Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:
1. Identify the 16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives and the Two In Two
2. Describe the role and limitations of the fire department in various types of incidents.
3. Discuss the value of maintaining firefighter safety and decision making.
In order for a fire department to be capable of operating, there is a need for personnel, human bodies. Personnel are found at all levels and ranks: entry level firefighter, EMT/Paramedic, veteran firefighter, lieutenant, captain, deputy chief, and chief to name a few. Without personnel, the fire department is little more than a station with trucks. Personnel are responsible for the achievement of objectives, and the first objective of any incident is to “provide for responder and public safety.”
16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives
In March of 2004, the first ever National Fire Fighter Life Safety Summit took place in Tampa, Florida, and was attended by over 200 fire service professional who hammered out a doctrine known as the “16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives.” The details of each initiative are found on pages 465 and 466. As a result of this summit, a web site was created titled “Everyone Goes Home” where invaluable insights and information regarding firefighter safety can be found.
In addition, two other web sites are dedicated to firefighter safety: Firefighter Close Calls and National Fallen Fire Fighter Foundation. The web links for both are given below. Soon after the passage and adoption of the 16 initiatives, the list was circulated around the nation and world in an attempt to reduce firefighter injuries and deaths. Responsibility for supporting, practicing, and promoting the initiatives rests with each and every firefighter and fire officer worldwide.
Rapid Intervention Teams (RITs)
Rapid intervention teams, or rapid intervention crews (RIC), are an integral and essential component of the 21st century fire service, however many individual fire departments do not have RITs/RICs. Members of these teams have undergone specific training in rapid rescue of fellow crew members who may become lost or disoriented while performing interior firefighting. Some departments claim cost prevents them from having RITs/RICs, while others claim lack of personnel on
first-in crews. The solution is both money and personnel; however, economic
conditions often do not permit one or both.
Two In, Two Out
The “Two In, Two Out” rule has been in effect since October 1998 after considerable work by both the fire service industry and OSHA. Basically the Rule states that all fire personnel working a structure fire where there is an immediate danger to life and health (IDLH) shall be wearing SCBA and operating in pairs with two firefighters entering the IDLH atmosphere and two additional firefighters geared-up and ready to enter the structure should the first pair need immediate rescue. The Two In, Two Out rule should be adhered by all fire departments; however, lack of personnel often creates dangerous situations.
One of the basic functions of the municipal fire department is that of structural firefighting. Structures are found in a vast range of shapes, sizes, and configurations. Residential, commercial, industrial, educational, and high-life occupancies are a few of the many possibilities that most all communities are composed of. Structural firefighting requires the use of pumping engines, hose lines, nozzles, and properly protected personnel wearing proper structural PPE. Firefighting modes take on one of three forms: offensive, defensive, or a combination.
Depending on the type of occupancy and the potential for lives to be at stake, first arriving fire companies may be directed to primary search efforts to locate occupants of the structure. Typically engine companies are dedicated to fire suppression, truck (aerial) companies perform ventilation, and rescue companies perform search/rescue operations. The actual assignment of initial operations by company type depends largely on the resources of the individual fire
department. Quite often in smaller departments where personnel resources are limited, first arriving engine company crews may be relegated to primary search/rescue, while the second-in engine company will effect fire suppression. If personnel levels permit, the aerial crew will begin ventilation; vertical and/or horizontal.
Once the primary search has been completed, generally engine and aerial crews begin fire suppression and ventilation operations. As crews advance hose lines into the interior of a structure, they must keep in mind that all occupancies have the potential to house hazardous materials; any of which can react violently with heat and flame. This is especially true in many commercial and industrial occupancies, where hazardous materials, liquids, solids, and gases, are often used in manufacturing processes.
As fire consumes a structure there is an inherent danger of collapse due to the failure of interior structural components and construction. Such is the case with truss construction whether wood or steel. Exterior components of the structure are also subject to sudden catastrophic failure and collapse. Overhanging awnings, signage, and parapet walls are but a few of the many possibilities that firefighters and fire safety officers must be constantly alert for in changes in conditions.
There are a number of safety reminders that all firefighters, both inside and outside any structure, must keep in mind during firefighting operations. Failing to observe these and other safety tips might lead to injury or death; keep them in mind at all times.
