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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fire Protection Training: Ropes & Knots

How Is That Knot Tied? I have to admit I’m far from the best or most knowledgeable at tying a simple knot. Ropes and knots are an important tool fire fighters may have to use when on the fire ground. It benefit’s the fire fighter to make it a monthly practice to review various knots that might be needed on the emergency scene. Using the correct knot could be the difference of a quick operation being completed or one where there is a delayed because a “Mickey Mouse Knot” was used. A knot that is tied which is a what ever I can tie that looks like a knot but will have to do for the moment could hamper and make for additional danger added to an already dangerous operation. Just like using the right tool for the work at hand, the same can be said about knots. Use the right knot for the operation at hand when utilizing ropes.

Some of the basic firefighting rope tying knots I’ve learned over the years and seem to always be reviewing are the Square, Clove Hitch, Bowling, Figure 8 Bite, and the Butterfly. Could say I wasn’t a Boy Scout in my younger day and if I was I probably be taking awhile to get the merit badge for knot tying. Thus the importance of training and reviewing knot tying on a regular bases.

Lets review and learn to tie some fireman’s knots you may have to use with that rope…

A Square Knot is a quick knot that can be tied two different ways….

A proper Clove Hitch looks like a pretzel….

The Bowline is a self-tightening knot that can be used for many things….

A Figure Eight Bite is a common way to attach objects to rope….

The Butterfly Knot forms a locking loop in the middle of a rope….

On the fire ground, fire fighters may have to hoist tools up with a rope to another fire fighter at a higher level. Tools that are tied to a rope need to have the correct knots used so they don’t create a fall hazard.

Here’s how a Fire Axe is tied onto ropes using the Bowline….

A Halligan tool is a fireman's tool used to pry, twist, punch or strike. Here’s how a Halligan tool is tied onto ropes using the Figure Eight Bite….

There is a great amount of reference material on the internet today to help home in on the skill, as well as use as a resource for tying knots correctly. The above YouTubes videos by Fire Fighter Captain Joe Bruni are readily available to help fire fighters know how to tie a particular knot correctly. This information resource should be used when ever training. Especially, when there isn’t a knowledgeable instructor available. To build that knowledge base so the job can get done when call upon to do so.

Another good and one of the best online sites for learning & referencing knot tying that I came across is…

The web site shows a step by step way to learn how to tie various knots. As a fire fighter it’s “Better to know a knot and not need it, than need a knot and not know it.”

You cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind ~ author unknown

The same applies to training in the fire protection field, you just can’t think about training and the training magically happens. Training must be explained, shown, have practical “hands on,” actual showing & doing, and displaying confidence in doing what is being taught. This is the training process, a multi-step process of “how” something is done. Just thinking about training is not going to make the grade, the actual doing is going to get you across the finish line.

(The usual disclaimers: I am not a journalist; This is a blog that expresses an outlook and is not conclusive in any shape or manner.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ten Fire Safety Tips:

Here are 10 fire safety tips that will help keep you and your family safe from fire, please read through them and discuss them with your family.

1. Install and test smoke detectors

Working smoke detectors can alert you to a fire in your home in time for you to escape, even if you are sleeping. Install smoke detectors near each sleeping area, it is best if you install one inside your sleeping area as well. Test detectors every month (always follow the manufacturer's directions) and replace batteries once a year, or whenever a detector "chirps" to signal low battery power. Never "borrow" a smoke detector's battery for another use - a disabled detector can't save your life. Replace detectors that are more than 10 years old.

2. Plan Your Escape From Fire

If a fire breaks out in your home, you have to get out fast. Prepare for a fire emergency by sitting down with your family and agreeing on an escape plan. Be sure that everyone knows at least two ways out - including doors and windows - from every room. (If you live in an apartment building, do not include elevators in your escape plan.) Decide on a meeting place outside where everyone will meet after they escape. Have your entire household practice your escape plan at least twice a year.

3. Keep An Eye On Smokers

Careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths in North America. Smoking in bed or when you are drowsy could be deadly. Provide smokers with large, deep non-tip ashtrays and soak butts with water before discarding them. Before going to bed or leaving home after someone has been smoking, check under and around cushions and upholstered furniture for smoldering cigarettes.

