Thursday, December 13, 2012

Conducting an end of the year reflection. It is for YOU.

A firefighter’s year is unlike the year of anyone else. It is filled with trials, tribulations, positive events, challenges, happiness, and sadness. It is important that at the end of the year, firefighters take time to conduct a reflection and review of the year. Through this review, firefighters can learn from the positives and negatives and let go of the negatives, as well as allow for closure.

Firefighters should review the following aspects of the year. I suggest you use the sample form below and privately fill this out. Be honest with yourself. No one else will see this review. This is completely for you. After you finish, reflect on what you have addressed with yourself. When you finish reflecting, throw the document away. The year is closed and you have the outcomes of your review in your head. Write down your goals for the next year. Post them in locations that you will see them regularly and hold yourself accountable.

Religion: Are you satisfied with where you are on a religious level? What can you do to fix that if you decide you are falling short? This is your business and no one else's. You know what your believe. Stay true to that.

      Family: Are you satisfied with your family life? Have you placed your family as a priority? Often the fire service will consume you. Have you taken the appropriate amount of time and set it aside for your family. If you fell short of where you need to be, learn from that shortcoming and fix it in the next year. Don’t wait to fix family issues. We live a life on the edge. Never place the fire service ahead of your family.

      Education: Have you met the goals of your educational requirements? Are you in school? Did you train to the best of your ability?

Negatives: Did you run a call that didn’t go well? Did you have an incident that bothered you? Did you fall short on your training objectives? What skill set areas are you lacking in? Of all the negatives encountered this year, what lessons have you and can you take with you into the next year?

Positives: End with this section of your review. What went good? Review how you achieved the good? What calls stand out as good calls in your mind? What areas of training did you do well at this year? Review the positives and create goals for the next year.

As a firefighter you cannot keep the negatives at the forefront of your career and personal life. You take the lessons learned from the negatives with you and leave the details and visions of the negative situation in the past. If you need help dealing with a negative you encountered this year, please talk to someone. Good firefighters have a tough time dealing with negative situations at times and some runs will bother you. It is how you deal with it that matters. The bottom line is you are a firefighter, the toughest of tough, a brave soul, a selfless individual, a caring individual, and a human. Sometimes firefighters need a little help. Do what you have to for yourself and your family.

In closing, this is my last blog post for 2012. I want to thank Chief Bobby Halton and Fire Engineering for giving me a chance this year. I love the job and love sharing my views on the job with the brother and sister readers of the Fire Engineering Blog Network. This has been a dream come true for this firefighter and I look forward to writing in 2013.

I also want to thank my brothers at Tailboard Firefighting of North Carolina for continuing to push right beside me to deliver quality training to the fire service. A little over a year ago, Justin Brown, Jeff Hannum, Ben Davis, and myself sat down and decided to create Tailboard as an outlet to lead the new generation of firefighter and promote progressive training and standards. Captain Erick Mohn of Wake Forest Ladder 1 provided much needed encouragement to the Tailboard team and displayed true leadership by pushing his guys to create something so special. This year, Tailboard has taken off and became such a positive in all of our lives.

I will be sitting down and doing my end of the year review after Christmas. I hope you will take the time to do that same, for YOU. You do so much for others, do this for YOU. Stay safe out there, train hard, and enjoy the holidays.

Your brother,

Justin Graney

* Tailboard Firefighting of North Carolina delivers quality training through social media and courses delivered at your firehouse. Email for information on courses.

Firefighter Year End Reflection






Goals for the coming year:

Friday, November 30, 2012

Company Proficiency or freelancing?

Is knowing your job and going to work without a direct order from the Chief based on a set standard, freelancing or company proficiency?

On fire scenes across the U.S., firefighters at organized, professional, and proficient fire departments go to work with a “game plan” in place prior to arriving on the scene of an incident. The playbook that contains these “game plans” is called a fire ground procedure. This gives firefighters the unprecedented ability to function in needed roles without the incident commander having to assign each individual company a task, so long as the incident’s characteristics do not require a change in the “line up”.  This is a fluid procedure that is not a bible. We want firefighters that can think and make educated decisions, not robots that can read a book. How often is job proficiency seen as freelancing? More than you think.

