A short editorial about police work stirred a lot of interest (and public relations) recently with the publication of “Broken Windows” in relation to the escalating and unimaginable threats to public order by terrorists-and al Qaeda, in particular-to the U.S. Mainland. The author surmised (rightly so, in my mind) that if you keep up with and handle the little things all the time, it can lead to successes in bigger things: Investigation of little “stuff” (broken windows on a patrol sector) will turn over big ‘stuff’ (major crime headliners).
While reading the editorial, I thought, “Well, if any phrase can be said to belong to U.S. fire departments, ‘broken windows’ must be at the top of the list.” This led me to another company drill discussion topic for us-routine and overlooked tasks of everyday tours of duty that really have paid off in serious operations-at least for me and mine in my career.
Some “Broken Windows”
A few of the “broken windows” on your tour of duty in the station and on routine operations could be the following.
• Always preplan buildings when you see them and have the time. It is the key to [open discussion with the troops here]:
-Variations for usual strategic procedures and tactical support. Strong leaders needed here!
-Risk analysis for collapse potential; search procedure changes; and other variables for enhancing and specializing routine tactics.
-Security and storage problems … and more.
• Always have roll call at the same time, and in a place that all must get up to go to:
-Eliminates confusion on the first response.
-Promotes monitored career training for subordinates.
-Provides accountability at the scene-give assignments routine and logical. If you know what the firefighter was assigned to do, it is easier to locate him after collapse.
-Smoother operations and communications; training records.
• Always check nozzles and hoselays in pumper beds:
-Ensures operational efficiency, smooth and efficient stretching.
-Nozzle operation and stored position of bail and pattern are a concern before the fire need.
• Ensure proper storage of fuel supplies for tools and equipment; rope storage (and presence); leaks in any storage; supplies of air, water, blades, fluids … and more.
• Start all motors, especially the saws and generators.
• Have a code for apparatus response readiness:
-BIGSCO: brakes, ignition, fuel, steering cooling, all oil levels-for start of the shift.
-IGOCO-ignition, fuel, oils, coolant-after return from operations.
-Set up a simple number/step process for pump or aerial transfer at the scene for your assigned apparatus.
• Always check tools: position, cleanliness, maintenance (cracks, dullness, burrs, condition of blades and service lines).
• Always remove and check mask assemblies by charging and donning and then restowing to make them even more accessible to you.
• Check charge on all extinguishers, and bring the pressure/water with you all the time.
• Always position and reposition aerial devices, even if just for practice.
• Always have your pumper take a position of readiness for its role in stretching and in ensuring water supply.
• Always set up the street of the reported emergency as if a real emergency existed.
• Always account for vertical ventilation.
-Always prepare to ascend and size up OR account for variables that would eliminate vertical ventilation on this particular structure-peak roofs, high-rise, combustible gas emissions.
• Always notice and react to fire prevention regulations and dangerous or questionable storage practices.
• Always wear seat belts. All of us are sick over the frustrating injuries and deaths to firefighters that this nonsense causes.
• Always account for the exits on the premises to which you respond, whether out on inspection, preplanning, or just returning in the district.
–Where are they, and how are they opened from the outside? Then find out if you can open them from the inside.
-Preplan the usual status of the doors you find during occupied hours.
-Learn the difference between fail-safe and fail-secure locking systems.
• Always decide how many fire escapes are on the structure; the roof is a great place from which to see.
-What apartment layouts are served by each?
• Guess what portable ladder will be needed for what.
• What are the conditions in the rear of the occupancies, especially commercial structures?
-What locking devices are there? What tools would you need?
-How will you support horizontal ventilation for interior attack?
How many more “broken windows” can your crew discover for your level of awareness preparation? Write them down. What a training session! ■
■ TOM BRENNAN has more than 35 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 was the recipient of the 1998 Fire Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award. Brennan is featured in the video Brennan and Bruno Un-plugged (Fire Engineering/FDIC, 1999). He is a regular contributor to Firenuggets.com.