When we train for responding to structure fires, the focus is often on hose deployment and nozzle advancement. While doing this, the goal is to ensure crews are flaking the hose in an orderly manner, bleeding the air, masking up for the entry, and making the push towards the hazard. This is great! And practice makes perfect; but let's focus on the less appreciated, but most important part of making the stretch. The backup firefighter.
The backup firefighter is the backbone of the operation. This firefighter could be forcing entry, pulling extra hose, all while advancing and retreating down the line as needed. We need to focus on this important job, as the backup firefighters is the glue holding any successful operation together.
Recently while conducting hose line training in an acquired structure with my crew; I first let the crew use any way they wanted to advance the line to the simulated fire room. Once completed, we packed up, debriefed and recalled what held us up the most, in their opinion. The main reasons identified were the lack of extra hose in the building, right turns faced in the stairwell, and initial position of the flakes after pulling the cross lay off the apparatus. These problems were the basis of the next drill scenario, and by focusing on those lessons learned, I knew we would be more efficient the next time. They are as follows;
1. Try and stretch the cross lay to allow for easy advancement in the doorway. Taking the extra time to ensure this is a priority will save you from going back. Flaking perpendicular to the entryway of the structure creates added friction and produces more work. Thinking of this as your hands pull the nozzle upon grabbing the cross lay will assist in your positioning. The hose should glide into the front door with minimal turns and kinks, and will hopefully remove the hazards associated with landscaping issues, fences, and other front yard struggles. In addition, use and apply the hose load most efficient for your operating area and train under non emergency conditions regularly.
2. The coupling is the most underrated tool in the fire department. The coupling creates connections of various length of hose and appliances, identifies the exit in emergencies, and when deploying hose can assist in advancing. Grab the coupling, this will give you a firm place to hold on to, but will also give you an estimate on how much hose you have in or out of the building. Example, If the back up firefighter grabs the first coupling behind the nozzle, this could give notice of 50 or 100ft of line in the structure.
3. As the backup. Pull more hose into the building than you need. Many instructors will teach that keep pushing hose till it stops. Unfortunately, you will be the one to crawl to the nozzle to receive the message that "we need more hose". When the nozzle gets far enough that direct communication is no longer available. Rapidly pull (grab a coupling) as much hose as possible into the space you occupy and move up. This will eliminate the need to keep running/crawling up and down the hose line. Of course high rise and special occupancies will require special considerations.
In regards to our training that day, by focusing on the shortcomings we faced in our first evolution; we were able to cut almost three minutes off the next drill; all while having more air left in the SCBA, and conserving needed energy. Pulling lines and training is the only way to know what works and what doesn't. Get out there and pull some lines, people are counting on you to be as efficient as possible.
Live Motivated, Keep Learning, and Stay Vigilant….