Saturday, September 29, 2012

Long Driveway Solutions - Tools

Our first discussion about Long Driveway Solutions was a basic overview of the program. Gaining permission from the property owner, for sign placement, is a critical step in the program. Without this we can still establish a water supply, however our efficiency greatly decreases. A tool that is starting to be more common on apparatus is the Global Positioning Sensor. With a few taps on the screen your GPS can aid your long supply line evolution when LDW signage doesn't exist.

Technology has made it's way into the Fire Service just as it has in every other industry. Computer Aided Dispatch has increased our ability to arrive at the right location, in a timely manner and without taking up radio wave space asking for "crosses". Many departments have laptop computers in their apparatus to allow the "Right Seat" to see a map of the crews destination. This not only serves our customers but provides the extra layer of safety by allowing the driver to concentrate on driving. For those who cannot afford this type of system, a GPS unit is a great option. The GPS uses satellites to pinpoint your location anywhere that a line of sight is present. Dense trees or being in-doors decreases the signal and your location may not display.

How can the GPS help us during an operation that includes a Long Driveway? Many GPS units have "trip data". Depending on your device this can be brought up by simply tapping an option or two. This screen has various types of data including a trip distance box.

When you arrive to the entrance of a suspected long driveway that is not participating in your Long Driveway program, have the Driver stop in the driveway for a brief moment. Enter this trip data screen and reset the counter. Now you may proceed to your destination. Make note of every 1/10 of a mile. One-tenth = just over 500 feet. The engines in my area carry 1000ft of LDH and should be able to make a 2/10 mile lay. One point that should be made here, when performing this long lay blind, the first due engine may not drop line at all. Information regarding the driveways length is obtained and your second, third and fourth due will be setting up water supply.

Another option, depending on your response type, is the use of markers. While calculating your length on the way to the hazard area, drop cones or other visible objects at certain benchmarks. This could be every 500 or 1000 feet. As the next in engines arrive these markers will act just like the signage used in the program. 900 feet is the set point for our signage, however the calculation for 500/1000 is much simpler to perform under pressure.

Since the first days of the fire service our mission has been to solve problems. Having a Long Driveway Program is a great way to ensure quality service is given to all residents. Whether their construction design or location of property gives us issues, it is our duty to overcome them. Many of our customers that chose a setback that is not conducive to our operation, do so not to make our job harder but to have privacy. They also may desire not to have signage along their property. Using the trip counter on a GPS unit allows us to gain critical information about these Long Driveway Problems and turn them into Long Driveway Solutions.

(Make sure to review the operating manual for your GPS unit before use. Never operate the GPS while driving.)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Introduction to the Long Driveway Water Supply Solution

Setbacks in the Suburban-Rural interface can measure 50 feet to 1 mile. Often when these setbacks extend off the road at these distances, your hose bed will not make it. Access can be a single lane driveway, making it difficult to bring in multiple engines. Regardless if the area is supplied by a municipal water system or water supply delivered by Fire Department tanker/tenders, the forward engine will have to drop large diameter supply line.

To understand a solution to these long supply problems one must look at the problem. For example, a two story single family home is set back 1100 feet from the road and access is via an 8-foot wide single vehicle driveway, which includes several curves. The forward engine has only 1000 feet of 5-inch diameter supply line. A hydrant is placed 200 feet south of the driveway entrance. Water source to forward engine is 1300 feet! Other factors can affect the supply, but that is a different topic. What is the solution? Relay Pumping, right? However, not just relay pumping- long driveway water supply pumping.

Long driveway water supply solutions start with identifying your areas needs. A list is created and owner’s permission to calculate distances is acquired. If the setback from access to possible forward engine placement is greater than your first arriving engines supply line then a LDWSS (long driveway water supply solution) is required. The next step is explaining to the homeowner the circumstances. Do not indicate that there is a problem but that you have a plan to improve your abilities in the event they ever require your services. You also want to take the opportunity to explain to them that signage will need to be placed along the driveway. These small street signs are about 6”x8” and are mounted on a green fence post. The main portion of the sign states "FD Special Hose Lay" or “FD Long Driveway” and underneath a number. This number indicates which engine and to stop at the sign. For every 900 feet a sign in needed.