4. Cook Carefully

Never leave cooking unattended. Keep cooking areas clear of combustibles and wear clothes with short, rolled-up or tight-fitting sleeves when you cook. Turn pot handles inward on the stove where you can't bump them and children can't grab them. Enforce a "Kid-Free Zone" three feet (one meter) around your kitchen stove. If grease catches fire in a pan, slide a lid over the pan to smother the flames and turn off the heat. Leave the lid on until cool.

5. Give Space Heaters Space

Keep portable heaters and space heaters at least three feet (one meter) from anything that can burn. Keep children and pets away from heaters, and never leave heaters on when you leave home or go to bed.

6. Remember: Matches And Lighters Are Tools, Not Toys

In a child's hand, matches and lighters can be deadly. Use only child-resistant lighters and store all matches and lighters up high, where small children can't see or reach them, preferably in a locked cabinet. Teach your children that matches and lighters are tools, not toys, and should be used only by adults or with adult supervision. Teach young children to tell a grown-up if they find matches or lighters; older children should bring matches or lighters to an adult immediately.

7. Cool A Burn

Run cool water over a burn for 10 to 15 minutes. Never put butter or any grease on a burn. If the burned skin blisters or is charred, see a doctor immediately. Never use ice.

8. Use Electricity Safely

If an electrical appliance smokes or has an unusual smell, unplug it immediately, then have it serviced before using it again. Replace any electrical cord that is cracked or frayed. Don't overload extension cords or run them under rugs. Don't tamper with your fuse box or use improper-size fuses.

9. Crawl Low Under Smoke

During a fire, smoke and poisonous gases rise with the heat. The air is cleaner and cooler near the floor. If you encounter smoke while you are escaping from a fire, use an alternate escape route

10. Stop, Drop And Roll

If your clothes catch fire, don't run. Stop where you are, drop to the ground, cover your face with your hands, and roll over and over to smother the flames.

Using prevention techniques will greatly improve your chances of never having to escape from a fire. Don't be fooled though, you never know when or where a fire will break out--always be ready! Be Fire Safe!

(The usual disclaimers: I am not a journalist; This is a blog that expresses an outlook and is not conclusive in any shape or manner.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Complacency - The Kiss of Death

In the fire protection service the prime objective is to save lives and to preserve property form fire. This is done through initial and intense training at the fire school with follow-up training in the field once assigned. Fire fighters learn to do the job as a fire fighter by being prepared. Having worked in the fire protection career for awhile now it has been and always will be keeping to the basics. Also staying “360 Safe” when on the fire ground. The old fire fighting saying is “We all go home at the end of our shift” after doing what needs to be done to accomplish the objective.

For the career fire fighter, who may be a civil servant, volunteer, or military, over the years of service it’s about keeping up-to-date and current with ones fire knowledge. This can be as simple as attending training classes, performing in training drills, or walking in the station each day or shift checking equipment that could be used off the fire trucks. It needs to be done daily.

A pre-fire plan of a potential incident is also part of the basics. To know before hand weather there could be a chance of a primary search or not is an advantage to the fire fighter. The initial seconds/minutes at the scene of a working fire are critical and important and lives may depend on actions taken. Knowing pertinent information about the fire ground such as facility lay out, weather there’s a sprinkler system or not, location of fire hydrants, and other hazards can make or break any fire fighting operation.

In the following YouTube video is actual footage of a fire and emergency response effort on the USS Forrestal in 1967 of a devastating fire. Lessons can be learned from a film such as this and should help re-focus ones prospective on how important it is to know the basics as well as team work within the fire service. Lives may very well depend on it…

The entire 19 minutes film is available at the Fedflix site on the internet archives at

The film showed that a worse case scenario of specially trained fire fighters being taken out on the initial ordinance blasts. Though the remaining crew may have had some sort of basic fire fighting training in the past upon enter the service, it was evident no formal follow up fire fighting training was present. With many fire fighting tools at hand the general crew was not trained in their use and were unable to use them correctly.

Fire fighting crew can not work against each other on the efforts to extinguishment on the fire ground. Fire fighters can not perform on the job training on how equipment works at a fire incident. Most important and always at the fore front “Life & Death” rescue decisions can not be made without considering what the potential hazard is to the fire fighter. Remember “We all go home at the end of our shift.” The daily life of a fire fighter is to know the basics of the job. By knowing the basics there will be no room for any form of “Complacency.”

