Training the Best for the Worst!

Middletown Township Fire Department
Training Academy

Normandy Road (US NAVY)
Between West Front St. & Nut Swamp Rd.
Middletown, NJ 07748
Phone: 732-615-2270 Fax: 732-671-3303
Email: info@middletownfireacademy.com



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March 10, 2013
Firehouse Magazine Article
By Chris Battlo

This week's tip was not authored by one of our own. We came across this article on Firehouse Magazine's website and it instantly became a candidate for sharing here. In the article, Chris Battlo shares some of his personal experiences in training and puts to words how many of us in the training community feel and think.

You've all heard instructors like Jack Hueston, Don DeRogatis, Dave D'Arcy and Rich Michitsch tell you how to actively stay involved, but Chris Battlo seems to have summed it all up one article. Do yourself a favor and read the article. For those who actively train, it will reinforce how you already feel. For those who sit on the sidelines, let it serve as a reason to get back in the game.

Read the article Don’t Just be a Firefighter: Take Responsibility for Your Training here.

February 24, 2013
Fireground Tips for Company Officers
By Captain Jack Hueston

The Company Officer’s job is one of the most difficult jobs on the fire ground. Here are a few tips to make it a little easier. First, stay calm and stay together.

Stay calm - don’t get excited and maintain a command presence. Give orders that are clear and easily understood. Order should loud enough so they can be heard, but achieved by yelling. If you sound and act calm and professional, your crew will remain calm and professional.

Stay together - the safety of your crew is your main mission. You must be able to account for your people at all times on the fireground. The easiest way to know where your people are is to keep them with you.

If you are performing engine company functions, this is easy, because all members are involved in stretching and operating the line. On the other hand, when performing ladder company functions, you need to get creative. When operating as a ladder company, it is common practice to split your crew into two teams. One team on the inside search team, of which the Officer is a member. The other as the outside vent / search team. They should be the more experienced members and must be radio equipped. When it’s time to leave the building and rehab; whenever possible, leave together, rehab together, and return to a new assignment together.

What tools and equipment should the officer carry?
Portable radio
- this radio must be secured in a case with a shoulder strap and must have a lapel microphone fastened some where in the shoulder area. Another option is to utilize a radio pocket on the turn out coat with a strap sewn on to fasten the lapel microphone to the coat in the shoulder area. When using a case and shoulder strap, consider wearing it under the turn out coat, to protect the radio from heat and water damage.

Hand light - the hand light should be a rechargeable lantern style with a shoulder strap or fastened to a waist belt. Consider keeping a smaller flashlight in a coat pocket or a small LED light on your helmet as a back up.

Thermal imaging camera - make sure you are familiar with how to operate the TIC, and fasten it to you with a strap or clip of some sort. Remember the TIC should never replace a hand light.

Personal rope - always have a 25 to 40 foot length of small diameter rope in your pocket. This rope could be a real lifesaver for you and your crew.

Wooden door chock - this is used to keep doors from closing on the line and from locking behind you, trapping you and your crew.

Make sure your people have what they need to get the work done. The best way to accomplish this is to use pre-incident tool assignments.

Inside search team - six-foot hook, halligan tool and flat head axe, 2 ½ gallon water extinguisher.


Outside vent/search team -
six to eight foot hook, halligan tool, appropriate ladder, and a portable radio.

Roof team -
appropriate ladder, eight-foot hook, axe, power saw, rope, halligan and a portable radio.

Maintain communications with your crew, at all times.
Maintaining communication with members of a truck crew who are operating remote from the officer, is best done with the use of portable radios
. Maintaining communications with members of an engine crew can be a bit more difficult. The difficulty comes from the noise of the operating hand-line in conjunction with trying to talk through the SCBA face piece. In this case, try using a series of predetermined hand/touch signals. For example, to start water (open the nozzle) two pats on the nozzleman's shoulder. To shut down (close the nozzle) three pats on the nozzleman's shoulder. To advance forward, gently push forward on the nozzleman's shoulder. To change the direction of the stream, the officer gently pushes or pulls the nozzle in the direction desired. If an emergency situation develops and the team must retreat, use four or five strong slaps on the members shoulder and then pull in the direction of the retreat.

Remember the mission of the company officer is to supervise task level work, not do the work. “When the supervisor is working, supervision is not.” Maintain communications with your crew, train/drill and motivate your people.

Before taking your crew in the hazard zone, have a plan for escaping the hazard zone in an emergency.

Don’t forget, lead by example!



February 16, 2013
Thermal Imaging: Temperature Stable Environments & Saturation
By Captain David A. D'Arcy

When scanning with a thermal imaging camera (TIC), firefighters should be aware of two things they are sure to come across at some point, temperature stable environments and saturation. These events can make it difficult for firefighters to interpret the images being displayed on the TIC screen..

A temperature stable environment is when all of the objects in a room are registering at about the same temperature. Your TIC displays differences in temperatures by using grayscale colors (black, white & grey). When temperatures in an environment stabilize, everything on the screen will appear to be grey. This makes distinguishing between the objects (or victim) in the room difficult. Unless firefighters can introduce some change or difference of temperature into the environment, traditional search techniques should be employed to properly search the environment.


