QUICK DRILLS

BY MARTIN C. GRUBE

The next time you have duty at the fire station, take a few minutes and give your peers a Quick Drill, which is an opportunity for veterans to pass on their experience to probies. The Quick Drill does not replace the normal hour-long drill later in the shift. You may have to obtain information beforehand to be prepared for your drill. At the morning meeting or muster, give a quick five-minute drill. The information discussed may be helpful that same day.

QUICK DRILL 1

Fire department connections (FDCs) and hydrants. As you drive through your response district, get into the habit of checking the condition of the fire department sprinkler/standpipe connections and hydrants. Make sure there are no bushes, fences, or other obstructions inhibiting access to the FDCs and hydrants (see photo 1).


1 Photos by author.
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Regardless of whether the water department or the fire department does it, in the summer it is imperative to maintain access to hydrants and clear out weeds, tall grass, and shrubs. Maintain a list of FDCs and fire hydrants that need to be uncovered. Once every other week, bring a weed trimmer with you to work and trim around all the FDCs and hydrants hidden by undergrowth.


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Maintain at least three feet of clearance to the FDCs and hydrants. In my jurisdiction, if a vehicle is parked within 15 feet of a fire hydrant or connection, it is a violation (see photo 2). Check your local fire code for specifics.


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If a sprinkler system on a particular floor of an occupancy is not functioning, place a sign on the connection so that the engine company driver/operator can advise Command of the condition of the sprinkler system (see photo 3). Keep an up-to-date list of these situations. Maintaining fire hydrants is critical to their overall performance. Indicate nonfunctional hydrants (see photo 4), and maintain a list for future responses.

QUICK DRILL 2


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Building information/contact information. Does your department conduct building inspections? It’s a great opportunity to get inside and see the floor plans of the same building you may respond to in the future. When you do these inspections, prepare a standardized form on which the owner of the business can provide contact phone numbers of the owner or keyholder after business hours and alarm company information. These numbers will be handy for fire and police personnel when responding to an incident after hours. Once the form is filled out, send it to the 911 communications center so it can be filed and updated in the computer system as needed.

QUICK DRILL 3

Command post. Remember to lower the volume on your portable radios when approaching the command post. Radio feedback slows down radio traffic, and an important message may be missed. When waiting for another task assignment, stand back at least 15 feet from the command post so you do not crowd the area.

QUICK DRILL 4


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Floating in turnout gear. Consider asking a local recreational center with a swimming pool if you can use its facility for a specialized drill. Have each firefighter in full turnout gear, including SCBA (use a damaged SCBA for this drill so you don’t ruin a usable one) and simply fall sideways into the pool from a standing position. Hold your helmet on with your hands so you do not choke yourself with the chinstrap. Allow your body to resurface, remove your helmet, trap some air underneath it, and use it as a flotation device (see photo 5).

MARTIN C. GRUBE is a 24-year veteran of the Virginia Beach (VA) Fire Department and is currently assigned to the Fire Marshal’s Office as an assistant fire marshal. He is master firefighter, a Virginia-certified fire instructor, and the department historian and photographer.

QUICK DRILLS

7

BY MARTIN C. GRUBE

The next time you have duty at the fire station, take a few minutes and give your peers a Quick Drill, which is a way for veterans to pass along their experience to probies. The Quick Drill does not replace the normal hour-long drill later in the shift. You may have to obtain information beforehand to prepare for your drill. At the morning meeting or muster, give a quick five-minute drill. The information discussed may be helpful that same day.

QUICK DRILL 1

The 360° walkaround. On arrival at every incident possible, the officer or another assigned person equipped with a radio should walk around the structure before entry. This allows responders to quickly determine the structure’s floor plan, the fire location, and where the electrical service comes in; locate fire victims who are at windows or who have escaped the building and need immediate assistance; identify exposure problems; and evaluate access possibilities and problems for incoming apparatus. What else should you look for during a walkaround?

QUICK DRILL 2


Quick Drill 2: In this incident, a vehicle left the road and crashed into the house. Immediate concerns include building structural integrity, vehicle fire hazards, locating of possible victims under the vehicle, and debris and atmosphere hazards on-scene. (Photos by author.)
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High-speed auto accidents into structures. High-speed auto accidents in which vehicles leave the roadway and enter buildings may involve many secondary injuries and fire problems. When responding to such incidents, quickly run down this checklist for potential situations: (1) Make sure the structure is safe to enter, and look for signs of possible building collapse; (2) check under the vehicle for trapped building occupants; (3) check the vehicle fuel tank for leaks; (4) secure all structure utilities (e.g., gas and electric); (5) establish positive-pressure ventilation to remove gasoline vapors, dust, and other hazards from the atmosphere; (6) set up interior and exterior lighting; (7) establish crowd control, and keep civilians away from scenes involving graphic injuries and debris hazards (e.g., nails or broken glass); and (8) check adjacent structures for debris that may have penetrated and injured neighbors. What else should you do?

