BY JIM CANNELL, JACK REALL, AND DAVID BERNZWEIG
On January 24, 2001, the Columbus (OH) Fire Division (CFD) completed intense high-rise fire training in a residential building scheduled for demolition. For three weeks, a staff of 25 personnel conducted 62 live fire exercises in the high-rise.
In early 1999, our department found out that a residential high-rise was to be demolished to make room for “urban renewal.” The building, Taylor Terrace, was owned and operated by the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) and was well known to the CFD, as it was a constant source of fire and medical runs. The 10-story fire-resistive building was nonsprinklered but was compartmentalized. This type of building represents the greatest high-rise life hazard in the city of Columbus.
The CFD took immediate steps to acquire the structure for fire training purposes. Firefighter Don Barlow, our building acquisition specialist, realized the training benefits that this structure could offer and submitted a letter to the CMHA requesting use of the building. The owners showed little interest and actually denied use of the building, claiming liability issues.
By late summer of 2000, the CMHA finally agreed to meet with representatives from the CFD. We created a presentation explaining the benefits of this type of training for CMHA representatives. The CMHA granted permission for us to use the building for a three-week period. The decision was conditional on neighborhood opposition remaining low. The CMHA’s great concern for neighborhood safety was because of the use of live fire.
(1) An aerial view of Taylor Terrace. The 10-story building consisted of three towers connected by an elevator lobby (center). (Photos by Mike Watiker.)
In an attempt to ease neighborhood concerns, CFD representatives attended a local civic association meeting. We outlined our goals, explained our action plan in detail, and answered many questions. Those in attendance were very receptive and supportive. Above all, they were appreciative that their safety was our highest priority.
After receiving final approval from the CMHA, we assembled a command staff as well as a support staff to begin planning and preparing for the operation. The command staff consisted of a proj-ect manager (Training Command), a planning officer, a data collection officer, and the division’s building acquisition specialist. Jim Cannell, the recruit training captain, would act as the project manager; Firefighter David Bernzweig, a recruit instructor, would be the planning officer; and Lieutenant Jack Reall, the division’s rescue training officer, would be the data collection officer.
The training at Taylor Terrace was named Operation “H.O.T.T.” (High-rise Operations: Taylor Terrace). The first order of business was the development of training goals and objectives.
Our goals were the following:
- Accomplish training in a large acquired structure.
- Ensure personnel safety during preparation, evolution, and demobilization.
- Gain as much real-life information as possible during the window of opportunity.
- Leave a positive, lasting impression on the Columbus Fire Division, area residents, and the CMHA.
Our objectives were the following:
- Accomplish live-fire training in a real high-rise for as many members as possible.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of our high-rise equipment complement.
- Evaluate our current SOPs, and try fresh approaches.
- Collect as much data as possible.
We decided early on that this was a valuable opportunity to evaluate our current high-rise SOPs under realistic conditions. It also gave us the opportunity to assess future training needs and test proposed tactical changes and new technologies.
Preparing the building: (2) The support staff thaws out the standpipe system. Note the hole in the wall to the right of the cabinet; this allowed access to a 907 elbow in the system where ice accumulated. Thawing had to be done on every floor in all four risers. (3) In-service rescue personnel cut a roof vent in the stair tower to comply with NFPA 1403. Only two of the three towers required this opening-the remaining tower had windows in the stairwell. Personnel used a concrete cutting chain saw to penetrate the eight-inch-thick reinforced concrete. (4) A typical fuel load used in the evolutions. Each fire compartment had at least two rooms and an attached kitchen. All areas contained a substantial class A fire load (including a total of 300 bales of hay). Hollow core doors or oriented strand board lined the walls for improved radiative feedback and more realistic fire growth.
After determining our training goals, we developed a successful plan to accomplish our objectives. We based the overall plan on training fire procedures that have worked well for us in the past. We meshed those procedures with our high-rise procedures to accommodate this particular event.
High-rise fires are something we read and hear about but rarely actually have the chance to experience. We wanted our firefighters to experience the difference between fighting the typical house fire with a preconnected 13/4-inch hoseline and fighting a fire on the eighth floor of a high-rise using a 21/2-inch hoseline supplied from a standpipe.
