What I Keep in My Pockets: Nick

Over the next week or so, a few of our instructors will each post a little about what they have in their pockets and why…  As a bit of background, I work in a diverse neighborhood of Washington, DC and spend most of my time on a ladder company, with an occasional detail to an engine.  We have a few good neighborhoods, but many are not.  We run a variety of building types: from ranchers to old victorians, multi-story walkup tenements, taxpayers, garden apartments, etc.

Click “read more” to find out what I carry & why….

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Forcible Entry Tool Maintenance

Chris Good of West Chester, PA asked a “good”  (get it, lol) question in the comments of another post – “Do any of the instructors have any tips on maintaining forcible entry tools? ”  Here are a few quick thoughts on the topic…

Tools require regular maintenance and care, whether they have been used recently or not.  A tool will take care of you only as well as you take care of it. 

  1. Handheld grinder with a wire brush: lets you quickly and easily clean off the metal parts of a halligan bar or axe (and many other tools).  This will also let you get in the tight corners to remove rust, debris, etc…
  2. Don’t paint the tools:  with the exception of some small company or unit markings, – especially stirking surfaces.
  3. Don’t add “grips” to Halligan bars: (celtex, hockey tape and wire, etc…).  A quality halligan bar has an octognal shaft as part of the design, which is more than sufficient for grip, even when wet.  In addition, the addition of a grip can inhibit the bar’s use during certain techniques.
  4. A thin coat of linseed oil or maybe some clearcoat spray can buy you some time before rust sets in.
  5. Either way, maintenance has to be a regular thing – whether the tool was used recently or not.

Back to Basics Drill

Put it in the category of oldie-but-a- goodie, but here is a drill for you to run at your Firehouse that requires minimal setup but will achieve maximum results. We have seen too many LODD’s and close calls that fall into the “lost/disoriented” category that may have been prevented. Most have not done a hose coupling identification drill in zero visibility since recruit school but it only takes one time when you are in trouble to understand how important this skill is to have.

Have each person black out their face piece and follow a 1 3/4″ hose line for about 50-100′ feet, than take the next section of hose and jumble it up (put it in knots, over couches, under the Engine Co., etc.)so that the FF will have to carefully follow it. When they get to the next coupling, have them identify which way is towards the fire, and which way is towards the exit. Record the results and review with everyone afterwards, hopefully you will have 100% success but unfortunately, you probably will not. Try to come up with new and innovative ways to remember how to get out, for instance, smooth – bump – bump to the pump. Which equates to the smooth male coupling to the first lugs and than the female lugs and out to the Engine and safety. Post your comments for all to learn and share


Two Rings & A Rubber Hose: Putting a SCBA Mask on a Downed Firefighter

Face mask emergencies are one of the 3 major types of SCBA failures that can occur (do you know the other two??).  If a SCBA mask fails, or a FF who is out of air removes one, you as the RIT may have to put a new face piece on the downed FF if they are unconscious – and the environment you will have to perform this operation in will not be pleasant.  While the techniques may differ slightly for different SCBA manufacturers, the concept is the same.  During our recent “Back to Basics” program at the DCFD’s Training Academy, we have discovered several techniques and some “tricks” to simply the operation. 

Over the past 4 months and few hundred FF’s that have come through the program, a common problem has occurred:  it is tough for a gloved hand to grab small parts of a SCBA mask and make it fit.  We have discovered that the simple addition of a small piece of rubber hose at the bottom of the SCBA mask netting as well as two large rings on the lower face straps allow the mask to be placed eaiser and more securely.

The rescuing FF lines up the chin-cup of the mask with the downed FF’s chin and holds the mask against the victims face to create a temporary seal.  With their other hand, the rescuer grabs the rubber hose (easily ID’d) and pulls it down over the vicitms head to the bottom of their neck.  The two large metal rings are much easier to find than the small kevlar straps, and those are used to tighten the bottom straps (which create most of the seal).

You’re on the Truck and given the assignment to vent the roof. Easy, right?

You are riding the truck and arrive at a working fire in an elementary school. The Chief assigns you to vent the roof because the Engine is having a hard time making the push to get to the seat of the fire and Truck is crying that it is too hot (as they often do!). Sounds easy right? Imagine the first picture is Side Adam and you have a considerable amount of smoke and fire showing, seems managable, you’ll head to roof, determine the area over top the fire, make your cut, and the companies will be able to complete their jobs. One problem, take a look at the next set of pictures, the roof is a ball field and playground! As our society becomes more “green”, this technique of building schools to use the earth to assist in insulating is becoming more common. Talk amongst your crew and devise how you would vent the roof? What would be your game plan? What would be your radio report to the Chief? 

The key to this fire and getting out and knowing your area. Just like a cop who walks the beat, we need to know our buildings before they are on fire.

Sound that FLOOR!

How many times have you taken the floor for granted?  That’s right we’ve all done it!   Usually until you learn the hard way!  You crawl across during your search, limited to no visibility.  Pushing that line down the hall looking for the basement stairs.  Nothing making sure your next move isn’t DOWN… “Combat Ready” doesn’t stop at the front door!  It should be in your mind all the time.  Tell yourself to crab walk with that hoseline, so your center of gravity is toward the back.  Keeping a foot out front.   During your search, use the same tactic.  Along with sounding with your tool!!!  " Mayday Mayday Mayday"Using the crab walk will let you see the conditions that are rapidly changing above your head!!!  Those same conditions that kill Brothers and Sisters everyday!  Work smarter not harder!  Be Safe…

Loss of a Brother & A Mentor

Few fireman have such a natural knack for the job and the ability to mentor and inspire other firefighters, but Mick was all these things.  Mark “Mick” McKenzie served as a life member of the Kentland Fire Department and held rank to the position of Deputy Fire Chief.  In addition, he was a career firefighter in Montgomery County, Maryland serving at various firehouses such as Rockville, Wheaton, and Takoma Park.

Mick had just enough quirks to make you want to listen to him.  He was up so much he fell asleep constantly, in the most random of places – usually with a cigarette in his mouth.  One night, he was in charge of TL-33 and we were returning from a AFA around 0200hrs.  I was a newly hired career firefighter and I was tired and worried about getting to work at my normal time in the AM…. Mick made us stop at 3 different 7-Elevens so he could find the right flavor Slushee to mix with his soda.  On another night, he kept me and some other guys up till 0430hrs teaching us about locks.

Mick performed flawlessly on the fireground.  He was the epitome of “first in, last out” and always had something to show you or teach you.  He was the type of guy who inspired you to shut up and listen whenever he said anything – it was a privilege for him to just to take time to talk to you.  He had a “can do” attitude and made sure you had it too.  Cited countless times by numerous organizations for his herosim, ingenuity, and valor, Mick was well known in the metro-DC area fire service.  

He passed away yesterday, August 15, 2008 in Frederick, MD.

Mick represents another lost from what seems to be a dying stock of “inspirational firefighters”.  His career and his teachings should inspire all of us to do what he did best – inspire others.  Don’t waste the resources around you.  There are a lot of phenominal firefighters out there.  You might not recognize it immediatley, but some of them could be standing right next to you.  Take time, every day, to learn from others and to share with others what you know.  

Thats what Mick taught me.