Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Journal Entry 14: It's 2012, What Do We Do Now?

Let me start by wishing all of you a very happy, healthy and safe new year. Now that the formalities are out of the way, let’s get down to business.

The Everyone Goes Home-Courage to be Safe” program is about 5 years old. Line of Duty Deaths (LODD’s) have dropped below 80 in 2010 and around 80 in 2011. The low hanging fruit which we believed to be driving is in fact just that. The LODD driving stats have dropped whether it was a fire department vehicle or a POV. So, we’re hoping at this point that they are starting to listen. Try a secret weapon. I call it “obnoxious repetition.” “Good night guys, be safe” should be your verbal sign-off when leaving the firehouse every single time. “Have a safe rest of the shift” might be thrown in now and then. Ask my college fire science students how I bid them farewell every Tuesday night. They’ll repeat it with the “we know, we know” lilt in their voices: “Be careful; seatbelts, speed and intersections. Wear your gear. Be safe. See you next week.” For those of you who have been around for more than 15 minutes, remember the war movie made in the 1970’s “The Dirty Dozen” with Lee Marvin, Jim Brown and Telly Savalas? They had a suicide mission to gain entry into a German compound and blow it up. They sat around a model of the complex for weeks. There were ten steps to the operation. They repeated it over and over again. They even made it rhyme. (The Burn Center in Livingston N.J. used “Wear your gear, don’t end up here.”) It became second nature to the soldier/actors in the movie. Much like snapping a seatbelt. You just do it automatically. They blew it up, all the way up!

I know there are Fire Chiefs and fire fighters all over the country that have not seen the EGH-CTBS program or ever heard of it. Come on folks. Are you living under a rock alongside the Geico man? Have you seen the IAFF’s program “Fire Ground Survival Awareness?” This is by far one of the best on-line training programs I’ve ever seen. It’s well done on all accounts and it’s free. These two programs alone can bring your department members to a new and heightened awareness of tactical safety and career longevity, career or volunteer. The IAFC’s sponsored Safety Week is not enough. It’s meant to be a reminder that we should be doing something each and every day. When you do radio roll call each morning, does your dispatcher recite a “Safety Tip of the Day?” Yet another simple “obnoxious reminder.” The thing is, eventually they’ll comply just to shut you up! And even then, repeat it. We’ve always said that every week is fire prevention week. Why not include that every week is firefighter safety week? All of this type of thinking falls in to Life Safety Initiative #1-Change the Culture. (If you never heard of the 16 LSI’s, you’re behind the 8 ball or perhaps you are an 8 ball!) As new members are brought in to the service, give them the religion right up front. The EGH-CTBS program should be taught at every fire academy in the country, in order to instill safety awareness at the very beginning of a career. Maybe we’ll get a whole generation of firefighters to grow up in a safety culture that will truly make dent in our LODD rate. We still got work to do.

For today, put yourself to the test. Ask yourself the following questions (there are only 38) and see what kind of answers you get. Better yet, sit down with your staff (Asst. Chiefs, Deputies, Battalions, Officers, etc.) and review them together. It may be time to re-adjust and remember to re-adjust you, before you try to re-adjust them!

  • Have we made firefighter safety and health a primary value of our organization?

  • Does every member understand the organizational emphasis on health and safety?

  • Does every manager and supervisor understand their personal responsibility to implement safety policies and procedures?

  • Are we holding people accountable for compliance with health and safety policies?

  • Have I as the Fire Chief accepted the responsibility for health and safety policies and programs?

  • Do I as the Fire Chief “walk the walk” and “talk the talk”?

  • Do I know if the health and safety policies are being followed?

  • Is there a gap between what I think is going on and what is really going on?

  • Does every firefighter have the training (knowledge, skills and abilities) to perform all expected duties?

  • Is every firefighter physically fit?

  • Do we have a good physical fitness program?

  • Do we perform fitness evaluations?

  • Is every firefighter healthy?

  • Regular medical examinations performed by a qualified physician?

  • Do we have SOG’s/SOP’s?

  • Do we really follow them?

  • Are we using the procedures or just using the terminology?

  • Can we really account for the position, function and status of every firefighter on the incident scene?

  • Is every firefighter connected to the plan for the incident?

  • Does the Incident Commander know what is really going on?

  • Do we have all of the “proper” equipment we need to do the job?

