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This winter I have idly sat by as firefighters continue to use the weather as a pathetic excuse to sit inside and table talk issues instead of pushing their limits of comfort and training outside. Weather isn’t something that waits while we have a cup of hot coco in our hands. We respond to calls in every weather imaginable, and we cannot pretend to be prepared if we only train when the sun is out and the snow has stopped falling. It’s common to hear others say, “it’s too cold outside” or “tomorrow is supposed to be warmer lets hold off till then”. What is it that we are really saying when we complain about it being too cold outside? It’s no more than an easy excuse that prevents us from doing the job that we say we love so much. The slight discomfort you’re going to experience is preventing you from becoming fully prepared for that next call in inclement weather. We might as well declare that it’s more important for us to stay warm for the next hour then knowing we will be able to respond in anything mother nature throws our way.

Last month, our crew just finished waxing our extension ladders on the first due rig. The satisfied feeling of a freshly waxed ladder was all the temptation I needed to do some ladder drills. I glance outside at the Colorado flag as it whips violently back and forth and am instantly met with hesitation from the crew as they object due to the wind. “If the ladder falls it could hurt someone” (immediately pull the safety card, there is no argument against firefighter safety) or it could bend the beam and put it out of service (another easy card to pull, first due equipment is our highest priority).

Is this what we are going to say on a real call? Of course not. We’ll go out and do our job as we normally do, but only now, during this real call, I am not proficient at throwing this ladder in the wind. What are my chances of hurting someone now? Would you rather have the ladder fall during training or on a call when someone’s life depends on it? Do we REALLY need to put someone’s life on the line to justify if it was worth taking a few minutes to throw the ladder in the wind?

Even if I never have to throw a ladder in extreme conditions, I can practice and be prepared for anything which only makes throwing the ladder on calm days an easier task. A great example I can give of this is from a class I took by Lt. Ray McCormack with FDNY last month. He said if you constantly train on the 2 ½ how easy will it be to use the 1 ¾ line. Pushing ourselves is part of our job. If that sentence makes you feel nervous, you’re in the wrong profession. Ray made a good point that all of us as professionals need to live by. Make your training hard, make it in all types of weather and all situations, and then when calls do come, you will be more than prepared.

What I’m trying to get at here is, push your limits when given the chance. Test yourself. Experience the worst case scenarios before they happen so when it is real, you’re ready. Pull hose in the snow till your regulator freezes and learn how to trouble shoot it, throw ladders in the wind, practice vertical vent till it’s to hard to run a chain saw because your fingers are so cold. Do you know if the fan moves when the concrete is covered in ice? Next time you’re glad you aren’t outside, go outside and train. You tell me what’s more important, feeling comfortable or knowing you are prepared for anything.

We understand that this is an unjust world, where suffering and loss are inevitable. The glimmer of hope shines in the night, as the red lights bounce of the rain soaked pavement, and the siren’s song wails its imperfect pitch. The sick, the injured, the trapped, and the terrified, should be consoled in the comfort of the fire departments arrival. Moving towards the unknown, towards those who seek solace from this quandary, will you be certain that the challenge you face can be looked at in the eye and scoffed at? Have you made the commitment?

“When you lay your head down at night, and see your reflection from the mirrored ceiling in your mind, will you like what you see, can you fall asleep knowing you have done all you can do?”

The hours, days, & months, which turn into years, were each of them committed to the cause, were they committed to ensuring you are up to the task? All of those training sessions, PowerPoints, and lectures giving you the knowledge of why and what is required. The converse side of the equation demands hours upon hours of uncomfortable positions, heat, cold, and sweat, which should all add up to the few moments of tolerating pure hell to complete the task. “We walk where the devil dances.” Piss off, we need to go up to that devil and kick him in the nuts every training session. You can take that one and all the other quirky and tripe sayings, and shove ‘em where the sun don’t shine. We shall be triumph on the field of battle, through our commitment to the cause, even when there is no war.