Temperature stable hallway making it difficult to make out a doorway at the end of the hallway. Photo courtesy of NIST.

Saturation occurs when a TIC is exposed to more heat than it can measure. Objects viewed on the screen may begin to appear cloudy or the screen may begin to display almost all white. This is a warning sign that the environment is becoming unsafe. You may be experiencing pre-flashover conditions as the entire environment has become superheated. Search and attack crews should retreat to a safer area or operate the handline to cool down the environment.


The temperature of this room has reached such a high level that most of the image is displaying as white. Note the heat/smoke registering at ceiling level. The attack crew has opened the nozzle and cooled some of the fire room, helping to distinguish the features of the doorway. Photo courtesy of Bullard.

Be aware of these types of events when using your TIC. Understanding what you are seeing on your display screen can mean the difference between making or missing a rescue and the safety of your crew.

May 18, 2012
5-10-20 Rule & Airbag Safety
By Captain Thomas Wieczerzak

In vehicle rescue today it is easy to get caught up in all of the talk about advanced steels, what hydraulic tool manufacturer is the best and hybrid technology. It seems that a lot of firefighters, EMTs and police officers responding to motor vehicle crashes forget about airbag safety while operating to extricate injured occupants. Airbags both deployed and undeployed pose a serious danger to both first responders and the injured occupants. Airbags deploy rapidly, in less than 30 milliseconds, and can cause severe or even fatal injuries to the first responder caught in its path. Accidental deployment of an undeployed airbag during rescue operations can be caused by a variety of reasons from movement of the vehicle to a hydraulic rescue tool crushing/cutting a component of the airbag system.

With modern safety standards vehicles are becoming equipped with a wide array of airbags. This is in contrast to the earlier design where there was “simply” an airbag located in the steering column, for the driver, and in some cases another in dash for the front passenger. These earlier designs left the remaining occupants fending for themselves and really only protected against an impact from the rear or a frontal crash.

In newer model vehicles we now find airbags for the driver and front occupant and back seat occupants. There are also additional airbags to protect the occupants’ head, chest and knees from all types of impacts. The addition of these airbags has made it necessary for first responders to be aware of where these airbags could be deployed from and how to keep safe from them if they should deploy during rescue operations. These additional airbags have the potential to deploy from the roofline along the “A”, “B” and “C” post, the sides/rear of seats, below the dash boards, center consoles, doors and even from the structure of the post of the vehicle. In some vehicle models airbags are equipped with secondary deployment systems for secondary impacts which is why there is an emphasis to keep clear of deployed and undeployed airbags.

A simple rule to remember is the 5-10-20 Rule which depicts the clearance from a deployed or undeployed airbag. 5 inch clearance from side impact airbags, 10 inch clearance from a steering column airbag and 20 inch clearance from a passenger side dashboard airbag. This simple reminder will keep you out of harm’s way or at least peak your awareness when operating at your next motor vehicle crash or extrication call. In some cases you will have to be in a deployment zone as it is necessary to extricate the patient or maneuver around; simply limit your time in the deployment zone.

Recognition of undeployed airbags is important as well in this process. Vehicle manufacturers, foreign and domestic, mark airbags with either “Airbag” or “SRS” for Supplemental Restraint System.

Another important point with airbag safety is in securing the battery to a vehicle especially during rescue operations. Although this does not guarantee your safety from deployed/undeployed airbags it can definitely lower the chances of an airbag deployment during rescue operations.

Every vehicle presents its own challenges. First responders must ensure they are prepared to deal with the challenges presented by airbags. The video below is from a recent staff training session conducted by Mercedes Benz USA. Each airbag is individually deployed. Notice the speed and force with which each airbag deploys. Remember the 5-10-20 Rule as you watch.

 

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April 18, 2012
Air Management
By Captain David A. D'Arcy

The Rule of Air Management (ROAM) states: “Know how much air you have, and manage that air, so that you leave the hazard area before your low-air alarm sounds.”

For years firefighters have been working in hazardous areas until their low air alarm activates. What many firefighters don’t realize is that the low air warning is telling us we are using our reserve air. Self Contained Breathing Apparatus cylinders should be managed in quarters or percentage of supply. The last quarter (25%) is considered reserve air. The final 25% should be considered emergency air supply, not routine use supply.

The rate at which we consume our air supply is different for every firefighter. Air consumption rate (ACR) depends on several factors, but primarily based on two; work load and fitness level. Essentially, the harder you work, the faster you breathe. Without the presence of a stop watch while you work, there is no way of determining the rate at which you are consuming air during an assignment. This makes air management even more important. Firefighters must manage their air supply and plan to exit hazardous areas before reaching reserve air levels.

Unplanned events can and do occur. An equipment failure or collapse of building materials can quickly cause a firefighter to become disorientated or trapped. Working too long into your air supply and not properly planning for your exit of the hazardous area can lead to depletion of your air supply and possibly mean the difference between life and death.

By properly managing your air as you work, you can identify the Point of No Return and ensure you safely exit the hazardous area. The Point of No Return is the period of time or distance into a hazardous area when a firefighter must stop, reverse their progress and begin to exit. This point will be determined by your ACR and can be identified by properly managing your air supply.

