By John “Skip” Coleman, Technical Editor

When I teach, I emphasize that multitasking is appropriate and a desired trait in a firefighter or an officer working in a staff position. On the other hand, I am a firm believer that the closer you are to a fire (as in “inside” the building on fire), the less desirous multitasking is. “Attack” should focus 100 percent on putting the fire out—not putting the fire out and searching or venting! “Search” should focus 100 percent on searching—not searching for fire and victims or venting as you go, and so on. I want “perfect” inside a burning building, and I do not believe one crew can give me a perfect search and fire attack at the same time. Something is going to suffer (probably the search—the thing I want to suffer the least). This month’s Rountable question is, “To what extent, if any, does your department allow the rapid intervention team (RIT) to operate or work outside of the structure during a fire?” Many departments allow RIT to perform some “exterior” tasks. Several others keep them at the command post (if that’s the most advantageous location for deployment), stationary and ready if needed. In many departments, the unit designated as RIT is very late in arriving at the scene. In these departments, RIT is called for after the first unit arrives on-scene and it is determined to be a working fire. That’s an understandable delay that is, however, extremely dangerous in “stressful” fires. In a perfect world, the RIT would be one of the first-arriving units; after performing a few “predeployment” rituals such as tool gathering and a scene survey, it would remain at the command post as the officer would play the “what-ifs” with the team. Go to www.fireengineering.com and tell us what your department allows.




In Training Minutes, Paul Dansbach of the Rutherford (NJ) Bureau of Fire Safety shows through video the firefighting dangers in a wood-frame building under construction. You can also view numerous videos on truck and engine company operations and firefighter rescue using the personal harness on your personal protective equipment.

Visit Paul Combs’s blog, linked off the homepage, for his latest Web-exclusive editorial illustrations and commentary.




Captain Steven Cobb of the San Bernardino (CA) Fire Department writes about aircraft firefighting, “When the municipal firefighter steps into the airport, he has stepped into a very specialized part of firefighting. Airports are very complex; the firefighters speak a seemingly different language. That’s right, you’re a municipal firefighter, and the airport is not your thing!” Cobb suggests that municipal fire operations should include aircraft incident scenarios and training.

Dan Sheridan writes on “the job” and some of the distractions that affect your ability to do it. He discusses his position as a captain in the Fire Department of New York and how off-duty distractions can affect safety. “If you are having problems at home or emotional problems, you should not bring them to the firehouse. You need to think clearly when you are at work; if you can, leave them at the front door of the firehouse for the shift and take them back at the end of the shift.”

In his article “Study of Oklahoma Firefighter Seat Belt Behavior,” Firefighter Matt McNabb of the Oklahoma City (OK) Fire Department discusses a February 2010 study on firefighter seat belt use. The intent is to study the second leading cause of firefighter fatalities: vehicle accidents.

Michelle McCourt, human resource manager for the Boston (MA) Fire Department (BFD), discusses how the department uses social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to recruit firefighters and provide other information about the department to the public. The fire service nationally is facing the challenge of reaching out to prospective employees through an effective and efficient means of communication as well as keeping residents informed of important safety information. The BFD’s research indicated that many would-be firefighters of the younger generation prefer using cell phone texting and social media to talking, and the article discusses how the department used this information to improve communication with this demographic. It is a very interesting account of how progressive individuals are using online tools to improve fire service communications.

In “Leading the Way to a Fitter Department,” Michael Krueger, an independent personal trainer in Madison, Wisconsin, writes about how having strong, healthy firefighters can help create the healthy, positive environment that will be your legacy.

This month’s Construction Concerns columns by Greg Havel discuss (1) the behavior of adhesives and glues as part of manufactured lumber products and as a replacement for mechanical fasteners in construction; and (2) the presence and hazards of electrical busways in manufacturing and industrial occupancies, as part of high-voltage electrical distribution systems.


There are several new courses at Fire Engineering University (fireengineeringuniversity.com), including Anthony Avillo on avoiding casualties at structure fires, Brett Snow on engine company operations, and Mike McEvoy on the H1N1 virus.


Click to EnlargeName: Danielle Fooks.

Department: Hardeeville (SC) Fire Department.


Years of public service:4.

Agency structure: Paid fire department.


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