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Grant Schwalbe's Blog (20)

Downed Firefighter PPE Removal

Firefighter CPR-A Different Perspective

Giving full credit to Leland FD for first showing us an option for Firefighter CPR.  As with anything we see online, on FB or in a video, we study it, try it out and see how it fits into our department, staffing and circumstances.  That being said, three things stood out to us as we trained on Firefighter CPR.  The compression guy was always in the way, We may not have 3 people available initially and perhaps most important is that we…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on February 10, 2017 at 1:30pm — No Comments

Attack or Search?

Imagine you are dispatched to a motor vehicle collision and when you arrive you see a driver unconscious with trauma to the neck and upper extremities bleeding profusely.  Without quick action he is sure to die.  But there are power lines on the car.  What comes first?  Deal with the power lines or go for the victim?


Many of us around the country are arriving…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on December 21, 2016 at 10:20am — No Comments

Civilian Victim Removal

When training on search, victim removal often gets very little attention.  Victims are most often found in one of two places:  a path of egress or in a bedroom. Logically, if the victim were 5-10 feet inside the front door, we would simply drag him/her out quickly.  But if the victim is found in a bedroom behind a closed door we must be careful not to do additional harm to this victim.  We say it often on our classes, “If you crawl through a smoky, hot hallway and open up a bedroom door and…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on July 13, 2016 at 6:30am — No Comments

Modified FDNY High Rise Load

Over the past 2 years my department has re-evaluated our high-rise setups.  In doing such we moved away from carrying 50’ of 2.5” hose, a gate-wye and 100’ of 1.75” hose to carrying 4 bundles of 2” hose.  Because we changed the hose configuration we also re-evaluated how we bundled it.


4 options

FDNY Load-Fit well in our compartments, deployed great, wanted a way to carry it over shoulder or bottle rather than on shoulder.

Denver Load-didn’t fit well in…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on April 10, 2016 at 7:03am — No Comments

Words Matter

In our world decisions are made in a split second.  In our world victims in a house fire have minutes not ‘tens of minutes’.  In our world first reports are often wrong.  In our world, words said over the radio have an effect on operations.  Those words can mean the difference between an aggressive interior search and a passive secondary only search.  We all know…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on February 15, 2016 at 8:00am — No Comments

If Not Us, Then Who?

The public has a set of expectations when they call the fire department. They expect that we will: 1) Save anyone that is inside 2) Put the fire out. 

Many departments (including mine) give awards for saves and great stops on fires.  I’m all for awards and unit citations, but if you really think about it, we are giving awards for meeting the expectations of the public.  Does any other job do that?


Speaking of Expectations

I set out my trash…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on February 1, 2016 at 8:30pm — No Comments

Searching Tenable Space

There has been a great push for both firefighters and civilians to understand the concept of “closing the door”.  To them (civilians) it means that they are safer in the event of a fire in the home.  To us, it means tenable space and a greater potential for a save, even in a well -involved building.


What if we find a victim in the bedroom?  How are do you plan to take them out?  We are creatures of habit, which means we are likely to go out the same way we came in.  If we…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on November 27, 2015 at 12:28pm — No Comments

Have you had “The Talk” with your crew?

Many of us run on short-staffed units.  We arrive on scene and begin the stretch with just an officer and a firefighter on the line.  Throw in a corner or two this can be a difficult stretch for just two people.  But what if you come across a victim?  Do you have a plan?  Have you talked about it with your crew?  Stats tell us that over 1/3 of the time civilians are found while trying to escape or control the fire.  With odds that great we should plan and practice for…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on November 16, 2015 at 7:30pm — No Comments

Fire Ground Decision Making-First Solution Vs Optimal Solution

As first responders we are tasked with arriving on the scene of some sort of emergency or problem and being responsible to come up with a solution.  Whether it’s a fire, EMS call, entrapment or water emergency our success is largely determined by how fast we can decide what needs to be done, get the resources and execute the plan.   Colonel John Boyd refers this process as the OODA Loop.  The OODA Loop is made up of 4 parts: Observe, Orient, Decide and Act.  The faster we do this the more…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on August 10, 2015 at 9:30am — No Comments

The Missing Hose Adaptor

When specking a new rig, most departments have a regular list of equipment that goes on each apparatus.  The engine is no different.  The first compartment, affectionately called the “Engineer Compartment”, is usually outfitted with a hydrant wrench, , reducers, spare nozzles, male to male, female-to-female adaptors a gate valves and a few other items.  The piece missing is the 1.5” female to 2.5” male adaptor.  I’ve worked for several departments and never had one on any rig.  After playing…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on April 30, 2015 at 7:30am — 1 Comment

