1. #1
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    Question Roof Ventilation vs. Rescue Roundtable

    In Novembers Fire Engineering I read the Roundtable discussion, "Roof Ventilation vs. Rescue" starting on page 32.

    The question is as follows:

    A firefighter is assigned to operate on the roof of a five-story, flat-roof apartment building. Equipped with a hook, an ax and a lifesaving rope, he moves to the roof by aerial ladder. His officer instructed him to perform vertical ventilation by opening the door at the top of the stairway bulkhead. This will assist the search and fire attack efforts below. While walking towards the bulkhead, the firefighter hears a person shouting for help. He goes to the roof edge and sees a man below at a window from which heavy smoke is venting. There is no direct access to the window from the building's front or side B or D. Which of the following actions should the firefighter take and why?
    1. Initiate the rescue using the lifesaving rope, and notify his officer to assign the ventilation to another firefighter.
    2.Begin working on ventilating the bulkhead, and notify his officer that a victim needs to be removed.
    3 Some other action (explain)



    Now although there are some unknowns here, here are the facts as presented.
    -5 story apartment building (probably ordinary const.)
    -1 firefighter is initially is assigned as the roof man.
    -Fire on 1st floor.
    -Man at window with heavy smoke and is ready to jump.
    -Your tools are as listed above.
    -There is no exterior access (read: fire escapes) from any side of the building. Smoke or Fire is possibly blocking this avenue or he is in an inaccesible room.
    -It is implied that he is inaccesible to aerial or portable ladders.

    I read this question that presented a typical scenario that any firefighter or officer in my Dept would be able to answer without pause. And I would wager that the responses from everyone, regardless of rank would almost identical. There are plenty of texts that address this issue and there have been 1000s of fires in these buildings that have lent themselves to creating safe procedures that have been effective at saving lives, either actively or by preventing someone (FFs) from getting injured or killed.

    I choose no. 3 some other action: I personally would notify the Batt Chief that there is a civilain hanging out a x-floor window on side 3 and continue to force the bulkhead...once that is complete I would check the landing, shafts and rear for more victims and advise the Chief of my findings and notify him that I am intiating a rope rescue from this location. I would then with the 2nd due roof man prepare to be lowered to the victim. (note I didn't say remove him. it might not be necessary) Hopefully the inside team can get to him from inside.

    I realize there are many ways to skin a cat. I've personally seen many ways of accomplishing any certain task. All those that are accepted are perfectly defensible and explainable. However there are some firefighting procedures and rules that are universal. Some of the responses were accurate and based on sound Firefighting procedures and practices. However, many of the responses I read from some of the firefighters and in some cases high-ranking officers of Depts. were unsettling and embarrassing to those who wrote in and I also felt somewhat irresponsible of FE to publish some of the statements.

    While I can imagine there might have been some confusion or misunderstandings, which by themselves cannot account for the apparent lack of knowledge and procedures needed to affect the duties of the roof-man presented in this example.

    I personally think the largest misconception is the understanding of the phrase "Initiate lifesaving rope rescue" This does not mean perform it from start to finish. This means to notify the officer find a substantial object, tie off, select a lowering point...etc. That is until the 2nd due roof man or another FF comes up to assist. This evolution takes at least 2 and preferably 3 men at a bare minimum.

    Many responses seemed as if they were guessing or postulating their own theories about what should be done...it would seem in the face of sound tactics and procedures that were developed after Civilian and Firefighter deaths and injuries at such fires.

    Is possible that some of the cities presented have no apartment buildings over 3 stories tall? Although highly unlikely, if that is the case I would then think it would have been better if those FFs who do not have these buildings or experience with this type of building should not have replied. I know I have no business commenting on what tactics are required at wild land fires as those found in California. (I've done field fires but not forest fires, big difference.)

    I am upset that any firefighter who is unsure of what tactics and procedures to perform in this situation might just follow some of this bad advice. I'm most upset at the officers that responded that have the responsiblity of thier members safety and the profesional performance of thier company that had little to no clue as to what to do...or in many cases do the wrong thing. I wonder how some got themselves into such positions of responsibility.