I am in charge syndrome:

Chiefs often feel that they need to keep their thumb on every company in the fire department. They must control everything from what equipment is on the trucks, to how the hose is packed, to every move companies make on a fire scene. People call this management, I call this dangerous. This micromanagement of fire companies creates a fire service that is afraid to make a decision for fear of repercussions. Failure to make a decision causes situations that firefighters can be hurt or killed.

“Micromanagement is job security for insecure people”
- Dr. Richard Gasaway

A fire department that is heavy on the policies will create situations in which company officers fail to make decisions under stress filled situations due to the fear of consequences from the administration. Chief officers need to understand their role just as a new firefighter must understand his. Micromanagement is a death sentence to a fire department starting with morale and ending with department proficiency. As a fire department leader, you need to be encouraging your personnel to make decisions, learn from mistakes, and decide what they want for their company so long as it abides by the organizations values and mission.

Preparing for the job:

The fire ground procedure should be an outline of the direction the fire department will take when operating on scene of an incident. For example, your fire ground procedure may have the following initial set up:

1st Due Engine- Fire Attack
2nd Due Engine- Water Supply
3rd Due Engine- Rapid Intervention
4th Due Engine- Assist with Ladder/Rescue Company Operations
1st Due Truck Company- Ladder Company Operations
5th Due Engine and later- Report to staging

A good fire ground procedure also states the benchmarks an incident commander should make. Some fire departments have expanded on this to the point of using the fire ground procedure as a step-by-step guide for fire ground operations. I cannot even begin to express how dangerous I feel this is. When you take the ability of firefighters to make decisions based on the situation they are facing, you are setting your department up for failure and possibly worse.  The fire ground procedures should be able to be altered at anytime if needed for operational success. For example,

 The 3rd due Engine (Rapid Intervention) may arrive and the 1st due Engine has a line stretched inside fighting fire. There are multiple reports of subjects trapped. The 2nd due Engine is still tied up with securing a water supply. The fire ground procedure should allow for that 3rd due Engine to become the “search group”. With that change, the incident commander just “backfills” the fire scene benchmarks as units arrive.

Like anything else, if you don’t train on it as a company and with the companies you respond with, you will burn homes to the ground. Organize your thoughts, share them, train on them, and be open to ideas and procedures from around the country. 


Discuss this concept with your company. If you have a fire ground procedure, refresh yourselves on it. Also discuss different scenarios in which changes would be made to the procedure to achieve the operational goals of an incident. By training on these concepts, you create the ability to think outside of a written document when faced with different situations.

I ask you again. Is knowing your job and going to work without a direct order from the Chief based on a set standard, freelancing or company proficiency?

Train hard, remain open to new concepts, and work hard to progress the fire service.  Do you have it?

Chief Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, who is quoted in this article is with Situational Awareness Matters, Helping first responders see the bad things coming in time to change the outcome. You can visit his website at

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mayday! Are you prepared to go home?

Firefighter Mayday. No one wants to think about it happening and many don’t think it can happen to them. If you think it cannot happen, you are oh so wrong.  Are you as a firefighter prepared to make that distress call under the emotional and physical demand of the situation? Have you given yourself permission to put aside your pride and make the mayday transmission that could potentially save your life? Are you as an officer prepared to manage the mayday and subsequent Rapid Intervention Crew deployment without letting your emotions run wild?

A large obstacle today that creates situations in which firefighters enter into a mayday parameter is not enough training on the basics.

Bottom line. When you forget the basics and your skills get rusty, you will put yourself in a situation that can make you fall into one of the mayday parameters. You may push your luck 99 times and be fine. That 100th time, those shortcuts and mistakes will catch you. 

You remember that salty old captain that would say in your rookie academy, “ the basics will save your life”? People would most likely roll their eyes. You know what? He was right on the money. The basics of firefighting will enable you to go home in the morning. Yes you are a 10-year veteran and yes you have seen some fire. The minute you forget the basics, you are no better than the green new guy on his first day. Complacency is dangerous and deadly. 

The basics or lack of basics is one major reason firefighters enter into a mayday parameter. For example, lightweight truss construction under fire will fail quickly. Knowing the signs of an impending collapse is a basic that comes with experience and knowledge of building construction, along with knowing the characteristics and behavior of the construction type in fire conditions.

However, this job is dangerous and bad things will happen that are out of your control. The only thing that would make this job safer would be to just go ahead and do away with interior firefighting. Many “new age” firefighters endorse this concept. Don’t forget that firefighting is not a safe job and you signed up to take that risk to make a difference.  It is managing that level of risk through training on basics and firefighter survival that will lessen the potential for a poor outcome. Learn the basics, know your job, serve, and go home.

