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Today on the news are stories of students returning to school at Virginia Tech. It brings back not only memories of that tragic day but also those days of Columbine and other recent school shootings.

That is what I would like to discuss with you. My department stole (better said - acquired) the National Fire Academy's risk policy. If you are not familiar with it I will state it:

We will take great risk to save life

We will take some risk to save property

We will risk nothing for life or property already lost

It's so easy even "B" shifters can understand it!
Immediately after Columbine, we had a great debate in our department during our officers meetings. We had recently changed our policy to domestic and general violence runs to two units and that all units would stage until the scene is secured by police.

One advantage to working in a larger city is that I have never has a run where I knew the victim. Not a fire or even an EMS run or MVA. In rural America, that is not always the case. What if the school was a school where my kids or kids of my other family members or friends or brother and sister firefighters worked?

During the meetings I discussed earlier, I asked some of our officers if that incident occurred in Toledo and they were the first unit on the scene and kids coming out were yelling to you that there were kids inside the hall shot and bleeding, would they go inside to try to drag the injured out?

Most said no, citing our policy. Here's the question I then asked them and I ask now- "Does our risk policy only apply to fires?
What do you think. Under these circumstances, should firefighters enter a building with a probable gunman inside to attempt "known" rescues.


posted by Skip Coleman
8/20/2007 05:33:00 PM

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Blogger NWG said...

Absolutely not. Firefighters are not law enforcement, nor are EMS providers. There is no reason to subject fire department members to the dangers of entering a structure with an armed gunman. I'm assuming that this is a response to a structure not involved with fire, but an incident like Virginia Tech or Columbine to which the fire department has been dispatched to assist with police somehow, or as an EMS provider.

The scene must be stabilized by law enforcement before any fire department personnel enter the structure. It's not worth the risk otherwise.

Chris Mc Loone

Tue Aug 21, 12:51:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Steve Kraft said...

On the surface, without thinking about this too much, one would probably answer yes (risk a lot to save a lot). The only problem with this answer is we have the tools and training to risk a lot to enter a building that is on fire, enter a confined space, trench or hazardous materials incident. We DO NOT have the tools or traning to enter a violent situation - the police do. I think we all want to save a life and we're willing to risk our own in doing so, however we need to be equipped and trained to do so.

Steve Kraft
Ontario, Canada

Wed Aug 29, 09:53:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Rick Fritz said...

Absolutely not, firefighters are not trained nor equipped to enter such an IDLH atmosphere. We moan and complain when beat cops enter burning structures to effect rescues and end up laid out on the sidewalk with smoke inhalation. We are NOT law ehforcement. We passed the test.

Wed Aug 29, 10:50:00 AM EDT  
Blogger The Last Frontier said...

Even if the cops are covering us, how protected are we really? The bad guy shoots us and the cops shoot the bad guy. In the end, we're injured or killed even when the cops are protecting us. We've had a few close calls in Anchorage, but we've created some sound policies that direct us to stage until the police say the scene is secure. We've done our homework and talked with the police on the street to be sure we're talking the same language.

Thu Aug 30, 10:08:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Chief 812 said...

During an incident such as this you can leave the policies at the station. You will have just found yourself in a combat (extreme stress) situation whether you are trained for it or not. Your connection to the victims or possible victims and your desire for self-preservation is going to determine what mode your brain puts your body into.

It is easy as an administrator to write a policy that says we don't send our firefighters into harms way at a fire or rescue situation that is not survivable. But, when the aggressor (or stressor)is another human being, perceptual distortions will make it impossible for our firefighters to recolect what the policy or procedure is for these types or events. The thinking part of the brain will not be in control of the body, but the survival part will be. The survival part of your mind is going to rely prior training. If you have spent much time at all as Police Officer, EMT, or Firefighter you know that our brains are programed to "Run to the sound of trouble."

If you know prior to arrival on scene that you are dealing with a gunman, absolutely follow policy and procedures for law enforcement assistance. This is when the thinking part of your brain is going to allow you to make decisions such as this. But, if you find yourself in the middle of an incident such as this without warning, your mind and body will be psychological and physioligical roller coaster. Your mind will not take time to calculate the risk or consider the equipment you have available before you take action. Your will to survive or to help your fellow man will determine your reaction. A policy written on a piece or paper will not influence "human instinct".

Thu Sep 06, 01:23:00 AM EDT  
Blogger idahofiresar said...

