A Strong Sense of Direction - Volume 3, Number 3

March 10, 2014

 February 28, 2014      Notes from B Shift          

Editor’s note:  Although the masthead says these are “Notes from B Shift,” any and all personnel are encouraged and are more than welcome to send items in for publication.  The sole intent of this newsletter is to provide more information that, maybe, you can use.

Tip ‘o the Hat:  To the folks on duty on 2/7, dealing with a terrible tragedy, a serious MVA involving a BFD family member, a structure fire, a big snowstorm and 38 calls in total.  You stood tall and exemplified the best of the fire service. 

Big New Things:  Lots of talk about a possible tiered response system.  Many folks working and thinking hard about how it could work. A ton of great ideas.

Andy Hood and Dave Russell have swapped shifts for a few months so that B Shift has an AIC BC.  At the same time, Chief Madden will be training Capt. Russell in the ways and means, ins and outs of AIC BC-dom.  Captain Justin Struhs has migrated from A to C, Captain Kurt Solomon has moved to B Shift, and Jeff Blake has been promoted to A Shift BC.  Congratulations to all!

Welcome to the new firefighters: Jason Kampermann, Tyson Jenson, Vince Hollingsworth, Daniel Harro and John Gaede. They accompanied the Editor on a walking tour of downtown Bend last week, and they actually were able to keep up with the pace (barely).

Editorial Comment:   It’s easy to be a leader when things are going well, and it’s hard to demonstrate consistently great leadership under those conditions.  It’s when things are tanking and the outlook is bleak that there is an opportunity to develop and exercise great leadership.  That’s when you can pull people together, collect the best ideas, listen to all the important stuff, and lead collaboratively.  Doing this empowers the folks around you and, in fact, keeps everyone safer. 

A key to success is truly listening to everyone’s ideas.  We had a fire up at Elk Lake many years ago, and we staged at the lodge.   The fire was romping and stomping down the hill toward the cabins to the south of our location, accessible only by water.   Standard operation (at that time) would be to stage and let the air attack take over.  Instead, one of the guys (Harold Springs, to be exact) simply said, “Let’s take our floating pumps over there in these boats (that weren’t ours), and do what we can.”  Off they went, and although the fire had a pretty good head start, our crews were able to do some good.   An idea that in another time might be rejected was put into play.  Success came in the form of collaboration and a job well done.

A new column, Side A, by Captain David MacKenzie, makes its debut this month.  I think you will get a lot out of it.

SIDE A     by Capt. David Mackenzie

Hello and welcome to my first column in “A Strong Sense of Direction.”  With  Side A,  I plan to use this space to pick a topic within incident management to assist company officers with a starting point or “tips” to assist in incident development.  My first topic is interior firefighting “watch out” situations.  The hope is that this piece will start numerous conversations around the kitchen table.

We have all heard and tried to memorize the 18 watch out situation that have been identified in the wildland. Failure to recognize watch outs by firefighters has, on more than one occasion, caused injury or even death to firefighters.

The idea behind establishing the structural watch out situations is to aid the firefighter in recognizing a present or developing hazardous situation that may endanger themselves or others. When these situations start appearing, (one might not be a problem,  but four or five sure are) on the incident, a change of strategy, tactics, or simply re-evaluating risk versus gain will probably become obvious. The idea is to recognize them early on.

It is impractical to think that the average firefighter or incident commander is going to reference these 20 situations in the heat of battle. Therefore, the preferred way of integrating this information is to “pre-load” it.  Two easy areas to pre-load the watch outs are in routine trainings and by simply posting them in the day room for discussion.  Also think about incorporating these into the after action review, PIA.

It may help to organize this list by rough stages of the operation. Or if it is easier, you can just make one list.  The bold words may help you remember these.

A. Conditions on Arrival

            1.  The incident scene is dark

            2. 360 view and size-up not performed

            3. Orders and assignments not clear

            4. No, or poor, information on strategy, tactics, conditions or hazards

            5. Environmental conditions are extreme

B. Structure Conditions

            1. Unfamiliar with building and/or contents

            2. Interior building configuration makes escape to safe area difficult

            3. The building has had several alterations

            4. Upon entering the structure you encounter heavy smoke conditions
                  and/or high heat

C. Operational Conditions

            1. Unreliable water supply

            2. Unable to locate seat of fire quickly

            3: The incident is progressing poorly

            4. Transitioning from offensive to defensive (or vice versa)

            5. Working above or below the fire

            6. Attempting to attack the fire from a ground ladder

            7. Searching without a hose or tag line

            8. 15 minutes have elapsed and the interior fire fight continues

            9. Operating on the roof with only one means of egress

         10. Confirmed evacuation by the public 

         11. Individuals are mentally or physically fatigued

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