Imagination Can Raise Quality of Ladder Drills
The Volunteers Corner
Ladder drills for experienced fire fighters don’t have to be boring. They can arouse the men’s enthusiasm if you use a little imagination to make them more than a series of ladder raises.
When you do not have a drillground, you have to find a suitable building for laddering. The height will depend on the longest ground ladders in your department and that means it should be at least three stories high and probably four or five. Ideally, the building should have setbacks with roofs that you can work on and windows that you can enter. In some communities, schools or other public buildings meet these specifications. Otherwise, you have to arrange with the owner or tenant of a suitable building to use it for a ladder drill.
In developing the plan for a ladder drill, first consider the size of the group. If only half a dozen fire fighters are participating, then conduct one ladder evolution at a time. But if a larger number of men are at the drill, assign two or three officers to conduct simultaneous ladder evolutions. One or two groups can be raising 28 or 35-foot ladders while another group is raising a 40, 45 or 50-foot pole ladder.
Keep them busy: The objective of simultaneous evolutions is to keep everyone in a large group busy. Even the longest pole ladder takes a maximum of only six men to raise, and if there are many more men than that present, they will become bored with nothing to do but watch the lone working group. As the training officer, you can stand back and let the assigned officers lead their groups in raising ladders. With experienced officers and men, your supervision will consist of watching for divergencies from departmental practices and stepping in to correct them. Safety should be the keystone of all ladder evolutions and the training officer has the responsibility of maintaining safe conditions during drills.
If the 28 and 35-foot ladders are constantly used in your department, check the men out on handling these ladders, but don’t waste time making them repeat what they already do well. Think of the 40 or 50-foot pole ladder that they haven’t used at a fire—or even a drill—for months. This is the ladder that requires extra training time. This is the ladder that the men must become familiar with during training as they don’t use it often enough at fires to maintain competence in handling it.
Or if your department is in Flatroof Heights, how long has it been since you men set a 16 or 20-foot roof ladder on a pitched roof? It is worth while to look for a building that can be used for roof ladder drills. A building that is about to be demolished or reroofed is best because you don’t have to worry about the ladder hooks digging into the roof. Otherwise, you have to protect the roof by placing a board on the far side of the ridge so that the ladder hooks will bite into the board instead of the roof. A man, who walks up low-pitched roofs or gets to the ridge of high-pitched roofs by an aerial ladder, can sit astride the ridge and keep the board in place as the roof ladder is put into position.
Use various raises: In addition to raising less frequently used ladders, introduce beam raises into the drill. Explain how a beam raise can be used in alleys, on steep slopes and even to knife the ladder through tree limbs when the usual flat raise might be more difficult—or even impossible. Simulate a 10-foot alley between buildings and try to raise a pole ladder flat and then on the beam.
Do you sometimes have a manpower problem? Practice raising ladders with the butt against a building foundation, thereby eliminating the use of a butt man.
If you have the use of a building with setbacks, ladder the lowest wall and then raise ladders to the roof with rope and a hose hoist. Then ladder a setback wall from the lowest roof. If the building has another setback, this operation can be repeated.
Add more interest and variety into the drill by requiring the fire fighters to wear self-contained breathing apparatus during some of the ladder evolutions. The more the men raise and climb ladders while wearing breathing apparatus, the more proficient they will be when they have to do these things on the fireground.
Other training included: Just as on the fireground, you should make every man carry something—a hand tool, coil of rope or power tool—when he climbs a ladder.
Vary the use of ladders by raising them to windows and having the men enter windows. By climbing in and out windows while wearing full turnout gear, the men will learn the importance of proper ladder placement.
Combine hose and ladder evolutions. Take 1 1/2 and 2 1/2-inch hand lines up ladders and operate them both off the ladder and on the roof after properly securing the hose. Let them even set up and operate a deluge set on a flat roof. In addition to using a ladder and hose, they will get training in the use of ropes. Even the pump operator will participate in such operations.
Rescue work also can be done in conjunction with a ladder drill. While on a roof, take a few minutes to tie a man in a stretcher and then lower him to the ground with a rope, either with or without the use of a ladder.
A little imagination can pack a lot of interest in ladder drills.