Here are some ways you can manage your air in a hazardous area:

1. Check your air at regular intervals. For example, when changing levels, after completing a task and during progress reports to the incident commander or a supervisor.

2. Utilize air conservation techniques during rest periods. For example, skip breathing or Reilly breathing.

3. Monitor how you are breathing while performing assignments. During heavy workloads, breathe in through the mouth and out through the nose. During light workloads, breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Properly breathing will ensure good rate and volume.

4. Know your limitations and don’t over extend operations. Pushing yourself beyond your limits or working too long can lead to trouble.

Conduct an Air Consumption Rate drill on the company level and then practice identifying your Point of No Return at all of your future drills. Enroll in our next Advanced SCBA & Air Management course and expose yourself to a higher level of training. Stay safe, keep training.

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March 16, 2012
The History of the Irish in the Fire Service
By Captain Christopher K. Ayotte

With St. Patrick’s Day soon upon us, although not specifically training, this week’s tip will focus on fire service history, particularly the history of the Irish in the American fire service.

Colonial America

The first volunteer fire company organized in the American colonies was the Union Hose Company in Philadelphia, 1736. As the roles of the company swelled, potential members had to be denied, causing the creation of additional fire companies throughout the city. Companies of every political, religious and ethnical background became common. One of the most prestigious and colorful of the volunteer companies of colonial times was the Hibernia Fire Company No.1, which had supplied many patriots to fight in the Revolutionary War. Founded in Philadelphia, 1752 and made up largely of affluent men of Irish birth or heritage, over the course of its existence, it prided itself on having among its members “signers of the Declaration of independence, ministers, members of Congress, State and national officers, revolutionary chieftains, financiers, merchants, physicians, mechanics, philosophers, and…a clergyman.”
1

Early constitution, rules and by-laws for the company were strict, and breaking them was punishable by fines. For example, the following constitution articles taken from an 1859 publication, Hibernia Fire Engine Company No. 1 Have Caused This Volume to Be Issued In Remembrance of Their Visit to the Cities Of New York, Boston, Brooklyn, Charlestown and Newark, in November, 1859 recorded some of the fines imposed for not having company equipment at the ready.

“First – That we will each of us with all possible expedition at each of our own proper charge provide two Leathern Buckets, two Baggs and one large Wicker Basket with two handles, the Baggs to be made of Good Oznaburgs or wider linen, whereof each bagg shall contain four yards at least and shall have a String fixed near the mouth; which said Buckets, Baggs and Basket shall be marked with our own respective names & Company, kept Ready at hand & apply'd to no other use, than for preserving our own and our fellow Citizens' houses, Goods & Effects in case of Fire as aforcs.”
2

The second article further stated,

“That if any of us shall neglect to provide his Buckets, bags & Basket as afores or when so provided shall neglect to keep them ready at hand and in good order, in a Convenient place near the street door or shall apply them to any other use, but for the Use herein mentioned, he shall forfeit to the use of the Company & pay unto the Clk. for time being the sum of two shillings, except any of them shall be lost or damaged at a fire.”3

The constitution also provided for rules in regards to fire response:

"Fourth – That we will immediately upon hearing of a fire break out repair to the same with our buckets, bags & Baskets & there employ our utmost endeavors to preserve the Goods & Effects of such of us as shall be in danger; and if – more than one of our Goods, Houses and Effects be in danger at the same time, we will divide ourselves as near as may be, to be equally helpful, and such of us as may be spared may assist others in like danger; and to prevent as much as in us lies suspicious persons from coming into or carrying any of the Goods out of such of our houses as may be in danger, two of our Number shall constantly attend at the doors, until all the Goods & Effects that can be saved, are pack'd up and convey 'd into some place, where one or more of us shall attend until they are delivered to or secur'd for the owner. – And upon our first hearing of Fire, we will immediately cause two or more Lights to be placed in our windows, and such of our Company whose Houses may be in Danger shall place Candles in every Room to prevent Confusion & that their Friends may be able to give the more speedy & effectual assistance. – And further as this Association is intended for General benefit, we do mutually agree, that in case a fire should hereafter break out in any other of the Inhabitants' Houses and when none of our own Houses, Goods and Effects are in Danger, we will immediately Repair thither with our Buckets, Bags & Baskets, and give our utmost assistance to such of our Fellow Citizens as shall stand in need thereof. And if it shall appear that any of our members neglected to attend with their Buckets, Bags & Baskets, or to set up Lights in their windows as afores every such neglecting Member shall forfeit and pay to the use of the Company Two Shillings, unless he shall assign some Reasonable Cause to the satisfaction of the Company.”
4

Early minutes, sometimes recorded on slips of paper and never added into the minute book, provide some instances that show that the company invariably had its two or three habitual offenders who had to pay up at every meeting.

