Training In Local Conditions That Affect Fire Fighting
EDUCATION in firemanship is continuous in the Austin Fire Department. Even though the department does maintain a modern fire service library, it also makes available to each member certain other material, local in nature, that is not available in fire service publications. Textbooks, codes, handbooks, magazines and the like contain countless pages of pertinent data of general interest, but for obvious reasons there is a dearth of “local material.” By local material is meant things that the average fireman must know about his own city or community that will affect his efficiency as a member of the local fire department.
Knowledge that carbon dioxide is a suitable extinguisher for electrical fires is of little value if a fire company is unable to locate the address at which the fire has occurred, hence familiarity with street layout is essential. Similarly, regardless of how well learned in hydraulics the engineer may be, it is all for naught unless he can locate a fire hydrant or a source of water. There are many more illustrations that can be cited to point out that while the more technical aspects of fire fighting are important, they are not necessarily the most important.
To gear a department’s training program almost entirely to the “technical” or “textbook” merely because the “local” is not readily available can be a serious mistake. The ideal program recognizes that both types of information are essential and when kept in proper relation to each other can do much toward the development of a highly efficient fire fighting organization. The preparation of the so-called local material is no simple or overnight task. It is expensive and timeconsuming, which is perhaps one of the main reasons why promotional examinations (civil service, etc.) do not have a substantial number of “local questions.”
The Austin Fire Department makes available to each of its members various mimeographed materials, almost local in nature. Members are held responsible for this material basically in three ways. First, the material is studied and then covered in company school held daily, except week ends and holidays, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Secondly, the training division gives semiannual written tests to all members below district chief rank on this material, as well as incorporating it into the instruction and drill program. Third, the material serves as an excellent source from which questions for competitive promotional examinations may be drawn (as required by Firemen’s and Policemen’s Civil Service Act).
Briefly, the material consists of:
Streets and Hydrants: Each named street is listed and how it runs (where it begins, cuts out, and ends), and the hydrants on the street. Hydrants are usually designated by intersection, including whether located on the southeast, southwest, northeast, northwest; if at no intersection then hydrant is given the number of the house in front of which it appears, e.g., 1187. Frequently, additional information is given that will facilitate location of hydrant such as “west of incinerator drive” in the example that follows. Hydrants located on grounds of public and private buildings are listed separately at the end of the list. Example:
Alexander Avenue: 12th St. to 14th St.
—19th St. to Manor Road (Old)
12th St. (west of incinerator drive) S.S. 19th St.
By way of explanation, the first part of Alexander Avenue begins at 12th Street and runs to 14th Street and the second part begins at 19th Street and runs to Manor Road (Old) where the street ends. Two fire hydrants are listed with Alexander Avenue; one is located at 12th Street and Alexander Avenue, southside, and west of incinerator drive; the other is located at the intersection of 19th Street and Alexander Avenue, northwest comer. Firemen are required to leam exactly how the street runs and the location of the hydrants.
Numbered Streets: Each numbered street and how it runs is listed. Hydrants are not listed with numbered streets. The value of knowing how a street runs is illustrated by the following example:
East 13th St.: Congress Avenue to 501— 502 to Sabine St.—East Avenue to past Walnut Avenue—Alexander Avenue to Airport Blvd.
As indicated. East 13th Street stops at number 501 and begins again at number 502. This break is caused by a creek with 501 on one side and 502 on the other side, and each portion requires a different route for alarm responses. If Austin firemen were not aware of this, they might respond to the wrong side of the creek and find themselves very near the fire but yet separated by an insurmountable barrier.
Buildings: The correct address of buildings are listed under subheadings of state, city, county, Federal, hospitals, nurses’ homes, public schools, the University of Texas (including dormitories), private schools, museums, airports, theaters, hotels, housing projects, lumber companies, rest homes, recreation centers, and playgrounds, wading and swimming pools.
Apparatus and Equipment: Each piece of apparatus is briefly described (make, model, pump capacity, etc.) and the equipment carried on it.
Sprinkler Systems: Name and address of buildings with sprinkler systems are listed, as well as type of system (wet, dry, etc.), location of intake, if any, and cutoffs. Example:
Austin Industries&emdash;4311 Congress Avenue (Automatic Wet System)
Intake: 4311 So. Congress Avenue, S. E. corner of driveway
Cut-offs: In tunnel; entrance to tunnel in the northwest comer of laboratory room; remove lid in concrete floor. East cut-off controls part of building east of fire curtain; west cut-off controls part of building west of fire curtain, shipping and receiving room and loading dock. Offices and warehouses are not covered by sprinklers.
House Lines: Name and address of buildings with house lines (standpipes), as well as size of outlet, size of hose attached, and location of intake, if any, are listed. Example:
Breckenridge Hospital&emdash;700 Blk., E. 15th St. (S.S.)
- Standard (2 1/2-inch opening, reduced to 1 1/2-inch, with 1 1/2-inch hose attached).
- 2 1/2-inch openings, no hose attached.
- 1 1/2-inch openings with 1 1/2-inch hose attached.
Intakes: East side near center; south side, west of center; west side, north of center.
Supplements: All of the above are kept current by a periodic supplement (usually issued about twice a year) which gives additions, deletions and corrections to be made to the various lists.
Information Bulletins: These are patterned after National Board of Fire Underwriters Special Interest Bulletins and assembled to form a study manual which is made available to all members. It covers subjects of general interest to the fire service (Information Bulletin No. 3, Combustion), as well as subjects more local in nature (Information Bulletin No. 27, Drill Evolutions). The bulletins have proven extremely valuable in disseminating information about department equipment; bulletins have been prepared on the various masks, resuscitators and portable electric hacksaws employed by the department. The first bulletin was prepared in May of 1958 and to date, 57 have been issued.
Company Territories: The area of the city in which each company will respond to regular alarm without designation is described. A written description is accompanied by a map sketch which makes the writing more meaningful and easier to follow. The dispatcher merely announces the address of the alarm and the companies in whose territory the alarm is, are expected to respond. Company personnel are required to have detailed knowledge of streets, hydrants, buildings, etc., in their territory. Special assignment of buildings outside of the territory are listed.
In addition to regular territory, each company has a “backing-up” territory in which they are designated to respond when the regularly assigned companies are engaged in another fire, or for some reason are out of service.
As an example, the written description of the territory of Truck Co. No. 1 follows:
Truck Co. No. 1: Beginning at a certain point on 1st St. in line with Nueces St.—north from this point to Nueces St.—north on Nueces St. to 11th St. —east on 11th St. (including State Capitol) to Trinity St.—south on Trinity St. to 7th St.— east on 7th St. to East Avenue—south on East Avenue to 1st St.—west on 1st St. to place of beginning. Brackenridge Hospital and Nurses Home—Fulmore School — Texas School for Deaf—State Capitol
The philosophy of training in the Austin Fire Department embraces the idea that an efficient fire fighter must have knowledge of all local conditions that will affect his fire fighting ability. Since the department requires its members to have this knowledge, certain material is prepared by the department as an aid in acquiring it. Education is a continuous process in the Austin Fire Department and a great portion of it concerns local material.