I have worked in rural areas my entire 20 year career. In reviewing this I look at the scenario from the standpoint of knowing the kids, teachers and administrators of the school. Maybe even having my own kids attending the school.

Even with all that in mind and regardless of NFA's risk policy I remember what my first captain told me, simple but true. "Nothing matters more at the end of the day than we all go home."

Given that perspective when I was young I have remembered that my whole career. All of the firefighter bravado aside the scenario in no way provides any reassurance that our people go home from this. Given the scenario I would go out of my way to physically stop my personnel from trying to get involved in such a situation. In the end we didn't cause it we just are there to pick up the pieces.

James Cleveland
Assistant Chief
PM Fire

Thu Sep 06, 12:03:00 PM EDT  

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After an initial review of Charleston Fire Department operations, the independent Fire Review Task Force has issued a preliminary list of recommendations. Read the list HERE

While I am friends with some of the members involved, I disagree with a few of the recommendations. The City of Charleston should order four person staffing on all Charleston apparatus today. Do it today. I really don't care if it was not budgeted. If it matters--and it does--do it now. If the city leaders are serious, then this is the one change that they completely control and can be done today. This one decision will tell us if they are serious or not. As to the other recommendations, they also should be easy for a city with the resources and talent Charleston has to get done quickly.

As to incident command, good tactical training should include standard tactical responses which should be understood by all members and identified by the first due's size up. First due engine does X, second Y, third Z: let folks know what is expected before the emergency, tactical riding positions, and apparatus arrival.

On the receipt of an alarm, let's send what you are going to need at a minimum: send four engines, three chiefs, two EMS units--one for customers and one for firefighters--and two ladders staffed correctly. As I understand it, Charleston has this capability. You can determine the response codes by proximity if you want. You can always cancel what you do not need, but calling for help after you need it is a bad idea and we all know it does not work.

If we are going to make recommendations, let's make good ones. I do not know a man on that panel who does not support NFPA 1710. They support it because it is the right thing to do. Make solid recommendations; let's make Charleston 1710 compliant today, I think the mayor can handle the honesty. I know the vibratant flourishing city of Charleston deserves and demands correct staffing and proper responses to the events which threaten its continued prosperity.

Send an adequate response for today's fires; train, train again, and train some more. I know the Charleston firefighters. I know their passion for learning and firefighting. Mr. Mayor, tear up the budget, do the right thing, staff and train, and then train again. The City of Charleston will understand and appreciate your honesty.


posted by Bobby Halton
8/18/2007 08:47:00 PM

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Blogger Rick Fritz said...

I agree with Chief Halton. the recommendations must be implemented immediately. Why in the 21st Century, under an executive order from the President are departments still operating without ICS? It's no longer ludacrious, its CRIMINAL.
Firefighters not at Level II under 1001? Where is the training division? Gutted I assume, ineffective because good trainers often rattle adminstration because thay have perfected their basic skills and can often point to areas and say with fact "you're gonna kill someone."
Put away the chew boys, get out the manuals and train, train, train,

Sun Aug 19, 01:36:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Kirk Allen said...

Bobby, I think your title sums it up. When I scrolled down and found that the Task Force Review was ONLY two pages it sent chills down my spine.

Its time they call a spade a spade and implement the fix now, not over the next two years. We all know what happens with those types of proposals. People forget and then the priorities shift to some other project in the news.

I keep wondering when we will become an offensive organization in our preparedness efforts. All to often decisions are based on tragic events that in many cases could have been prevented through good planning, ie training!

While establishing pre-plans for our district I discovered a two story brick front building that has had a complete truss failure from lack of repair. The building poses a collapse hazard into Main Street. I brought this information to the attention of the local mayor and village board and they informed me of several other buildings that are much worse and basically begged me to leave it alone. They want to completely ignore the concern and confirmed they knew of the danger but wont do a thing about it because it might cost some money.

The letters I am writing over this issue should prove interesting as I will not sacrifice the safety of my men or members of the community because of stupid people.

Sadly, some folks just don’t get it.

Kirk Allen
Kansas, IL FPD

Sun Aug 19, 03:58:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Glenn Corbett said...

I agree with you, Bobby. It goes without saying that firefighting effectivess and firefighter safety are directly linked to staffing levels. Staffing levels of 3 firefighters(or even less!) certainly expose firefighters and civilians alike to the increased possibility of injury or death at a structure fire.