Several years ago, I was in a large residential house fire. The home had been struck by lightening where a natural gas line was running through a first floor. There was a full basement. Fire was inside of that first floor. We were in the basement pulling ceiling and hitting the fire. Visibility was very low. When the order came to exit and rehab, I told my officer that I had to go back through the basement and grab the TIC off a pool table. Alone I walked through the basement, which had hallways and rooms. After about 2 minutes, I realized I was lost. I no longer knew which way was out or where the pool table was. Time to call a mayday?

It should have been the time. I was disoriented in a large residential mansion with limited air supply. My breathing began to speed up as I felt that little bit of panic. I didn’t call the mayday, as I should have, mostly because of a lack of training and experience. I ended up finding my way out by following a wall and I got lucky. Several things to take away from this story: never set a tool down, stay with your crew or maintain awareness of where they went and know when to call the mayday. It can be canceled. We need to stop being tough guys and make the call when the criteria fits. Only after the mayday has been called can the firefighter begin to attempt to fix the situation.

I recently attended a National Fire Academy course on Firefighter Mayday. This course was taught in line with the State of North Carolina Rapid Intervention Certification. The instructor, Chief Tony Bailey, a Wake County, NC District Chief at the Stony Hill Fire Department, gave a lecture in the classroom that sent home one bulletproof point. 

“Firefighters must give themselves permission prior to getting on the fire truck to call a mayday.” –Dr. Burton Clark

As a National Fire Academy recognized course, the hands on training portion had to meet several mayday parameters. I encourage all companies to make these props at your firehouse and train regularly on it. These are all training scenarios that can be simulated with a low budget in your department.

Lost- Have the firefighter follow a charged hose line with their mask blacked out. Once they enter into a hallway or room, simulate a collapse that has blocked their exit of the room.

8.     Stuck- Using an entanglement box, create a situation in which a firefighter has become stuck. Ask the firefighter if he has any hand tools in his/her gear and have them attempt to reach it. (This same situation can be used with several ropes or wires to entangle the SCBA of the firefighter if an entanglement box is not available)

     Trapped from a collapse- Using a section of chain link fence, have two instructors pin a firefighter to the ground while the firefighter is following a hoseline.

     Fall- Using a hinged floor or ramp, create a collapse of the floor in which the firefighter falls onto two mattresses from a height of about 4 foot.

At each mayday parameter station, the firefighter must gain access to his/her radio and properly transmit a mayday over the radio. Taking your gloves off is unacceptable as it will bring an instructor telling you that your hand is now burned. 

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Dr.Burton Clark of the National Fire Academy about Mayday. Dr.Clark is was a major player in developing our current mayday procedures and training that is used in this country. The above quote as well as much of our modern Mayday system is derived from Navy pilots. These pilots go over the steps of their mayday and ejection procedures before each flight. During my conversation with Dr.Clark, he made the point, “ you check your SCBA daily to ensure there is air to keep you alive, why do we as firefighters not take the time to refresh ourselves on the mayday system and procedures prior to our shift?”  The Navy pilots also are trained that they will give themselves permission to eject and call a mayday if the situation presents itself. Dr.Clark used this concept to develop the training quote listed above; “Firefighters must give themselves permission prior to getting on the fire truck to call a mayday.”

Dr.Clark made one major point during our conversation. “ Firefighters cannot call a mayday if they don’t have a radio or leave it on the truck.” That sentence got me thinking. Why in heaven’s name would a firefighter that had access to a portable radio not take the radio with them when they get off of the truck? That is just crazy. Beyond that, why in 2012 do we not have a portable radio available for every seat on the fire truck? I don’t want to hear about budgets and the economy. Chiefs must find the money. I am sure there is something you can cut or do without to purchase some radios. When it comes to making this purchase, you are making the purchase of an important tool that could allow someone to do as they are trained, call for help, and go home to their family.

On to the officers now………

Are you ready to manage that mayday? Do you have your policy memorized? This will be the most stressful time of your career. Muscle memory has to take place. Training takes over and you continue in game mode. That is if you took the time to train on it. Has the department created any worksheets or guides that are on scene of calls for the IC to help him in the event a mayday is called? Bottom line officers:  you need to be ready. If you fail, your firefighter and possibly more could die.