“We walk where the devil dances…” piss off, we need to go up to that devil and kick him in the nuts every training session.

I have seen it in the eyes of those with an over abundance of confidence in the classroom shift to total apprehension when tasked with the practical application. It is easy to stay hidden in the cloud of chalkboard dust. Go ahead, remain anonymous in classroom conformity, because you will be exposed on the stage of hands on application when in the spotlight, all alone. Why and how did we get to this point? Where have we failed each other and ourselves? The knowledge comes first, then training for proficiency, all culminating with real time drills that have a sense of urgency attached, as the last line of demarcation between preparation and execution. The passion and desire for excellence should be read on the faces of our brethren. A lifelong commitment to the craft is waged, and we are the only custodians, no one else will do this for us. Throw that ladder one more time, don your SCBA until its second nature, read the SOP until you can recite it front to back, and never be left with the burning question, “could I have done more?” Make the commitment to improve everyday.

As the day ends and you look up at your mirrored ceiling, make the commitment to dedicate yourself to our just cause in this unjust world, by answering the question with “today I did all that I can do and tomorrow will do even more” rather than being faced with the question “had I just?”

The struggle within. A constant battle between conviction and complacency.

The struggle within. Seeking illumination on what is to come, abhorred by the stranger I used to be.

The struggle within. Conscious of how I am perceived, versus how I desire to be seen.

The victory within, for I shall never surrender, to the struggle within.

 

We are all swimming in the same water. Many allow the slow moving current to waft them across waters surface to a destination, easily, and worry free. But they, will never make a splash.

A few will go against the current. Staring in the face of the rapids and enthusiastically welcoming the challenge. We will try. We may fail. Yet we try again. Maintaining determination and perseverance, allowing all apathy to wash away.

Who dared to go against the current succeed, as their will brought them there, even if it places them just out of reach of the goal. The triumph is yours, as all who dared to pull you under are washed away. They lacked the strength to go against the current.

“Be the best you, that you can be!”

No one fire department has all the answers, but all the fire departments may give the best answer to your question.

We can all learn from each other. The smallest rural department to the largest urban. Each of us have strengths and weaknesses. Only our attitudes make us different, when we choose not to learn best practices from all.

Be the best you, so your department can be its best, so we all can give our best to them; the community we each serve.

A civilians guide to saving lives & property.

The newest training module we have put together is a targeted piece for members of the community. This focuses on closing the door! Please share this with friends and family members.

http://firetrainingtoolbox.com/modules/closedoor/index.html

Also,

http://engineco22.net/modules/safety/index.html

In this final installment we will look at the branch piping and sprinkler heads in the wet pipe system. This piping is designed and arranged in a specific pattern, based upon its intended function. For example, a storage facility may have long runs of piping with heads arranged in rows. This design will provide fire control for the area. Think of this as the default design. A large open space could change configurations over the structures lifetime, hopefully, the piping and head configuration will match the needs. Many times these systems are fire suppression systems.

“Fire control is the method of decreasing temperature of fire gases and pre-wetting combustibles, keeping the fire in check.”

“Fire suppression sharply reduces temperature and directs water application onto burning materials which prevents re-growth.”

At a glance these may appear to be the same thing, but when it comes to the design of fire protection systems they are dramatically different. For more details the two types please refer to – http://firetrainingtoolbox.com/convsup.pdf

The piping that used is typically the same grade as the riser piping just much smaller in diameter. These lines should also be secured with “bomb proof” hangers. Attached to these lines are the sprinkler heads.

Photo courtesy of http://www.baysidefire.com/

Sprinkler heads come in a wide variety of types and temperature ratings. Their orientation can be concealed, flush, upright, pendant, recessed, and sidewall. Just a few of the designs include open, early supression-fast repsonse, control mode, spray, and standard. We then get into the method of activation. Common ways are frangile bulb and fusible links. These will break or fuse at their designed temperature to allow the flow of water to occur.