I would also argue that two other critical issues need to be explored: preplanning and code enforcement.

Knowing the hazards of a specific building (construction, layout, etc.) and its contents can prove to be priceless information when confronted with a significant fire.

From a code enforcement perspective, it is well known that many cities with annexation rights often annex very dangerous structures in an effort to control development and gain tax revenues. This leaves firefighters in a position of having to fight fires in very dangerous and non-compliant structures which did not have to comply with a building code when first constructed. It has reported that the Super Sofa building was "outside" the city when it was built.

Strong fire code enforcement allows fire departments to control existing hazards such as high-piled stock and even potentially retrofit a sprinkler system.

The members of the Charleston Fire Department must be recognized for opening their department to outside scrutiny and allowing the rest of the nation's fire departments to learn from this tragic fire.

Sun Aug 19, 04:06:00 PM EDT  
Blogger radiowave said...

Automatic mutual aid also needs to be urgently addressed. Charleston city is not a single continuous entity but a patch work of communities interspersed with other fire districts each with their own dispatcher and response. For example James Island is just over the bridge from the main city. About half of James Island is CFD, the other half is James Island FD, and towards Folly Beach, another separate FD (Folly Beach PSD). Where I live on James Island in the city, the two closest fire stations are JIFD, but CFD E7 is first due and E13 (abt 10 min in traffic) is second due.

If you read the Post and Courier article this Sun, St. Andrews FD in West Ashley responded on their own to the Super Sofa Store fire and rescued the employee trapped in the back of the store. Having a cohesive, integrated, metropolitan response plan that combines all the Charleston area fire departments would be another excellent recommendation that needs to be pursued.

I will also add that a combined metropolitan dispatch center rather than independent dispatchers for CFD, JIFD, SAFD, John's Island, FD and Mt. Pleasant FD would go a long way to addressing the safety and manpower issues that need to be addressed here in Charleston.

Sun Aug 19, 06:26:00 PM EDT  
Blogger J. P. Atlanta Fire said...

With all due respect, let’s stop with all the armchair quarterbacking. Good lord, how about some support for some very strong recommendations that if you listened to what the panel said, "these are things the department can do right away." The CFD is already short handed because of their loss and in order to get 4 ff on every truck 24/7 would require that all CFD ff's work every day - an impossible task. So, more that just a budget issue. The recommendation was to maintain 3 until new hires and a combination of OT could get to the 1710 measure. Something almost all fire departments are struggling with doing, not just CFD. Here is another point you missed. It was clearly stated that the code enforcement and fire prevention recommendations would be forthcoming in the mid-September report. The member of the task force assigned to that function, Mike Chiramonte, was teaching at the NFA last week and will be in Charleston for the first time this coming week. They’re moving as fast as they can. It is easy to sit back from your office and express your "recommendations need strengthening" opinion but the task force is on the ground in Charleston and knows what is doable right now and was wise to not to include any "window dressing" recommendations that would please the pundits and critics like you but would be impossible for a struggling fire department to pull off. How about a little professional courtesy and class in applauding these as a great first step, knowing that more are coming in just a few weeks.

Sun Aug 19, 06:41:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Frank Ricci said...

Chief Halton is 100% correct. Staffing is one of our biggest safety issues, yet it seems that it is something in many departments that is left to the unions. This issue transcends volunteer and paid politics. Firefighters, Instructors as well as chiefs need to step up to push for more staffing. The city administrator always find the funds for trash pick up and recreation centers, they can find the funds to adequately protect their community's and in turn our brothers and sisters. We all need to be firm and work together to accomplish our goal of a least 4 firefighters on everything.

Staffing require ESP:

Education, Emotion

Standards &

Political Action

We need to take the steps to ensure that our elected officials know the cost is higher not to provide adequate staffing. Achieving adequate staffing starts in how we portray ourselves to the public. I am astonished to hear firefighters tell there friends that " I sleep at work or become a firefighter and have a clean car" and then their the same firefighter at the kitchen table complaining about staffing. Our local leaders our listening, we control how we are portrayed. Firefighters should portray the truth, It only takes one fire to kill you, over 100 of us die each year with an additional 81,000 injured. If your department runs one job a year or 1,000 the staffing requirement does not change.

Be Safe,
Frank Ricci

Sun Aug 19, 08:37:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Ray said...