Training Challenge:
I suggest that every company officer create several flash cards that detail a situation that meets a mayday parameter. When you are at the grocery store or the firehouse, hand your firefighter a card. As soon as the firefighter gets the card he says “mayday, mayday, mayday.” The officer answers in the appropriate manner and the firefighter proceeds with his mayday message per the department policy. This teaches firefighters to always pay attention to their surroundings and maintain awareness of where you are inside a building. This helps the officer create muscle memory for dealing with the mayday from a command standpoint. Don’t forget officer, you need to be able to call a mayday also. Give a few cards to your newest firefighter and tell him to catch you off guard and let your senior firefighter or newest officer run the command side. Play with it for every shift day for one month. At the end of the month, do some hands on mayday training and see how much improvement has occurred. You will be surprised.

Remember, the basics are just as important now as when you were a rookie. Training on your mayday procedure regularly is also important to maintain a state of readiness. If the basics fail you, which they rarely will, you have a plan B. The Plan B that is not giving up. The Plan B that will allow you to go home. Stay safe out there.

A special thank you to Dr. Burton Clark of the National Fire Academy for contributing to this blog post, Captain Brian Goodwin for assistance with photo and video, Chief Tony Bailey and the Stony Hill Fire Department for use of their training facility which assisted in creation of this blog post. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The importance of holding firefighters accountable

The firehouse culture that takes feelings into account before job proficiency and responsibility is dangerous. Giving people a hard time to prove a point is no longer acceptable and will often times land you a trip to the boss’ office.  A hard time is firehouse culture folks, and there is a reason. Firefighter Accountability. 

The school of hard knocks has been in existence in the fire service for long before anyone reading this article has ever thought about a fire truck. The firehouse culture is a proving ground that prepares you for all aspects of the job. Many would call this type of bantering or belittling someone as “hazing”. I disagree fully. We are not branding someone’s skin or stabbing you in the chest with your fire badge. You teach values, responsibility, attention to detail, and pride out of this school of hard knocks. For example, Johnny firefighter with a few years on the job always forgets to bring in soap for showering. A little bit of verbal jousting may be required to “motivate” Johnny to not forget his personal items for his tour of duty. Many of you may think that this is a trivial area that we shouldn’t be concerned with and that we have bigger things to worry over. You are wrong. Today, Johnny forgets his soap again and we just give him some and let it go. Tomorrow, Johnny forgets his fire gloves on a run. The next day Johnny forgets his portable radio, and the following day, Johnny forgets how to pull YOU out of a fire when the floor collapses. Such a simple task like bringing soap from home teaches responsibility, accountability, and memory. It is the small things in the firehouse that branch out and build you as a firefighter.

You are the Fire Chief of a small 2 firehouse, town fire department. You have a company officer that continues to make tactical decisions that many complain about. You are worried that these continued uninformed, sketchy decisions would get someone hurt or worse yet, killed. The officer does not take criticism well and will lash out if he is called out. What do you do?

I know what everyone will say should be done. That is, deal with the problem directly, offer that officer more training, and do your job as the fire chief to correct a failure of your company officers. That is great that most will see that this is the appropriate course of action. The problem here is that most everyone that is in a position that encounters substandard subordinate performance will not correct or even address the problem. Officers are too busy being office managers and worrying about a supply order than leading their people. As an equal rank to a substandard firefighter, is it ok to run your mouth a little to shine light on the problem and inspire a bit of motivation? Yes it is ok. Remember, the performance of your other company members directly affects you and your survival. Should you offer assistance to the substandard employee in the form of advice or training? Absolutely. Your team is only as ready as your weakest firefighter.

I am not perfect. I have never claimed to be. I am the new boy on my crew with almost 3 years on the job at my current assignment full time. The new boy’s job is to fill the ice bucket daily. I forget that ice bucket regularly. My crew, most of which are seasoned fireman at this assignment, give me hell. I get junk talked to me and I deserve it. They are teaching me responsibility. It is my job, and I let them down. I get caught up in “important” things and I forget the little things. Now we don’t have ice at the dinner table because of me. See how this works?

