On June 24, 2010, a smoke explosion occurred during a multi-family dwelling fire in Harrisonburg, VA, forcing six firefighters to rapidly evacuate through an interior stairwell and second-floor windows. Our thanks to Harrisonburg Chief of Department Larry W. Shifflett, Deputy Fire Chief Ian...
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As an example of how training cannot ever end, no matter how long you have on the job, I recently went through a new command and control on the fireground certification training program, far beyond the National Incident Management System (NIMS) 300/400 courses that we have all taken. The training also consisted of a required 24-hour "group exercise and evaluation" on as realistic a simulator I have experienced. The program focused on Type 4 and Type 5 incidents — the incidents that you and I respond to regularly.
I took the 75-hour "Blue Card" certification program (www.bluecardcommand.com) as a directive from our chief of department for all of our command officers. It is new. It is different. It forced me to think a bit differently and while that was a challenge, it works really well. It allows us, as command officers, to take a much more in-depth look to better understand hazard zone management and the protection of our firefighters.
Who has 75 hours to give up these days? Well, if you are going to be a fire command officer, be it this class or anything else, we must continue our education. From the probie to the seasoned firefighter to the apparatus operators, the company officers and the chiefs, continuing training and education, both classroom and hands-on training specifically related to fireground operations, is mandatory for the good of our members and our customers.
In the case of the Harrisonburg Fire Department, the members do understand how complacent everyday training activities of a fire department can get. But they also understand that it is those mundane and repetitive training activities that create an effective department that has a better chance of reacting instinctively when things go wrong, as they did in June. Their efforts paid off.
Good questions for discussion are: "If this were my fire department, how would this have worked out?" "What would have been our first-alarm assignment?" "What is our staffing?" "Do we 'know' the buildings in our response area?" "Can our hoselines reach our buildings?" Can we simultaneously perform the required tasks when we arrive at a working structural fire?" Asking the questions now and then training and planning ahead greatly minimizes our risk to our members and the public.
WILLIAM GOLDFEDER, EFO, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a 33-year veteran of the fire service. He is a deputy chief with the Loveland-Symmes Fire Department in Ohio, an ISO Class 2 and CAAS-accredited department. Goldfeder has been a chief officer since 1982, has served on numerous IAFC and NFPA committees, and is a past commissioner with the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. He is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy and is an active writer, speaker and instructor on fire service operational issues. Goldfeder and Gordon Graham host the free and noncommercial firefighter safety and survival website www.FirefighterCloseCalls.com. Goldfeder may be contacted at BillyG@FirefighterCloseCalls.com