“Blair M'CIenachan was, by far, the most frequent sufferer; and paid innumerable two shilling fines, principally for the offence of having merchandise of one kind or other deposited in his baskets.”
5 Also, "Mr. Jo M'Michal is find for having his baskett with glasses in it 2s (shillings)."6

Minutes from the next meeting recorded that:

"Mr. John M'Michael is to show cause for having Merchandize in his Baskett & but one Bag, find 2s." And at the same meeting, "James Wharton wanted a string in one of his bags," and was punished therefore according to the constitution. Members were fined for having holes in their bags, and for not keeping their bags clear of oats, and getting them burned occasionally. John M'Michael and James Wharton, who came in after the original organization, seem to have been the depositor of a sort of reserved fund, upon which the company could draw at pleasure. Continually engaged in the same offense, connected with their " Buckets, Basketts and Bagges," they were fined at almost every meeting.
7

Fines were also collected for meeting absence. The meetings were generally held on a weekly basis and were deemed necessary so that the men could keep their engine and other equipment in good repair as well as practice using it. When this work was done, the men generally got down to serious socializing. Oftentimes the fines were used to help in this last pursuit. Meals and other refreshments were frequently charged against the company’s fund.

Fines, as well as assessments on the members were also used to buy new equipment. In 1790, the Hibernia Company decided that its English-made engine was no longer fit for use, so they contracted with Richard Mason, a maker and seller of fire engines in Philadelphia, to build them a replacement at a cost of ₤160.
8

The Great Potato Famine

While many of the early volunteers were well to do members of society, the second wave of emigration from Ireland brought those who were less fortunate. When the great potato famine struck Ireland in 1845 and continued until 1851, it caused much death and forced many to seek solace in America. They left in droves on tightly packed ships often called “Coffin Ships” because of the deplorable conditions usually causing many deaths aboard. Unfortunately, as the Irish arrived at various east coast ports they found things not much better coupled with massive discrimination. Most had little or no money to make a meaningful choice about their future nor did they possess the funds to start a business. Many had little choice but to remain in the port cities living in cellars, ghettos or “shanty towns” where they clung together.

Finding work was also extremely difficult for the new arrivals as most ads for employment at shops and factories posted signs reading “NINA” – No Irish Need Apply or “INNA” – Irish Need Not Apply. Generally the only jobs available were dirty, dangerous or both. Many worked building bridges, canals and railroads. The other dirty and dangerous jobs held that no one else wanted – police and firemen, were filled by eager Irishmen. It was because of this that the Irish began to affix shamrocks to the fire apparatus as a sign to all that while no one else would have them the fire service welcomed them without prejudice. To this day, the shamrocks can still be seen on our fire apparatus and worn on the helmets and PPE of firefighters across the country as a reminder of their history and Irish heritage.

Another tradition brought to America by the Irish was the playing of the bagpipes at a firefighter’s funeral. We are all familiar with the Emerald Societies named after Ireland – the Emerald Isle, associated with the fire and police services but it was traditional for the Irish to play the bagpipe at Celtic weddings, dances and funerals. Since firefighting was so dangerous, it was sometimes tragic to have several firefighters die while combating a fire and as normal tradition, the bagpipes were played at these funerals. The most famous song aired by the bagpipes at a funeral is Amazing Grace and while played it is somehow all right for a hardened firefighter to cry at the sound of bagpipes when dignity would not let him weep for a fallen comrade. Because of this Irish tradition, it was not too long before families and friends of non-Irish firefighters and police officers began to request bagpipes for their fallen heroes.

Men and women of Irish heritage continue to serve in the ranks of the fire service today carrying on these traditions to future generations.

There you have it. A brief history of how the Irish contributed to the American fire service. Therefore, as you raise your pint of Guinness this St. Patrick’s Day you can thank the Irish for some of the traditions we have today. Sláinte!

1 Dennis Smith, History of Firefighting in America 300 Years of Tradition (New York: Doubleday, 1980), page 28
2 The Hibernia Fire Company, Hibernia Fire Engine Company No. 1 Have Caused This Volume to Be Issued In Remembrance of Their Visit to the Cities Of New York, Boston, Brooklyn, Charlestown and Newark, in November, 1859 (Philadelphia: J.B. Chandler, 1859), pg. 5
3 Ibid
4 Ibid, pg. 6
5 Ibid, pg. 7
6 Ibid
7 Ibid
8 Ibid, pg. 10

 

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November 22, 2011
Unsafe Practices
By Captain Matthew Spears

If the fire service is going to reduce the number of deaths and injuries, then it must take proactive steps to reduce or eliminate unsafe practices. Continued following of unsafe practices becomes the norm rather than the exception if action is not taken to correct them.

How many times have you thought to yourself, "Wow that could have turned out a lot worse"? It could have been you or perhaps another firefighter on the fire or drill ground where these incidents happened. In this Training Tip we will focus on identifying some unsafe practices and provide insight to prevent it from happening to us in the future.

Let’s take a look at some common unsafe practices and their consequences. Remember the overall intent is to make the emergency scene a safer place to work and ensure everyone goes home safely.

    • Firefighters not being seated and belted while the vehicle is in motion
    • Operating on roadways without blocking apparatus or lane closures
    • Incomplete or improper PPE for the incident
    • Complacency on automatic alarms or nuisance calls

Simple Solutions

Seated and Belted
There is no reason a member should not be seated and belted while a vehicle is in motion. For starters, it is the law. Based on current statistics there are over 15,000 reported accidents resulting in almost 1000 firefighter injuries. BUCKLE UP! The time it takes to fasten a seatbelt will not have a negative effect on the outcome of an incident.