  • Is our equipment properly maintained and inspected?

  • Do we keep maintenance and inspection records?

  • Is our equipment used according to their design parameters?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Journal Entry 13: Arson--Terrorism Reborn, Part II

By Ron Kanterman

Journal entry 12 discussed some of the aspects of arson awareness such as basic fire behavior, building construction, what line personnel should look for and general fire ground considerations. Flammable and combustible liquids are easy to get and easy to use and may be the used as the weapon of choice for the next bad guy in line. Arm yourself with knowledge and know the signs of arson. It will lead to safer fire ground operations.

Incendiary Fire Patterns:
Incendiary fire usually leave behind some type of indicator.
Most arsonists are not very clever.
The most common ignitable liquid used is gasoline.
May use device of an electrical, mechanical or chemical nature.
Device is as elaborate as the imagination of the arsonist. (Not clever-See #2 above)
Most devices leave behind some type of residual evidence.
Trailers-Any combustible or flammable material used to spread fire from one point to another, usually leave char or burn pattern on surface where used and may be found through doors, windows, or wall openings. Common Trailer Materials-newspaper, rope, string, twine, fuse cord, clothing, bedclothes, drapes, or other similar materials, tissue paper, waxed paper, bounce fabric softener sheets, ignitable liquids, building contents

Common Indicators of Arson:
Heavy, isolated floor damage
"V" burns or grooves between floorboards
Unusual patterns on flooring materials
Unusual low burning
Holes burned through floors
Spalling of concrete
Removal of expensive items; appliances, paintings, jewelry
Removal of personal items; photos, diplomas, hobby items, wedding albums
Unnatural fire spread may be due to an ignitable liquid
Excessive or unusual fire damage compared to similar fires
Excessive or unusual heat levels compared to similar fires
Fires during strange times: holidays, weekends at commercial properties, time of day,
during renovations/remodeling, fires during electrical storms or bad weather

Scene Security & Evidence Preservation:
Did anyone ever tell you exactly why you may sit on a building for hours after the fire is out waiting for the fire investigator? It's simple. An old court case set precedent in which someone was arrested and tried for arson as was let go. The landmark case for the fire service similar "Miranda" for law enforcement is Michigan vs. Tyler. Tyler owned an antique store and burned it. The problem was, the investigator and state police came and went as they pleased within a three day span. Tyler's attorney argued that anyone could have gotten in to the unsecured building and planted evidence against his client. So...we now maintain custody of the building until the arrival of the investigator. (There's a bit more to it than that but you have the general idea.)

Restrict entry in to the scene; Various persons may want to enter the scene like owners concerned about damage, personal items, etc. OR maybe the arsonist wants to check out their work!
Set up an entry procedure: verify person has right to enter, determine purpose for entry, escort when appropriate for safety and control, document any items removed, don't allow tampering with any controls, switches, breakers, lights etc. A sign in sheet is good idea!
When evidence is discovered; do not touch it unless it could be destroyed or damaged by fire, collapse or fire suppression, protect it until the arrival of the investigator, don't handle it! (If you must, hold cans or containers by the edges with two fingers, photograph prior to moving, photograph area after removal, record date and time found, place in appropriate container, secure evidence, maintain chain of custody.

Consider Some Accidental Causes of Fire:
Heating equipment, cooking equipment, smoking and related fires, electrical systems and equipment, flammable & combustible liquids, open flames and sparks, spontaneous heating, gas fires and explosions, fireworks and explosives, dust explosions, low temperature ignition sources, lightning.

Remember, be careful, be deliberate, be observant and if it doesn't feel right or look right, tell an officer or other fire ground boss. Learn the signs of arson and pass them on to your members. Use Journal Entries 12 &13 for drills. The safety of your brothers and sisters may be on the line.

