BY TOM BRENNAN
We have been “stuffing” this column lately-talking about “firefighting stuff” that may be on everyone’s mind at one time or other. Throughout my career, I practiced the philosophy: Never say “never” as well as … “always” and … “can’t,” but there are always some exceptions that are “almost never” or that you should “try to avoid.” It is easier to talk about the exceptions and remember them-unless, of course, you’re a truckie from Brooklyn.
Emergency supply of a required standpipe system. If for some reason you cannot supply the system from the designed site, which is usually the siamese connection outside the structure, your evolutions, SOPs, or whatever describe a method of connecting to the outlet of the system at the first floor. This was fine in the old days: It was only necessary to remove the pressure reducing valve (PRV)-really a flow restrictor-and create a hookup site for a male butt with a bag of fittings and adaptors. But now the restriction devices are complicated, spring-laden, adjustable, and inside the valve itself. Make sure you get the valve out of the system some way-by removal or adjustment. It all requires a preplan. Remember, if the flow is restricted to reduce the pressure to the capabilities of flimsy civilian standpipe hose with an uncontrollable open nozzle, it will prevent you from passing the necessary flow to get the pressures you need at the location of your hose and nozzle hookup site for fighting the fire.
Stretch anything off a valve at the end of an aerial device (especially a tower ladder) used inside a building at an upper floor. I know we talked about this before, but it is worth repeating: As soon as you connect a logistic supply to that aerial device, you tie the most important piece of equipment to that location. Now think of your recent rapid intervention team (RIT) program SOPs. Can you afford to do that on your fireground? That answer should be a resounding NO, or forget the effectiveness of RIT and a lot of other things.
Use in-line supply lines in districts that have hydrants not too much more than 300 feet apart. This is a toughie. I had it in my own department when I was chief. It is tough to argue with perceived technology and defend an “age-old” procedure. The large-diameter hose someone sold you is great if you have no hydrants and relay or draft or use tanker shuttle OR if you are in a local area of troubled neighborhoods with severely damaged hydrant systems. Other than for those conditions, you are wasting personnel and blocking the street with needless equipment-the pumper that stretched it there, the charged line itself, and more. If you have hydrants, use the reverse lay of days of yore. You don’t stretch short, your street is accessible, and the front of the fire building is not blocked-never mind that you get your own constant water supply, and faster, too. A second thought is that the department we are talking about should be able to have its own hydrant maintenance program and run it twice a year.
Stretch hoseline to a fire occupancy in a combustible building or to the floor above the original fire without using the stair from the front door. Again, our firefighters are getting in trouble for rejecting basics such as this one. Always protect (ensure) your path from your operating point to the area of safety (most often the street on which you left your pumper). Jumping in a window, entering through a garage door, and taking lines up exterior entrances (aerials, portable ladders, and fire escapes) are nonsense except for emergencies and after the second line is in the staircase.
Leave any structure fire scene or operation without conducting a critique. I am sick and tired of firefighters telling me, “Aw, we don’t have the fires you did in the old days.” Bull. You can go to the same fire 100 times and come back, or you can go to 100 fires one at a time. The difference between a great unit and a mediocre unit is not the amount of fire activity (though it helps). It is what you do with the fire you get!
In the textbook, they tell you that a critique is conducted as soon as you return and ready the “rig” for the next response and take care of the welfare of the “troops.” Well, that is too late, brothers and sisters! All the truths have been bent, and the lies have been told enough to have become truths.
Carry or store tools that should be “married” in separate locations. This is especially true in today’s departments with disgraceful staffing conditions. There are certain functions that need tools to arrive together-not by accident but by design. As an instructor, I look at two things before a truck class-the condition of the tools and ladders and how they are stored. They tell you a hell of a lot about the attitude and competence level you can expect to find inside the classroom. Never carry the halligan on one side of the apparatus remote from its mate, the flathead ax. The same goes for the tools you use to force heavy-duty padlocks: the power saws and the blades, the tools and the fuel. As a matter of fact, a firefighter planning truck work for the “night” should have “married” at least two tools that may be used in the assignment-hook and halligan, hook and ax (why?), hook and extinguisher, roof tools near the rope compartment, and more.
More next month.
TOM BRENNAN has more than 36 years of fire service experience. His career spans more than 20 years with the Fire Department of New York as well as four years as chief of the Waterbury (CT) Fire Department. He was the editor of Fire Engineering for eight years and currently is a technical editor. He is co-editor of The Fire Chief’s Handbook, Fifth Edition (Fire Engineering Books, 1995). He is the recipient of the 1998 Fire Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award. Brennan is featured in the video Brennan and Bruno Unplugged (Fire Engineering/FDIC, 1999).