National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Water Supply and Shipping Containers

Water supply is an essential component of fire attack. Ensuring that water supply is established by the first arriving engine sets the tone for a successful fire attack. When the water supply operation is based on a shuttle type of supply system, the goal is to maintain an uninterrupted flow of water to the attack lines. When the water flow is interrupted the possibility of a mishap increases. This week’s featured firefighter near-miss report describes an event where a combination of losing situational awareness and failing to communicate results in two firefighters going to the hospital.

“…our department responded to a residential structure fire at [location omitted]. The reporting party of the call indicated the structure was fully involved and all citizens evacuated. Upon arrival the first incoming crew (E [1]) determined that a 60′ shipping container was the source of the fire. E [1] alley laid in approximately 200′ of 4″ hose down a driveway off of [the main street] for the next incoming engine to supply water to the first arriving engine (E [1]…Once E [2] was out of water FF [A] moved the engine forward and pulled E [3] in place to supply water to E [1]. Once again, the 4″ supply was connected from E [3]’s officer side panel to E [1]’s driver side panel. During the overhaul of the fire, E [3] ran out of water, so FF [A] moved E [3] forward to clear the driveway and allow an additional engine to supply water if needed. FF [A] failed to disconnect the supply hose from officer side pump panel and pulled the line until the LDH fitting at the E [3] pump panel broke. The force of moving the LDH line caught FF [D] and A/C [A] in the bite of the hose at the pump panel of E [1]. The LDH line pushed AC/ [A] (first) and FF [D] (second) into the pump panel. Both A/C [A] and FF [D] were pinned up against the pump panel until the fitting broke from E [3]…”

The patent water supply operation reduces the number of moving parts at the scene of a fire. Hooking up to a hydrant, when hydrants are available, reduces the number of connect and disconnect operations that have to occur. When hydrants are not available, the shuttle operation should be closely monitored by a water supply officer (WSO) whose role is to supervise the connection and disconnection of the supply lines. Once the WSO becomes engaged in physically moving apparatus, the oversight of safely operating at the scene is lost. Consider the following:

  1. A fully involved container, 60′ long by 10′ high by 8′ wide would require what fire flow to extinguish the fire?
  2. Lay this scenario out in a typical neighborhood of your service area. How would you lay out the water supply operation?
  3. The incident begins as a residential structure fire. Using your department’s typical residential structure fire response, discuss how you would apply the resources to the problem encountered. Some of your discussion should include resource management, command structure, risk assessment, etc.
  4. The driver of Engine 3 immediately reports that the incident was his fault. How would you handle the driver? Would you pursue a disciplinary path or some other corrective action? Explain your answer.
  5. The use of converted shipping containers is on the increase. What challenges do these structures present to emergency responders?   

The application of standard practices for standard outcomes, often espoused by Chief Alan Brunacini, becomes the motto for this near miss. Deviating from standard practices results in deviated outcomes. Being alert for the deviations (i.e., structure fire that turns into a container, supervised water tank dumps that shift to the WSO becoming actively engaged) set the stage for error to impact an event. The message is clear. No incident is routine.

Additional Resources:

Have you been involved in a near miss during water supply operations? Submit your report to today so everyone goes home tomorrow. For more on the value of firefighter near-miss reporting, CLICK HERE.

Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.

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