising funds. 

Here's a video of a few of the drills (not too many of the smoky one's since for those everyone is working)

Until the next time, Stay Safe and Stay Trained.

Monday, March 19, 2012

LODD In Norfolk, Va

Details are scarce, but there has been an LODD at a station in Norfolk, Va.  Apparently, Jonathan Myers was found unconcious in the bunkroom of firehouse 13.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to our Tidewater area Brothers and Sisters.  God speed to you all.

Also, please visit Working the Job's post on Breathing Equipment School.  I was fortunate enough to assist in teaching this class on Thursday.  As many of you know Jason is an instructor over there so he has some great pictures of the class on his blog.  If you haven't attended, I will be blogging about it in the next few days.  I can't give you all of the secrets...but Jason's pictures show you some of the smoke conditions that you do drills in......enjoy.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

PBI Tour and a PR

This past week has been busy, but one of best of this year.  FDIC is just over a month away, so I psyched about that obviously.  I got to tour the plant where PBI material is manufactured, and I PR'ed my marathon with a time 20 minutes better than my last.

Starting with the PBI tour, it was incredible.  I know some of you fire service legends (probably not reading this) have seen the TPP test and THL test that our gear is put through.  I also felt more comfort in wearing PBI material when I watched just the outershell go through some tests side by side with a full Nomex blend.  I learned so much that day it is nearly impossible to put into one post, but needless to say it was informative.  I know now why our gear is 60% Kevlar, 40% PBI.  It is done this way because PBI is very succeptable to tearing when placed in a 100% blend.  Our outer shell would tear and not last without the Kevlar blend that the PBI is stitched together with.  

I also learned that there are many materials that are out there that claim to protect firefighters the best, but truly to me Nomex and PBI are the only ones I would trust.  There are even some materials on the market the conduct heat at such a high rate, they absorb heat better than steel.  Sounds like a great wearing coat huh?

This tour was a very informative event for me and the others who came with me.  I look forward to working with Bryan and all the folks at PBI in the future and of course talking up their product when someone asks.  The people at that plant and company care about us, and they all realize what the product they make does, take us home everyday.  All of their sales folks have put on gear and been in heat, in fact Bryan will be at Gaston College for Breathing equipment school later this week.

Now on to the Marathon......I know how is running 26 miles exciting?  I can't answer that run a marathon and you'll find out.  Running a marathon is a challenge like no other, a mixture of mind games and physical challenge.  This was my first marathon since the birth of my son, so training was harder to squeeze in, long runs were harder on my wife and life got in the way alot.  But after 3:54:20 it was all worth it to know I had broken 4 hours and that my son was proud of me, even though he is seemingly too young to understand.

I started out through Mile 20 with the 3:45 pace group, I had to fall back at this point to keep my goal in reach.  With 2 miles to go I had 29 minutes to beat 4 hours, so I knew I could do it.  Well, when I crossed the line, I knew that all of that training, time away, and sacrifice by both me and my family was worth it.  Even my wife seemed happy that I had done so well.  I then had the best celebration ever, taking my son to the Zoo for the first time.

I'm not saying everyone in the fire service should run a marathon, but everyone should be doing something to better themselves every shift.  Last week alone I did more to better myself as a firefighter than I have done in a while.  Its always good to get back in the game, so to speak, to do things that benefit you at work.  I know now I can do anything I put my mind to, and that the gear I wear has certain limitations.  What have you learned this week?  37 more days until FDIC (Thanks to AVG. Jake for the Countdown).  If you aren't going, what will you be doing to make yourself a better firefighter that week?

As always thanks for reading, and until the next time, stay safe and stay trained.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Busy Week

I have a busy week ahead of me.  I have some family activities this weekend, STICO class on Monday and Tuesday and finishing it all out with a tour of the PBI Plant on Thursday.  If I survive all of that, I'm running the Columbia, SC Marathon next Saturday, with the hopes of a PR on that one.  I'm not seeing any fresh posts being put out this week so bear with me.  I'm sure I'll have some great stuff after this week.  Have a safe Week.