We learned from past live fire training to focus on the entire operation, not just the fire attack. Extinguishing the fire was just a small part of the exercise. The challenge was getting personnel and equipment to the fire’s location and initiating a fire attack in a coordinated manner.
As with all live fire training, preparing the building was a major undertaking. All preparation work was centered on safely accomplishing our training goals and objectives. Building preparation included acquiring the proper permits; modifying the building to comply with NFPA 1403, Standard on Live Fire Training Evolutions-1997; and acquiring the necessary supplies and equipment. To complete this prep work and carry out the operation, we needed additional staff.
Six weeks prior to the start of the first fire, we assembled a dedicated support staff consisting of four lieutenants and 16 firefighters and voluntarily placed them on a 40-hour work schedule.
Building and fire preparation were monumental tasks exacerbated by harsh weather and a “temperamental” elevator. Prep work included removing tile flooring in all burn rooms; thawing out and making operable all standpipe outlets, risers, and siamese connections; and shuttling to the eighth floor enough straw, pallets, and old furniture for 62 burns. The fire load consisted of 300 bales of straw; 900 pallets; 200 pieces of old furniture; 1,200 interior hollow core doors; and 150 sheets of oriented strand board.
With no heat inside this damp concrete structure, the temperature remained at or just above freezing throughout the entire operation. The most difficult obstacle to overcome was ice accumulation on the floors and in the stairwells. Removing standing water and applying salt became a daily routine. The support staff managed to work around a major asbestos abatement project underway inside the building.
(5) RIC hoselines were supplied off of the isolated center standpipe. The 150 feet of 13/4-inch and 21/2-inch hose with smooth bore nozzles could reach anywhere on the eighth floor. (6) Multiple fans pressurized the stairwells by pushing air into the stairwell exit. When we did not do this, smoke in the stairwells fell anywhere from one to five floors away and required earlier donning of SCBA. (Note: When selecting an attack stairwell, consider the effect of smoke movement on the fire floor.) The five-inch hose in the foreground supplied the support staff’s engine from a hydrant a block away. (7) Columbus Fire Department SOPs require supplying standpipe systems by laying out away from the building. This protects the driver/operator from falling debris and gives ladder companies access to perform rescues and operate outside streams if necessary.
We had to make the standpipe system redundant for the complete safety of all participants and to comply with NPFA 1403. We accomplished this by isolating the center standpipe in the elevator lobby and then supplying this riser by back feeding into the standpipe at the first-floor outlet with a separate pumper hooked to a hydrant a block away. We then used the center riser exclusively for support staff hoselines. This allowed operating companies to use any of the other three risers without affecting the support staff’s water supply. We also stretched a three-inch supply line to the eighth floor via the building’s trash chute. However, this line remained dry and would only be used in case of a complete failure of the standpipe system.
When the building was ready, we focused on preparing our personnel for the exercise. Rumor control was at a critical point. There were a lot of concerns and misconceptions about what was about to occur. We needed to open the lines of communication with our more than 1,500 fire personnel in an efficient manner.
We sent a packet containing an informational bulletin and a brief lesson plan to each of our 33 fire stations. The bulletin detailed time frames, expectations, and rules of engagement. The lesson plan contained a brief outline of our high-rise SOPs and case studies of actual high-rise fires that have occurred throughout the country in the past 20 years.
(8) A ladder company performs a window rescue of a “waver.” Note the scupper hole below the middle window of the fire compartment. (9) The elevator lobby where Operations/RIC and ignition crews staged often filled with smoke during evolutions. Support crews often sought refuge in a clear portion of the eighth floor or in the well-ventilated breezeway that connected the elevator lobby with the south tower. (10) Unsuccessful deployment of a search rope during an evolution. The rope is tied off in the stairwell (left in photo) but was soon abandoned when it would not deploy properly.
Two weeks prior to the burns, we brought in all emergency services companies (in-service companies) and walked them through the facility. At that time each company was issued a floor plan of the eighth floor. This also gave us a chance to address last-minute questions and concerns. This was the last preparation step before the actual event.
The individual company officers did an excellent job using the information and preparing their personnel for the exercise. One of the many benefits recognized early on was a boost in the department’s morale. Personnel were extremely enthusiastic about the training and were anxious to get started.