Stay well, stay safe,
Ronnie K

Source; NFA/ADFR

Monday, September 12, 2011

Journal Entry 12: Arson--Terrorism Reborn, Part I

Chief Ronald E. Kanterman

Ten years have come and gone since the terrorist attacks on our country and we have not been attacked since. Some give the DHS the credit, some the military, some the law enforcement task forces around the country. Whoever is doing it, I hope they keep up the good work. While we are glad for 10 years for homeland peace, we can never let our guard down. The national and federal law enforcement community tells us that the next act of terrorism is more likely to be the “lone wolf” rather than an organized cell or group. It makes sense and follows a path of recent incidents such as the shoe bomber on the airliner, the Time Square car bomber, the massacre on the military base and some folks caught making bombs in their homes or garages here and there over the past few years. One of the key issues however is that bomb making materials like high order explosives are hard to get in most places in the U.S. It’s easy to learn how to make a bomb (the good old internet) but explosives are controlled for the most part. Not all but most. We can still get our hands on fireworks, propane and most easily gasoline. Thus the second best thing for a bad guy to do is commit arson. With the recent storms ravaging the east coast of the United States, it was easy to see people pulling up to the pumps with multiple 5 gallon gas cans. Granted, most of these fine Americans used the gas for the their generators at home in order to keep the milk fresh, the lights on, the well pumping and perhaps to get a gaze at the Kardashian wedding. Whatever reasons, the gas was put to good use. But what about the bad guys? What about pulling up to the pump on a regular day not following a storm? Who’s watching the gas stations of America? No one. Early domestic terrorism took place at the Jamestown Settlement when people burned others out of their homes. Later on during the civil war, the Union Army burned Atlanta. Arson has been the terrorist weapon of choice for a long, long time. It’s easy to do and easy to get the materials to do. So let’s take a lesson in arson awareness. Every firefighter in the nation should have some idea of what to look for, the “red flags” if you will, while on the fire ground. This awareness could save your life or the lives of your crew. Part one covers basic fire science, building construction, and what line personnel can look for from dispatch, to arrival, to the firefight and afterwards. I invite you to use this as a simple drill the next time you’re all together in the fire house. Part 2 will come next month.

Basic Fire Science/Fire Behavior Review:
Sorry boys and girls. A little fire science goes a long way. Any field of the fire service you delve in to, requires a basic knowledge of fire behavior. Teaching college level fire science for over 22 years has gotten me in the habit of reviewing these concepts almost every semester whether we’re learning fire and arson investigation, fire protection systems, hazardous materials, building construction or strategy and tactics. They are all tied together with the knowledge of basic fire science. Review the following:
• Pyrolysis: Defined as the chemical decomposition of matter by heat. Process begins when fuel is heated, gases are produced, gases ignite, heat balance and feedback is obtained
• Flashpoint: Minimum temperature required for a fuel to produce sufficient vapors for ignition.
• Flammable liquids: have a flashpoint below 100˚ F. Combustible liquids have a flashpoint at or above 100˚ F. Flashpoint is determined under controlled laboratory conditions in a cup tester.
• Ignition Temperature: Minimum temperature required to ignite a material. Auto ignition occurs without the presence of an open flame or spark. Piloted ignition occurs with the presence of an open flame or spark
• Flammable or Explosive Limits: The concentration level of fuel vapors to the amount of air (oxygen) available for combustion. UEL - upper explosive limit, LEL lower explosive limit.
• Specific Gravity: Weight of a product compared to the weight of water. Water has a value of 1. Products with specific gravity of less than one will float (gasoline) and products with specific gravity of more than one will sink (carbon disulphide).
• Vapor Density: Weight of a product compared to air. Air has value of 1. Products with vapor density less than 1 will rise (natural gas), products with vapor density greater than 1 will sink (propane).
• Btu: Heat is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). One BTU is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water 1˚f.
• Methods of Heat Transfer: Convection-through air currents; Conduction-through solid mass (steel); adiation-UV heat waves.
• Flashover: Simply put, it is the stage of a fire when a room or compartment and its contents becomes fully involved in fire.
• Backdraft: Also known as a “smoke explosion,” results from the sudden introduction of air into an oxygen deficient confined space that contains superheated products of incomplete combustion. Can occur in concealed spaces like ceilings.

Building Construction Review:
• Fire Resistive: No exposed structural steel. Structural elements have substantial fire resistive ratings; maybe concrete, concrete encased steel, encased with gypsum board/plaster or steel with sprayed on protection. Exterior walls may be “curtain walls”
• Noncombustible: All structural members are of noncombustible materials. May have a limited degree of fire resistance like 1 hour.
• Heavy Timber: Exterior walls of masonry materials, interior walls, floors, roofs, columns, beams are of large dimensional lumber (4X4, 8X8, 12X12, 16X16)- The least likely to collapse early in an operation.
• Ordinary: “Main Street USA”- exterior walls of noncombustible materials. Floors, roofs and interior walls are wholly or partially made of wood.
• Wood Frame: Walls, floors and roofs are partially or wholly made of wood. Metal framing with plywood is also considered wood frame. Others are balloon frame, post and beam or platform.

