My personal example should serve to guide you in this rough estimation business. More than 2,000 units of housing have been built within one air mile of my home. The new construction era began in 1969 and continues to the present day. Two of the major developments came on line during the late 1980's. Others have been built during the 1990's and on it goes into the early years of this the 21st Century.
We have tightly packed condominium complexes, as well as a number of major residential developments of the Mc Mansion style. All of this new construction has one major component in common. The new stuff is all built to hold costs down, maximize profits to the developers, and fall down as soon as it becomes involved in fire. I do not care who disagrees with me on this one. I owe it to my late, great friend Frank Brannigan to keep battling this one.
We need to start worrying more about our people than saving buildings. My fire department saved a building a couple of years ago, only to see the developer tear it down because the person who was buying it did not want a house that had had a fire in it. What a load of crap. I am talking about maybe $30,000 damage in a $699,000 home. That operation was a $669,000 save in my book. If that is the type of person we are protecting then I must opt to protect my people at every turn in the road.
Do not get me wrong. There will be times when lives are a risk. There are times when citizens will be in danger. But do not try to BS me. After 45 years in the business I can tell you that the number of times when lives were really at risk during a fire situation in which I was involved was far outweighed by the number of times that we were just fighting the fire because it was there for us to fight.
Let us now get back to the issue at hand. We can know the construction types from our pre-incident planning visits. Let me suggest that you can also have an idea about how much water you will need to conduct an initial structural firefighting attack. The formulas are available to you from the National Fire Academy (NFA), the Insurance Services Office (ISO), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). However, being able to make these calculations will require you to read the materials from these groups and make the knowledge a part of your daily operations.
You can know your water supply capabilities via the mechanism of periodic water supply drills. If you have hydrants, know where they are, know what they can supply, and use them from time to time. I have taken a hydrant only once this year, so the periodic drills which we have at the county fire academy are really important to the maintenance of our skills.
What have I said to this point? You can know the details of the construction and water supply by pre-incident planning and drilling. How can you know the time? That is the challenge. Let me propose that you can only know the times which start the clock running when you are dispatched on your response. What you must do is develop the skills to equate the times you can identify with the physical facts of the evolving situation as they appear to you upon your arrival at the scene of a structural fire. This requires a great deal of studying and factual accumulation.
What should you be worrying about? Here are my suggestions, right from my textbook:
· What have you got in terms of a fire?
· Where is it located?
· Where might it be going?
· What have you got to stop it?
· What can you do?
· Where can you get help?
· How are you doing?
· Can you terminate?
Let me suggest to you that you can never know the exact time that a fire starts. What you can know is the manner in which fire can attack a building before you are called to do something positive. A fire can be expected to do a great deal of damage in the first ten minutes of its life. This means that if you have a great many lengthy responses, you really will not have much of a chance to fight the fire, at lead not without putting your people in danger.