To conduct each evolution in a controlled manner, we divided our support staff into four crews. Each crew was comprised of a lieutenant and three firefighters. The crews rotated through four different positions throughout the day. Each position was assigned a specific function and a radio designation according to their position in the rotation. Support crews operated on a different radio channel than the emergency services crews participating in the training and were monitored by Training Command. On completion of an evolution, the crew leader reported his observations to the data collections officer, who reviewed all findings at the critique at the conclusion of each session.
The positions were as follows: Operations/Rapid Intervention Crew (RIC) Group, Ignition Group, Search and Rescue Group, and Rehab/Ground Support Group.
Operations/RIC Group. This crew would stand by in a state of readiness as the RIC. The company officer was our operations officer. He was in charge of all aspects of the operation on and above the eighth floor. Operations/RIC Group would stand by in the eighth-floor elevator lobby.
Ignition Group. Designated as Division 8, the Ignition Group was responsible for the ignition of its assigned fire room. Each crew was assigned one fire room per day and was responsible for setup, ignition, and overhaul after the evolution.
Search and Rescue Group. Designated as Division 9, the Search and Rescue Group was located on the ninth floor in the wing directly above the fire. This crew’s responsibility included victim placement, smoke production, and evaluation of the search and rescue techniques on this floor.
Ground Support Group. This group’s duties included checking in guests, refilling air bottles, setting up lunch, and taking care of any miscellaneous ground details that came up. We also used light duty and auxiliary personnel to assist in this area. Staging and rehab for the support staff took place in an old ground-floor apartment adjacent to the main building.
The duties of Ground Support grew each day as visitors poured in from across the country. In all, the CFD received more than 270 visitors from states ranging from New York to New Mexico. Prior to entering the training grounds, all visitors from outside our department would check in and out with a staff member at the support rehab area. This eliminated congestion and confusion at the training command post. It allowed us to provide more individualized attention for questions and answers.
Local area businesses provided daily lunches for the support staff and visitors. Donations in the form of food and beverages exceeded $5,000. The generosity of companies like Giant Eagle supermarkets and Nationwide Insurance helped to keep morale high while support crews routinely put in 10-hour days.
Every morning prior to the start of operations, the training commander, the command staff, and the lieutenants from each team held a briefing. These briefings provided a vital communications link between the command staff and the support staff and allowed us to critique our own performance, discuss and implement changes, and make daily assignments.
We developed an emergency operation plan that used the support staff as the real RIC for emergency service companies. This plan included the radio designation for a “real” emergency, what would be considered a real emergency, and what operating crews should do in an emergency. Support staff members were better suited to perform as rescue crews because of their working knowledge of the building through its preparation and the current state of standpipe systems in the building.
The Friday before the official start date, we conducted a dress rehearsal using the first-alarm companies who were very familiar with the building. This gave the training staff the opportunity to make last-minute adjustments to our procedures before officially starting the event. These two evolutions went much better than expected; however, we had to make adjustments to the fire loading and crew rotation to more efficiently use breathing air.
Additionally, we found that the building’s construction features slowed smoke and fire spread to the upper floors. To provide a worst-case scenario, we wanted to generate smoke on the floor above the fire. To accomplish this, we burned furniture cushions in 55-gallon drums at each end of the hallway. This created near zero visibility conditions above the fire that challenged companies conducting the search.
At the outset, we addressed the problem of water runoff by core drilling four-inch holes through the fire compartment floor. These were slow to drain because of debris buildup and created a problem of ice accumulation on the floor below. To combat this problem, we made scupper holes in the exterior walls at floor level, which allowed water to drain out along the side of the building.
Having conducted two practice evolutions, the support staff entered the first day feeling confident about the next three weeks. At 0900 hours, the first evolution of Operation “H.O.T.T.” officially began.
We conducted two sessions per day, a morning session and an afternoon session. Each session included two evolutions with an on-site critique at the end of the second evolution. Every Columbus fire company participated in at least one session. More than 1,100 fire personnel participated in this training, many for more than one session.
Each evolution started with companies responding to the scene from an assigned staging area. Companies were required to report to the staging area (a block away from the scene) 15 minutes prior to their assigned start time. This allowed the battalion chief in charge to account for and brief the companies involved. Each evolution included a typical CFD high-rise assignment consisting of four engines, two ladders, one rescue, two battalion chiefs, and three medics.