QUICK DRILL 3

Fully involved house fires. Quickly determine whether to make a defensive or offensive attack on a fully involved house fire so firefighters can set up numerous exposure lines. Always walk around the entire structure to ascertain if building occupants may have tried to escape flames. Are there cars in the driveway? Which way is the wind blowing? How close are the exposures? Should you evacuate the exposures? Where are the electrical power lines? Are your rigs parked too close to the structure, under power lines, or in the collapse zone?

QUICK DRILL 4

Dumpster fires. Should you wear SCBA to dumpster fires? What is in a dumpster? You can only speculate-tires, salt-treated wood, foam, plastics, and aerosol cans are just some of the possibilities. All of these produce highly toxic vapors. Keep away from the smoke plume!

If you use a pike pole to sift through the rubbish, wash off the tool before you leave the scene.

Carry a cone-shaped wooden dowel to plug the dumpster drain hole, which allows you to fill the dumpster with water to extinguish the burning contents quickly. When you unplug the dumpster, avoid coming in contact with the runoff water to avoid any toxic materials that it might contain. The dumpster must be drained because the dumpster truck will not be able to lift a dumpster filled with 500 gallons of water.

Is an exposure threatened? Look around the immediate area, and go inside the adjacent building to investigate before you leave the scene.

QUICK DRILL 5


Quick Drill 5: At highway responses, use police to assist in blocking and diverting traffic around the emergency scene for responder safety.
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Road protection. Don’t hesitate to call the police so they can block or reroute traffic away from a roadway fire scene. Heavy smoke conditions and flying embers make driving hazardous. Fire hose and firefighters are vulnerable to traffic. It’s far safer to hold up motorists for a few minutes than to expose firefighters to potential harm. Position fire apparatus at an angle so that it blocks two lanes of traffic. Have the driver/ pump operator wear a safety vest. Carry orange traffic cones, and set them up at every incident. Use the apparatus directional arrow stick to reroute traffic.

QUICK DRILL 6

Vacant buildings: Learn before you burn! The next time your department acquires a vacant building for training, consider first using the structure for hand tool practice instead of just for live-fire operations. Hand tool skills are just as important as firefighting skills. Use the building to train in forcible entry, roof ventilation, searching with covered masks to simulate zero-visibility conditions, and other skills. A single engine company can perform this type of drill. Set up smoke machines and practice positive-pressure ventilation. To make the drill even more challenging, perform it after dark. Try out your new thermal imaging camera. Practice lighting techniques. Get to know the maximum kilowatt output of your generator. After you’ve used the building for all possible nonfire training, use it for live-fire training. Get the most training possible out of an acquired building.

QUICK DRILL 7

Pump panel memorization. Take a piece of paper, go to the apparatus bay, and draw a rough diagram of the engine pump panel. Draw in all the gauges, knobs, buttons, light switches, needle dampers, intakes, discharges, and other components on the panel, indicating each with an arrow. For the daily drill, make several copies and have your firefighters identify each component and what it does.

QUICK DRILL 8


Quick Drill 8: In winter, use signs to warn curious children away from frozen bodies of water. Partner with community businesses and civic groups to produce “STAY OFF THE ICE” signs.
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Stay off the ice! Are there ponds, lakes, or water retention ponds in your response district? When these freeze over in the winter, they attract every kid in the neighborhood who wants to test the strength of the ice. Become proactive and consider this idea: Visit a local sign company and ask it to sponsor a program to put up signs marked “STAY OFF THE ICE!” by all bodies of water in your response district. These signs could be similar to election campaign signs, mounted on thin-wire supports that can be easily pressed into the ground as close to the water line as possible. If you need matching funds to make the proposal more attractive to the sign company, consider your local fire department, a civic league, a service organization, a local house of worship, or even a hospital. Contact the local media and suggest they produce a newspaper article or television segment on ice safety. Place these signs on your fire apparatus, and install them around the lakes, ponds, and other bodies of water in your area. Keep extra signs on the engine for new sites you may discover. Make sure the sign gives credit to all agencies involved.

QUICK DRILL 9

Eye protection. Wear approved eye protection on every EMS call that your department may respond to or assist at. Recently, when several local firefighters were checking a patient’s blood pressure, the patient’s catheter dislodged, spraying blood-laced urine in responders’ eyes. They were immediately tested at the local hospital for a series of diseases. The Virginia Beach Fire Department was proactive many years ago in issuing every member an EMS fanny pack that includes safety glasses, latex gloves, hearing protection, alcohol-based antimicrobial skin wipes, and pen and paper. Consider a fanny pack for all personnel who make EMS runs so they can have everything they may need at their fingertips.

QUICK DRILL 10

Sharps. Working at a CPR-in-progress incident involves administering many IVs, which increases the possibility of inadvertent needle sticks. Always bring a sharps box, a container to hold used needles. Do not take a used needle from the technician you may be assisting. Instead, place the sharps box near the technician to allow him to place the needle in the container himself. Avoid unnecessary exposures!

Be proactive, not reactive! Anticipating and training for a variety of situations at various incidents helps ensure a successful conclusion.

MARTIN C. GRUBE is a 23-year veteran of the Virginia Beach (VA) Fire Department and currently assigned to the Fire Marshal’s Office as an assistant fire marshal. He is a master firefighter, a Virginia-certified fire instructor, and the department historian and photographer.