Does this look familiar? Have you been to a fire where companies failed to remove bars off the windows? I am sure by now we all understand how important this is to the safety of our members operating inside, much less the occupants that are cut off by fire. So what’s the problem?
Is it a system or operational problem?
How strong are your fireground SOP’s, do they cover this important fireground task?
Does your Training Division and Company Officers address these challenges?
STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES
Without strong operational standard operating procedures (SOPs) how do we ensure critical tasks do not get overlooked? SOPs function effectively because units are assigned specific tasks based on the occupancy and response order. An example of a department’s SOPs states that one of the responsibilities of Truck Company members assigned to position #4, Outside Vent firefighter (OV) is to remove bars off of the windows, this will ensure that this critical task will not get overlooked. This also gives ownership of the important task to these specific members. Communicating expectations will motivate the members to focus their training on their roles on the fireground. If this member is unable to remove the bars for some reason it is his/her responsibility to communicate this to command.
Are the members of your department confident in their ability to successfully remove window bars in an efficient manner? Or, is this an issue that tends to slip through the cracks? This is a relatively easy task that is often overlooked when planning company drills. Take the time to develop props that will reflect the challenges you will face in your district. Realistic challenges on the training ground will build confidence on the fireground, a confident firefighter is an aggressive firefighter and the fireground needs aggressive actions.
In the photo to the left you see a member standing next to a window on floor 1 at the rear of a multiple-dwelling apartment building. The window bars are standing proud of the wall and are connected on two sides; they are also out of reach without a ground ladder. This window will be attacked differently than a window that is recessed into brick and mortar connected on four sides. The member going to the rear of this structure should have a metal saw, halligan bar, 6’Hook, and 24’ extension ladder. Without the ground ladder this member would have a difficult time addressing the window bars, not to mention reaching the floor above for ventilation and rescue. When providing horizontal ventilation, resist the urge to take the glass prior to removing the bars. Operating the metal saw in smoke may choke out the saw and will obscure your visibility unnecessarily making the removal more challenging and may be delayed.
Failure to plan is planning to fail…
This is a great company drill; grab a hook, halligan bar, metal saw and walk around your district and discuss with the crew how you would attack different challenges. Discuss multiple techniques; have a plan A, B, and C, make sure to include conventional techniques. Never solely rely on one technique, especially when it requires the use of a saw. On a side note, this is a great time to reinforce why we must run the saws at the start of every shift.
When you get back to the firehouse bring out the new window prop you built on your days off and let the crew cut re-bar and flat stock in various positions both on and off a ground ladder. This gives the crew a chance to handle the saw other than on the morning checks or on the fireground, for most of our members this is the only occasions we operate the metal saws. Encourage your members to test some of the theories they discussed on the pre-fire walk. Every company has that “idea guy”. Give that member an opportunity to test some of those good ideas.
In this job the devil is certainly in the details. Discussing the plan with your members, laying out the expectations and giving them the opportunity to train repeatedly on what they are expected to accomplish is absolutely imperative for operating at a high level on the fireground. Having a plan on who will be responsible for removal of the bars and repetitive task level training on the plan pays off. It pays off for the citizens that we are sworn to protect and it will pay off for our members.
Here is a great public service announcement from Miami Dade Fire Rescue that illustrates the importance of being prepared for the worst.