1. One of the worst interior structural hazards is the stair cases.
2. When walking around a burning structure, NEVER walk upright directly in front of windows.
3. Remember: NOT all combustible hazards are INSIDE the burning structure.
4. ALWAYS have a second means of egress from a hostile environment.
5. NEVER freelance!! Make your presence and location known to others at all times.
Fire Department Operations at Sprinklered Occupancies
Automatic fire sprinklers have been in use since the late 1890s in the U.S., and in most jurisdictions these life and property saving systems are mandated by law. Once found mostly in commercial and industrial occupancies, more and
more states are now mandating that automatic fire sprinkler systems be installed in new residential construction. While the debate continues over the cost of installation, the one statement of fact that can be said of automatic fire sprinklers is this: Sprinklers Save Lives! There is no debate.
Typically the three primary causes for unsatisfactory performance of sprinkler systems are: a closed valve on the water supply line, inadequate water supply to the system, and occupancy alterations that render the system ineffective. Otherwise, sprinklers are an invaluable asset for life-safety and property conservation. Sprinklers act to control fire and contain its spread until firefighting resources arrive to complete the extinguishment process.
When fighting fires involving electrical panels and components, fire personnel must be keenly aware of the potential dangers of electrocution. Water streams should be used with great discretion when attempting to extinguish high- voltage/amperage wires and transformers. Another danger of electrical supply service is found in the transformer that once ignited by a short or other source may explode. Inside the transformer is PCB oil, which is a toxic carcinogen.
Wildland firefighting personnel engage in a completely different form of fighting fire than their structural firefighting counterparts. Wildland personnel, for all intents and purposes, operate in the outdoors environment, seldom going into structures. Their job however, is no less hazardous or dangerous than that of the structural firefighter. Some will argue wildland firefighting is far more arduous
and dangerous, as a sudden change in wind direction can create a fire storm spreading flame faster than most humans can out run. One need only catch the national news on any news station channel to know the perils and effects of wildland fires.
Wildland firefighters are trained in methods of extinguishment and firefighting unlike those of structural firefighting. Wildland personnel live by two mantras: The Ten Standard Firefighting Orders and 18 Situations That Shout Watch Out.
LCES and F LCES Δ
Memorizing the Ten Standard Firefighting Orders, as well as the 18 Situations That Shout Watch Out, a resourceful former hotshot firefighter from the U.S. Forest Service, Brad Mayhew, modified the two lengthy lists of safety rules into two shorter easier to remember formats: LCES and F LCES Δ.
LCES translates to Lookouts, Communications, Escape routes, and Safety zones and F LCES Δ adds an “F” for “worst case scenario” (WCS) and Δ which is the Greek symbol – delta – standing for change. In essence, wildland firefighters should remember that during their efforts to fight or contain wildland fires it is imperative to continually be aware of their surroundings, have sufficient
communications between all personnel, know where and how to escape, and be ever conscience of sudden changes in conditions.
Wildland Urban Interface/Intermix Firefighting
As people exit the congested metropolitan areas to the foothills and mountainous regions with the wide-open space and ample forests constructing homes on their “little piece of heaven,” it is becoming more common to find an interface between urban and wildland firefighting. Where once structural (urban) and wildland firefighters found distinct separation of their respective zones, they are now experiencing an increase in mutual efforts to extinguish fires.
Fighting fires involving petroleum, in particular oils, requires specific techniques not typically engaged in conventional structure fires. Whether it is a traffic crash involving a petroleum truck, or an oil refinery, it is likely the best extinguishment agent will be the application of foam. Generally traffic crash fires involving petro- carrying trucks will be handled solely by fire crews from the jurisdiction through which the roadway passes. Oil refineries often have industrial fire brigades who initiate firefighting as local public fire crews respond to assist. Public fire company officers will need the input of refinery company officials in order to know specific conditions and contents of storage tanks.
As with oil fires, gasoline spills and fires are best contained with the use of Class B foam. When foam is applied properly to the surface area of a flammable liquid, the vapors are suppressed and the threat if ignition is greatly reduced.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)
One of the more common forms of LPG is propane which can be found at many homes. The backyard grill is often a propane fired appliance if not powered by natural gas. Propane gas cylinders are a familiar sight to many, and for the most part, are quite harmless. Propane cylinders are constructed with a shut-off and pressure relief valve assembly. If the pressure inside the cylinder exceeds a pressure just below the burst pressure, then the relief valve opens releasing vapors. Propane is heavier than air, and as such, vapors will move downward.
