By John F. “Skip” Coleman, Technical Editor

PHOTO OF THE DAY: Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department units were dispatched to a reported fire in a self-serve laundry. Arriving units found heavy fire and smoke coming from a two-story wood-frame corner property containing four stores on the ground floor. The deputy chief in charge ordered an unusual fifth alarm. See other photos at http://bit.ly/zxIZly. (Photo by Ron Jeffers.) Send submissions to Peter Prochilo (peterp@pennwell.com).

During my lectures, the question I am most often asked is, “Can you give me some hints on what to drill on at drill night?” After answering this question hundreds of times, I have narrowed it down to two responses, derived from 59 years of association with the fire service [my father joined the Toledo (OH) Fire Department when I was two years old so, in essence, I have been involved in it for 59 years] and talking to and listening to firefighters from across the United States.

Answer #1: Take a cover from this magazine, throw it on the table, and start picking your members’ brains. We put the pictures on the cover for a reason. They get you to talk and think. They are there to start the discussion. Even the “perfect” fireground can generate discussion. So officers, go grab a handful of Fire Engineering magazines from the lounge or station library and take them into your office. Look them over, and come up with a few questions for the crew. Why did they ladder the building there? Do you think pulling a 13⁄4-inch line into that strip mall was appropriate? How would we have handled that fire? You will be amazed at the discussion that ensues.

Answer # 2:You should know by now that I am obsessed with search. So, when you come back from the grocery store and put the food in the fridge, sit the crew down and ask, “How would you search that store on zero visibility?” When you come back from your next EMS run, have the driver stop at the newly opened restaurant around the corner. Do it when the restaurant is not crowded (first thing in the morning is good). Ask the manager if you can take a quick walk-through, then thank him and quietly leave. Back at the station, ask the crew, “How would you search that restaurant in zero visibility?” Pull up floor plans of houses, apartments, strip malls, and so on off the computer; print them; and ask the crew, “How could you safely and EFFECTIVELY search this ___ in zero visibility?”

Do you have suggestions for good, inexpensive company drills an officer can conduct at or near the kitchen table or apparatus floor? To post your comments, go to fireengineering.com/roundtable.html.


How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? If you shot out of the starting gate at a brisk pace but then lost some momentum, Fire Life (www.firelife.com) can help! In his fitness column, Mike Krueger gives you just the motivation you need to keep going with your exercise regimen. Claire Diab gives you yoga tips to help you in your work and leisure time. Mary Jane Dittmar offers the latest news and information in healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle. With all this personal attention, how can you go wrong?


Join us for free monthly Webcasts. On April 26, 2012, Division Chief/Training & Safety Forest Reeder from the DesPlaines (IL) Fire Department presents “Training Officer Boot Camp.” On May 17, 2012, Captain Jon Rigolo of the Virginia Beach (VA) Fire Department presents “Training on Positive Pressure Attack.” Webcasts are free, but you must register.


In “Keeping the Troops Safe,” Battalion Chief Daniel P. Sheridan of the Fire Department of New York, writes: “It is very easy to get caught off guard at any fire scene. It is extremely important to continuously keep your situational awareness and open up all hidden areas for potential extension.”

Craig Nelson and Dane Carley from the Fargo (ND) Fire Department write in “Do You Really Know What Is Happening With Your Department?”: “Has your department ever looked at the service you provide from all of the different angles? Have you asked those you serve what they expect from you? All successful businesses do this. If they do not, they do not stay in business very long.” (http://bit.ly/x7cpYE)

In “The Engine Company Medic: Initial Assessment,” Mick Messoline from the Thornton (CO) Fire Department writes: “What was once called the primary and secondary assessment are now known as the initial assessment and detailed exam. No matter how they are labeled, there is one thing that has not changed: Fail to complete a quality exam, and you’ll forever miss details vital to a positive patient outcome.” (http://bit.ly/y88uQS)

In “Fireground Search: How Do You Know?” Jerry Knapp, training officer at the Rockland County Fire Training Center in Pomona, New York, writes: “Experience shows that folks die in houses one or two at a time. It is one of the fire service’s dirty little secrets. House fires usually make only local headlines.” (http://bit.ly/zGGOHQ)


Name: Jim Briggs.
Department: Montrose (IA) Fire & Rescue.
Title/rank: chief.
Years of public service: nine.
Agency structure: volunteer department.
Top issues in your department: staffing, funding.

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