    Failing to plan is Planning to fail and the fireground isn't the time to develop procedures and tactics to overcome this situation. Period. If we really are profesionals as oopposed to amatures I would say that these depts should get their act together. They don't need to have procedures just like my dept. However there should be something set up rather than guessing at what one should do or relying on the Truck Officer for a solution while he is supervising the interior search.

    Has anyone else read this article and noticed the some of the same problems that I did? What would you do in this situation?

    FTM-PTB
    Last edited by FFFRED; 11-22-2003 at 02:33 PM.

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    Here are some problems I noticed regarding the previous replies to this article in FE.

    The question provides the wrong tools. No need for an ax. A halligan would be much more beneficial to the operation.

    -Some said immediately perform the rescue and let someone else deal with the ventilation. One should force the bulkhead door to alleviate the smoke on the interior. This is his most important task…as was noted by an educated few, this will quite possibly alleviate most of the problems regarding smoke on upper floors. Along with allow the Engine to quickly advance on the fire and prevent the mushrooming on upperfloors.

    -Many said go down the bulkhead door you just opened to get to him! I ask would you jump down a vent hole you just cut in a peaked roof PD?? I imagine (and hope) you are saying hell no. This should never be done. If the inside team looses control of the door or the Engine looses water below and you are halfway down to the landing…well you’ll be lucky to make it out alive. You don’t use the same stairway to access the roof that opens to the fire apartment and you don’t go down the interior stairs you just vented either.

    -Many throughout the whole article were saying they should be contacting the officer for advice. If you have no procedures in place for what amounts to a potential and predictable occurrence then you have failed in your duties even before the alarm came in. In a time of crisis most are not going to “rise to the occasion”. You will fall back on your training and if you have never trained for such an occurrence then you are already behind the ball and trying to play catch-up with a civilian’s life and in many ways yours and all the brothers’ lives hanging in the balance. Don't rely on one guy to come up with a plan at 0330 in the morning for something that should already be decided upon before hand.

    -While I was at the academy a firefighter leading the class on how to perform a lifesaving rope rescue asked another probie who was previously a firefighter if he had ever done this evolution before. He stated he hadn’t. The instructor asked why not? He said that his dept didn’t have such a rope for rescues nor had they trained for a similar situation. The instructor then asked what would you and your dept have done to rescue a person in the situation presented? The probie replied…I guess nothing. The instructor said “I guess they're F***ed huh?

    This is what I thought of after reading a statement from one high ranking Chief from a major US city that prides itself on so called customer service replied with "We don't use rescue ropes." I guess if your couch needed to be placed on blocks to prevent water damage you'd be in luck in this city...on the flipside though...if you were hanging out a window that was inaccessible to ladders ready to jump and needed rescue in this city...you'd be S*** Outa Luck! I guess it depends on which customer you are as to what level of service you receive. This same chief also referred to an apartment building as a commercial occupancy. Last time I checked Apartments are residential. I can’t understand why you would need to assign 3 or 4 FFs and an Officer to vent a bulkhead. That is nothing short of inefficient and a waste of manpower.

    -Anytime a firefighter is by himself, he is freelancing? Wrong. If this FF is performing tasks assigned to him and is in the proper position using approved tactics and priorities to access the roof then he is not freelancing. The pump operator operates alone so does the IC in many places. Freelancing is if he just went wherever with whatever tools he wanted and did what ever he felt he should do with disregard to dept. procedures for that type of fire. If you are to access the roof from an adjoining building or aerial ladder or fire escape and take a hook, halligan and roof rope then force the bulkhead don’t take the interior stairs with a can and ax and bash out windows at random. The first is not freelancing the last one is. Learn the difference.

    -Too many safety Susies seem to think that it takes two FFs to accomplish everything. I would like anyone to offer a convincing argument why a roof-man in this scenario is in a dangerous position during the initial stages and is incapable of completeing his tasks safely. (the 2nd roof man is on his way) Would it be great to have two roof men on the 1st Due Truck…Sure but we aren’t provided with one anymore. Does the pump operator operate alone…how about some places where an officer or IC will do a so called “360” by himself. Does it take two guys to go to the rear of a PD and vent a window safely? No it doesn’t.

