Setting Up a New Ladder Company

Truck company work involves some of the most important tasks performed at a structure fire. It can mean the difference between a “good stop” and a parking lot.

BY MARK KUHAR

Truck company work involves some of the most important tasks performed at a structure fire. It can mean the difference between a “good stop” and a parking lot. Let’s say you just created a new ladder company for your volunteer department and your new ladder truck has arrived. What is the next step? How do you staff it? Equip it? What functions will you perform? How do you set up riding positions and determine who does what? What are the most important fireground functions to perform if only three firefighters respond to a call? Here are some ladder company basics for starting up a new ladder company.

RIDING POSITIONS

The following are riding positions commonly found on the ladder truck when six personnel respond. These positions have been adapted from the Fire Department of New York’s ladder company tactics and procedures. These approaches can work with as few as three personnel.

Riding position 1: Driver/chauffeur.
Position: Front of fire building.
Tool assignment: Radio, six-foot hook, halligan tool.
Alternate tool assignment: Portable ladder, saw.
Duties: Position and operate apparatus, operate with the outside team, provide additional tools off the apparatus as needed to assist in overall operations.

Riding position 2: Officer or senior member in charge.
Position: Front door of fire building.
Tool assignment: Radio, hand light, lock puller.
Alternate tool assignment: Irons, hydraulic forcible entry tool, six-foot roof hook, search rope.
Duties: Overall supervision, command of interior operations.

Riding position 3: “Can man” (can be the junior member if he is certified for interior operations).
Position: With irons man.
Tool assignment: 21/2-gallon extinguisher, six-foot hook.
Alternate tool as-signment: Forcible entry saw.
Duties: Force entry, vent-enter-search (VES) of interior.

Riding position 4: “The irons.”
Position: Front door of fire building.
Tool assignment: Irons (eight-pound flathead ax and halligan tool), hydraulic forcible entry tool.
Alternate tool assignment: Duckbill, forcible entry saw, K-tool.
Duties: VES of interior.

Riding position 5: Outside vent man (OV).
Position: Exterior of fire building.
Tool assignment: Six-foot hook, halligan tool.
Alternate tool assignment: Portable ladder, roof saw, forcible entry saw, flathead ax.
Duties: VES from exterior; responsible for visual check of rear and sides of building.

Riding position 6: Roof (if possible, the most experienced member should take this position).
Position: Exterior of fire building.
Tool assignment: Six-foot hook, halligan tool.
Alternate tool assignment: Portable ladder, roof saw, lifesaving rope.
Duties: VES from exterior.

STAFFING PRIORITIES

The staffing priorities, depending on the number of personnel responding, are as follows:
Three personnel: chauffeur, officer, irons.
Four personnel: chauffeur, officer, irons, can.
Five personnel: chauffeur, officer, irons, can, roof or outside vent (depending on structure type and fire location).
Six personnel: chauffeur, officer, irons, can, roof, and outside vent.

Volunteer companies must be proficient in the staffing priorities. When the ladder company responds to a call, each responder will know what his job is, what others’ jobs are, and who is operating where inside and outside the building. The officer will then have accountability as to where his personnel are and what they are doing. And at the scene, the chief officer will have more time to spend on critical decision making instead of wasting valuable time giving out basic orders regarding assignments.

From a training perspective, it is also a good idea to have set positions and staffing priorities so the volunteers can drill on specific positions-for example, working with the irons, lock size-up, VES, roof operations, portable ladders, radio communications, and building construction.

BUILDING CONSTRUCTION

Building construction will affect the ladder company’s immediate area of operation and tool assignments. Thus you should try to gain as much knowledge as you can about the buildings in your first-due area and in your mutual-aid areas. During building size-up, don’t forget to consider the building’s intended use and the time of day.

Look at your row of downtown stores in the daytime and nighttime. What kinds of security devices are present at night? What types of gates do the stores use? Go around to the back of the stores. They most certainly are fortified there too. It will be your job as the ladder company to get in there-and fast.

Size-up is everybody’s job-not just the incident commander’s. When you respond to an activated alarm, look at the building. Where are the bedrooms located? What types of stairs are in the building? What kinds of doors and locks are present? There is no excuse for responding to a building repeatedly and not knowing the layout.

SAFETY TIPS

Respond to each call as if it were a potential working fire. Do not become complacent. We are responding to more and varied calls than we did 20 years ago.

Wear your bunker gear and SCBA into the building, and always carry your tools into the building. Never give your tools to anyone at a fire. If a member did not bring his tools, that’s his problem. Imagine what would happen if you gave your tools to another member, you’re riding the irons position, and your captain says, “Hey, force this door; there’s someone in here,” and you have to reply, “I gave my tools to Joe Firefighter because he didn’t bring his.”

Safety during training and during calls is always a concern. But if you follow the riding positions and staffing priorities presented here, you will play a big part in reducing freelancing, increasing work speed and confidence, and maybe even reducing property damage.


MARK KUHAR is a 15-year veteran of the fire service and a member of the Belltown Fire Department in Stamford, Connecticut, and of the Harry Howard Hook and Ladder Company #1 in Port Chester, New York. He is a career fire dispatcher for the Norwalk (CT) Fire Department. He has several state certifications in Connecticut and New York, including fire instructor I, fire officer I, aerial operator, and safety officer.

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