Operating on Roadways
When responding to incidents where the roadway will not be closed we must ensure that we block the lane we are working in addition to the next closest lane. The New Jersey
Highway Incident Traffic Safety Guideline details who is responsible and also provides recommendations as to equipment to be utilized during an incident. Download a copy of the document here. In the event we cannot conduct our operations without stopping traffic we should post a member as a lookout to alert members of possible issues.

Incomplete or Improper PPE
How many times have you improperly worn your PPE or worn it improperly? Not only do we need to have the appropriate PPE, we need to wear it properly and ensure we wear SCBA in all IDLH environments. The Toxic Twins are almost always present at every fire and often at high levels. Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen Cyanide can impair your abilities very quickly and cause death in a relatively short amount of time. Read more about Hydrogen Cyanide here.

Complacency
When responding to an alarm sounding call, how many of you actually don all of your PPE, including gloves and hoods. Do you fasten every button and buckle? And don SCBA? How many carry tools? Does the Chauffer actually engage the pump? Are we prepared for what is behind the door? Company officers must ensure all firefighters are preparing for the worse every time the apparatus leaves the firehouse. Becoming complacent during routine incidents can prove fatal.

These are just a few examples of unsafe practices firefighters everywhere engage in. Prepare yourself as if every call is the "Big One". You need to remember we are all trained to operate safely don’t lose sight of the basics and remember the most important part of the job is to return home in the same condition as you left.

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November 15, 2011
Extending the Stretch
By Captain David A. D'Arcy

Regardless of how often we train or how well we pre-plan, we often times find ourselves having to adapt on the fly in order to achieve our objective. Companies with high-rise buildings and standpipes may find themselves in situations like this when it comes to the distance the hose stretch will reach.

The standpipe stretch is man power intensive and one that requires a certain level of coordination. Once the hose team makes the stretch from a standpipe, they are committed to that stretch. If the hose team comes up short or the fire advances to other areas on the floor, they may have to extend the hose line to reach the seat of the fire.

Engine companies that utilize a 2 ½” hose load and shutoff style smooth bore nozzle standpipe kits can prepare themselves to extend the stretch.



The 2 ½” shutoff style nozzle with stacked tips is the ideal nozzle for high rise standpipe firefighting operations. The stacked tips are easily removed and expose the 1 ½” threads on the shutoff.


With the proper fitting the hose team can leave the hose line in place and extend the stretch. Utilizing an increaser fitting will allow the hose team to couple the initially stretched hose line to additional lengths of hose.


The increaser fitting for this application is a 1 ½” female by 2 ½” male rocker lug fitting. The 1 ½” side easily couples to the male shutoff threads.


After coupling the 2 ½” end of the increaser fitting the hose team can couple the next length of hose. The shutoff nozzle now becomes a control valve.

Engine companies must be prepared to effectively make the stretch during standpipe operations. Setting up your standpipe kits to be effective and versatile can make or break the fire attack.

Try extending the stretch during your next standpipe drill. For added difficulty, members can attempt to make the connections is low visibility.

This technique is based on the Denver High-Rise load. The Denver load utilizes three 50’ lengths of lightweight 2 ½” hose and a shutoff style nozzle with a 1 ⅜” waterway and 1 ⅛” tip.

For more information on the Denver load see “Firefighting Operations in High-Rise and Standpipe-Equipped Buildings” by David McGrail, published by Fire Engineering.

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October 28, 2011
Holding the Nozzle
By Captain Jack Hueston

One of the most basic skills we teach a new recruit in the Firefighter One Course is how to hold the nozzle during an offensive fire attack. This skill is the foundation of all firefighting operations. If done correctly, the nozzle-man will be able to counteract nozzle reaction while directing the stream 360 degrees and advancing forward. If done incorrectly, the hose line advance will stall and the nozzle team will take a beating.


Let’s take a look at the proper technique for “holding the nozzle”. In actuality, the nozzle-man never really holds the nozzle; he holds the hose immediately behind the nozzle. While holding the hose he should strive to maintain a minimum of three points of contact between the hose and his body. These points of contact create friction which will help him counteract the nozzle reactionary forces. The hose should be held under his right arm and pinned tightly against his upper torso (contact point #1). The thumb and fingers of his right hand should be flat on the hose and encircle the hose (contact point #2). The left hand should hold the hose immediately behind the male coupling to which the nozzle is attached (contact point #3).

The thumb and fingers of the left hand should encircle the hose with the left palm facing up, creating as much surface contact as possible. If the nozzle needs be open or closed the left hand is easily repositioned up to the nozzle bail. If he still is having problems controlling the nozzle reaction, he can tuck the left elbow inward and brace it on his upper torso (contact point #4). He should also try to maintain at least an arms length of hose out in front of his body. This arms length of hose will allow him to easily move the nozzle in a 360 degree circle out in front of the advancing nozzle team. (See photo #1)

The easiest way to distinguish a well trained and experienced firefighter from a lesser skilled firefighter is just watch the way he holds the nozzle. It will be easy to see. Stay safe.