Every day before the start of each session, the training commander would report to the staging area and brief the battalion chief in charge on any changes to the operation, review the rules of engagement, and answer any last-minute questions that personnel had.
A valuable resource on-site each day was a dispatcher sent from our fire alarm office. This person handled dispatching for each evolution and operated from our department’s mobile communications unit. The battalion chief in charge of the evolution was responsible for determining the arrival sequence of his companies and reporting it to the dispatcher.
The evolution began with the ignition of a single apartment fire on the eighth floor. The dispatcher dispatched the companies and then ordered individual companies to the scene using a predetermined response lag.
Evolutions were designed to be basic: a fire in an eighth-floor apartment with the door left open. Each evolution had three to four victims, at least one of which was a “waver” (positioned in close proximity to the fire apartment and partially hanging out of a window). Nearly all of the “wavers” were placed within reach of an aerial apparatus. We decided that we would not create problems and obstacles (i.e., water supply or standpipe problems, locked stairwell doors, multiple floor fires, and so on) for the crews participating in this training.
Reflex time, measured from the time the first engine company arrived on the scene until water was flowing on the fire, ranged from five to 17 minutes. Despite this wide variation, there was not a direct correlation between SOP compliance and fast reflex times. The support staff discovered early on that too much emphasis was being placed on reflex times and thus too much emphasis was on the nozzle and not enough on the overall operation. We decided during week two to deemphasize reflex times during the post-evolution critique.
Prior to the start of evolutions, personnel from firefighters to battalion chiefs raised concerns that the training bureau was engaging in too aggressive a training strategy. They voiced these concerns again and again during the company walk-through sessions held two weeks prior to the start of evolutions. They believed that it would be too difficult to conduct this training in a safe environment and that someone could be injured. Despite the concerns, only two minor injuries were reported, and nearly all participants walked away feeling that they had gained a valuable experience. Of the nearly 350 evaluation forms that personnel filled out, only two had negative comments. In fact, the most vocal critic praised the efforts of the support staff after participating in the evolution.
From the onset of planning, we decided that this training exercise would focus on evaluating training needs within the division and the effectiveness of our current SOPs. Data collection consisted of information about several key areas of each evolution in an attempt to objectively identify problem areas and strengths. This allowed us to view problems and strengths as trends when applicable and thereby identify them as individual, company level, or divisionwide.
Information we collected dealt with either the performance of company operations or temperatures on and above the fire floor.
Evolution data. This was the collection point for information pertaining to company operations for a given evolution. Information was reported to the data collection officer and dealt with time spans and noteworthy information. Data such as reflex time, aerial ladder deployment and efficiency, and the time elapsed until a primary and secondary “All clear” and a “Situation contained” were given were all recorded.
Temperature data. Through the assistance of the Battelle Memorial Institute (a local research firm), thermocouples were placed in the hallway and stairwell to monitor temperatures and rate of rise. Thermocouples in the hallway measured temperatures near the stairwell door at ceiling height (eight feet). Temperatures in this area averaged between 500°F and 700°F for a fully developed fire but were recorded as high as 1,100°F during high winds. Ignition crews recorded several flashovers with temperature spikes of 200°F to 300°F lasting approximately one minute. Temperatures in stairwells were monitored at approximately six feet on the fire floor next to the entry door and at the roof level (two floors above). These areas never increased significantly (40°F to 60°F increase) during any of the evolutions. This was likely because of the presence of a roof hatch, which allowed for heat release.
Various personnel monitors were used to record both of these types of data. They included the stairwell monitor, the lobby monitor, and the temperature monitor. Our auxiliary firefighters and various mutual- aid departments provided personnel to staff these positions day after day. This was the perfect opportunity for them to observe the operations from a “safe” area and also to take information back to their own departments on operations in a high-rise environment.
The stairwell monitor viewed the operations of the initial attack team and collected information pertaining to handline deployment, team efficiency, PASS device usage, and SCBA compliance.
The lobby monitor observed accountability procedures, elevator usage and control procedures, crew integrity, and crew tools and equipment.
The temperature monitor recorded readings from the various thermocouples on and above the fire floor. This monitor also notified Training Command if temperatures exceeded 800°F.
