Company Level Training - Rescuing a Downed Firefighter - Part 2

Feb. 23, 2009
You must train your crew to a level that each and every one of them is capable of making high quality decisions under extreme stress.

After you have used the details in the first article as the presentation or information section of your training session, it is time for the application and evaluation portion of the drill. If you have never trained your crew personally on this subject, I suggest you start at the beginning. There are four separate levels in which to train on this topic.

The first and most basic is to have everyone bunk out. Only one crew member needs to have an airpack and face piece on. You will also need an extra airpack and a Halligan tool. Have the one firefighter who is wearing the airpack lie down. Next, have two firefighters, with gloves and helmets on (hoods and face pieces are not necessary), begin the process of changing the downed firefighter's air supply over. Then, have them convert the waist belt to a crotch belt. I found that the waist belt conversion is more easily performed without the extra straps of an additional airpack. After that is completed, have the two firefighters place the extra airpack on the downed firefighter. Have your crew then take turns using the shoulder straps as a handle and inserting the Halligan tool through the top of the straps and using it as a handle for both one and two-man drags. Make sure to have every member take a turn at each position.

The second session is the same as the first, with the exception of every member is in an airpack and breathing air. After one rotation where each member successfully converts the air supply and waist belt, either use a black-out mask or have them turn their hoods backwards. Make sure that the lights to the room are turned off. If they can sneak a peek, you know they will. We want to progress our crews to training in a worst-case scenario. At this point you can also time them to add extra pressure. You can either make it a competition or to set a benchmark that everyone must beat.

The third session is the same as the second except that now you place your downed firefighter somewhere in the station or better yet, somewhere within an acquired structure. Now your rapid intervention team (RIT) must make entry in blacked-out conditions (black-out mask or hoods turned around), locate the downed firefighter, announce to command that the firefighter has been located, convert the air supply, convert the waist belt, attach the new airpack, decide what to use as a handle and remove the downed firefighter. Again, you must keep a time record.

There should be at least one observer looking to make sure that the steps are taken in the correct order and that everything is done properly, and assuring that the air supply rules and regulations are followed. Only through repeated sessions like this will your crew know what works for them and what doesn't. What you personally like may not be what one of your crew members prefers. Remember, there is more than one way to accomplish any task.

Give your crew members the freedom to figure out what method they want to use to reach the objective that you have set. You can add hose lines, positive pressure ventilation fans and any other background noise you want to this training scenario. Just try to keep it as realistic as possible without going overboard. Make sure that any training starts with easily accomplished goals so that skills and confidence are bolstered before setting off to new and more difficult challenges.

The next challenge is to have your crew practice a rapid entry and exit. There is no air supply conversion, no waist belt conversion, and no radio transmissions. This session is done as rapidly as possible. All equipment should still be taken in. The decision for a rapid entry and exit should be made once entry is made, not on the outside of a structure. If you able to acquire a structure for training, practice making entry through a window of the room that the downed firefighter is located in and look at practicing the Denver drill.

All of the information in Part 1 of the article is used as a foundation in which quick decisions are to be made with. You must train your crew to a level that each and every one of them is capable of making high quality decisions under extreme stress. Training and experience are the only two methods to accomplish this One you can control, the other you can only wait around for.

The last method is to train for the rescue of a downed firefighter in a collapse situation. This takes quite a bit of creativity. If you can locate a space where you can use scrap wood and pallets, and using a mannequin with an airpack in position, attempt a rescue while having to deal with a buried firefighter, low air supply and trying to accomplish this in as little time as possible. You can try to simulate the rescue of a firefighter from a floor below due to a floor collapse. The use of ropes and/or ladders will be necessary. Again, you are only limited by your creativity and that all important safety factor. Training is useless if someone is seriously injured.

The beauty about this training is that most of the scenarios that I have described can be conducted in the relative comfort of your nice air conditioned fire station. There will always be some moaning and groaning about training, but once you have covered the boring information and begin the hands-on portion, more than likely everyone will get into it. This is training that you may have to use once or twice in your career. I cannot think of a more important task that you will ever be asked to perform. If you succeed, a brother, sister or friend or all of the above will live. If you fail, they die. Why not give yourself every chance at success and train on this subject. I believe this subject should be trained on by every member of every department at a minimum of four times a year. But that is my opinion.

I want to share a favorite quote of mine, "Amateurs train until they get it right, professionals train until they can't get is wrong." Words that every department should live by, whether paid or volunteer. We are all expected to be professional when that tone goes off.

I would like to thank Engine 22 "C" shift, the crew of Engine 24 "A" Shift and Glen Ellman for their assistance with this article and the pictures that go with them. You guys are the best.

Please send any ideas for future training drills, or suggested improvements and variations on this drill, to my e-mail: [email protected]. You and your department will receive credit for any ideas used in future articles.

Related Links

Rescuing a Downed Firefighter - Part 1 Rapid Intervention: A Better Way

LARRY MANASCO, a Contributing Editor, is a captain with the Fort Worth, TX, Fire Department. He was an assistant instructor for FDNY Battalion Chief Salka's "Get Out Alive" hands-on training class. He has participated in the Training & Tactics Talks podcasts on [email protected]. To read Larry's complete biography and view his archived articles, click here. You can reach Larry by e-mail at [email protected].

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Firehouse, create an account today!