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Training is not just for the bread and butter tasks, but to sharpen skills that we rarely use, too. This cartoon focuses on one of those tasks: standpipe training, tactics and operation. Are standpipes a resource that we use often? Most of us would probably say no. Is utilizing standpipe connections a real and present possibility? I think most would say yes. So, why do we continually read about improper line stretches and mistakes? Well, it comes down to training and repetition, and taking time to pre-plan our response areas - to train in those facilities when possible – if nothing more than taking a tour and discussing the best course of action.


I could go on, but I’m going to yield the floor to Lieutenant Steve Robertson from the Columbus (OH) Division of Fire. Lt. Robertson has been teaching hose line tactics for many years, as well as being a national speaker and instructor on engine company tactics (including FDIC). So, I can think of no better person to share his thoughts and wisdom on this blog.


Steve, the floor is yours, my brother:


         In today’s fire service we are always being asked to do more with less. We take more runs than ever before whether it be EMS, alarms, or personal assist. Also we are asked to do more in the aspect of community relations (Ms. Smith), school programs, building inspections, running the safe house etc. So when we finish truck checks, house chores, daily paperwork while all the time taking runs…..the next thing you know the day is gone. If by some chance your boss is squared away and makes time for training it is usually the bread and butter operations which we do often. While I personally think the bread and butter training is some of the best training we do, I also believe we need to step out of our comfort zone and challenge our self at times. Why do we not want to be out of our comfort zone? We all have our hang-ups but most of it is fear. The fear of being exposed to our peers, whether the boss has fear of not knowing the answer in front of his firefighters or the fear of asking the questions. As firefighters we need to put our fears and hang-ups aside and do the right thing. We need to have enough pride in ourselves, the job and the citizens we protect to be better than that. A mentor of mine Retired LT. Mike Polaski told me “good is not good enough in our job, we must train every day to be better than good.” That has always stuck with me. While thinking of that I ask myself a question, would I want me going to rescue my family? How does this turn into standpipe training? While this is a subject which was put on the backseat much of my career several great instructors such as Capt. Bill Gustin, BC Curt Isakson, Ret. BC Jerry Tracy, BC Dave Mcgrail, Lt. Ray McCormack just to name a few have showed us how important standpipe operations can be. So if we don’t have the information where do we go to get it? All of the above named instructors have written articles, books, done web cast, lectures and about any other form of learning you can imagine. Don’t be scared to seek out the information. A great conference in which all of the instructors I have mentioned above as well as many more is the High Rise Operations Conference in Pensacola Beach Florida. This is 3 full days of standpipe operations including hands on, check it out. You don’t know what you don’t know! I also suggest you research and learn from Standpipe Operations Gone Bad,1 Meridian Plaza in Philadelphia which taught us about PRV’s. The fire in Memphis Tennessee at 750 Adams which taught us about accountability and elevator use. Deutsche Bank Fire in New York City where standpipes were out of service. What do all of these fires have in common? They all were standpipe operations where things did not go as planned and unfortunately lives were lost. After the knowledge is gained we must do one thing, TRAIN!! While lecture is very important to lay the ground work we must get out of the house and do the work. There is no substitution for getting out and stretching in the stair well. Something I like to do on EMS runs is after patient care has been completed take the stairwell back to the rig. Take a second and take the cap off of the standpipe. Does it have PRV’s or PRD’s? If so, what type, adjustable or non adjustable, can they be removed? I assure you when there is a fire is not the time to find out a non-adjustable PRV has been placed on the wrong floor. Another tip is do walk-throughs. When doing this several things must be accomplished. Where is the control room, who has keys, where is the pump room. I also like to take a landscape wheel and measure from the standpipe on the floor below to the middle of the building. How many lengths is that going to take? This is just the tip of the iceberg we call standpipe operations, do us all a favor, get the knowledge and train so you don’t end up on the titanic.


Lt. Steve Robertson

Columbus Ohio Division of Fire E-18                         



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