What Line Personnel Should Look For:
• Initial Call: Source of call, the caller.
• Source of Call: 911 center, fire dispatch, local law enforcement agencies, automatic fire alarms, private alarm companies, neighbors & passers-by
• Caller: Discoverer of fire? Owner/Occupant of property? Passer-by who observed fire? Law enforcement patrol? The arsonist?
• Information to Be Obtained by Operator: Identification - name, address, phone number, location from where call is being made, voice identification, emotional state, background noises, exact location of fire.
• Private Alarm (Central Stations): When was alarm received? Source of alarm signal? Any recent reports of trouble with system? Any recent false alarms? (Required to maintain written records of all alarm and test signals.)
• Weather Conditions: Clear or stormy, snow or ice, wind speed and direction, temperature and humidity. These effect response time or access to scene
and affect fire behavior and/or burn patterns
• Spectators: Individuals leaving the scene quickly, gender, height, build, clothing, hair, activities/actions
• Vehicles: Make, color, size, domestic or foreign, style, license number, driver/occupants, direction of travel, speeding away from the scene.
• Delays in Reaching Scene: Detours, railroad crossings, lift or drawbridge, trees, debris, rush hour. Trees across the road but no recent storms! Unplowed snow.
• Smoke and Flames: Location, color and amount of smoke, visible flames, color of smoke. Flames can be helpful but not definitive indicators. Reaction of putting water on the fire. Did the fire get bigger or flash back?
• Actions of Spectators: Too concerned, too eager to help, too vocal, critical of emergency services, displays of animosity against neighbors, society, or government, too quiet or withdrawn, too excited, overly brave, helpful or curious, hindering of fire fighting activities.
• Appearance of Spectators: Appropriate for time of day, weather, signs of smoke or burns, odors, injuries, have special items like toys, pets, fur coats, jewelry, insurance policy or other important papers? Who takes all that when their house is on fire?
• Environmental Considerations: Other fire activity in area, areas with high transient occupants, areas of high crime activity, other crimes in area or community.

Fire Ground Considerations:
• Type of structure involved: Does fire behavior seem “normal?” Location of fire/smoke, signs of occupant attempts to escape, exposures involved.
• Condition of Doors and Windows: Position on arrival. Did someone enter looking for occupants? Did someone break or open windows? Did burglary occur prior to fire? What is normal position of doors and windows? Any evidence of forced entry?
• Damage to Fixed Fire Protection: Items stuffed in FD connections, stripped threads, closed valves, missing caps, tampering.
• Entry: Was forcible entry necessary? Who performed entry operations and how? How many doors/windows were forced? Were doors/windows locked prior to forced entry? Were any alarms activated during entry? Any guard animals present?
• Obstacles: Doors barricaded from interior? Stock piled in front of doors? Panic bars chained closed? Security bars on doors and/or windows?
• Location and Extent of Fire: Fire found where it was expected? Anything unusual about location? Evidence of unusual fire travel? Evidence of “trailers?” Color of flames and smoke. Fire spread from area of origin? Evidence of separate fires?
• Difficulty in Extinguishment: Did room darken when water was applied? Any unusual reactions to water? Did fire flashback? Was fire floating on top of water? Was amount of water used for extinguishment similar to other fires?
• Alarm/Detection/Suppression: Smoke alarms present and operational? Fire alarm system present and operational? Fire sprinkler system present and operational? Any evidence of tampering?
• Unusual Observations: Covered windows? Blocked ingress or egress? Items in unusual locations?
• Signs of Pre-fire Activity: Rifled drawers, open or overturned furniture, papers or files thrown about, broken furniture, anything unusual placed on beds.
• Unusual Signs: Unusual burn patterns, unusual odors, unusual ceiling damage, unusual floor damage, furniture or other contents moved or placed together, items not where they should be.
• Utilities: Location of electrical panel - any signs of tampering, condition of fuses or circuit breakers? On or Off?-Who turned off? Meter reading; Gas-On or Off? Who turned off? Location of meter or tank, volume of tank, signs of tampering, meter reading.

