THE VOLUNTEERS CORNER
WHEN THE WHISTLE BLOWS, does your volunteer department respond with well-ordered efficiency? Or does confusion run rampant?
Even the smallest department should spend time planning an orderly response —and see its efficiency surge upward. This is where teamwork first goes into action. Without teamwork, you don’t fight fires, you play with them.
Where there is more than one piece of equipment in a house, there should be a definite order for the movement of each apparatus. Which pieces are to respond to brush fires? Which ones to motor vehicle fires? Which ones to structural fires?
The order of response should be determined as a matter of operating procedure. This will insure the ladder truck or the tanker arriving at the foreground at the right time to fit into a working pattern with the pumpers.
The important thing is to see that no piece has to back up to get out of the way of another or has to turn around to fulfill its assignment. Much vital time can be lost in backtracking.
In planning apparatus response, set a minimum figure for the number of men to be on the first piece before it moves. This will depend on your department’s experience. In some places, several men arrive at the firehouse at once. In others, you can depend more on men arriving at the fire in their own cars. So apparatus can leave with fewer men.
For the men responding with the apparatus, there should be a firm rule to give them time to don full turnout gear. There isn’t much sense to arriving at tire fireground with a crew that has to stop to put on helmets, coats and boots. And these are a must for any fire fighting.
Do the drivers know where the hydrants or drafting places are located? Sectional maps, breaking up the territory into manageable size, can be carried in the cab of each apparatus so that whoever is riding shotgun can spot water sources for the driver. Some departments go to the extent of carrying cards showing water sources for each farm or small cluster of homes in the area.
Where rural runs are long and involve back roads, the cards can outline the route to specific farms or other out-ofthe-way properties. If there are not too many, these may be carried in the cab of the first-due truck. Otherwise, they may be kept in a file at the firehouse and taken along by one of the men riding in the cab.
Once the first-due piece arrives at the fireground, there should be a general rule to cover its movement. This might be to go close to the fire and use small lines to hold the fire until other equipment arrives. Or it might involve stretching a line whenever smoke is seen coming out from the eaves of a building. But the choices should be few and the rules should be definite so that decisions may be made quickly and accurately for the types of fires usually encountered.
Radios make it unnecessary for other apparatus to pile on top of the first-due piece. The last thing you want is a traffic jam of your own creation.
It makes more sense for the first truck to radio back information on the fire and direct the movements of other apparatus. Where a long driveway or a narrow lane leads to the burning building, time can usually be saved if only one truck goes all the way in and the others wait on the main road for orders. This way, the equipment is kept mobile—ready to move to any location before getting tangled up.
Do the engine and ladder companies have general duties assigned to them? Some departments wisely prohibit the use of booster lines at night on structural fires. Too many companies have misjudged a fire and wasted time with a booster line. At night, it is more difficult to rectify the error. And if only a few drops of water are needed, you can get a few drops out of a l 1/2-inch line by barely cracking the shutoff. But if you need more water, it’s ready for you.
The ladder company should know its duties so that rescue work or search of the building will be accomplished and ladders will be raised without any extensive or detailed orders. The ladder company should have general orders to be prepared for ventilation the moment the officer-in-charge orders it.
If the first-due engine starts pumping lines, the second-due pumper should have general orders to lay a supply lineparallel lines if possible. This frees the chief of issuing an order for every fireground movement. It also eliminates confusion that results when a multitude of volunteers turn to doing whatever seems best to do at the moment.
By using broad general operating rules, the action of the first-due engine can start a planned chain reaction that can be guided by a minimum number of commands. As more volunteers arrive, they can see at a glance where they can fit into the fire fighting. They can see what tasks remain to be done to put the attack in full operation.
In determining the rules to be established for general fireground procedure, your records are most important. They will tell you the situation you have faced in the past and what the probability is of their occurring again.
If you have a few warehouses in your territory or if you rarely ever fight a woods fire, you won’t waste time on that type of fire problem. But if suburban homes and autos give you most of your troubles, according to the records, you will concentrate on preparing for such fires.
The rules you make should be reviewed to eliminate any difficulties that may crop up when you actually use them. A slight revision tailored to your fire problem and territory may increase your efficiency tremendously.
Don’t forget, fire hazards change with the growth of a community. Keep in step with the future in your planning!