The “75/-25%” Solution: A Fireground Safety and Survival Concept

Todd Harms provides insight into the Phoenix Fire Department’s training program incorporating the “75%/25%” concept – 75% on staying out of trouble and 25% on getting out of trouble.


The major causes of the deaths of firefighters in the United States have not changed over the past 100 years. In fact, years ago, Chief Alan Brunacini of the Phoenix Fire Department classified firefighter line-of-duty fatalities in six categories: Heart attack Driving and riding to or...


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The major causes of the deaths of firefighters in the United States have not changed over the past 100 years. In fact, years ago, Chief Alan Brunacini of the Phoenix Fire Department classified firefighter line-of-duty fatalities in six categories:

  • Heart attack
  • Driving and riding to or from an incident
  • Structural collapse
  • Getting lost in a structure
  • Toxic inhalation (running out of air)
  • Thermal insult

To assist in the management of these consistent killers and reduce their frequency, it is recommended that fire departments develop standard operating procedures (SOPs), strong training, risk-management plans and strong, smart command systems. This article will focus on the training aspect for individual firefighters and company officers.

Following the fireground death of Phoenix Firefighter Bret Tarver on March 14, 2001, the Phoenix Fire Department developed a training program incorporating the “75%/25%” concept – 75% on staying out of trouble and 25% on getting out of trouble.

The 75% focuses on strong firefighting skills that will allow firefighters to be safe and successful while operating on the fireground. These skills are a cut above basic firefighting skills. The three original training modules include Air Management, Self Survival (before getting in trouble) and Communications. Each module incorporates classroom instruction, practice sessions and a drill.

On the flip side, the 25% focuses on skills used once a firefighter is in trouble. Classroom instruction and drills include portions on self-survival and rapid intervention team operations. The problem is, once you’re in the 25% range when on the fireground, your chances of survival are low. During all of these drills, a large amount of experience and data was gained. Lessons learned, data compiled and experiences gained will be reinforced through future battalion training modules.

Heart Attacks

Consistently for the past 30 years, heart attacks have caused nearly half of all firefighters deaths. Recently, the International Association of Fire Chief (IAFC) and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) formed the Fire Service Joint Labor Management Wellness/Fitness Initiative. This initiative focuses on wellness and physical fitness programs for the fire service.

For more information on this program, contact the IAFF or the IAFC.

Vehicle Accident

A large number of accidents involving fire department vehicles occur at intersections. Clearly stated SOPs for emergency and non-emergency driving are a necessity. The following basic list provides basic guidelines for driving and riding in apparatus:

  • Mandatory seatbelts
  • All personnel remain seated while responding
  • Control speed, a maximum of 10 mph over posted speed limit
  • Stop at all red lights, stop signs and negative right of ways
  • In opposing traffic a maximum of 20 mph
  • Obey the posted speed limits in intersections

Air Management

Air management and lost firefighter emergencies generally occur in large open-space occupancies. Traditionally, as far as air management goes, we’ve said that we will leave the building (mostly residential occupancies) when our low-air alarm is activated. The truth is, we usually leave when we are almost completely out of air or the mask is sucking our face. While we are generally successful (and lucky) with this method of air management, there is no margin for error.

Through research we have found that the average Phoenix Fire firefighter uses approximately 160 psi of air per minute. With a 3,000-psi bottle, the average amount of available air is 18 minutes of total time. Individual firefighters, company officers, sector officers and the incident commander must assist with air management at each level of the incident management system (IMS). Proper air management must be a priority for everybody on the fireground.

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