As an engine company your role may be to support the system. Keeping the system filled with water and at the proper pressure can be paramount during a fire. Do not stop supporting the system until directed by Incident Command.

With knowledge and training an operation, that includes an activation of the Fire Protection system, will be mitigated with confidence and rigor. Fire Protection systems will become a powerful allie for those who understand there operation!

OPERATIONAL CRITICAL THINKING

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Strategical Guidelines – Department SOGS provide a baseline for operations line personnel will encounter. They are not hard rules that must be followed step by  step for each event. Company Officers and Incident Commanders are well versed in the SOGS, and have the fortitude that allows for deviation when required.

Tactical Patience – Incident Commanders and line personnel exercise tactical reserve, and perform only the tasks needed for the current operation. We stay diligent, maintaining a focus on task completion. Rigid processes of “checkbox firefighting” can set crews up for failure. Our strategical and tactical playbook is well written and versed, with the ability to call an “audible” when the incident dictates. Provide protection for lives in harms way, maintain crew integrity and complete the task in order of priority.

Crew Resource Management – Personnel performing the work will be supplied with all the necessary tools, equipment and support to complete the task. The Command Staff is there to support the work, and the line workers. Additional resources will be available when required for relief. Assignment of crews should only occur when a task is required to be completed. We must understand, “not everyone will get to play.”

Training for Operational Excellence – All members receive appropriate and timely training for the tasks they are expected to perform. Training will also include situations for critical thinking. Our baseline SOGS provide the framework for functional effort, however alert, “heads up firefighting” using critical thinking is required for operational excellence. Training complacency is training for failure.

After the isolation valve and clapper is the Riser pipe. The riser has one purpose, deliver water to the branch lines. A few discussion points can be made about the riser.

The riser makes “the water rise up!’
  • Depending on the pipes diameter it should meet Schedule 5, 10,  30 or 40.
  • Above ground piping should be ANSI, UL and FM approved materials.
  • Piping is hung with approved hangers to what we like to call “bomb proof anchors.”  Meaning if a bomb went off would that still be standing?
  • A visual inspection shall be performed regularly to check for damage including holes, friction damage and other  types of physical damage.

An intergral component of the system.

 

The riser pipe is a simple yet intergal compenent of the Wet Pipe Fire Protection system. This pipe directs the flow of water up to the ceiling level where it connects with main lines which in turn connect to the branch lines. The next post will focus on these other lines as well as sprinkler heads.

For more on Sprinkler Systems make sure to read NFPA 13.

Fire Protection Systems come in variety of forms depending on the application of how and what they will protect. When focused on water systems, we still have a few options. The most common is the Wet Pipe system, which consists of a water source, valve & associated piping, riser, branch lines and closed sprinkler heads. These systems are very simple and reliable. Today will focus on the valve in the wet pipe system.

Two parts make up this section of a wet system, the isolation valve and the clapper. The isolation valve performs just what the name implies, isolates the associated riser from the water source or header. This may be a Outside, Stem & Yoke (OS&Y) or a butterfly valve. The OS&Y is easily identifiable with its long threaded stem that should be fully visible when the valve is opened. If you do not see the stem, then the valve is closed and during pre-planning ensure to ask why. The butterfly valve will have a smaller handwheel and a “flag” should identify the position of the valve. When the flag is vertical or up & down, the valve is open. When horizontal or “side to side” the valve is closed.

Many shapes and sizes of clapper valves can be found in todays systems. A clapper or check valve controls the flow of water. This ensures that the system main and branch piping maintains water pressure, so that the heads actuate properly when needed. If the pressure below the clapper increases and opens the valve, then excess pressure is realeased through the retard chamber. We will cover that on another day.

Below you will find examples of valves that you may encounter. Remember, there are two main elements to the Wet Pipe System valve, the isolation valve and the clapper.

Clapper or Check Valve access cover plate.

Having access to systems valves is critical.

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