Next month we’ll look at patterns of fire, common indicators of arson, scene security and evidence preservation and legal aspects. In the mean time, be careful, be deliberate, be aware, be observant and if it doesn’t look right or feel right, tell a fire ground boss. Knowing the signs of arson will lead to safer fire ground operations.
Stay well, stay safe,
Ronnie K

Source; NFA/ADFR

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Journal Entry 11-“It’s LODD Half Time-But We Can’t Rewind the Tape”
Chief Ronald E. Kanterman

My good friend, retired Chief Charlie Dickinson said on the Everyone Goes Home DVD program, “this ain’t football folks, we can’t rewind the tape and start over again.” Boy is he ever right. In case you haven’t been paying attention to our LODD issue, here’s some information that hopefully you can use at your next company meeting, shift meeting, business meeting, union meeting or chief’s meeting. We’re heading for a bad year. Although the end of June is actually when half the year is over, I took a look at the stats as of July 31 as posted on the USFA’s Firefighter Fatality web page.

Types of LODD:
Heart Attack/Stroke/Cancer/Illness: 34
Trauma: collapse/trapped/burns: 15
Driving/crashes: 4
Total: 53

Firefighter Classification:
Career/part time paid 23
Volunteer 30

Ages of LODD’s:
Career: 3-20’s; 4-30’s; 5-40’s; 9-50’s; 2-60’s
Volunteer: 1-18 yrs old; 3-20’s; 3-30’s; 9-40’s; 11-50’s; 1-60; 2-80’s

If we simply double these numbers, we’re looking at 106. It’s time to re-affirm our commitment to safety. It’s time to re-evaluate our health, wellness and fitness. It’s time to step back and look at strategy tactics, command operations, building construction, and on and on……………again. The fire service at large has got to be tired of hearing all of this stuff day after day and year after year but we are doomed because we’re repeating history. Career guys with known ailments are still not taking themselves off the line to get their health issues corrected and we’re still allowing volunteers in their 70’s and 80’s to respond to calls. If you want to stop reading now I understand, but go outside and stick your heads in the sand like the American fire service has done for the past 275 years.

I met a career firefighter a few years back in his mid 30’s. He looked like an athlete on the outside. He went to the gym, ran, worked out etc. What he didn’t know was that he had a mechanical malfunction on the inside, due to an unhealthy diet. He found this out when he went for a voluntary medical exam and was told he needed cardiac by-pass surgery. No one believed it especially him. He went back to full duty 6 months after surgery and is still on the job.

There comes a time when members of the volunteer fire service need to turn in their pagers and stop responding. Going to fires and emergencies is work for young people. Firefighting is stressful hard work, mentally and physically. Senior members know this because they’ve done it for a long time. When your pager goes off at 0300, no matter what your age, 21 or 71, your heart starts to beat rapidly and your respirations go up. Studies have been done (M. Asken, PhD) that show there is an automatic bio-physical response to being woken out of a dead sleep knowing there is a pending emergency. (It happens to the career guys too when the alarm lights go on and the dispatcher’s voice shakes them out of their bunks.) It’s an involuntary reaction and you can’t stop it. When you reach “that age” and most discussions around the country take it at 62-65 where most career guys would retire, it’s time to turn your pager in. “But no one is around during the day and I can still drive.” So what you’re saying is at 75 you still believe you can jockey a 25 ton machine safely through town at a high rate of speed? And then, what will you do when you get there if no one is around during the day? Enjoy the 20, 30 or 40 years you put in to the company and the service you provided to your community. You paid your dues probably more than once. Stay with the fire company to teach, share, pass on the knowledge you have, support the new officers, greet the new members, tell your stories and embrace your company’s history. Work on committees, follow legislation, offer history lessons around code changes or fire department SOP’s. Do all of that. Continue to contribute. You don’t have to drive or respond to contribute to the fire company and remain an active member. Oh yeah I almost forgot, enjoy your family, grand children and your friends too. I know many senior members of fire companies all over the country and they have remained active without responding and enjoying life.

You needn’t listen to me. I’m just a guy who’s been around for a few minutes and have been active with National Fallen Firefighters Foundation for many years. Those of us who are, remain close to the LODD issue. Oh yeah, we’ve been too many LODD funerals too.

