1. #1
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    Question Manpower Tactics

    Has anyone seen or heard of any studies that have been conducted on how manpower or the lack of it affects fireground tactics in different departments. Maybe an example will help get my point across. If you are chief of a small volunteer dept. and can only expect around 3-4 firefighters on a daytime housefire (there are some depts out there like that you know), how do you attack that fire differently than say a paid department with a quaranteed 12 firefighters or a large volunteer dept. that may have 15-20 firefighters responding? It seems to me that this issue makes more differience to what size hose they use and if venting is always done when needed, etc. than a lot of other issues. What do you think?

    P.S. I know that mutual aid is supposed to help with this problem, but I'm sure there are places where even couple extra depts. wouldn't get you more than 5 more guys in the daytime.
    Kevin Sink
    Fair Grove Fire Dept.
    Thomasville, NC USA
    kevinsink@northstate.net

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    I don't know of any studies but the example you cited could help you determine what your needs are. There are several factors that could affect fire tactics. Water Supply: hydrants or water shuttle? If you have hydrants you have guaranteed water with no manpower concerns than if you had a shuttle set up where you have to commit apparatus
    with at least a driver on board and a pumper at the source with an engineer. With staffing deficiencies you could use up most of your manpower with water supply dependent on how many tankers or pumpers you need to keep continuous supply. Another factor with this is hose size. If you have LDH you will get more water with less friction loss than if you use 3 inch or 2.5. Ventilation: If you have an aerial on the first alarm or have one coming to the scene MA could determine your ventilation decision. Vent should be done at the same time as fire attack for matters of life safety and property conservation. If you don't have one coming, try to horizontally ventilate close to the fire to relieve the immediate area of heat and smoke. If the staffing is a problem, then try to go above and beyond your normal mutual aid depts. to try to piecemeal a crew together. Contrary to popular belief almost all depts. career and vol. are understaffed. If everyone goes on my shift I have minimum of 20, max of 23 if everyone is in. We still find ourselves short handed sometimes performing all functions on the fireground. We are very aggresive and don't burn buildings down 98% of the time. The main thing is to look at the time constraints that your dept is under with regards to response times, time to establish water supply, time to get an aerial device if there is one to perform truck work. If there are deficiences look how you can make them up. Where there is a will there is a way.

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    Puffy(no not Puff Daddy) touched on a number of issues. This is why I am opposed to someone saying to a guy on here - "Get Large Dept or Super large departments" SOP's to use in your department". It is ludicrous. How many have the luxury of 5 or 6 guys guaranteed to arrive with each piece of apparatus? Or how many know that in most cases they have the priveledge of unlimited manpower?

    Every department is different and no one set of rules or standards apply. It is simply not logical. I have heard of a study and I will try and round it up for you. I wish you luck my friend.

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    theboxalarm- I hope that you don't think I was knocking FGFD or telling him to operate like FDNY. I was just offering views to look at when dealing with the problem. I am a paid FF but also a volunteer
    in another town. My immediate district there is hydranted, but the other 3 aren't, so I know what it is like to be at a fire with a max of 10 people, operating with a water shuttle going, and knowing that I would have to do multiple tasks that if I were at work wouldn't even worry about. The town where I volunteer used to be a rural farm and mill town. If the horns went off people could leave work and go to the call. Now it is a semi-rural, yuppie land where the volunteer
    base is slim as it is and you have to operate in the middle of the day with limited manpower, thin it out even more if the bus is out on an EMS call. I strongly believe that every dept. paid and volunteer
    should evaluate their response to fires and adjust accordingly to try to get manpower there. It has to be tailor fit to meet the challenges that every dept. has, and every district is different. SOP's should be designed with FF safety in mind when operating in the worst case scenario, limited manpower, supply issues and the like.

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    Puffy

    NO I did not intend to imply that. I was actually saying something that I had discussed with a friend. I agree with you, by the way.

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    Sorry about the misunderstanding pal, but I hope it helps FGFD see where I'm coming from. Peace.

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    fgfd43....Boy, your original post described my department and situation to a "T". 3 or 4 firefighters maybe on a daytime structure fire, maybe 4 or 5 more if we summon mutual aid. You simply cannot operate like the books say. I have had to laugh at some training classes I have taken where the resources in the training scenarios seem to be unlimited. Every department needs to figure out on their own how to cope with the resources they have available. Until enough buildings burn down for there to be a public outcry, we will continue to work shorthanded. We always show up and put on a good show, and the public sees us working our butts off. They don't understand how many firefighters or apparatus they should expect to see on a working fire; therefore when the building burns down they don't equate the lack of resources with the loss. One engine and three firefighters show up and lose the house and all the homeowner can fathom is that the dumb firemen let their house burn down. Every once in while when a member of the public is bright enough to ask "How come you don't have more people show up?" my first reply is "Where were you? Your application is down at the station whenever you're ready". Like Puffy said, today's yuppies expect services to be provided and don't realize that the quality of service is directly related to thier willingness to step up and lend a hand. Okay, enough of my rambling...how about some suggestions?

