In this edition of “KTW” Captains Amberian, Jones and Tombrello will discuss (1) the importance of developing a proper hose-lay, and (2) the ongoing training and development of A/O’s and engineers.
Operational Question: Excess hose piled-up at a doorway makes a handline difficult to advance and even more difficult to follow out. As an officer, how do you train to ensure this does not happen?
CI Mike Tombrello, FS 21-C: To begin with, it’s essential that all members be very familiar with their first-in and greater alarm districts. This allows for a high level of familiarity with respect to structure and occupancy type, construction trends, access issues, attack points, lot size, etc. This knowledge, along with a detailed personal size-up, allows for more effective deployment of handlines.
When drilling, I’ll have my firefighters advance an ill-prepared hoselay to instill in them the effort it takes to advance a poorly prepared handline. I’ll also have them exit a structure utilizing the same sloppy hose-lay to again reinforce the difficulties in trying to negotiate their exit with excess hose. I remind them that the deployment of excess hose was a contributing factor in the death of Captain Joe Dupee.
Calculating the amount of hose to pull for a SFD or an older pre-33 commercial is very easy, but you must have a plan. Finally, I instill in my members the same adages pounded into my skull as a young firefighter . . . Slow down and take a good look at what you have – you’ll move a lot faster and with greater safety.
CI Jeff Ambarian, FS 87-C: Regarding excess hose outside the structure – either we pulled too much or another company pulled their hose to the same portal.
Drill your firefighters on personal size-up’s and how to determine the right amount of hose. Coming up short is inexcusable; too much creates a nuisance but is better than not enough. For long lays, practice dressing your hose so folds don’t end up on top of each other. For lays in tight spaces, practice dressing and stacking your folds so they will feed from the top of the pile, making it easier to advance. Never develop your lay on top of another company’s lay.
Discourage the practice of everyone grabbing a loop of hose as they enter the structure, and then dropping it randomly inside. Assign someone to tend the hose at doors and corners. This may be the captain early on. Nobody wants this inglorious job, but it is critical to the overall operation.
Drill your firefighters to not push excess hose into the structure. “Spaghetti” inside the structure is dangerous during emergency egress.
CI Denise Jones, FS 28-C: If my company is placing excess hose at the front door then we’re not doing a good enough job sizing-up the building. I would start by defining our personal size-ups. I would then find structures that require challenging hose-lays and train my crew on the amount of hose it takes to reach a particular objective. Physically pulling a hose-line creates a baseline in their heads for those times when it really counts.
When pulling hose to your objective you must not only be effective, but efficient. It’s no good to hurry through a hose-lay if you can’t advance it into the structure and affect a knockdown. We often spend more time fighting the hose-lay and calling for people to “pull hose” when we could have taken a little more time in the beginning and laid it right from the start.
Do not be careless – SLOW down and have the discipline to put couplings where they belong and lay your folds dressed. Lastly, make sure you’re asking for help pulling hose around the corners. We have done it that way for 100+ years . . . it really does work.
Leadership Question: How do you ensure your A/O’s and engineers are being tactically challenged and continuing to develop.
Tombrello: I often try and take these members out of their comfort zone. How many times can you walk the same roof, lay two supply-lines or flow a ladderpipe? I’m not saying these tasks aren’t important, but once they’ve demonstrated competence in these areas it’s time to move on.
Officers should challenge these members with a variety of scenarios in order to better stimulate them. Not only should rated members be considered your BEST firefighters, but their job performance should also reflect a high-degree of competence.
To me, there’s nothing better than to witness an A/O raise an aerial to a center-hall on a crowded street in 11’s district, or an engineer calculating how many hard suctions it takes to draft from a dock in 49’s district.
Rated members are also your locker-room leaders and must capture the trust of their co-workers – which is accomplished through operational competency. The ongoing professional growth of your rated members will in large part determine the effectiveness of your command.
Ambarian: Just like the rest of us, A/O’s and engineers need to use their skills to stay sharp. The first company operation on drill day should be done with all personnel in their normal positions. This gives your rated people the opportunity to hone their skills and gives your actors the opportunity to see operations done before they have to do it.
Develop drills that are applicable to your district. Reinforce their knowledge by practicing truck, engine and pump operations you will need in your district. To keep everyone on their toes, go straight into the drill without a pre-drill heads-up. A little uncertainty and anxiety is good.
Talk to your drivers. You will get a good feel for their strengths and weaknesses, and you just might learn something along the way. Let them select the drill site from time to time. They know all the challenging aerial throws, difficult hydrant spots, unusual construction and the areas you will lay-two. Remember to keep your drills practical; this is fire science, not rocket science.
Jones: You must know the capabilities of your rated members if you’re going to develop and challenge them. When I want to challenge them I disrupt their normal routine – I create situations that force them to utilize a broader understanding of the task at hand.
Most often we train on how things are supposed to go at a fire, but how about when they go wrong? Are your rated members trained and ready to make the right decisions when problem arise? Can your engineer draft without using the priming pump? How will your engineer let you know they’ve lost water when they can’t get through on the radio? How will your A/O react when a firefighter goes through the roof? What will they say on the radio? Will they continue to cut?
In thinking about what to drill on when developing your rated members, keep in mind that “smooth seas make not for skillful sailors.” Teach them the art of problem solving and recovering. That is what truly defines a quality rated member.
Next month’s Kitchen Table Wisdom article will feature three of the LAFD’s finest rated members: Engineers Steve Canchola and Oscar Gutierrez, and A/O Steve Hall. These members will opine on locker room leadership, and provide sound advice for newly promoted A/O’s and engineers.
Facilitated by Jerry Bedoya, Capt II, FS 10