As you surf the tube, you've probably run across "That 70's Show...." It's a trip back to the 70's when many of us were teenagers and our parents looked like we do now. The props used in the show could have come right out of mom's kitchen. After all, who would have a white refrigerator? That wouldn't be cool!
And as long as you're in charge of the remote, you'll probably stop on one of those reruns of EMERGENCY! It was a great show. You still get a thrill when Roy and Johnny jump in Squad 51 and race down the apron. So where is this all going, you're probably wondering?
I'm not done yet! In many fire stations, protective clothing was not issued but instead carried in compartments on the apparatus. How's this one? A boot rack. That's right. Boots were hung on the side of the apparatus (inverted). To get them off, you had to climb up in the hose bed, usually when the engine was moving, to get one left foot size 11 and one right foot size 12. No safety concern here!
How about those red ball gloves? We're not poking fun here. They were great if you were smelting or maybe picking up hose. They really sucked when you came /out of a rare interior fire fight and took the gloves off.... that's when your skin stayed inside of them!
How about five speed transmissions with two speed rear axles? Here we come Johnny Double Clutcher! Man could be make those gas engines scream... but don't miss a gear going up or down hill. Why the standard transmissions? Because real truck drivers drive standards!
Interior operations.... yeah, once in a while. Most fire companies had one or two "inside guys". They were one's who knew how to get the "air-paks" out of the cases. Most of the time we didn't bother with them, just grab that nozzle from the "rip and run" hose load or maybe just take the booster so the water would last!
What are they? We'd just go to a fire and if we need help, and I doubt
we will, we'll call. But don't cancel your plans!
How about the mini-pumper?
What a great concept. A little fire truck for a little fire. A big fire
truck for a big fire. Originally used successfully in Syracuse, fire departments
around the country raced out to buy mini-pumpers. In reality most of us
know that probably about 90% of our incidents could be handled by a mini-pumper....
smells and bells, investigations, medical assists, inspections, brush fires.
But when you put 1000' of 5 " hose, rescue tools, 250 gallons of water
and a myriad of other equipment on board, the springs begin to squat and
the rig has some problems on steep inclines! So mini-pumpers as we knew
them, kinda faded into the sunset only to be replaced today by a bigger
brother today call the "urban interface unit...."
From the 80's through the present we've all toyed with pre fire planning. You know, we're going to look at target hazards, decide where to park the ladder truck, determine where the first engine goes, on and on. Good in theory, not in practice. The first due engine scratches, the second due engine goes to it's "assigned spot" but the fire is on side one, with no engine there. It was a great concept to try to have total control over the fire's script, but the real world doesn't work that way.
Don't get me wrong. Pre-planning is important. Gather facts about the building, it's fire protection features, inherent hazards, occupant information, an overall strategy. If it takes over 30 seconds to read and digest, then all you've done is killed trees!
How can we forget .... incident command and accountability? We all want to be an incident commander. It has a nice ring to it. The first requirement is that you should be able to read and write "incident commander". No kidding. Many trying to do the job would struggle with that task. Blowing the siren and flashing the lights comes later!
So what does this incident command stuff really mean? Well, there must be someone in charge. I guess that's the incident commander!
"Back in the 70's we never did it this way," many old fire chief's grumble. "We'd be inside with our men. If need be we'd go to the roof to get it opened."
How about those roving commanders? Those guys who ran all over the fire ground. Most of the time they were screaming in a radio! After all you have to see all sides of the building, right? Oh, we've come so far.
Accountability. If that's what you call it? You'll hear it all.... One tag or two? Do we hang them on the engine? But I came in a private vehicle and will only be here for a little while because I have to leave, so I won't use a tag. My department uses two tags, your department uses one and the X-team only use tags when they shoot a buck!
How about the firefighter who needs new tags because his melted? Took the tags inside, I'd guess. ... Great conversation piece. Not very smart.
In reality, many departments have a haphazard approach to command and accountability. They get the trade magazines, so they want to mimic other departments but they just can't pull it together. Why? Maybe because we have a 70's show mentality. We want to be in the 21st century, have the new fire engine or rescue truck, take it to all the parades and smile for the pictures, but do they really have a clue?
Will that fire chief, who will be an incident commander, be able to stand up to the litmus test when Johnny doesn't come home from a fire call and his wife calls four hours later looking for him thinking he took a detour to the local pub on the way home? The reason he's not home, not at the firehouse, or at the pub is that he fell through the attic and was buried in a pile of rubble, out of air, and is now a statistic.
How could this happen? Easy. Use a haphazard approach to accountability. You know, "Yeah, we collect tags sometimes...." No personnel accountability reports, no final accountability before companies clear the fireground. That's how it happens. The judge, jury , media and other will have a ball with this. I guess your defense could be "...we didn't do it that way in the 70's...."
Incident command. "We don't need no stinkin' incident command.... That's just a hot shot Phoenix, Maryland or DC thing. Who do they think are? They're making a production out of this...."
Well.... wake up. This is the way we do business in the year 2001. We develop standard operating guidelines. We train by them. We develop and follow riding assignments. We develop response assignments and follow them. We select qualified officers. We take care and support our personnel and encourage them to train and develop.
Finally, we stand
on your own two feet and take credit when it is due, accept criticism and
be a true leader. If you want to be a part of that 70's show.... send an
e-mail to FOX for an audition!