Don’t forget to tell folks when they do a good job. Don’t always jump in on the bad, unless they just don’t get it. Firemen that don’t get it should be shown the door. That may seem like harsh words, but if my life depends on you, I expect you to know your stuff. This feel good service is going to get people hurt. If today’s firefighter cannot take a little junk at the house, how in God’s name will they take seeing people mutilated in accidents, or vicious assaults? The best Fire Chief I ever had would tell you when you made a good decision, did a good job, and was not afraid to tell you when you needed to change a behavior.

This goes for training also. You know the substandard firefighter (“Mutt” in firehouse slang) that cannot ever get motivated and HATES to train? If you are a career guy, you get PAID to train for the job. How much better does that get? Training is getting to go to recess for me. It takes us away from the admin duties, the firehouse drama, the stress of life, and allows us to sharpen our skills. Bottom line, it is fun. When I finish training, I love the job even more. I am pumped up and ready to take in a run. It refreshes you, nourishes you, and builds you and your crew up. Train daily. It’s like exercise. You start doing it everyday and it becomes part of your life and you feel malnourished without it.

Officers, you need to mandate training. It is NOT ok for some substandard firefighters to exclude themselves from the crew during training and run off to hide. We need to stop trying to make everyone feel welcome and run a FIREHOUSE. If they cannot be apart of the crew, show them the door. If they care and are trying, make every attempt in your every being to help them out, encourage them, and teach them. If you as an officer cannot be a leader, step aside before something bad happens.

“Leadership without management accomplishes nothing, and management without leadership accomplishes a whole lot of nothing.” – Dr.Richard Gasaway

 I sat at the kitchen table on a recent night after training at my firehouse. I looked around and at the seasoned brothers eating their dinner. I thought to myself, what an honor it is to dine at this table and live in this house. There are hundreds of people that would love to sit in my seat. It is an honor. Not a privilege. Being part of the brotherhood is an honor you are given. Not a privilege. Just because you work in the house and think you are a fireman, doesn’t make you part of the brothers. You have to be accepted into this elite group by working hard and loving the job.

I am introducing two new terminologies for guys that “get it”.

“New Firefighting Order”. The New Firefighting Order is today’s firefighters building the fire service in today’s world with yesterday’s history, knowledge, and values. #NFFO

The new term is #GHM. It stands for “Go Home Mutts.” We are taking a stand to not let the paycheck guy ruin this fine profession and lifestyle. Keep pushing for what is right, train hard and consistently, love the job, and stay safe out there.

Dr.Richard Gasaway who is quoted above is with Situational Awareness Matters.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Diversity in hose lines: a simple key for success

I am well aware that this is a topic that will often get the guys emotions going. I also know that not every run is the same. So why do we have hose lines that are the same length and size on the same truck? Why are we not diversifying our loads to give more variety in selection? If your company has thought outside of the box and diversified your hose lays, I applaud you. 

I give this example to illustrate the concept.

A cop pulls up to a bank robbery. He pulls his 9mm handgun. The bank robber drops his handgun and pulls out a shotgun. The cop runs to his cruiser and opens the trunk, and pulls another 9mm handgun. A second bank robber emerges and is holding a rocket launcher. The cop calls for SWAT backup. They arrive with 9mm handguns.

See a trend here? We all know that the police carry a variety of weapons with them for quick, preset solutions and choice.

Taking a guess and assuming that the majority of fire departments have two cross lays that are the same size and length, a larger hand line off the rear of the truck that is maybe a little longer and supply line. You might even have a front jump line, booster line, or a trash line off the back.
A common crossly set up. Two 200' or identical pre connected lines.
A common front bumper "trash" line
A common large diameter handline and supply line
My question for you is, why don’t we have more of a preconnected solution at our fingertips? Why don’t we take a plunge into the new and pack several different length lines to give us a quick choice on the fireground.

For the sake of this article, lets assume we all ride a truck that has a front jump line, a booster line, two cross lays, and the possibility of 2 preconnected hose lines off the rear. A solid attack line setup recommendation would be:

150' 1.75" line off the front bumper
250' 1.75" line on the front crosslay
300' 1.75" line on the rear crosslay
300' 2.5" line off the rear
400' 1.75" line off the rear
The 2.5” line can be easily used for a courtyard long lay situation, but have the 3” option ready to go if needed. I am  fan of the courtyard long lay and I feel that it has it's place; but I have to think on a three man staffed truck, is having longer preconnected lines quicker and more versatile than setting up the courtyard. By courtyard, I am speaking of using a 2” or larger line to a gated wye with 1 or 2 attack lines supplied by the 2”or larger line.