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October 20, 2011
Flashover Awareness
By Captain Christopher K. Ayotte

Each day, firefighters face the need to correctly evaluate fire behavior and develop a safe means of fire attack. Your correct evaluation of fire conditions (or events) and choice of fire attack can be the difference between life and death. There are no standard rules stating when the phenomenon of flashover will occur. Being able to recognize its warning signs however, will allow the firefighter time to alter tactics and ultimately survive this extreme event.

Flashover is a rapid, spontaneous ignition of a compartment and all of its contents. It can occur in as little as three minutes from first ignition or take considerably longer. The time that it takes for flashover to occur depends on a number of factors that include the size and configuration of the room, fuel load and heat release, location of the fire, room insulation, and ventilation. As a fire burns, thermal radiation feedback allows heat to be absorbed into the adjoining contents and, the ceiling and upper walls of an enclosed space. The radiation feedback heats furnishings and other components in the fire room to their auto-ignition temperatures that then spontaneously ignite. When flashover occurs, it is the end of the growth stage and the transition to the fully developed stage of the fire. It is the end of an effective search and rescue of any trapped occupants. This condition means sure death to any victim trapped within the now fully involved compartment and severe or even fatal injury to any trapped firefighter. Flashover is also the transition from a contents fire to a structural fire. Once the fire compartment has flashed, collapse of the structure must be considered because the fire is now attacking the structural members of the building. Choosing the correct tactics will be very critical at this point of the firefighting operations.

Heat release of fuel loads has dramatically changed over the years. This has caused flashover to occur at lower temperatures and sooner. Years ago, ordinary combustible materials used in the construction of household furnishings did not generate extremely high temperatures and thus resulted in the less likelihood of a flashover occurring. Today’s fire environment consists of furnishings made from many different synthetic materials that have an extremely high heat release and very low ignition temperatures. When ignited, the fuel load tends to release high heat in a short time. This causes flashover to occur much sooner as similar contents reach auto ignition temperatures faster. Couple this with modern, energy efficient building construction and you have the recipe for early flashover. With the advent of residential smoke detectors and modern communication systems, the fire department is arriving at building fires earlier, thus prior to or at the time of flashover. Understanding the warning signs associated with pre-flashover conditions will allow the firefighter to make sound tactical decisions and evade or escape the flashover phenomenon.

Warning Signs
Some of the first signs of impeding flashover can be observed prior to or at arrival. Obviously, if fire is showing upon arrival, flashover has already occurred. What if there is no fire showing and you arrive to a smoke condition? The smoke condition emanating from the structure can give an indication of the fire conditions within. Laminar or light, smooth, streamlined type smoke indicates that the fire compartment is still absorbing heat. This indicates that conditions within the flaming envelope have not advanced to the flashover point. Turbulent or thick dense black or brown smoke however, indicates that the flaming envelope is experiencing extreme radiant heat feedback. The compartment at this point has absorbed all the heat it can and is now looking for a release. Conditions within the compartment are on the verge of flashover. Appropriate tactics should be employed prior to entering the structure.
Heat mixed with smoke on the interior of the building can also be an indication that flashover is approaching. Modern PPE masks temperatures as much as 450oF meaning that if the wearer is forced to crouch or crawl because of the extreme heat conditions, flashover temperatures are likely just four to six feet above the floor. Again, take appropriate measures to avoid danger when this condition is discovered.
A phenomenon known as rollover may preface Flashover. Rollover is a sudden or sporadic flash of flame mixed with smoke at the upper ceiling level exiting the flaming envelope. Firefighters monitoring the overhead conditions can observe this important warning sign and reevaluate tactics.

How to Delay Flashover
Flashover can be delayed in a number of ways. First, the best way to delay flashover is to extinguish the fire before the thermal radiation feedback advances the room and contents to their ignition temperatures. The next tactic to delay flashover is ventilation. Proper ventilation coordinated with the fire attack will allow the pressurized heat and smoke within the compartment to escape ceasing the thermal radiation feedback within the space and the chance of flashover. Compartmentalization of the fire room may delay flashover from occurring by cutting off the air supply to the fire. This action may delay the inevitable for only a few moments however, and must be followed with one of the previous methods. Lastly, cooling the overhead of the flaming envelope with a stream of water will halt the buildup of superheated gases and slow the thermal radiation feedback process. This can be accomplished via hose stream or pressurized water extinguisher. Again, this tactic will only delay the flashover for a few moments, but could provide sufficient time to effect a rescue or escape the immediate area.

