Why I Teach: Paul Strong

In this series, Fire Engineering Senior Editor Mary Jane Dittmar looks at the things that motivated and inspired instructors to present on their topics at FDIC International 2016. Segments will be posted on a regular basis up to and through the conference, April 18-23.

Paul Strong, Captain, Valley Regional Fire Authority, King County, Washington

RIC for Real: How Ready Are You to Save Firefighters’ Lives?

Thursday, April 21, 1:30 p.m.-3:15 p.m.

When it comes to a firefighter rescue, being average is not good enough. Our traditional way of training for rapid intervention in response to a Mayday needed revision. We need to incorporate realism and creativity and train in an elevated-stress environment. The more foreign you find it to work in an environment with stress, the more narrow your focus will become. Your brain will literally open up if it has been trained and prepared for accomplishing those tasks under stressful conditions.

Our approach to firefighter rescue has to be from a different mindset than the approach to civilian search and rescue. Because of personal protective equipment, firefighters are more likely to be alive and savable when things go bad inside the structure. But we know that our PPE has a limit. In particular, the amount of life (air) left in the downed firefighter’s bottle is the big concern. With the exception of serious traumatic injury, the downed firefighter most likely needs to be located quickly and provided with more air. If your crew doesn’t operate like a well-oiled machine, then the possibility of survival is reduced. Every slight delay in forward progress because of miscommunication, unfamiliarity of equipment, subpar skill level, or inadequate leadership will result in time being taken off the downed firefighters remaining life (air).

If we’re not honest with our knowledge, skills, and abilities then we’re lying to ourselves. Keep training, mix it up, get real, and be honest. We owe it to each other to be prepared. It is very important that our firefighters are aware of these facts.

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