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Night Drills: Are We Training Enough at Night?

A large proportion of fire or rescue related incidents that we respond to often happen in the low light or dark hours of the day. This is important to know because we need to be proficient in working in these conditions. We usually do the majority of our training in daylight hours. This is because we can see and it’s easier to teach to students or refresh on skills in these conditions, it’s also easier to schedule the classes. I think we need to perform more of our trainings at night so we are the most prepared for these emergencies during the true conditions we will be called upon to perform in.

So what’s expected of us? According to the Insurance Services Office (ISO), only two night drills per year, 3 hours each, are required. That’s six measly little ol’ hours, just six. Is six hours of drill per year at night going to make us as proficient as we can possibly be for the citizens that we serve, when a large portion of our emergencies happen during the dark times of day? I think not. Let’s take a look at a few various tasks’ we may have to do at night and think about whether or not we have trained on them, or are prepared to respond to them, during the dark hours:

• Rope Rescue. We know rope rescues can be very labor and manpower intensive. They require hark work, a solid skill base, knowing your rigging, knots, and more. We usually practice these knots, 3:1’s, and more in the bay or on the training ground during the daylight. Scenario 1: What if two kids were hiking at a local hiking trail and they we’re caught out there at night and got lost. The two lost kids were walking around aimlessly when one miss stepped and fell over a bluff. The other kid calls 911 and reports the emergency. It’s dark, they’re lost and can’t give adequate directions or a trail name, and now your crew has to get to them, get set-up, and make this rope rescue happen in the dark. Are you ready? Do you know your trails? Do you know your rope skills in the dark?

• Roof Rescues. Scenario 2: It’s 12:30 a.m. and a local hood cleaning service is working at a local grocery store shopping center at a prominent restaurant in your area. There are members of their team on the roof cleaning the hood system up top when one of them suddenly collapses into cardiac arrest. The company calls 911 and reports the emergency. You arrive on scene and gain access to the roof via a ground ladder where the other employees are performing CPR. You need a truck company, some rope gear, stokes basket for patient packaging, and more. Are you prepared on your basket rigging at night? Are you prepared for roof rescues at night?

• Pump Operations and Fire Attack. We teach Apparatus Operator and Apparatus Aerial courses for one week each. 8-5 every day. When these students complete these courses and continue their education on the skills related to Driver/Engineers and one day promote to that rank, how much have they pumped at night? How many hydrants have they caught on their own and in the dark? How familiar are your company members in setting up ground monitors, a water thief, deck gun pins and operations, and other various fire appliances at night? What if it’s a house on a hill with a long lay out, poor communications, wye’s lines are to be built, and more? We have to be prepared for this.

• Hazardous Materials Operations. It’s 9:30 p.m. and you get a call for a chlorine leak. There are multiple patients and decontamination is required. Are your members able to perform hazmat tasks’ at night? Assembling and assisting members with donning and doffing Level “A” PPE, setting up the decontamination tents, hoses, and equipment, over packing drums, installing dome cover clamps, the various chlorine kits, air monitoring, and more? If not, they need to be.

• Extrication. Are your crew members proficient in all the working parts of your extrication equipment and various tips? What about the proper cuts? Small hand tools like the sawzall, air chisels, and hi-lift jacks? Do they know the ins and outs of the stabilization equipment? The pins, pin holes, the foot plates, head accessories, straps, and more? Do they know their gauges and hose connections for air bag uses and how to correct any problems that they may occur on the side of the interstate at 2 a.m.? I sure hope so.

This type of training is especially important for the new recruits you may have on your crew. They need to not only be training on a daily basis, but making sure they can perform even the most basic of firefighting tasks at night. The list of scenarios goes on and on. I can name thousands of skills we need to be able to perform at night, you know why? The reason why is because we’re responsible for responding to, and mitigating, ALL emergencies at any given time of the day. Regardless of how simple or complex the emergency is we have to be able to perform these tasks at night. So the next time you’re planning a single or multi-company drill, tell your guys to relax and take the afternoon off and enjoy some time to themselves because at 10:30 that night y’all will be hitting the streets, local businesses, or training grounds to do some night training! When you’re First-In it’s YOUR call, regardless of time of day! Are you ready?

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