Surviving Flashover
The best way to survive flashover is to recognize the warning signs and avoiding getting into a bad situation altogether. A firefighter’s personal protective equipment has limitations. Advancements in PPE allow the firefighter to penetrate further into a structural fire masking the extremely high temperatures and conditions of the fire environment. Designed to reduce the flow of heat and moisture from the fire environment to the wearer, the multi-layered gear protects the wearer from minor cuts, abrasions and offers limited protection from chemical/biological contact. Often, temperatures under 400oF go undetected by firefighters because of the properties of the PPE. As mentioned above, this masking may give the firefighter a false sense of security, pushing further into the structure and further danger. The thermal protection offered by PPE is very limited and could be greatly depreciated dependent on condition and moisture. This could further contribute to early failure of the PPE at the time of flashover. Nomex garments start to degrade at approximately 750oF and approximately 1200oF for PBI, temperatures well below those experienced during flashover in the modern fire environment. If extreme heat conditions force the firefighter to crawl, then conditions may be right for flashover. Consider evasive maneuvers based on this warning information. Your personal protective equipment worn and maintained properly, and your awareness, may be the only thing that saves you. Always monitor your surroundings and constantly evaluate the conditions. Update your tactics as often as conditions dictate and if necessary, retreat to a safer environment. Lastly, attend a flashover awareness course like the one offered at the academy. If offers an informative, safe environment to recognize some of the potential warning signs associated with the flashover phenomenon and is an excellent review/refresher when actual fire incidents are low.

The flashover phenomenon does not have to be a deadly experience for the fire service. Understanding fire behavior and flashover warning signs, knowing the limitations and performance of PPE, making sound tactical decisions and understanding flashover survival techniques can make a structural fire incident safer so that everyone goes home.

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August 19, 2011
Where to stage the Rapid Intervention Crew

By Captain Matthew Spears

Every department operates differently. Some departments prefer staging the Rapid Intervention Crew (RIC) away from the scene, some prefer it near the Command Post (CP) and others are not sure where a RIC should stage. Over the years, I have been exposed to all three of these situations.

In some departments it is policy to have the RIC at the CP. The logic in this case is to ensure good communication between the Incident Commander (IC) and the RIC Officer. The drawback here is that if the CP is far away from the scene then the RIC is far away from the scene. Staging the RIC at the CP works when the CP is located in front of the fire building.

Other departments place the RIC wherever there is room or wherever it will be “out of the way”. In this case, Rapid Intervention is not a priority of the IC and this decision could be costly, should the RIC be delayed when deployed.

Staging the RIC should be a priority and of a strategic nature. When the IC arrives on scene, he considers where to stage various resources and how to effectively command the scene. Where the RIC is staged should be included during the IC’s size-up. Strategically placing the RIC will increase response capability and allow the RIC to conduct its operations more efficiently. Depending on the size of the building and level of fire involvement, there may be a need to stage the RIC in two or sometimes more locations.

Let’s take a look at how a RIC can be effectively staged to maximize its efficiency. A company responds to a possible structure fire assigned as the RIC. Once on scene the RIC Officer meets with the IC and receives a situation/status report. There are flames visible and an aggressive offensive attack in underway. The RIC Officer decides to split his RIC into crews of four on all four corners of the structure. Attack crews are operating in multiple areas of the structure and the RIC’s positioning allows greater access to the entire structure. This is an appropriate decision based on the circumstances and current operation of interior attack crews.

Staging a RIC is a critical task to ensuring the safety of crews working on the scene. As Company and Chief Officer’s it’s important that we always take this into account when conducting size ups and managing resources. Work on it with your department.

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August 12, 2011
Estimating the Hose Stretch
By Captain Jack Hueston

All too often experienced firefighters fall into the “pre-connect syndrome”. That is, stretching the same pre-connected hose line for every fire situation they respond too. This works well most of the time, but every once in a while it will come back to bite them. Stretching a hose line that is too short or too long is inefficient and can prove to be dangerous. Firefighters must know how to properly estimate how much hose is required to reach the objective..

The buildings height, area and set back from the street will indicate the proper amount of hose to stretch. First you must determine who far your point of entry to the fire building is from your engine (set back). Then you need to know what floor the fire is on (height). If stretching up the stairs, add one length of hose for each floor above the first floor. Lastly, add the width of the building to the depth of the building (area). The sum of these three measurements should get you in the ball park.

Let’s look at two examples using the common 200’, 1 ¾” pre-connected hose load.


Example #1: A fire on the third floor of a three story 120’ x 50’ foot wood frame garden apartment. The apartment door opens onto an exterior landing and staircase opposite the street side of the building (Charlie side).

Hose length required:

  • 120’+50’ (area)

  • 100’ (height of third floor)

  • 50’ (set back distance)

  • Total length of hose required = 320’ (almost seven lengths of hose)

  • The 200 foot pre-connect falls short in this situation and must be extended on the fly.

Example #2: A fire in a single story 25’ x 60’ bay-shore bungalow the set back is 10’ from the street. The main entry door is on the street side (Alpha side).

Hose length required:

  • 25’+ 60’ (area)

  • 10’ (set back distance)

  • 0’ (no height)

  • Total length of hose required = 95’ (two lengths of hose)

  • The 200 foot pre-connect is too long. To much extra hose contributes to kinking, unnecessarily high pump discharge pressures and clutter on the fire ground.

Remember to properly estimate the hose stretch prior to the stretch and you will be a sharp, safe and successful fire company.

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August 5, 2011
Building Construction - Types of Construction
By Captain John Drucker

Understanding Building Construction is a crucial part of firefighter safety. New Jersey utilizes (5) five types of construction using a Roman numeral format. They are;;

  • Type I Fire Resistive (Highest)

  • Type II Non Combustible

  • Type III Ordinary

  • Type IV Heavy Timber

  • Type V Wood Frame (Lowest)

The higher the construction type the greater its fire resistance.