One of the greater dangers of all pressurized gas containers is failure of the tank or container known as a BLEVE—boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion. This condition is the result of heat and flame impinging directly on the tank or container causing the contents to expand faster than the relief valve can control. Once the internal pressure of the container exceeds the burst pressure a BLEVE occurs. Depending upon the size of the container a BLEVE can be a
One of the most common household gases used for heating and cooking is natural gas. For the most part, natural gas poses minimal hazard when released into an open atmosphere as the vapors are lighter than air and rise upward. Hundreds of thousands of homes in the U.S. are supplied with natural gas and statistically this fuel is reliable and safe. There are those incidents when a gas line has been ruptured by construction crews creating a leak in the pipeline. Gas, like water and electricity, follows the contour of the earth surrounding the pipes and if not vented will flow through openings in basements of structures filling the
airspace with flammable vapors. Any source of ignition as small as the spark of a
door bell switch can ignite the vapors causing an explosion that typically destroys the structure including its contents, which often includes humans.
Hazardous Materials Incidents (Hazmat)
Because of an increased awareness and use of hazardous materials such incidents are on the rise. Many hazardous materials are transported over the Interstate highway system in the U.S., and while the truck driver may be operating safely, the driving antics of those in small motor vehicles cannot be predicted, which results in many collisions. Hazardous materials and chemicals can be found in any number of industrial or commercial occupancies typically stored in drums of varying volumes, as well as tanks holding greater volumes. Rail tanker cars pass through many communities daily and most citizens and emergency personnel seldom give them a thought. That is of course until an incident occurs.
Responding emergency personnel must always approach an incident involving hazardous materials with great caution. Only fools rush in as the song says, and rushing head-on into an incident involving tank trucks, rail tanks, or occupancies known to house hazardous materials is for all intents, a suicide run. Hazmat incidents require specifically trained personnel who are very well educated and trained in the science of Hazmat mitigation.
In addition to established a boundary of zones–cold, warm, and hot–personnel entering into the incident must wear specially designed hazmat PPE suits and have sufficient knowledge of the materials involved.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Weapons of mass destruction (WMD) can be fabricated from a wide variety of chemicals or substances such as dirty bombs, or as in the case of the 2001 terrorist attacks using aircraft. WMDs can be chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and/or explosive (CBRNE), and the methods for deploying them vary from individual to individual and group to group. No matter the type, the purpose of WMDs is always the same: destroy human lives.
Emergency Medical Service Operations (EMS)
Many public fire service departments have within their organizational structure an EMS division. EMS can take on different forms depending upon the ability of the individual fire department. Providing pre-hospital emergency care to the sick and injured has been a component of the fire service for many years and during the past decades evolved from basic emergency medical technicians (EMT-B) to Paramedical level care. Paramedics provide higher levels of medical intervention administering intravenous (IV) infusions, cardiac drugs, and other advanced techniques.
As EMS has grown within the fire service, so too has the need for a separate division with its own management structure. An important function of EMS managers is to ensure all EMS personnel are well educated and knowledgeable in the dangers of exposure to air and blood borne pathogens. Additionally, an EMS manager should also work to educate fire suppression personnel in the same dangers, as generally both divisions will often work side-by-side at any number of incidents.
Highway Incident Safety
Highway fatalities of emergency personnel are not limited to Interstate or multi- lane highways. Emergency personnel have been struck and killed while working on an otherwise “quiet” city streets as the result of “rubber-necking” drivers who
have driven directly into workers. Whenever crews of emergency personnel are working on any roadway it is imperative that at least one worker is keeping an eye on traffic in order to warn others to a sudden potential danger of oncoming traffic. All attempts should be made to minimize exposure to the threat of traffic by mitigating the incident as soon as possible. Finally, all personnel should be aware of an escape route should it be necessary to make fast tracks and retreat.
