Intended to be a combined engine-ladder-EMS exercise, the objective of this week’s drill is to develop proficiency in attacking residential fires. Extinguishing residential fires requires an integrated attack involving engine, ladder, and EMS companies to stretch hoselines, vent, search, treat patients, and ultimately extinguish the fire.
Dwellings of any age present their own unique hazards. Older dwellings may be of balloon construction, leading to rapid extension of fire to attic areas; homes built in the 1960s and 1970s have fire-resistant wallboard and generally tight construction, contributing to high levels of heat and significant fire development before a fire is discovered; and homes built since the 1980s feature lightweight truss roof construction, making such roofs subject to early collapse. Many older homes are retrofitted to feature central heat and air conditioning systems, while newer homes are built with such systems. These systems spread smoke and gases to sleeping areas. Homes renovated with aluminum siding can become electrically charged if a fire occurs involving electrical service to the dwelling. Compounding these special fire problems is the statistic that 70 percent of all fire deaths occur in residences. Developing proficiency in attacking these fires with an all-inclusive plan of attack requires a plan for all riders of the apparatus.
The emphasis of this drill is on ladder crew responsibilities, outlined in a sample SOP included with the drill, but engine crews should know all parts of the SOP in the event a ladder company is delayed during a response.
In his book, Volunteer Training Drills-A Year of Weekly Drills, Howard A. Chatterton suggests arranging with three or four members to use their dwellings as drill sites for practicing the SOP. His drill features a sample SOP, but use your own or adjust the sample SOP for your own department. He also includes a sample flyer to distribute to neighbors describing the drill should you decide to use members’ homes for drill sites.
A member should simulate a victim at each site. At one site, provide the victim with a length of electrical cable and have the victim position himself with one end of the wire under the siding near an outside outlet. The victim should be facedown, holding the other end. This will simulate an electrocution; any search team that touches the victim before ladder crews confirm electric utilities have been secured is considered an additional casualty.
You’ll also need a barrel that can be placed outside with a wood fire inside.
At one evolution, place the barrel behind side 3 of the dwelling. Have the least experienced members pull a line to extinguish the fire. The ladder crew members will walk through their assigned duties according to the SOP. Victims will be found around the house. Evaluate search effectiveness and the EMS response to and survey of victims.
Have the engine and ladder crews switch teams and respond to a two-story house. Walk through your SOP again. Discuss the best entry point to the second floor and have a ground ladder placed. Walk around the structure and point out the easiest way to determine where utility controls are to find where the power line enters the house. Ensure everyone knows how to shut off the gas.
At the third dwelling, use the victim with the simulated electric wire. An officer positioned inside will declare each rescuer who touches the victim an additional casualty. The victim cannot be touched until the ladder company has located the electric shutoff for the house. If your department has special rules for securing power to a home, make sure you discuss them. Some municipalities do not allow firefighting personnel to secure electric power.
Make sure all personnel know that an SOP is not optional. Members are to follow the SOP unless an officer tells them otherwise.
As with any drill, discuss what went right, what went wrong, and what to do differently the next time.
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For more information on this drill, including a list of references, figures, and a sample SOP, visit http://store.yahoo.com/pennwell/voltraindril.html to purchase Volunteer Training Drills–A Year of Weekly Drills.