DISCLAIMER: I am NOT saying you shouldn’t be proficient in the courtyard and preconnected lines. Any set up possible on your truck is your job, and when the boss calls for it, you better know your job.

Lets look briefly at the friction loss of my above scenario:

Front jump (150’ 1.75” line flowing 150 from a fog, rule of thumb 35 per 100): 152.5 PSI

Front crosslay (250’ 1.75” line flowing 150 from a fog, rule of thumb 35 per 100): 187.5 PSI

Rear crosslay (300’ 1.75” line flowing 150 from a fog, rule of thumb 35 per 100): 205 PSI

Large rear line (300’ 2.5” line flowing 250 from a fog, rule of thumb 15 per 100): 145 PSI

Long rear line (400’ 1.75” line flowing 120 from a ¾” smooth bore, rule of thumb 23 per 100): 142 PSI

In regards to the friction loss used, some rule of thumb charts may vary. Here is how the above is figured.

1.75” line flowing 150 gpm: 34.9 PSI actual loss, rule of thumb 35 PSI
1.75” line flowing 120 gpm: 22.3 PSI actual loss, rule of thumb 23 PSI
2.5” line flowing 250 gpm: 12.5 PSI actual loss, rule of thumb 15 PSI

Are all of the above friction loss scenarios possible for your truck to pump? I would think so. This whole idea is such a simple idea, but a major change for many companies. Lets run through it from the eyes of the right seat. Lets assume that your crew is so well trained that all you have to do is call the lay and it comes off perfect.

You pull up on a residential fire and see you have to cross the yard next door and you will need to enter on the Charlie side. You call for the long rear lay. The 400 is run and you end up only needing 250’.

Do you have enough? If you need to regroup or advance, is there enough to quickly change tactics? Both of the answers are yes.

Supply line is territory specific. Know what your territory calls for, what your mutual aid companies will be using, and what each type and size of supply line can offer your company.

When it comes to hose, I would rather have more than enough. Coming short solves nothing. Keep yourself open to new ideas, use the ones that work for your company, and create your own ways. Never let yourself become satisfied with the “way things are” because that is the “way they have been”.  Just this week, I was driving my vollie engine company to a first due working residential fire. We arrived on the bravo side, with an attack line stretch difference of 100’ to the front door. Most would have grabbed a shorter line, say 150’ or 200’. We pulled the 250’ and moved anywhere in the house the line needed to go.  Think “enough”, not “easiest”. Stay safe out there. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Faster shoot times start with the basics

This is a common problem. It takes way too long to turn out on a run after the buzzer hits. It happens across the country all the time.  By “turn out” I mean the time it takes for you to realize that there is a call, get on the apparatus floor, dress out, and get seated on the rig for departure. 2 minutes or longer is too long. You can dispute it, but it is way too long. Someone needs help and its time to go to work.

So what causes a slow turnout time? Lets take a brief look at the factors that contribute.

1. Complacent Firefighter Syndrome: When the call takes you from the couch, you moan, groan, and walk slowly to the truck like you are bothered to have to go on another run that is “most likely nothing”.

2. Lack of proficiency in rapid dressing. You should be able to fully dress in under a minute. If you don’t practice this skill, even if it is the most basic thing you do, you will loose your proficiency.

3. Lack of street knowledge by the driver. (we used to have street tests......)

4. Lack of leadership by the company officer to push the crew to get out the door.

So what can be done to fix this common “illness” encountered in the firehouse?

1. Push yourself to be the quickest you can to turnout when the buzzer hits. If you set a precedence that being quick is better, the others will likely follow. If not, you at least are doing your part. Don’t ever make them wait on you.

2. Practice the basics of getting dressed. I know, all the “veterans” don’t think it is necessary to practice getting dressed. When it takes you 2-3 minutes to get your gear on, you might want to look in the mirror. The basics are the foundation of our entire job. Stay sharp on them.

3.Drivers need to constantly learn and study their territory. Your job is to drive the rig. You become significantly safer during the response by knowing where you are going. Know at least where the main roads are to get you close. The officer may be able to help. I am not a fan of even leaving before I know exactly where I am heading.