    -One respondant suggests that we should yell to them to close their door. However a person who is leaning out their window with heavy smoke venting will either be unwilling or unsuccessful in this endeavor. Most people would have done this already if that were the problem. Also that does little to keep them from jumping. This same officer says that the FF would have at most performed one or two rope rescues in the academy… If this is the case then I ask what is your training division doing with those 6 to15 weeks you have probies in the academy? What are you doing for a daily company drill? I have never performed a real rope rescue however I did multiple practice pick-offs until it was ingrained in my head. We drill constantly on this drill. Now does every member of every dept in the country need to do this…perhaps not but maybe in your dept only Truckies or Rescue guys would be responsible for such skills. This makes the job of training fewer motivated members easier.

    Is a rope rescue risky? Sure. Is it the preferred method of removal…hell no..it is the last in the list of priorities. (Interior stairs, Horizontal exits, Fire Escapes, Ladders (aerial and portable) and then Rope rescue) But that is what we get paid to do. Rescue people who are endangered by smoke and fire. In my opinion you should prepare yourself mentally and physically for such tasks in the event that you are called upon for that action.

    FTM-PTB
    Last edited by FFFRED; 11-22-2003 at 02:22 PM.

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    In the case of 3-6 story MDs, with a flat roof, I will quote our SOPs:

    Roof ventilation is critical for search, rescue and extinguishment of the fire. NOTHING SHALL DETER the member assigned the roof position from carrying out the assigned duties. The duties of the roof firefighter demand an experienced, observant and determined member capable of decisive action
    It says NOTHING and it means NOTHING!!!

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    It all comes down to training. I've seen many departments that have vehicles with ladders in and on them but they are far from "ladder" companies. My department has two.
    Understaffed, well equipped, and they do what ever is assigned to them after they get on the scene. At drills they almost never get the same job twice, so they can't even fall back to what they always do.
    That is more common then people think or admit. Many larger cities fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to truck functions. Overall I feel the fireservice blows off truck work as something the BIG cities do.
    We wouldn't send one guy to the roof. We don't send one guy to do anything. (good and bad)
    In the scenario presented their should be no reason why a ground ladder won't reach him. If you have those kind of buildings you should still have a 50' ladder. Ventilate, open the bulkhead door. Their may be someone at the top of the stairs overcome.

    After your done with that start to set up for a rope rescue. Very few departments would be able to attempt this. But that goes back to training.

    Your department has to make truck functions a priority. You have to have SOG's and practice, practice, practice till it is second nature to everyone.

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    K.I.S.S.

    #2

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    I like your answers E229. I also read this scenerio in FE and to be honest, it sucks. As with most written scenerios, the lack of pertinent information is always missing (too many variables missing)and I'd basically be guessing on that missing information. Thats basically the gripe I have with most written scenerios. I'd make my decisions on what was actually going on when looking and working at the real thing. I could end up writing an answer, yet may have to do something completely different at an actual incident because I can actually see and hear whats going on at the fire scene while getting updated information on the incident.

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    I will side with our veteran from FDNY here. I think his answer and analysis of the situation is right on target. Additionally he is falling back on his departmental SOGs. I would further qualify the selection of #2 by adding a to the statement, that I would continue as assigned unless redirected. Besides... A quick vent may lesson the severity of the victims situation.
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    ADSNWFLD....Those are some good points. I too think that many people blow off truck work as something large city Depts. do. For the most part I think that is true. Many of the surrounding towns around mine don't even own a truck, or if they do they don't have a specific "truck company" so the truck is the last unit to roll sometimes.
    Right now I am in an all volly department but we are lucky enough to have a truck company that rolls to every call and there are specific members that are in the truck. This allows us to be very efficient on the fireground when it comes to truck work. There have been occasions where we pull up to a scene as a mutual aid truck, get our assignment and go to work. Some of the guys from the other departments seem to be amazed or baffled by us doing truck work.
    P.S. I love doing truck work and I might as well do it with my volly company because if or should I say when I get on a paid dept. I probably won't ever see a truck again considering I'm only 5'7" 170lbs........Oh well.....hahahah....stay safe guys..Fire55

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    Tend to agree with the other replies.

