By Brian Zaitz
Ground ladders are one of the most underappreciated resources on the fireground. Many firefighters only practice with them during their recruit training. Ground ladder placement and using ground ladders is a key component to every fireground—yes, I said every fireground. For that reason, ground ladders must be drilled on and pulled from the apparatus frequently to ensure comfort and efficiency in their operation. This bulletin focuses on ladder markings and the halyard as ways to improve efficiency prior to the alarm.
Ensure your ladders lengths are marked, both on the side and the butt of the ladder. It is important that you grab the correct length ladder for the job. Markings on multiple sides facilitate easy viewing from a variety of storage positions, in the truck, on the side, or hydraulic ladder rack. Although knowing the length is important, more critical is knowing the limitations of those lengths relative to your buildings.
Mark the balance point–not the center, but the balance point. Marking the balance point in a bright color allows for the single firefighter to quickly grab the ladder and have balance so he or she can easily move it about the fireground. In short-staffed situations, we often find ourselves moving and throwing ladders with a single firefighter. The simple action of marking this balance point will dramatically improve the effectiveness of your ground ladder operations.
For extension ladders, be sure to tie the halyard to the bed section. When time is critical–as is the case of a ladder rescue of a victim or a firefighter–the act of untying the halyard and raising it can be the difference.
These measures are about improving the efficient operation and reducing unnecessary actions on the fireground so as to improve our overall effectiveness. Ground ladders are critical tool; get them off the rig, practice with, them and ensure they are marked for use on the fireground!
Brian Zaitz is a 14-year student of the fire service, currently assigned as the captain/training officer with the Metro West (MO) Fire Protection District. Brian is an instructor with Engine House Training, LLC as well as instructor at the St. Louis County Fire Academy. Brian holds several degrees, including an associates in paramedic technology, a bachelors in fire science management, and a masters in human resource development. Brian is currently and accredited chief training officer and student of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program.
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