4.Officers, stop the “I’m too cool to get in any short of a hurry” attitude. It is not cool to be the overly relaxed, “I don’t care” officer. The buzzer just went off, someone needs your help, (emergency or not) and your job is to help them in a timely manner. Empower your crew to meet a turnout time. The officer should not make the engine wait either. You must be just as proficient as your firefighters. Lead by example. If you are burnt out, congrats pal, your crew is now going to eventually be burnt out from your bad leadership.

How can you drill on something like this?

1.  At random times throughout the day, yell out “box” or “call” or some other word that your crew knows to signify the drill. When the code word is yelled, everyone takes off for the truck, rapid dresses, and gets on the truck. The officer has pre-made flash cards with an address and cross street written on them. He hands one to the driver. The driver has to look it up quickly and figure out where he is going if he doesn’t already know. The crew gets on the truck and you drive to the address (of course routine traffic). This will even open the door for a tactics discussion when you get there. Try it. 

Here is my recommendation on rapid dressing. Find out what works best for you. 

Note that the SCBA mask is already connected to the air pack inside of the jump seat. This should be done when your pack is checked daily by you.

Your turnout boots on the floor outside your door, hood is lying between the boots, suspenders are set up for rapid dress, coat is hanging on the truck mounted grab bar, helmet is staged inside of the truck.
After getting out of your duty shoes or boots, step into your turnout boots.

Remove your hood from between your legs.

Don the hood fully and pull your turnout pants up.

Set your suspenders and don your radio strap.

Finish by donning your turnout coat, bringing your radio lapel mic through the top of your coat. 

Climb into your jump seat and don the straps of your air pack. Make sure you pull the release cord if equipped with that type of device. 

Place seat belt on and close the door. 

This entire process should take less than 40 seconds. 

Tailboard Firefighting: Rapid Dress Youtube Video

This is a basic skill, but it seems to give people the most trouble because it is not practiced. 

Notice in the steps above how I listed the sequence in which the radio strap and hood is donned. Also pay attention to when and how you pull the radio mic through the coat. This is important.

The hood is fully donned prior to the suspenders and coat. This allows for a complete covering of the neck. The suspenders will assist in keeping the hood in place.

The radio strap is donned under the turnout coat. This is an area of debate. Some like it on the outside, some don’t like a strap, and some fire companies don’t even have lapel mics. A strap on the outside of your gear is just one more thing that can get snagged. In high heat conditions, the majority of the radio and lapel mic is protected more so under the coat than outside. Not having a lapel mic at all is a sin. A firefighter cannot adequately monitor the radio traffic and communicate effectively in a situation in which the firefighter is actually doing work. If you don’t believe me, try it in a training drill. Radios need lapel mics always. By pulling the mic through the top of the coat, your mic is always at the center of the chest and easy to find.

3.Build pride on being the “fast” company. The company that is on the road quick, dressed, ready to go. The company that the others say, “that dang Engine *** is coming, they might be on our tail and those guys know their job.” Be the best. We trained today on my part time company, everyone at the firehouse could get dressed and on the truck with a seat belt in under 40 seconds. Set a standard.

It is not cool to be slow. “I didn’t cause the emergency, I’m not going to kill myself to get there” is a fun slogan you hear often. They are right. You didn’t cause the emergency and you literally don’t want to die getting there, but you are responsible for dealing with it in a timely manner. Think about if it was you or your family. People say that last sentence often, but do you actually think about that? What kind of crew do you want coming to you at your house?  Be the crew you would want.  If you are comfortable and well trained, your speed will come and your skill will not let you down. If you never train, you will dress like a new guy spinning on his first box call.

Time is saved in the firehouse. Never should you make up time on the road. It is not worth the risk of killing the crew, another motorist, and destroying a fire truck. Proficiency in your skills is where you save time. 

I will close with a short story. I was working a 24 at my full time company. It was 0600 hrs and I was sleeping soundly in bed. The buzzer hit and the telecommunicator says, “Communications to CFR, simulated fuel truck on fire at the fuel load island next to terminal 1. The captain is off duty and the senior firefighter is in charge.” Our Fire Chief was standing on a hill next to the fuel island timing our response. As we arrived we found some cones in place. The simulated fire was knocked down and the line was run. Things went well and our time was at 4 minutes. The Chief wanted to know what his on duty crew would do on a fire call responding from a dead sleep. It was a good drill to test our skills and muscle memory. It also set a standard of a timely response. 

Take the time to know your job, your equipment, and your standards. Be proficient in your skills and serve. Stay safe out there.