    We don't do rescue ropes, but then again it's a rural/suburban district with few flat roof dwelling/commercial buildings. Heck, our only 4 story apartment building has a peaked roof.

    But I still know enough to think that one person ain't gonna do much rope rescue by his own. Notify the Chief, Pop the vent, hopefully the smoke pushing out over that guy will reverse direction. Then worry if you're gonna have to make a pick-off.

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    I agree with the group so far. Vent first.

    I would also like to add that it should not be necessary to train this specific scenario to make this point. A properly trained and educated FF should know instinctively that the ventilation would most likely provide quicker and more reliable relief to this victim than the rope rescue.

    I think you can try to train every conceivable scenario, but you will inevitably miss some and that is where the lack of fundamental knowledge will show up and burn you. You must balance your training with solid understanding of the fundamentals of fire ops.

    If a lot of FF's in the other discussion were suggesting immediately jumping over the side unassisted to try to perform a risky rescue, it suggests to me that there is a lack of basic education as well as a lack of a good SOG.
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    Some of the responses in that article were outright frightening. Firefighters should NEVER work alone??? Come on! Is it prefered to work alone, No (although some of the smoothest jobs Ive been to had fewer companies at them, do to delayed companies or only 2 & 1 sent on the original ticket etc....) But to get the job done, you often need to get things done on your own. Examples: 1st due roof, inside team splitting up to get an apartment searched quickly, OVM getting in off a fire escape to search where the inside team cant get. If you cant reley on your guys to work alone when need be, than you need to be training more!
    Some Depts dont even have the ability to do a roof rope rescue?? Unless ALL your buildings are under 3 stories or ALL your buildings over 3 stories can be accessed on ALL side with ladders; than you are not doing EVERYTHING possible to protect the people in your city.
    There are no grey areas on this one. Get to the roof, VENT, notify everyone else of the victims EXACT location, if you need help on the roof (or floor above for a fireproof MD) ask for it. Tell the victim help is on the way. Start setting up for a Roof Rope Rescue ( and hope you dont have to go through with it)

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    Postede by MattyJ

    Some Depts dont even have the ability to do a roof rope rescue?? Unless ALL your buildings are under 3 stories or ALL your buildings over 3 stories can be accessed on ALL side with ladders; than you are not doing EVERYTHING possible to protect the people in your city.
    Not to hijack the thread, but we do what we can with what we have. We could all do more to protect the people of our cities if we could get adequate funding and personnel. We all do not have the tremendous amount of resources available like the FDNY.
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    Orininally posted by FireLT1951
    I also read this scenerio in FE and to be honest, it sucks.

    Originally posted by MattyJ
    Some of the responses in that article were outright frightening.

    That's precisely why I generally don't read that silly stuff. And when I do, I'm usually sorry I read it, and end up shaking my head. The only person who ever makes any sense to me in that roundtable discussion is Chief Salka. I didn't read this one that you are referring to, but if I had to guess I'm sure his response was exactly the same thing as E229Lt. That is what is drilled into our heads from the day we entered the academy. I can still hear it screamed at me now: "Nothing shall deter the roof man from getting to the roof and venting the bulkhead!" In fact, we aren't even supposed to do a perimeter search until after the bulkhead has been opened and then probed for possible unconscious victims. So for the FDNY, this question in and of itself doesn't even really apply. That's probobly why we are trained in this manner, to avoid confusion like this. If the roofman gets involved in other things before venting the roof, it could cause a tragic situation for a lot more people (firemen included) than the one victim at the window.

    But speaking stricly as an Engineman, if I got my balls beat in at a job because you had the roof and neglected to vent, I'd kick the everliving crap out of you.

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    Allhands: Exactly! And if I had the roof, and did something else instead of venting it.... I'd be expecting you to come after me.

    Captain: I do understand not everyone is staffed like New York ( they should be, but thats not their fault) But a roof rope rescue can be done properly ( without cutting corners) with 2 members

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    The one thing I consistently see in this post is that the FDNY guys are referring to their training and SOP's. Based on what you have said, stopping to save the victim would be wrong. I agree with that assessment.