I just read your blog Chief Halton. I agree with what you said. Proper staffing gets the job done faster and increases firefighter safety.
I want to add my comment regarding the training proposals.

TRAINING:Proposal #2
"Provide training for all Fire Department members in firefighter safety and survival, risk management, air management, standardized actions for lost/disoriented firefighters, rapid intervention operations, objective-based tactical operations, and other critical firefighter safety procedures."

I wonder if engine company operations fall under any of these new ideas. I am not looking at the CFD. I just think that many in the American fire service think these fall back programs are the answer. They are not! They serve a purpose when things go wrong. That's true. But they are for the most part failure based training programs. Instead lets concentrate more on programs that put us on track for success. Such as putting out the fire. Train and train again, on putting out the fire! Nothing is more important than getting hoselines stretched correctly and operating for a quick knockdown. Firefighter safety is about fire attack! First and Foremost

Ray McCormack
Lt. F.D.N.Y.
[email protected]

Mon Aug 20, 11:29:00 AM EDT  
Blogger BC Mark Emery said...

I appreciate your thoughts Chief.

You bring to mind a couple of my Cmmand Caveats:

(1) "If you need it and it's not there and available it's too late."

(2)"Competent incident managers are proactive strategists" (Rather than reactive tacticians.)

Bottom line, your operational mode and action plan must always scaled to match your resource capability, size-up informaton, and the determination of value.

The most important size-up decision that a master craftsman fire officer makes is the determination of value.

If the Incident Commander determines fire fighters represent the most value, all decisions and actions must align with preserving and protecting that value. (The determination of Risk vs Value is far more important than risk vs gain or risk vs benefit.)

Perhaps the late, great Professor Brannigan captures the spirit this discussion best: "There are lots of disposable buildings, there are no disposable fire fighters."

Mon Aug 20, 03:51:00 PM EDT  
Blogger K. M. DeMauro said...

I took a few hours to "digest" this blog and the comments. I am reminded of the old story of the five blindmen describing an elephant. All five had a different description of the experience. In the fire service our particular elephant is called staffing. Everybody has their own opinions of how to solve the issue. It is going to take all of us working together in order to make sure we have a good idea of what this elepahant looks like. I can almost bet my house that all of us could take the report and substitute our department where the word Charleston was. It does not matter if you are on the line, working as an officer, investigations, PIO, training, or communications, we are all firefighters. We need to become a unified front that will promote the needs of our profession. It is not about career or volunteers. It is not about union versus non-union. It is about firefighters.

Mon Aug 20, 05:52:00 PM EDT  
Blogger David DeStefano said...

Chief Halton,

From where I stand as a company officer you hit it right on the head. If you send your troops into battle, send enough to to the job in the beginning, otherwise we may not be around when the reinforcment show up. Having experience working in both 3 and 4 person companies I can attest to the additional work, efficiency and safety the 4th. firefighter provides. This also enables the officer to supervise the safety of the members of the company. The bean counters need to be informed by all of us (grunts and chiefs)that sensible manning is cheaper in the long run. More lives saved- firefighter and civilian, more property saved,less firefighter injuries too.

Mon Aug 20, 08:42:00 PM EDT  
Blogger David Rhodes said...

Bobby, right on track. Inadequate staffing levels (below 4) create a windfall of bad things to happen on the fire ground. This crap about a certain number of people on the scene in a certain time frame is political fence riding. I makes a stand for staffing but leaves wiggle room for the bean counters. Fighting a fire requires a very coordinated effort, the same type of effort needed to pull of a successful play in football. You wouldn’t expect the play to come off if the players entered the field at different times. It would be mass confusion. The safety czars have harped on accountability for years now. How do you maintain accountability when you have to split and combine crews? No- the little tag dangling from the back of your helmet isn’t working, it is just CYA accountability. The real accountability takes place in the heat and the dark with the company officers relying on all their training and experience to keep their crew together. It takes the company officers knowing his/her crew and being able to predict their behavior based on prior incidents (experience). If you hodgepodge a team together at a fire you get a hodgepodge result. Most of the time we are lucky and overwhelm the situation with water pressure and GPM but when we actually get challenged we often loose.