(The usual disclaimers: I am not a journalist; This is a blog that expresses an outlook and is not conclusive in any shape or manner.)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Smokey Bear – Happy 65th Birthday

"Remember ... only you can prevent forest fires."

Thank you Smokey Bear for the faithful serves all these year and all the years to come.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Smoke detectors provide warning in case of fire

A lot of people think that fire kills, when actually it’s the smoke from a fire that usually causes casualties.

Most of these deaths occur at night and are the result of asphyxiation, toxic gas inhalation, or exposure to heated air. When a fire occurs while occupants are asleep, often they will not have a chance to escape due to their unconscious caused by deadly smoke and gases.

The most effective way to prevent this is to install an early warning system. Installing Underwriters Laboratories (UL) rated smoke detectors can help warn of the early stages of a fire and the presence of smoke.

There are two basic types of smoke detectors, photo-electric and ionization. They both operate when particles of combustion are detected in the air.

However, smoke detectors must be properly located in the home to provide protection. Smoke detectors should be placed on every level of the home; immediately outside bedrooms, in the hallway; in the living room or near the stairway to the second floor; and also near the basement stairway.

After installing smoke detectors there is the responsibility of maintaining them. This involves change batteries as required, or at least annually on battery operated smoke detectors and testing detectors regularly, at least monthly. Also, clean regularly according to manufactures instructions and never paint over smoke detectors.

Here is a YouTube video where Captain Joe Bruni shows how a smoke alarm uses a circuit board and works when smoke enters the sensing chamber, setting off a loud, audible tone. Captain Joe Bruni also explains the difference between ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms …

Here’s another YouTube videos where Captain Joe Bruni explains how to install a smoke detector by mounting it high on a wall, at least four to 12 inches away from the ceiling. Captain Joe Bruni explains to avoid placing a smoke detector too close to where the wall and ceiling meet, also known as a dead zone …

Your local community fire department can help assist you in any questions you may have and assist you in deciding proper installation. Be prepared, be fire safe.

(The usual disclaimers: I am not a journalist; This is a blog that expresses an outlook and is not conclusive in any shape or manner.)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A.R.F.F. Training

Last week on Thursday, 7-30-09, I had the opportunity to take part in the ARFF live burn training that was hosted and held at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton airport, PA.. The fire fighters practiced dousing propane gas flames shot from spill fires surrounding the mock aircraft while putting out two engine fires. 90 percent of crashes happen off airport property while 10 percent happen on-site, according to FAA statistics. Having this kind of training on an annual bases helps prepare fire fighters. Classroom instruction can give you the knowledge. Its not until you actually feel the heat and carry something heavy out of the aircraft that you realize as a fire fighter to be fortunate to attend and have a live training burn drill like this.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) mobile trainer and approved FAA Part 139 annual live fire training instruction was provided by the ARFF certified instructors from Kellogg Community College, Battle Creek, MI..

There was a great class room presentation/instruction and there was the aircraft itself that would be set on fire for the fire fighters to train on. Actually the aircraft is a mobile training simulator that travels the country providing a variety of realistic fire scenarios for firefighters. This aircraft simulator unit actually burns and the fire personnel work in an active fire environment. The training on this aircraft simulator allowed fire fighters to learn proper approach to an aircraft fire with hand lines and for assigned rescue fire fighters to enter the plane where a audio tape of people screaming helps to make the scenario feel more like a real aircraft emergency.

Now if you’re asking, “What is ARFF?” you can read my last month’s blog article about it at What is A.R.F.F.? I give a bit of insight on what ARFF is. There is a lot to becoming and follow up training to maintain being an ARFF fire fighter, and the live burns are all part of that. Here’s a YouTube video that shows what an ARFF aircraft mobile training simulator is like and shows the fire fighter training on it…

The reason this type of ARFF training is conducted is to make sure the fire fighters that may face such an emergency will be familiar with an aircraft while it’s on fire and the hazards associated with it. The fire fighters gets to test their skills on a simulated airplane crash, with the results of this type training giving them the confidence to perform under what ever circumstance may develop on the fire ground.

(The usual disclaimers: I am not a journalist; This is a blog that expresses an outlook and is not conclusive in any shape or manner.)

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