My next target in this missive to the masses is the booster line. If ever there were an antiquated piece of equipment that should be consigned to history it is the booster line. Why do we have booster lines? The answer is short and sweet. We have them because we have always had them, or at least since the long-ago days of the chemical engine. The modern incarnation has insufficient water to accomplish anything more than to get people into trouble. Were it within my ability to do so, I would have them removed from engines everywhere.
My friends, the flow rate of a booster line meets no one's definition of an effective firefighting stream. A review of National Fire Protection Association Standards finds a continuing reference to the minimum size of a fire attack line as being 95 gallons per minute (GPM). The last time I looked you cannot get that kind of flow from a booster line. Heck, it is even my personal view that this flow recommendation should be raised to at least 125 GPM to allow for the new array of improved nozzles in our fire service arsenal.
Booster lines are cumbersome and difficult to maneuver. They deliver next to no water and provide a false sense of security. It is very easy to imagine being confronted by a sudden flash of fire inside of a structure and having insufficient water to protect yourself and your crew.
Here is where the reasoning behind the 95-GPM requirement comes into play. Let me suggest an excellent comparison to you. Let me state for the record that using a booster line to attack any sort of a fire larger than a wastebasket is the fire service equivalent of showing up at a gun fight with a dull knife. If my words make you mad, if my words make you want to reach out and grab me by the throat, then I have done my job in this commentary.
Using a booster line to attack a structural fire qualifies you as a certifiable, Grade- A, All-American dumb ass. These substandard tools should be removed from our inventory and consigned to the scrap heap of history. If you need something for trash and rubbish fires, use a 1-3/4" line. The same holds true for car fires. None of us can claim that we are so busy that we need to use a booster line to save time.
I can hear the loud roar of protest now. Heck, I was almost run out of town on a rail in one western state when I went into my anti-booster line speech. They accused me of not understanding how it really was. They even went so far as to accuse me of being too gutless to use a booster line. My friends, I have long tried to use my brain to supplement my guts. This is just one more macho battle that we need to remove from our fire service culture.
Let us now move on to my next area of concern. We are now a fire service which claims to live by the Incident Command System (ICS). Countless volumes have been devoted to the subject of using ICS to manage our resources at a wide variety of emergency incidents. Many hours have been spent drilling the principles of this resource management methodology into the minds of our folks.
We have been taught how to establish command and then how to staff and utilize a command post as the size and complexity of an incident escalates. So why is that far too many people who should be incident commanders are still turning out to be Roaming Ralph's at the scene of emergencies? You have to know at least one Roaming Ralph. These are the people with itchy feet.
They cannot remain at a command post and let their subordinate commanders manage their divisions, groups, and branches. Short of chaining these people to their command car there is no way to keep them where they belong. They come from an earlier time when it was the tradition to make the toughest fireman the chief. These people seemingly equate the word chief with the title boss. Since in their minds no one is as smart as the 'boss', they are driven to travel from place to place giving orders to the folks in charge of the operational subdivisions within the incident command system.
It is always easy to determine whether a Roaming Ralph is in command. Just report to the command post and ask to speak to the incident commander. The Roaming Ralph will not be there. No one knows where that person is. You must then play radio tag or walk-around hide and seek. Let me give you a bit of advice on how to track down these sorts of people.