I’m not against any of the firefighter survival training my brothers have suggested, but would like to point out we should be doing 10 times as much “Prevent RIT” training. This includes: How-when and where to stretch a handline, ventilation, building construction, size up, search, forcible entry, when to go-when not to go…..this must be done as hands on training and not as a lecture in some fire academy classroom. Again, low staffing levels sometimes prevent companies from being taken out of service for training (more of the bad windfall).

The Charleston firefighters don’t need any outside study or consultants to tell them what the problems are, I am sure there are more than two pages worth. The very, very unfortunate part is that it is the same problems that all the rest of us have. We need fire service leaders who understand and can communicate the staffing and other needs of the departments. Make the political leaders say no but don’t just keep working with what we are given with no fight just to save our coveted bugles. The firefighters in Charleston are in the drivers seat right now. Don’t wait on the consultants or the political appointed department leadership. Take matters into your own hands. The public (voters) are with you, the nations firefighters are with you, rally them to your cause demand change now. The mayor can make whatever is needed happen tomorrow if he wants to. Budgets and laws are written in pencil and can be changed if the cause is just and political pressure is applied from the voters.

Tue Aug 21, 08:15:00 PM EDT  
Blogger R. Witt said...

If everything I am reading is correct---no training, no competent incident commanders, lack of manpower, no RIT, no accountability, no LDH, no policies, no TIC's being used, etc....all the life safety problems. As I see it, based on all these problems, the only 100% sure fire way to operate safely at CFD immediately is to use defensive operations only.

Tue Aug 21, 08:29:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Craig said...

I agree with Bobby. One additional comment I have regards the staffing of the Assistant Chief and safety Officer positions. Why even consider temporary 6 month assignments? We need to staff these important positions with people that fit the job description but more importantly are committed to the position and assignment. I would not want someone in these positions who is only on a 6 month assignment waiting to go "back on shift."

Wed Aug 22, 03:27:00 AM EDT  
Blogger John McNeil said...

No sugar here. Sorry.

When I listened to the C.F.D. Fire Chief speak after the tragedy I became extremely concerned about his comments (my paraphrasing)where he stated that he did not know how other departments or anyone else operated but that this was the way we operate in Charleston (no ICS, RIT, etc.

My heart sunk and I knew then that the department had archaic leadership and that they did not even know how out of touch they were regarding firefighter safety and national standards.

As best I can ascertain, the C.F.D. resembles a department out of the 1950's (pre-portable radios)where the chief officer would physically go into the fire building and make a size up and determination of the course of action to be taken. Following his size up the chief would assign companies and responsibilities accordingly. This was done because there was no radio communications.

Appointments in the department leadership positions cannot be based on knowledge of the job at least in current times because they do not even know what are the current standards. Perhaps a good old boy system or some other method is used to promote. I do not know.

Lack of knowledge of national standards and compliance with national standards regarding firefighter safety and proper staffing,lack of knowledge of and compliance with the presidential directive on NIMS, and lack of up to date equipment for fire suppression purposes is a lack of informed leadership.

How could anyone in today's fire service not be aware of NIMS and the 2001 presidential directive to implementation or NFPA 1710 or NFPA 1500 and be a chief officer?

There is no excuse to be that uninformed in todays fire service. There are many reasons to not have obtained all that is required to operate safely and comply with the current standards (budget restraints for an example)however, to not even be aware of the standards or directives is just irresponsible and failing in one's duty to protect the firefighters on the line.

If prior to this tragedy there was a process in place to implement NIMS, shore up staffing to meet 1710, update firefighting equipment and address all the shortcomings addressed in the preliminary report of recommendations I truly apologize for my previous comments.

If prior to this tragedy there was vocal and heated discussions with the city leaders on the dangers of operating without proper staffing I apologize. Otherwise I stand on my comments that the CFD firefighters were failed by their department leadership.

I feel for the CFD FC and all of its members regarding this tragedy and I know it will take an untold toll on the department for years to come; however we cannot ignore the reasons for the tragedy either or they will continue to be repeated.

For some reason the fire service doesn't get it. Firefighters are dying in buildings of no value or worse... destined for demolition.

Firefighters still do not wear seat belts, drive too fast or do not wear vests on the interstates. It happens over and over year after year.

We assemble at funerals in dress uniforms with our color guards and say what a great hero he or she was.

What the heck? When will it stop?

When the chief officer and company officer leadership cares more about the firefighters' safety than being popular or not making waves. When the department leadership is informed about standards and becomes serious about making sure we all operate safely and with the proper staff and procedures in place.