Inside operations were reported by the operations/RIC group supervisor, ignition group supervisor, and search and rescue group supervisor. They reported any significant findings such as lost members, well-executed or disorganized search, RIC activation (the RIC was activated twice during the operations, both times for accountability-related issues), and any other problems that crews encountered.
Outside operations were monitored by the training commander, the data collection officer, and the lobby monitor. Apparatus placement, aerial ladder efficiency, and the “water on the fire” benchmark were all reported.
All monitors completed standardized forms specific to the area being observed and helped to ensure that the specific benchmarks were recorded in a timely manner.
Following the evolution, companies participated in an exercise critique. Battalion chiefs completed an After Action Report, and all personnel involved were provided with evaluation forms designed specifically for this training.
LESSONS LEARNED AND REINFORCED
Apparatus placement. Apparatus placement at the scene continued to be a problem throughout the exercise. Some companies used excellent placement sense; others were unsuccessful in this regard. The variation did not seem to depend on any factors like familiarity with the building or other relevant information. Ladder companies often were placed in a position to rescue the victims from windows, only to be thwarted by inadequate reach. This indicated that many operators were not as familiar with this aspect of their apparatus’ capabilities as they needed to be. Engine companies were often “stacked” in the driveway even when not being used to pump. This caused many of the needed aerials to be effectively disabled.
Accountability. Accountability procedures varied widely from evolution to evolution. The CFD uses a four-level passport accountability system with accountability procedures that vary depending on the incident type. This system proved to add quite a bit of confusion as to who was responsible for initial accountability and where initial accountability occurs. Many of the problems occurred because we are used to using Level 1 and Level 2 accountability for our smaller fires but seldom use Level 3 and Level 4 accountability. Even a simple tabletop exercise prior to training would have assisted this procedure. We have identified several areas of the SOP that need clarification and review to enhance the overall efficiency of the accountability system.
Elevator control. Elevator usage was left to the discretion of the incident commander for each evolution. The elevators in this building were equipped with Phases I and II firefighter control. The biggest problem we encountered on a regular basis was improper control of the elevators. Although there has been company level training on Phase I and II operations, nearly 80 percent of the crews that used the elevators failed to properly place the elevators into firefighter service mode. This type of training needs to be readdressed through training and compliance.
Company identification. Crew integrity was measured by observing company identification markers on helmets. Columbus Fire provides hook-and-loop-fastener-backed reflective company identification markers that can easily be changed when an officer or firefighter is detailed to a company to which he is not permanently assigned. These company ID markers have proven to be very effective in limited visibility conditions for keeping crews intact and officers’ maintaining accountability. This proved to be a problem area that was addressed at several of the post-evolution critiques.
Incident command. The CFD has been using an incident command system for many years and has used it successfully at smaller incidents. However, we need refresher training and tabletop exercises in this area. Many of our companies operate effectively in the ICS until they are placed with other companies as a division or group. This is required through the high-rise SOP, where an attack group is made up of two engine companies and a ladder company, with one company officer acting as the group commander.
The multicompany team concept used for large-scale incidents such as this operates much more efficiently when there is a strong supervisory presence at each level. It became evident early in the operations that the evolutions that ran the smoothest were those that had strong division and group commanders. When a commander was not established, the division or group acted as separate companies working on the same solution instead of as a team. This ultimately led to companies having greater difficulty advancing lines and performing efficient searches. In many cases, this also led to the incident commander’s becoming overwhelmed by the vast amounts of information flowing to him directly from individual companies rather than from division or group commanders. The group concept was only entrenched in the companies when the IC made the designations and assignments and relayed them to all companies over the radio.
High-rise equipment. Our high-rise equipment packs are based on the fire attack group concept and the need for high flow with low pressures. The equipment package worked for the most part; however, we had three glitches in our system. First, our gated wye attached to the standpipe with a short section of hose so it will sit on the stair landing was repeatedly being dragged or kicked to the off position. Second, our lightweight 21/2-inch hose sections are 100 feet long to reduce the weight of additional couplings. Many times this length of hose was not enough, but 200 feet was too much for the stair tower to handle. Although some of the handling problems arose because companies were not working as teams, it would be better to have the added flexibility of 50-foot sections over the 100-foot sections. Third, there was no way for the standpipe operator in the stair tower to determine the pressure in the standpipe while flowing water. Our packs do not include an in-line pressure gauge. Without it, some operators allowed the flow pressure to exceed the efficient operating pressure of the nozzle.