    The problem comes from Departments that do not have the procedures and training established to "drum" this into your head. FDNY has developed over time a comprehensive set of procedures that work for them based on their manpower and how they run. KUDOS....it is an awesome thing.

    Many places, I'll include mine, are lucky to get the truck out the door right away, let alone have someone dedicated to topside ventilation. We work within the enviroment we have, and we perform to the best of our abilities given our training, and the departments policies and manpower.

    It can sometimes be hard to compare the FDNY to other places, it is certainly a level of operation to strive for. One of the guys on my job was talking with his cousin who is a Captain in the city. When he told the Captain how we ran, his comment was "3 guys in a Station, my Engine is Out of Service with only 3 guys on it". Sometimes reality bites!


    Dave

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    hfd66truck,

    Believe me when I say I understand where you are comming from. Many FDNY members including myself didn't start in the FDNY. Many of us have worked in companies with 3 total members (including the officer)or even less!

    I think there is a very large misunderstanding between us and brothers who don't find themselves luckly enough to work in depts that have adequate staffing.

    Our training and SOPs are based off of the cumulitive real world experience from previous generations of firefighters with all types of fires in many different senarios. This knowledge is passed on to the probies where it is then reinforced through application in the field everyday. Eventually over time these probies become the senior men who pass on the procedures and practices that have been shown to be historicly succesful when applied, to the new probies. And thus the cycle repeats.

    There always seem to be people making excuses that the FDNY or Chicago or Boston or Indianpolis FD or (insert larger city FD here) have more people and that makes a difference in how a fire burns or that Truck functions only need to be performed in Big cities...etc. While some procedures we have are tailored to our staffing and specific building types...much of those are really stategic and alarm assignment based concepts as opposed to tactical procedures and techniques. And those tactical procedures and decisions are what we are really discussing here.

    While our 2nd Due Truck might be responsible for search of the floor above...for you it may be your 3rd Due Engine or Medic Unit. or whatever it is you have.

    I attended FDIC a couple of years back when I was a member of a Quint Co. in a large Midwestern suburban career Dept. and I took the 4 HOT Truck Co classes they offered that year. There were instuctors from Florida, Texas, Massachusets, New York, Dist of Columbia, Ohio and many others.

    Regardless of the size of each of their respective depts. they each taught what amounted to the same tactical skills. No matter if the instructor was from FDNY or Huber Heights, Ohio; Forcible Entry & Search still took at least 2 members, VES still required you to search with a tool and close the door once in side.

    Whereas the guys from Florida would have the guys on the 1st Medic unit perform VES of the 2nd floor bedrooms the FDNY would have the OVM and roof man perform the same function. Doesn't really matter the end result is the same.

    Throughout this training the techniques to force the door or search the room didn't change when the student came from a smaller or larger dept. The tactics and procedures employed to succesfully and safely perform the evolution are the same and universal.

    A row of 5 or 6 story ordinary constructed apartments aren't that different in St. Louis than one in Chicago or New York or any small city's downtown anywhere. A 9-story oldfolks home highrise in my old city isn't signifigantly different than a 12-story one in my 1st due district in NY. There are still rooms out of the reach of ladders and the laws of physics don't make fires any different here than they are in your city.

    In the above mentioned article regardless of the location, be it a tenement in NYC, a apartment Aurora, CO or townhouse in Phoenix, AZ...you DO NOT recomend in a national training publication to send members down the bulkhead of the fire building after venting it! There is plenty of history of injuires and fatalities that occured because of failure to adhere to what should be a universal concept by now. It just happens that NYC has had lots of experience with this situation along with many others due to the size and density of the city. (Think how many FDNY guys got injured or killed before this concept was developed...we didn't just make it up one day.)

    You vent before anything else in this situation. And I agree with MattyJ, If you don't have a lifesaving rope and have buildings as described then you aren't doing everything possible to save and protect life, including you and your brothers lives! You are not providing what some of you may call "good customer service" and you are cheating the brothers out of a way off the roof. It doesn't take much effort to train ones dept in the procedures necessary to perform this evolution. I'm certainly not the smartest man in the world but I have it memorized. And as it has been said only takes a minimum of 2 members.