Until then "Everybody goes home" is just a clever saying on a poster and nothing more.

Mon Aug 27, 08:44:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jason said...

Having worked with and around the CFD years ago, I cannot say that I was surprised to see this event. Saddened, yes - but not surprised. Charleston's been a cowboy department for a long time, and this was shown nationally with this event - no ICS, no RIT, booster line for high temp fuels, no LDH, ascending truck ladders with no jacket nor airpack, poorly enacted mutual aid, etc etc. Nobody can be surprised at the outcome. Yes, I know it's hot and humid and uncomfortable to use all your PPE - I know it from having done it IN Charleston - and there's no excuse.

So many people in Charleston are saying "it's tragic, how could it have happened?". It is tragic - and there's plenty of reason why it happened. It appears that every strategic and tactical error possible were made. This should have become a surround-and-drown operation early on.

A regional commcenter would be a great idea - until required by legislation, I doubt it'll happen. Turf battles are too engrained. Anyone remember the county building collapse disaster drill about ten years ago? Mt. Pleasant's brand new gleaming truck sat out front - off with ladder bedded - the entire day. Urging them to put it up and get to work was met with "resistance".

The blunt fact of the matter is that 9 of our brothers died unnecessarily. If the buck stops anywhere, it stops with the Chief. Rather than requiring all probies to know the names of the Charleston 9, why don't we make sure it never happens again?

Jason Whaley
Physician Assistant, Firefighter 1
Greater Prudhoe Bay Fire Department
Prudhoe Bay, Alaska

Wed Aug 29, 10:05:00 AM EDT  

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Yesterday, the New York Times ran this story about first responders' families having a hard time collecting claims from the Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefits Act, expanded benefits the U.S. government authorized in 2003 to cover deaths of of "nonroutine stressful or strenuous physical law enforcement, fire suppression, rescue, hazardous material response, emergency medical services, prison security, disaster relief, or other emergency response activity" or a training exercise involving "nonroutine stressful or strenuous physical activity."

The Times story is nothing new--various firefighting orgs have called on the Justice Department to quit stalling and award these benefits--but it's good to see this reporting cropping up in a major media outlet.

Hat tip:



posted by Peter Prochilo
8/09/2007 11:16:00 AM

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A few weeks ago, I posted a Blog called "What's in a Picture"? The Blog and the photo can be viewed HERE.

Several of the writers mentioned VES as an option to what these firefighters were doing or contemplating doing.

To the best of my knowledge, Vent Entry Search was "invented" somewhere out east (my guess is New Jersey) in the mid to late 80's. I remember reading an article about it when I was an officer in the drill school. Let me explain the roots of VES. In the department that it was invented, the majority of the residential occupancies (if I remember right - over 80%) in the community had a front porch roof. In over 80% of those buildings, that front porch roof led to one if not two bedrooms on the second floor. See the phoo below. This house is what I and the article were referring to. The theory was that with low staffing, a single firefighter could raise a roofer to the porch by himself and vent (open the window) and enter a bedroom while the remainder of the crew began an attack. It was suggested that even the driver could preform this task. Once he entered the room, he would first close the bedroom door and then search the first bedroom and then exit to the porch and sarch the second bedroom in the same manner. The thought was one firefighter could search 66% (most of these homes are three bedroom) of the sleeping area at night while his or her crew darkened the fire. If he got into trouble, his exit was only 10 or 12 feet away and he had an area of safe refuse onto the roof. Now look again at the photo in my previous blog. Notice the differences. That should not be VES.

As with a lot of things that get discussed and expounded upon around the kitchen table at the station, the concept and intent of this extremely dangerous tactic gets lost and or much gets lost in the "translation". The photo in my previos blog is not indicitive of the "traditional" VES. I'm not criticizing the two respondents who mentioned VES. I am simply giving my explaination of the concept of VES and the conditions underwhich it might be contemplated. As I said before, this is an extremely dangerous tactic and should not be considered aa a "normal" tactic. The photo below is an indication of what can happen if VES goes wrong. What would you guess the survivability of any civilian on the second floor. What do you think about VES and is it a practice used in your department?



posted by Skip Coleman
8/03/2007 06:48:00 PM

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Blogger Billy G said...

Here is an interesting article on VES:

Also, as you mentioned/discuss in your posting, a "1 FF" tactic?....I would say there better be indications that there may be people inside before we would do a 1 FF VES. I know it's done and being done-I am just offering my opinion.