Building Construction at 2AM

Knowledge of building construction is critical for a firefighter.  2 good resources for this information is 'The Art of Reading Buildings' by Dave Dodson and John Mittendorf and 'Building Construction' for the Fire Service by Francis Brannigan.  But how do you recall 600 plus pages of information when you arrive on the scene of a fire?  What from those 600 pages is important right now in determining my actions?   Firefighters need to have a good understanding of building construction as a…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on March 5, 2015 at 1:00pm — No Comments

Learning From The Past...Made Convenient

Each year we loose approximately 100 firefighters in the line of duty.  While all of the deaths are tragic and traumatizing to those involved, sadly many of them are the same story repeated over and over.  Vehicle accidents and heart attacks are common themes in the LODD notifications, while “combat casualties” seem to be the exception rather than the rule.


We vow “never to forget” and “not to let our brothers die in vain”. Do we really do this?  Do you pull up the NIOSH…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on December 31, 2014 at 8:30pm — No Comments

Are We Chasing The Right Things?

Today I read the US Fire Administration’s report on the Worcester Fire from December 3rd, 1999.  It’s a significant fire in terms of life lost and lessons learned.  I’ve read the report before and many others like it, but today something struck me.  It was the description at the front of the report on the condition of the Fire Department at the time of the incident.  I’ve never given too much thought to it before. In some LODD reports you can see obvious problems (now that we know…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on December 3, 2014 at 1:58pm — No Comments

Get Over It

We’ve all been there at one point or another.  We’ve had our idea shot down, we’ve been moved to a station or a shift we didn’t like, or we’ve been labeled as something we aren’t.  If you haven’t been there yet…just wait you will.



Added by Grant Schwalbe on September 23, 2014 at 8:00pm — 1 Comment

Make Your (Hose) Bed Talk To You

My department recently redesigned our apparatus.  We went from small cramped trucks to nice roomy trucks.  With this change we had to evaluate how our trucks were set up.  What was good, what was bad and are they the most efficient for our calls and staffing.

The configuration of our hose beds was a big change. Sticking with our old way of doing things was going to be a challenge.  This forced us to do something we’ve really never done before.  Research, practice and more…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on July 2, 2014 at 12:00pm — 2 Comments

Preplanning the Vacant

We all have them.  Some districts have more than others.  It’s the vacant home, trailer or business.  Kids play in them, people squat in them and we have fires in them.  As aggressive firefighters we understand that VACANT does not mean UNOCCUPIED.  Nearly ever week we see rescues made out of these “vacant structures”.  …


Added by Grant Schwalbe on May 16, 2014 at 9:34am — No Comments

Mutts, Catfish and FDIC

Next week, I, along with over 30,000 firefighters will make the annual journey to Indianapolis to “re-charge our batteries”.  We do this by surrounding ourselves with like-minded, passionate people and by learning from some of the greatest minds in the fire service.  An entire year of policy, politics and being around certain PEOPLE can be emotionally draining.  What if all of those things were actually in place in order to keep us sharp?  A story I recently heard makes a great case for…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on April 4, 2014 at 1:13pm — 4 Comments

Mitigation Speech in the Fire Service (Part 2) "Off the Fire Ground"

Missing Flight 370 started us on a discussion of mitigation speech on the fire ground.  It’s a concept first written about by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers.  Mitigation speech is a passive form of communication when we “downplay or sugarcoat the meaning of what’s actually being said”.


While talking with my wife the other day she spoke very highly of an acquaintance.  “That girl that is a “straight shooter” and she will give it to you like it is, no fluff.  You know…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on March 24, 2014 at 8:30pm — No Comments

A Missing Plane, Mitigation Speech and The Fire Service (Part 1) On The Fire Ground

As I see all the news reports about the missing Malaysia Airline Flight 370 I wonder how they got off track. Did anyone in the cockpit notice they were off course?  Maybe and maybe not.  If they did recognize the problem, did they speak up to the Captain?  When they spoke up were the comments clear and direct or were they passive hints and suggestions that the pilot never picked up on?


Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “Outliers”, introduces us to what is known as “Mitigation…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on March 14, 2014 at 10:00am — 1 Comment

Clear Expectations or Pet Peeves

I have been an officer on an Engine for almost 9 years. In that time I have worked with different crews and many different personalities.  As my crew changed, I also had to change my style to fit the crew.   What I has taken my nearly all 9 years to figure out is that when people don't do what I want or what I expect, it is most often because they didn't understand what I wanted.  That was tough for me to recognize because I think I am being very clear.  So I am the problem? Yes, at least a…


Added by Grant Schwalbe on March 6, 2014 at 6:00pm — 2 Comments

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