Bleeding the Line
Many habits are formed in the academy and on the drill ground. Some of these habits are good and some not so good. We try to create a realistic scenario and environment as much as possible during drill. Due to many constraints we are faced with the need to adjust what we would or should really do because “this is only a drill.”
Firefighters are taught very early on to open the bale, bleed the air and check the pattern after they have called for a line to be charged. Over time this process has been pushed into hyper speed. Firefighters are very competitive. Often this competition comes down to speed as opposed to what is right. The priority sometimes shifts to seeing how fast we can pull a pre-connected attack line, call for water, bleed the line and mask up, as opposed to how correct the entire process is.
For this article we will only look at the process of bleeding the line. When you have called for a line to be charged there are three people that are involved in ensuring that the line is ready.
The Nozzle Person- physically pulls the line and will be operating the nozzle. They are responsible for directing the fire stream. They must be confident in the line they will take into battle.
The Pump Operator- physically charges the line. They are responsible for setting the proper pressure and observing during active fire attack that the GPM showing on their flow meter is accurately reflecting the capabilities of the line. This could be a tip if a crew is only flowing 80gpm on a 150gpm line. They may need to trouble shoot- Kinks in Line, Inadequate Pressure or The Nozzle Person only partially opening the bale. They must be confident in the line that will be taken into battle.
The Officer- They are responsible for guiding the fire attack. They are responsible for the initial size up and decision making. They are responsible for deciding what size line needs to be engaged to overwhelm the predicted fire size (the size of the fire that will be faced in the next 3 minutes, the time it takes to set up the initial attack) as opposed to the size of the fire now. They are responsible for the safety of the crew and conducting the risk/benefit assessment. They must be confident in the line that will be taken into battle.
If the Nozzle Person uses the “bleed the air” method they are shorting all three people of valuable information that they need to make some very critical decisions. Instead the Nozzle Person should turn to the side and fully flow the line. The bale should be opened fully and flowed for up to 10 seconds. The line should be aimed in a safe direction as opposed to the ground. Aiming a line at the ground does not let the reach and shape of the stream be observed. It also creates a potentially dangerous situation as debris could easily be blown by a 100 psi line. Now after these steps have occurred everyone has the information they need. Everyone has confidence in the line that will be taken into battle.
The Nozzle Person feels the reaction of the line and sees the shape and reach of the stream. They can make critical decisions on how close they need to advance or how much energy they can deflect off a wall or ceiling. They know that their weapon is loaded and they have confidence in the line that will be taken into battle.
The Pump Operator sets their pump and adjusts pressures. They see with their eyes the strength of the stream and its shape. They see with their eyes the Discharge Pressure and GPM they are flowing. They are now confident in the line that will be taken into battle.
The Officer sees the shape and reach of the stream. They see how The Nozzle Person handles their weapon. They see that the stream is sustained and pressure is not lost. They know that they have Company Cohesion and that this team is Battle Ready. They are now confident in the line that will be taken into battle.
The next time you find yourself in the position of The Nozzle Person take the time to do your assignment correctly. Let the rest of your team have the knowledge that they need to do their assignment correctly. Take the time at your station to discuss this and make sure that all of your crew members are on the same page. Make a commitment to bring the “Fire” back into the Firehouse.
This job gets real, real quick.