For this drill of the month we are going to use the video attached to the post. You can see that we have an Engine Company arriving at a multi story dwelling with an advanced fire. During the time of their initial arrival they are pointed out that a victim has presented itself from a third floor window and is in danger.
They immediately spring into action and begin to deploy a ground ladder to attempt a rescue. The ladder comes up short and the victim is forced to almost hang from the window in order to be rescued. This got me thinking about how and what I would do in this situation with my staffing. On a side note this is something you must always do when you go to training, read an article, watch a video etc. Some things simply do not translate to lower staffing levels. For example FDNY’s riding assignments and division of labor amongst the crew is great if you have the amount of people they do. However those of us riding with less have to adapt our operations, and division of labor to meet our staffing and our districts.
Now back to the video, at my old company where we housed an Engine, Ladder, and Medic this rescue would not be a problem. Upon arriving (as the engine officer) I would simply instruct the Truck Company to make the rescue. They would be right behind us, and better equipped with a 35 foot ground ladder. This would also allow us to make our stretch and begin confinement and extinguishment of the fire, protecting the victim, and the subsequent interior search that is to come shortly once more units arrive. It is a fact that if you put the fire out everything gets better and engine companies must remember that only the engine is capable of doing that, no other unit can save victims, property, and stabilize the incident with a single act (stretching the hose line and putting out the fire). In my current assignment with an engine only house and waiting on truck company help; I struggle with what we would do. Part of me wants to stretch in and put this fire out thus buying time for the rescue and protecting other victims that may have not presented themselves. I feel this way because of our staffing level (officer, driver, and firefighter) and that we are ill equipped for the height of this rescue (24 foot ladder on the engine). However the other part of me looks at the victim’s body language and knows that when the better option is to jump we do not have a lot of time.
After really thinking about it and watching this video several times I have come up with what I think is a good solution. I would have my firefighter pull an appropriate sized hand line, and then have the driver charge it while the officer retrieves the ladder and begins to throw it to the window. Once the line is charged I would have the firefighter start an exterior fire attack, while the driver comes to assist the officer with the rescue. One thing I feel we have in our favor is all of the citizens hanging around. If a citizen was willing (and they usually are) I would have no problem having one of them foot the ladder so the driver could make a rescue and the officer could then team back up with the firefighter in order to enter the structure and put this fire out. A few things to point out to make this a success.
1.Pre arrival instructions are key: You have to lay out your plan prior to arrival, especially with low man power. Water supply and unit assignments need to be handed out before you get there. Once faced with a situation like this or any other fire with lower staffing you cannot afford to be a well dressed by stander, or sidewalk commander, you have to be in the action in order to succeed. This also requires everyone to be in full PPE (yep driver too).
2.First in lay in: Put the hose on the ground and allow that second engine to charge your supply line. If the second engine never shows once the rescue is done you can head up the street and do it yourself, if you don’t do it however you are going to be even more behind the curve.
Is any of this ideal? Of course not, but it is realistic. I am all for better staffing, and fighting the powers that be for that, but until that day comes we still have the responsibility to save lives. Mr. and Mrs. Smith do not care how many you bring to the fire they just want results.
So I have said what I would do, I want to know what you would do. Better yet show this video to your company, table top it, and then get out and practice it. Stay safe out there and spread the word about the blog.