Type of construction is further categorized as Protected Construction, Type A and Unprotected Construction, Type B. It’s important to note that this designation applies to the "passive" fire resistance of a building, i.e. the use of concrete, gypsum or spray applied fire resisting materials to protect structural elements and not whether or not a building contains active fire protection systems such as fire sprinkler, fire standpipe or fire alarm systems.

For example a Type IA Building would be of Protected Fire Resistive Construction affording a (3) Hour Fire Resistance rating of the structural frame. It should be noted that most single and two family homes are constructed of Type VB unprotected wood frame construction, the lowest, which carries a fire resistance rating of (0) zero hours. In general the permissible height and area of a building is limited by the occupancy classification and the type of construction.

Information regarding a buildings construction type is available from the jurisdictions building or construction department. Firefighters can use this information for preplanning in understanding how a building may perform under fire conditions.

Additionally we must be keenly aware of the methods and materials used in the construction of a building. Firefighters must be ever vigilant of unprotected lightweight and truss construction, a hazard to all firefighters. Numerous firefighters have been killed or injured where lightweight and or truss construction failed under fire conditions. It’s important to keep in mind that these construction methods are used in commercial and residential buildings.

The New Jersey Uniform Fire Code provides for the posting of a standard "Truss Insignia" for buildings employing truss construction, the exception being one and two family dwellings. If truss construction is known to exist in a building that is not appropriately marked this should be promptly referred to the local Fire Official/Fire Marshal for corrective action.

Some municipalities have also undertaken a program to indentify lightweight construction in one and two family dwellings by way of a special insignia applied to the cover of electrical meter enclosures. Check with your local Fire Official/Fire Marshal to find out if such a program exists in your community.

Here are two documents for your reference. Post them in your firehouses.

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July 30, 2011

Pressurized Water Cans - A Under Utilized Tool During Search

By Instructor Marcelo Aguirre

An under utilized and sometimes forgotten tool of the fire service is pressurized water extinguishers or as most of us know them as; "water cans".

The 2.5 gallons of pressurized water has considerable reach (approx. 50ft when full) and through proper flow and nozzle control, is an invaluable tool for firefighters. From brush fires to search operations, large fires to small fires, effective water can usage can control, contain and even sometimes extinguish fires. The latter of which not being the primary goal but rather a positive result of effective water can usage.

Remember, the primary goal of water can usage is to delay the spread of fire/contain fire until a hoseline begins extinguishment operations, until your crew has finished searching the fire room or your crew and victims have evacuated.

Search team members in the "can-man" positions should remember when encountering fire during search operations, to use short bursts of water, aiming high at the fire. These short bursts can effectively cool, control and contain the fire to a certain area's during the search. Also, should roll over conditions be present, use of the water can to cool the upper, hottest layer of the room can delay flashover while crews evacuate.

Most importantly, the water can must come off the apparatus and be in the hands of a search crew member in order to be used. Remember to use short, controlled bursts of water. You may be amazed at the ability to control/contain a fire with only 2.5 gallons of water.

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July 22, 2011By Captain Rich Michitsch

With summer here we are faced with high heat indexes that result in heat wave conditions and may limit our exposure to the outdoors. As firefighters we don't have the luxury of choosing when and where we work; we all know that Murphy’s laws take affect when temperatures reach 100 degrees and we’re wearing turnout gear. The Safety Officer in all of us should kick into high gear ensuring everyone stays hydrated and reports to rehab. Make sure that you and your fellow firefighters are drinking water throughout operations and consider rehabbing sooner than usual. If you experience heat exhaustion or worse heat stroke, you inevitably become part of the problem not the solution..

Here are two charts for your reference. Review them and post them in your firehouses.

The first is a description of heat related injuries. It describes signs and symptoms, treatment, and how to prevent them.

The second is a urine color chart and water consumption table. During a recent trip to Maryland, I noticed a similar chart posted in the rest rooms of the Baltimore Fire Academy. The charts are posted as a constant reminder to stay hydrated. By using this chart you can determine if you are properly hydrated and it may help prevent heat related injuries.

A key indicator of heat related injuries is sweat. If you stop sweating while you’re working, get to rehab fast. This is an indication of heat stroke, which is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not treated immediately.

All injuries are preventable. Hydrate, rehab and monitor each other for signs and symptoms of heat related injuries.


July 15, 2011
Retain What You've Gained
By Captain David A. D'Arcy

When performing conventional forcible entry the basics still apply.

  • Gap - Create a gap between the door and the frame.

  • Set - Set your tool to properly.

  • Force - Apply force to defeat the locking mechanism and open the door.

However, some locking mechanisms are not easy to defeat on the initial application of force. This may require the tool to be reset for an additional force. This is an area where retaining what you've gained can make forcing the door easier. Instead of completely removing your tool to reset it, insert a door chock to maintain the gap you've created. Once the chock is in place, reset your tool and apply force again. Depending on the construction, lock and door type this method may get you through the door in one or two attempts. Try it the next time you find yourself performing conventional forcible entry.

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