If there are indications-go for it...but in so many communities where the staffing sucks-the FF's need to explain to those above what they can normally do-and what they can normally not do-based upon the staffing required for the task.

Example-if a FD has 20 FF's on duty-(or a VFD with 20 responding)..then they can probably handle the tasks requiring 20 FF's...probably a small SFD. Water supply, pump, stretch 3 lines, vent, search, rescue, IC etc etc...but-if a fire comes in for a MFD, such as some of the slides we used from Toledo in C.O. Boot Camp..(I remember a MFD near some RR tracks??)...a FD cannot handle that fire with 20 FF's...and can only do, perhaps 1/4 of the required tasks. The chiefs know it and need to pass that on to those who determine the funding bucks...or who develops the automatic mutual aid plans. It's a simple formula...we can do this with this many FF's but we can only do that with that many FF's.

Sorry to get on the staffing bandwagon-but without adequate staffing, "we don't do so good".

Tue Aug 07, 07:59:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Bill Ross C.F.D. said...

Our city has a lot of the classic VES type structures and our ladder co's use VES often. As you mentioned in your follow up blog, VES is not an every fire type of tactic, it should be used when the situation and correct type of structure presents itself. Example being: a fire in the middle of the afternoon with little chance of occupants being upstairs in the bedrooms, VES would not be my first choice, however the same fire at 3am VES would be the best chance for viable victims to be rescued. Size up will dictate when and when not to use VES, in the example above placing a ladder to the porch roof and just venting the windows on the mid afternoon fire would be a great help to the attack team. And on the fire at 3am you will probably save a life.

Good tool to have in the tool box, just use it wisely.

Thu Aug 09, 11:50:00 AM EDT  
Blogger BRICK said...

Hey Skip, VES is a tactic that was in service as early as the late seventies in places like the FDNY.
The tactic was never intended to augment low manpower but rather to get truckies and rescuers into the high target area locations (and to those in the greatest danger)as quickly as possible while other fireground operations take place.
VES as a tactic has never specified that it needs to take place off of a front porch work platform. In fact, most of the early practitioners were performing VES off of fire escapes on multi unit apartment buildings. Typically it was the OVM (Outside Vent Man-firefighter coming down from the roof via outside fire escape, venting windows as needed and performing a very agressive, albeit limited search of the one room that the vented window services)
It was Brothers in more sub-urban settings that began to impliment VES on a routine/regular basis to suppliment low staffing and doing so from the roof of the front porch by throwing a ground ladder as mentioned in the blog.
As many of the early practitioners have reminded and pointed out to us, because of the high risks involved, VES was never intended to be used as a "regular" search technique, but rather was intended to be performed by experienced firefighters only when it is very probable that a victim is in fact in the high target area room and is in need of rescue.
So why perform VES if it is so high risk and requiers experienced firefighters... Because the results are undeniable. VES provides firefighters with greatest opportunities to locate and rescue those victims in the greatest peril.
VES is not for every day use but rather for those rare occasions of a high rescue profile and being performed on the high target areas of a residential occupancy. As a tactic it works very well and is credited with saving many lives over the years.
VES is dangerous... but so is firefighting. In the end, properly implimented and executed VES falls in line with the mantra of "Risk A Lot to Save A Life".

Mon Aug 20, 11:50:00 AM EDT  

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Chief Rich Gasaway and Assistant Chief Tim O'Neill of the Roseville (MN) Fire Department, who were involved in the response to the I-35 highway bridge collapse in Minneapolis last night, took some time to talk about the status of the response now and how events unfolded last night. You can listen to the interview HERE with your Windows Media Player, or download the file to your computer.

Thanks to the chief and others in the Roseville department for providing these astounding photos, and to Deputy Chief of Personnel Jean Kidd and Cam Haugland of the Minneapolis FD for the other pics.



posted by Peter Prochilo
8/02/2007 03:16:00 PM

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Blogger Tatunka said...

Just to clarify, Dep. Kidd and Cam both work for Minneapolis Fire. Also the interview was nice but why not interview the people who were in charge of the collapse including MFD Training Chief Dick Christenson (Act. Dep. day of) Asst. Chief John Fruetel, and CoD Jim Clack. But thats just my opinion.

Mon Aug 20, 03:46:00 PM EDT  

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