    That is probably why as some of the brothers have put it...we shake our head. Because the person who wrote those statements probably won't be in the position to get hurt from those poorly chosen tactics...however some new firefighter with little knowledge and alot of enthusiasm will end up in a burn ward or worse because of the lack of knowledge, leadership & wisdom displayed by some of these so called officers. The knowledge that must be gained before taking a promotion, leadership to put it into policy, wisdom to know when to ask for advice and knowledge that one doesn't possess.

    Most tactical issues here have nothing to do with the size of the respective depts. In my former depts. to advance the hose line it still took a nozzle man, someone to back him up and someone to feed him hose. In the FDNY it might only take 1 Engine to get that many people...whereas in my past depts it would take 2 or more engines to get that many guys.

    I've always looked to my senior man for advice because he always had more expereince than me. I wanted to learn from that experience. Just the same if one has only a few buildings like those mentioned above in ones city and have never had or had few fires in them, then perhaps one should look to those depts that have had the most experience with them and see what they do. Don't wait until ones first fire in them and make all the same mistakes that have already been made by firemen of past generations.

    Your's or your brothers life may depend on it.

    FTM-PTB
    Last edited by FFFRED; 11-23-2003 at 09:32 PM.

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    FFRED,

    I guess I wasn't trying to make excuses as much as explain that FDNY has done an awesome job of developing, standardizing, and enforcing/teaching its procedures. I agree that manpower is manpower, and the tasks may get accomplished sooner in a Department with more...but policy will dictate who will do what...and it will get done.

    All that being said, there are many places, I would bet more than you think; that do not have anywhere near the procedures and practices that you have. And they are cheating. That is a problem that those Departments must face, not a stab at the FDNY or any other "Big City" Department.

    There are also places where the manpower does not arrive in such an orderly fashion...this could be either volunteer, paid on call, or smaller career FD's where manpower responds back off duty. It is even more critical for these Departments to have good, solid procedures so that everything gets accomplished.

    I did not mean anything said to be a shot at you guys, nor do I feel you have it any "easier" due to your manpower. My Department could never justify 6 man engines....simple truth.

    You made many points in your post better than I could. One bottom line truth - We all have the responsibility to know our jobs inside and out, for us, our brothers, and the public.

    Dave

    FFRED - If you get a chance, shoot me an email will ya? Ken and 40/35 should vouch for me not beina a wacko.

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    Last edited by hfd66truck; 11-24-2003 at 07:32 AM.

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    There are also places where the manpower does not arrive in such an orderly fashion...

    Consistency is one of the strongest strengths of staffed departments. They know who they have on duty, and know they'll be on the road timely. It lets a lot of stuff happen almost on auto-pilot.

    One of the reasons FDNY doesn't want anything to deter to roof man venting is they have hoseteams moving expecting it to be vented.

    You get to on-call departments the Chief has to make a lot more specific orders since you can't be sure you'll have all the positions filled. Small career departments can be similiar -- you may be consistent, but consistently with so few members the Chief needs to make decisions how to re-deploy them incident by incident.

    FDNY has their act together. Some of the best training I've taken I was fortunate enough to have a FDNY Captain teaching it. But I also had to recognize what I could take back to my department from that, and what wasn't going to work in our system.

    Learning isn't about copying someone and their SOPs. It is looking at things like how FDNY (and others) do stuff, and figure out what you can learn that applies to your own district and your own situation -- the fires are the same, but the quality, quantity, and consistency of your resources vary!

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    Excellent points...everyone is making a lot of sense here, and I can certainly sympathize with your plight of being understaffed, etc and having to prioritize your objectives. However, I think we are digressing. No matter who, where, how or why someone is trapped at a window, an immediate vertical vent may make the situation tenable enough for him that he doesn't have to be hanging out that window any longer.

  20. #20
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    Learning isn't about copying someone and their SOPs. It is looking at things like how FDNY (and others) do stuff, and figure out what you can learn that applies to your own district and your own situation -- the fires are the same, but the quality, quantity, and consistency of your resources vary!
    Well put Dal!

    UAH, you are right too, but we are jakes, we're supposed to digress.

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