In this edition of “KTW” Captains Paxton, Lloyd and Ott address a strategic ventilation concern and a work environment matter confronting LAFD members. Consider their experienced-based opinions when you are confronted with these important issues.
Operational question: Recent UL, ATF and NIST studies have highlighted the importance of well-timed and coordinated fire attack. What do you do to ensure your A/O remains mindful in coordinating ventilation efforts with fire attack, and how do you monitor such coordination?
CII John Paxton, FS 33-A: I believe in these studies as they confirm an LAFD strategy employed for many years. Keep in mind these studies are conducted in pristine laboratory settings and not in a dynamic fireground environment. That said there’s no doubt that effectively coordinating fire attack operations reduces temps and provides a more tenable interior environment.
Small SFD’s are common in FS 33’s district; vent teams must therefore move quickly to open the roof in an effort to match E 33’s rapid application of water. Coordinating operations on commercial buildings, however, is more challenging. My A/O is very mindful of temperature spikes should he open the roof prior to F/A companies delivering water on the fire area.
To better coordinate efforts, we use an “inside/out” style of communication – company to company radio comm’s. An example of “inside/out” comm’s is when the roof speaks directly to F/A companies to best assess their progress, rather than to the IC. This simple style of communication assists in coordinating ventilation and F/A and results in a safer operational environment.
CII Selwyn Lloyd, FS 94-C: Members must recognize that when venting a structure you also add [oxygen] to the fire through your ventilation hole. If venting occurs without the coordinated application of water, then the fire will escalate irrespective of how large you make your hole. My A/O is well aware of the importance in coordinating his efforts with fire attack.
Ventilation teams are responsible for maintaining an acute awareness that uncoordinated ventilation can be EXTREMELY harmful to advancing F/A teams. If there is uncertainty on the part of my A/O with respect to the timing or placement of a ventilation hole, he will communicate such concerns to F/A co’s directly.
Coordinating efforts on a SFD is often seamless. Coordinating efforts during a commercial fire on the other hand can be difficult. If during a commercial fire entry is delayed or the engagement sequence of the Eng/Trk is staggered, my A/O will consider: (1) cutting, but not “pulling boards” immediately as it may hinder the advancing F/A team by intensifying or drawing fire over them, and (2) monitor F/A team radio comm’s in an effort to better assess their progress.
CI Matt Ott, FS 48-A: The LAFD has long stressed a well-coordinated attack as a critical component to fireground safety and effectiveness. The abundance of scientific data gathered from these studies highlight this importance and further supports the significance of coordination, timing and communication on the fireground.
I’ve discussed with my A/O the importance of timing as it relates his ventilation efforts and our collective game plan. I stress that venting too late or not enough, or placing a hole in the wrong location can have adverse effects on an F/A teams safety and objectives. My A/O is also aware that timing is what dictates the success of coordination, and that if tactical delays occur they must be immediately communicated.
A/O’s must understand that it is their duty to monitor fireground communication in order to best support a well-coordinated attack. My A/O will communicate directly to interior companies when our coordinated effort is compromised. As an engine captain I continuously monitor the coordination of our efforts by maintaining a visual and sensory awareness of engine and truck operations at all times.
Leadership Question: Unfortunately there have been instances when senior members disparage young and inexperienced members. As an officer how do you embrace the LAFD’s youth, and what message are you trying to send in doing so?
Paxton: A generation disparaging the next is common human behavior. Abraham Lincoln wrote that his generation was being put down by the generation ahead of his saying they didn’t measure up to what America was all about. Lincoln said his generation needed a test in order to prove to the older folks that his generation was up to the task of advancing America forward – that test was the Civil War.
There’s nothing wrong with our younger generation of FF’s. All they need is to be properly taught. If we can teach these young members the “why” as well as the “how” then they’re in a better position to excel. Remember, the young FF’s we tend to bash at the kitchen table are from the same generation performing so heroically in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mentor and teach them the “why” as well as the “how” and they will move the Department into the future.
Lloyd: As a youngster at FS 14, all members including the officers mentored and taught me how to become a professional firefighter. These healthy values were instilled in me at a young age and I strive to pass them on whenever possible. If a member, rookie or not, transfers-in I always welcome them as an integral part of my team. I know from experience that if they are comfortable in their work environment then they are more likely to perform better.
Personally, I’ve learned a great deal from the youth of our Department, as their experiences and perspectives are much different than mine. This has without question made me a better officer. I also pass on to my crew that if members are treated poorly they will, in time, reciprocate by treating others badly as well. My actions, good or bad, are directly reflected in the actions of my command. It is my responsibility to set a positive example.
Ott: We are all unique and all bring something different to the table. While new members offer varied skill-sets and interesting perspectives, their manipulative skills and relevant experiences are often less established. Most new members seek to become productive firefighters, and as such deserve our best effort in guiding them.
To acclimate new members I often rely on informal drills. These exercises not only benefit the new, but the older members as well. During these drills senior members regularly convey “experience-based” thoughts, which new members often have difficulty understanding and visualizing. The young member simply does not have the experience to draw from.
Following one such drill a young member came to me and said: “Capt, I found internet footage that helps explain what we discussed in the drill.” As the senior members viewed the video they were now able to combine their experienced based comments with a much-needed visual component. This resulted in the young FF better grasping the concept and feeling an elevated sense of value and inclusion. The tenured members are also more satisfied because their efforts resulted in a positive teachable experience. So really, it’s not just about the younger member or the tenured member, it’s about the team.
There you have it – three slightly different opinions from three outstanding officers. Remember, from an operational perspective always remain mindful of the impact your actions have on the conditions of others, and from a work environment standpoint always seek to include, mentor and respect.
In next month’s article Captains Randy Yslas, Nick Ferrari and Frank Espinosa will include suggestions for newly appointed officers, as well as their personal guidelines for handline selection and use.
For questions and comments about KTW, contact Jerry Bedoya at Gerald.Bedoya@LACity.org
Facilitated by Jerry Bedoya