Why 900 feet? Most engines can carry 1000 feet of LDH, which gives you an error margin of 100 feet (hook ups, bends, to far forward or back).

Executing the LDWSS, once in place, is a very simple relay operation. The initial engine drops their LDH at the sign that states “1” then goes to the best position at the hazard area. The next in engine will spot on the sign that states “2”, drop their 5 inch, proceed foward to connect the LDH from the Forward engine for supply. This continues until a water supply is fully established. A third engine at the street drafting from a porta-tank and pushing to the middle engine or hooked up to a hydrant as a Key Engine supplying engine 2.
Long driveways do not have to be problems but solutions to water supply woes. Some vital ingredients are enough large diameter supply line, engines to help the relay and establishing a water source. Get your local mutual aid companies involved to ensure resources are available and understand your LDWSS protocol. At 3 am, it does not matter if Mrs. Smith’s house is 22 feet from the street, where a 150 pre-connect will work all night or her house is 1.3 miles in the woods. Fire control occurs when we apply our agent after ensuring it is available. Our main agent is water and we must have water supply solutions. One more example of Redefining the Engine Company.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Redefining the Engine Company - The Concept

Organizations of all types see changes to the way they must operate. Economical climates, market trends and even the lack of service needs, dictate organizational structure, operating budgets and production. The Fire Service is not immune to these symptoms nor should they be overlooked. From the largest of Metro/Urban departments to the smallest of rural volunteer, organizational leaders must devise strategies and tactics to ensure the level of service we provide, is never compromised. Enter the new definition of the Engine Company.

The epiphany, for me at least, came a year ago. Preparing to teach at the academy I was reading through a well-known basic Firefighter text-book. Towards the beginning of the book the authors breakdown the different types of companies and their functions. Thinking to myself, "it would be nice to operate like this." Just to clarify I work for three very different organizations and I am very thankful for being able to see all sides. My experience has been riding as the "all-purpose" engine. Suppression, ladders, rescue, extrication, water supply...if it happens on the fire ground, the engine company performs it. So where is this department that the text-book talks about with all their companies? They should re-define the term, engine company, to reflect how the modern engine company really operates. To read more about the basics of Redefining the Engine Company, click this link.

So what is this concept all about? Some say we are doing more with less. Which is not possible, we can only do less with less. What we can do is realign what our priorities are based on the situation, our abilities and what we do have. Our success on the fire ground comes from our accomplishments off of it. Engine configuration such as tool selection and storage. Hose loads and setup that fit form and function. Realistic SOPS/SOGS that empower initial arriving units to make solid tactical decisions. Training programs that reflect how personnel will perform real world actions.Most importantly, our members understand the modern fire ground is dynamic and changing. We have such a short window to operate, so we must be efficient and get it right the first time.

Will you find all the answers here? No. Redefining the Engine Company concept is about questions. The fire service cannot afford to simply go with the flow, we must stop and question our actions. Are we operating and training to win on the fire ground? Just as sports teams scout their competition, we too must stay ever vigilant so we will be prepared for the call.

So if you are interested in helping to the Redefine the Engine Company join in on the conversation. This blog will serve as one resource, while you can find our groups on other social media sites.

"The traditional engine company role of securing a water supply and stretching the line is still a basic function. However, on the modern fireground, the engine company must simultaneously perform multiple roles while getting water on the fire. The engine company today must be refined and redefined to do more tasks with less than ever before. Therefore, it is essential that your training and standard operating guidelines match what really happens in the street, not in some standard text from a large urban department that has the traditional complement of different companies. It is now up to you to examine your operations and redefine how your engine will respond to these challenges."

So we begin.

Let's just say I am very excited about this opportunity. Since starting as a Firefighter, Fire Engineering has been such as tremendous resource for me. Whether logging onto the website to see the latest news or seeing the print issue as I open my mailbox, Fire Engineering is a trusted source for training, products, health, safety and news. To be part of this amazing resource is an honor and privledge, no matter in what capacity.

Look for some posts in the near future and I look foward to this amazing adventure! Thank you, Chris Huston.