Vehicle Accidents and Vehicle Fires
When operating at a vehicle accident, the same practices should be employed as those recommended for working on a highway or any roadway. All personnel should be wearing traffic vests in accordance with 23 CFR Rule 634 Firefighter High-Visibility Safety Apparel. Though there is no assurance that the vest will prevent other drivers from driving into emergency crews, the possibility is reduced as the vest is highly reflective both day and night.
When operating at a vehicle fire, the need for wearing proper PPE and SCBA cannot be overstated. Vehicle fires can be as dangerous as structure fires if not more so. Automobile fires should be approached from the side or quarter panel as these angles afford a greater safety zone. Gas pistons from bumpers, side air bags, and interior air bags have been the cause of many personnel injuries as the gas within the cylinders can explode violently when exposed to extreme
Aircraft Firefighting and EMS Operations
Many municipal firefighters and EMS personnel are not exposed to the possibilities of an aircraft incident, and as such, may not have proper training as to how to approach an aircraft incident. Fire and EMS not accustomed to aircraft crashes or incidents must keep in mind that any number of hazards can be present. Of course the first concern is the saving of lives and then extinguishment of flames. The size and type of aircraft will dictate the best plan of action to be taken. Jet aircraft engines may continue to operate after the crash, as may propeller blades of prop-driven craft and helicopters.
In those municipalities where structural fire personnel are called upon to assist airport crash crews, typically the two agencies will have worked together during training sessions in order that personnel from each agency are familiar with rescue and fire suppression methods. EMS personnel may be required to conduct mass triage and care of multiple victims. Whereas aircraft incidents have declined in recent decades due to improved safety practices, aircraft construction, and better air traffic control, the potential for incident increases in
those communities abutting airports. It therefore is incumbent upon municipal fire managers and leaders to insure interoperability and cross-training of fire and EMS personnel with airport fire-crash personnel.
Crew Resource Management (CRM)
CRM is based on five principles: communication, situational awareness, decision making, teamwork, and barriers. The aviation industry began the use of CRM, then known as cockpit resource management, in the 1980s in response to an alarming number of airliner disasters that resulted in deaths of hundreds of crew and passengers. The vast majority of the crashes were attributed to human error in the cockpit. Because airline captains were regarded as infallible, other cockpit personnel were often intimidated to speak up when conditions were approaching disaster level. Captains often flew aircraft into mountains, buildings, or simply
ran out of fuel while their junior officers sat silent not wanting to break stride of hierarchy.
In the wake of an increasing number of preventable air disasters, the airline industry implemented CRM which demand the use of the five previously mentioned principles. The fire service has in some venues adopted the concepts of CRM; however the principles and practice of CRM should be given greater exposure in the fire service.
Recall the former wildland firefighter Brad Mayhew who redesigned the lengthy Ten Standard Firefighting Orders and the 18 Situations That Shout Watch Out wildland safety rules into his LCES and F LCES Δ? Brad took things one step further and created his “2&7 Tool,” which illustrates two errors and seven barriers common to poor decision making in the fire service, both structural and wildland (Klinoff, 2012, p. 513).
Mayhew’s two errors: (1) underestimating hazards and using inadequate safety measures and (2) failing to notice changing conditions and adjust tactics accordingly. The seven barriers of his 2&7 Tool are (1) inexperience, (2) getting too comfortable, (3) distraction from primary duty, (4) priorities out of order, (5) social influences, (6) stress reaction, and (7) physical impairment.
Though Mayhew’s 2&7 Tool may appear to be aiming towards emergency services managers and leaders, they are applicable to all levels of personnel. Entry-level personnel have as much responsibility to the safety of the crew as does the senior officer. All emergency service personnel should know, understand, and exercise the principles of not only the 2&7 Tool but those of CRM as well.
Safe behavior and safety awareness is not the responsibility of one team member. It is the duty of all team members to ensure that everyone goes home.
Klinoff, R. (2012). Introduction to fire protection (4th ed.). Clifton Park, NY: Delmar.
Suggested Further Reading
Everyone Goes Home http://www.everyonegoeshome.com/
Firefighter Close Calls http://www.firefighterclosecalls.com/
Fireline Factors http://www.firelinefactors.com
Click on Downloads for additional resources.
National Fallen Fire Fighter Foundation http://www.firehero.org/