    Establish automatic mutual aid agreements with neighboring departments. We're "supposed" to have automatic aid, but our dispatch (sheriff's office) doesn't implement it. For my part, on daytime structure fires I will automatically request mutual aid as soon as I get en route...waiting until you get on scene to call for it will start you out in the hole.

    Plan on going defensive a lot of the time. Follow RECEO....commit all your resources to a rescue if needed and forget about the house. If no rescue is needed, primarily concern yourself with protecting exposures. Practice blitz attack with large lines, deck guns, ground monitors, etc. and set them up on your rigs for deployment with minimal manpower.

    Grab civilian manpower for non-critical and low-akilled tasks. In our state any civilian pressed into service in an emergency is covered by the department's workman's compensation if he or she happens to get injured. Obviously you have to be really careful about what sort of tasks you ask civilians to perform, but they may be able to free up a couple of your trained people for more critical jobs. You will often find onlookers who are willing to help if you just give them something to do.

    Make your apparatus a workhorse. This will come as second nature to a lot of volunteer departments, because we don't have the luxury of sending the "truck" company to do "truck" work and the "engine" company to do "engine" work. One apparatus has to carry all the necesary equipment to do all the work on the fire scene, because one apparatus may be all you get. Also on a similar note, our personnel can't afford to specialize as truck, engine, or rescue personnel...they have to be cross-trained and able to do it all.

    Our department is also trying to acquire a thermal imager. I don't have a lot of experience with them but I can't help but think that being able to locate the seat of the fire quickly will help you make the most efficient use of the personnel you have available.

    Well, I've gone along long enough. I'm interested to hear what other ideas are out there for working with minimal manpower.

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    Default Fireground Tactics For Minimal Staffing

    Some thoughts:
    • To go along with the point of using civilians: consider what tasks can be done by police, non-fire EMS personnel, city/village/township service crews, etc. They can't do interior firefighting, but often they'll hit hydrants, help stretch lines, change air bottles, block roads, etc.
    • Dispatch MANY mutual aid departments. You can always get as many resources as you need, the only question is how long they'll take to get there. Consider how many stations are within a 30 minute drive, a 1 hour drive. This may sound like a lot, but if you have a big incident, you'll be there that long.
    • Be very protective of the initial personnel on scene. If 3-4 members will be operating alone for 5-10 minutes, don't go inside if you have more than 1-2 rooms heavily involved.
    • Practice whatever evolutions you think you'll do on the fire scene. Don't try to wing it.
    Be safe.
    Proud to be honored with IACOJ membership. Blessed by TWO meals cooked by Cheffie - a true culinary goddess. Expressing my own views, not my organization's.

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    I am not so sure that this reply will help but I want to relate a true story of the arrival of three firefighters on a pumper to a house fire - two story - 8 bedroom - mansion - in the day time.
    The difference is that there was also a photographer there taking pictues. The firefighters spent time trying to get one of three ladders to the apparent victims showing from the end windows of the second floor. The picture showed a fire sign that it was probably in the first floor rear remote from the victims. They got them down after a looooooooong time and they surcumbed. Later it was discovered that 7 family members also died on the open balcony of the second floor bedrooms unable to get down the open stairs because of the relative small fire extending from the kitchen.
    What is the lessons????
    1. The seen victims may not be the most serious
    2. Get water on the fire - it is the best life saving tool that "not enough personnel" can do.
    3. Get water on the fire - It may go out!

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    Default tough decisions!

    Water on the fire...ladder to the victims?

    This is a very tough decision to make when you don't have enough resources to do both at the same time. Every situation is different. You have to fall back on your training, your experience, your best judgement, and sometimes who you have available to work with to size up the particular scenario that presents itself and prioritize your actions to the best of your ability.

    The name of the game, as we all know is life safety, and as much as we want to save the victims, you must consider the life safety of your crew also. Sometimes the decisions will be clearcut, other times, it will be a calculated risk.

    There is no easy answer. As already stated, the staffing problems at calls go beyond the career/volunteer aspect. There have been many good suggestions given already, but probably one of the best is to set up automatic mutual aid assignments based on time of day, nature of call, location of call, and in some cases (tourist areas, etc.) the time of year. I know many departments that would rather cut off their right arm than call for mutual aid. It's sometimes a stupid pride/ego/rivalry/macho thing carried way too far. In some areas it borders on tradition. Don't let it get in the way of what is best and safest for both your crew and the public you serve.(Don't mean to imply you have this problem, but it is just very common.)

    Talk to your neighboring departments. Maybe they could use the same assistance on their end. Work it out, set it up. Work together and drill together. If you drill together, you work smoother together, not to mention it is always nice to see a familiar face coming to your assistance.

    If you actually have fires with these problems, use the media to your advantage, if possible. Issue a press release after the incident that details not only what happened, but also the other problems that you faced. Use it as a forum to recruit additional volunteers by making the public aware of the personnel shortage. Sometimes people just don't know or understand what you're up against. Take the opportunity to educate them. It may not work, but it is worth a shot.

    Stay safe and the best of luck.
    Lead by example...
    Safety first...
    Always

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