Units respond to the reported structure fire...hang on a second, I'm not ready! How many of us have had this exact thought?
I would venture to say that at one point or another each of us has not been completely prepared for the next run. Often we make mistakes that can affect us on our next call. From not having your portable radio to poor communications when operating on the fireground there are many mistakes that commonly occur from coast to coast. Identifying the mistakes will make our fireground safer while reducing the chances of having a close call.
Let's take a small sample of these mistakes and examine how they affect your fire scene. It's time to use your size-up skills - it's time to size-up your common practices to prevent the mistakes from causing problems with your responses.
We could spend a whole article on just this subject, but let's break it down into the equipment that is directly controlled by you, that being your personal protective equipment (PPE). Whether you are staffing the station or preparing for the next call out it is the responsibility of all of us to be ready for the next run. The way that you store your turnout coat and pants can directly affect your mindset toward the next run. Missing a hood or gloves could put you on the fast train to rehab staging and not being a functional part of an interior attack crew.
It seems like unprepared PPE will affect us all at one point in our career. Time on the job doesn't affect preparing for the next run. After every call or shift we should strive to make our PPE ready for the next run. This is a practice that we should develop as young firefighters. Placing equipment in the same pockets each and every time when returning from the last run is a great way of being prepared. If you are faced with a stressful situation you will always remember where your equipment is because you place it in the same pockets every time.
In preparing for the next run you always need to check your self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), portable radio and flashlights. This seems like a simple thing that should automatically get done, but many times it just doesn't. Have you ever walked into the fire station just in time to hear the bells going off for a working fire? This isn't a big deal if you have taken the time to store and prepare your gear after the last run. Is your SCBA cylinder topped off with air and ready? Where is the portable radio? Does my flashlight need charging? These things need attention after every run whether they are used or not.
If you have a system or routine in place, these mistakes can be reduced if not eliminated totally. Follow these three steps for your PPE:
- Step 1: Remove your turnout gear in the same order each and every time.
- Step 2: Always hang your radio in the same spot every time it leaves your body. Check the battery life and make sure it's on the proper channel.
- Step 3: The SCBA air level should be checked at minimum at every shift change or once a day.
By having a routine in place to prepare for the next run you will be watching out for your equipment and the person relieving you.
Knowing the ins and outs of your apparatus is key. How long is each pre-connect and where can you find the proper adapters if you need to extend a 1 3/4-inch line from a 2 1/2-inch line? How long can you operate before a water supply is established and will the ground ladders from the engine be enough to access that setback where crews are operating?
Whether we are talking about the view from the frontseat or the backseat, a good size-up is an important role on anyone's fire scene. A thorough size-up begins when the alarm sounds until you back your rig into the station after the emergency.