Team search techniques. There is a serious need in the CFD for policy and procedures regarding team search efforts. Some individual companies performed line searches and oriented searches, but they are not the standard in the CFD. This became a serious area of concern after victims were missed during standard searches of the fire floors.
Thermal imaging. Use of thermal imaging cameras for search is new to our companies. However, many of our companies used them very effectively to coordinate the search parties on the fire floors. Some companies came to overrely on their effectiveness and eliminated all other self-orientation techniques. Thermal imaging cameras were used effectively from our Police Division helicopters outside of the structure to determine fire compartment and smoke travel. While this may prove to be information of little use, we found it a very interesting phenomenon that requires further investigation.
Fire control. Fires in this type of building are generally easier to contain because of the compartmentalization. However, many personnel may take this experience to an open-floor high-rise building fire and think it will be just as easy to extinguish. In addition, this building was made NFPA 1403-compliant, which meant rapid fire spread from combustible wall coverings was made nearly impossible. Our members must be aware that fires in this building were not indicative of all high-rise fires.
Occupant control. This building was not occupied, which resulted in a fairly easy maneuver from the engine to the fire room. Past experience from fires in this and other occupied buildings has shown that our reflex times and ease of fire attack would be extremely limited by the number of occupants fleeing the fire area by the fire towers and hallways.
Standard operating procedures. CFD SOPs are adequate for high-rise firefighting. This was proven by several evolutions during which companies followed SOPs to the letter. However, they were not as efficient as they could have been. CFD SOPs were developed in the late 1970s with the high-rise building boom in Columbus. They have been updated occasionally, but they are designed for open floor plan commercial construction, not the compartmentalized residential construction seen in these evolutions. We need to charge a committee with the needs assessment, review, revision, and creation of SOPs for both types of high-rises with optimum efficiency and safety in mind. We should follow these SOPs whenever possible to avoid conflicts between companies.
The CFD needs a system for ongoing in-service training beyond the company level. While the CFD benefited greatly from the use of this structure, the training raised more questions than it answered. The groundwork to perform this exercise has been laid; now we need continual training.
We should emphasize elevator and apparatus placement training throughout the in-service training programs.
ICS training needs to be a priority with the CFD, even though it is effectively used on a daily basis. We have identified areas where tabletop exercises and refresher training could be used to prepare for these incidents.
An SOP committee needs to review all problems from this exercise and determine if the SOP is the root of the problem or the solution. Then appropriate revisions need to be made to make it a more efficient and safe operation.
We need to address team search techniques divisionwide.
Accountability is a constant issue to address. There is the mentality that accountability is a nuisance that “real” firefighters don’t need. The comment has even been made that the IC “has his accountability in his head.” We must address this mentality and make every effort to change it. The passport accountability system is used nationwide by departments of our size, so it can be done.
We should change high-rise equipment packs to 50-foot sections of hose instead of 100-foot sections. In addition, we should replace the handles on the gated wye with “wing” type handles to reduce the chance of its being turned off. We must seriously consider adding an in-line pressure gauge.
Overall, the firefighters, the community, and the CFD benefited from these evolutions. We met the goals of this rare training event, but it is merely a starting point. It helped us to identify our training needs and the effectiveness of our current SOPs, and we will use the event as a springboard to initiate further training.
JIM CANNELL, a 16-year veteran of the fire service, is a captain and paramedic with the Columbus (OH) Fire Division, currently assigned as house captain of Station 33. He is a member of FEMA US&R Ohio Task Force One and is a State of Ohio fire instructor. He has an associate’s degree in fire science from Columbus State Community College.
JACK REALL, a 16-year veteran of the fire service, is a lieutenant and paramedic with the Columbus (OH) Fire Division, currently assigned to Engine 13. He is a FEMA US&R program instructor and a member of Ohio Task Force One. He developed Columbus’ Rescue Training Program. He has degrees in chemistry and business administration and teaches throughout the country on various technical rescue and hazardous materials topics.
DAVID BERNZWEIG, a 12-year veteran of the fire service, is a firefighter and paramedic with the Columbus (OH) Fire Division, currently assigned to Engine 7. He is a State of Ohio fire and EMS instructor and is an adjunct instructor for the Ohio Fire Academy and Eastland Vocational School. He has degrees in political science and economics from Ohio State University.
High-Rise Equipment Pack
Hose Pack (strapped together in shoulder load)
1 50-psi combination nozzle (250 gpm) or 11/8-inch smooth-bore nozzle
1 100-foot section of lightweight 21/2-inch attack hose
Standpipe Kit (in canvas shoulder bag)
1 combination nozzle
2 50-foot sections of 13/4-inch attack hose in rolls
1 short section of 21/2-inch hose
1 lightweight 21/2-inch gated wye
1 21/2- 2 11/2-inch increaser
Various pipe to NST adaptors
We use the standpipe kit by itself in nonhigh-rise buildings with a standpipe. We carry both in high-rise buildings. With two engine companies acting as a single fire attack group, we have two sets of high-rise equipment packs on the fire floor.
The following are just a few examples of the evolutions we conducted during the “H.O.T.T.” training.
This evolution reinforced the role that good communications play in helping to prevent serious injuries. The initial attack team (IAT) made good time to the standpipe connection in the fire tower, made physical connection, and opened the valve. With the line charged, the team entered the fire hallway and made an aggressive stance at the apartment door. Members opened the apartment door (it had blown closed) and opened the nozzle. The line immediately went limp. As they scrambled to determine the cause, the alert nozzleman used the apartment door to control the fire. However, this success was short-lived, as the fire burned through the door. They tried to darken the fire down with a pressurized water extinguisher, but the fire load was too much. After 51/2 minutes in the hallway with fire rolling over their heads, they had water again and immediately extinguished the fire. Observers commended this evolution for effective use of tactical channels, which allowed the initial attack team to immediately notify command of the lost water pressure. Without the tactical channel, the message would have had to wait for a break in transmissions. Also noted during this evolution were the following: Crews had good reflex time up until the application of water on the fire, established and followed a very good incident command structure, and found all the victims using an organized and efficient search.
During the fire attack, data collection observers noted that there was no engine hooked up to the standpipe connection; therefore, there was no possible way for the attack crew to have water. At that point, our support staff on Division 8 kept a close eye on the attack crews with its charged handline to prevent injury. The line had received water and pressure from the head pressure above the seventh floor when the standpipe valve was opened. Thus, the IAT assumed it had water in the system.
This was our fastest reflex time. However, it was a change from SOP. The first-in engine and medic crews raced to the fire floor independently of all other companies, hooked up, and extinguished the fire. However, in the haste to effect a rapid extinguishment, many companies were confused as to their expected duties. This resulted in an ineffective search and ultimately two missed victims on the floor above the fire. This could have been avoided by effectively communicating the change in operation early to allow other companies to alter their approach and tactics. This evolution will cause us to look at the combined engine and medic crew more objectively when we change our SOPs.
This was one of our most impressive evolutions from a command perspective. The IC assigned companies as the IAT and reinforced the group concept prior to their arrival. He then parked a block away, facing away from the building, to “stay out of the way.” Data collection observers noted this evolution for its strong command presence and excellent use of tactical channels. Communication was very strong because the IC relied on verbal information instead of his own visual observations. On-scene companies relayed victim information to the incoming ladder companies, allowing them to put themselves in position to rescue from the ground. However, as can happen, the ladder company came up short on the victim and had to abort the attempt. Members did, however, communicate very well with the interior companies attempting rescue and directed them very quickly to the victim.
In addition, the stairwell monitor noted an officer who had forgotten his mask and made him aware of the fact prior to its need. This allowed him to make alternative plans prior to its becoming an emergency. He assigned another officer to lead the attack team and remained in the stair to assist with hoseline advancement.
This evolution had an advancement problem in the hallway. The fire was approximately 115 feet from the standpipe connection on the floor below. The IAT initially chose to use only one section of 21/2-inch hose (100 feet). The team then advanced by attaching the 13/4-inch hose to the end of the breakaway nozzle. Although this was an effective alternative, advantages gained by using 21/2-inch hose and low-pressure nozzles are negated when using a 13/4-inch combination nozzle with a 100 psi nozzle pressure. The advancement method chosen took an additional six minutes to accomplish.