At the end of June, my good friend Billy Goldfeder and I hosted our first on-line radio program through Fire Engineering Talk Radio. If you haven’t tuned in yet, there is a show every night, Monday-Friday with different subjects and a myriad of speakers. You are guaranteed to find someone you like. Billy and I took the platform of “safety, survival and other things.” The first show brought us Bob Colameta, a Battalion Chief from Massachusetts on the air as our guest. Bob is one of the driving forces behind the Everyone Goes Home program and he said it best about firefighter safety and LODD prevention. He went on the say; “All the tools, programs and documents are in place. There is a ton of training material and it’s all free. There are instructors, program advocates and a constant nationwide push. It’s up to the individual to get on board and decide they will work safer, get healthier and when they can’t do it anymore, they won’t.” Billy and I agreed with him.

This month’s journal entry is not a bash on unhealthy career guys or senior volunteers. It’s an appeal to all of you to look inside yourselves for answers and to know when to say when. We have to shrink our LODD numbers and in turn, shrink the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland. But it’s not about numbers. It’s about real people, good people, like you. Start now because we need all of you to stick around a while longer.

Take care, stay well, stay safe,
Ronnie K

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Journal Entry 10-It's Fireworks Season!

Well brothers and sisters, it’s fireworks season once again. Are you prepared for that once a year event? Is the Fire Marshal’s office on top of this? Fireworks have been entertaining people for hundreds of years however it needs to be done safely. Let's go!

Pyrotechnicians (the folks who shoot at large public displays) are also known around the world as one third chemist, one third artist and one third business person. As chemists, their goal is to get the desired visual or audible effect in the sky and that takes many different chemicals. As long as they are in search of the “perfect blue” or the “loudest salute” the Fire Service will always be challenged in ensuring the safety of the community as well as the pyrotechnicians themselves while on the firing line. In jurisdictions where fireworks are manufactured, this “chemical search” should be quite the concern. Dealing with the “human element” in manufacturing creates an unpredictable variable for which all precautions taken cannot compensate. Many accidents/explosions at manufacturing facilities have been caused by human error, no different than most structure fires. There is no special or modern technology in the manufacturing of pyrotechnics. Shells are made by hand and can be subject to poor manufacturing practices, particularly when they come from third world countries.

Review the following information for the purpose of becoming somewhat familiar with fireworks, public displays and related operations such as transportation, general precautions and working with other agencies having jurisdiction. Hopefully, I will spark your interest (pun intended) and you will seek more information on fireworks safety. Yes, fireworks are dangerous but with the proper precautions, supervision and the vigilance on our part, injuries and accidents can be minimized. Good luck.

9%-Illegal under federal law
5%-Large devices
1%-Home made devices
85%-Legal under federal law

NOTE: Less than 6% of all injuries occur at legal permitted public displays
(This is the good news. This trend shows that people who use consumer fireworks on their own are getting hurt quite often and those who attend displays controlled by the fire service through a permit system have an extremely low chance of getting injured!)

>Annual average fire losses/property damage is $30 million.
>Annual number of fires is 25,000.
>Noteworthy fire losses:
Alaska-Wildfire-360 structures and 37,000 acres-$9 million
California-2 fires on wood shingle roof topped homes-$2 million
Connecticut-Sparklers on a birthday cake-multiple dwelling-$2 million
Ohio-Fire set in a fireworks store by a mentally ill person
No large property loss however 9 dead-sprinklers were shut
Rhode Island-Station Night Club-100 dead


Fire Department: Permits and display safety
Police: Crowd control, routes of travel for fireworks truck, site security
Parks & Recreation: Permits, fencing/security, inspection (if at a public park)
Federal Aviation Administration: Grants permission to use the air space
U.S. Coast Guard: Permits, water way management
Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms: Regulates movement of powders, visits manufacturing plants, assists with accident investigation
NFPA: Offers national consensus standards regarding fireworks;
NFPA 1123 (Public Displays), NFPA 1124 (Manufacturing)
Department of Transportation: Title 49CFR regulates transportation of hazardous materials. Placards and shipping containers.

NOTE TO: Fire Department-Fire Prevention Bureaus
Take time to build a file for each display. Request from the sponsor and/or display company copies of all other permits or letters e.g. FAA letter of permission, Parks and Recreation Permit, Police Permit for staging an event, Coast Guard permits for loading and transporting explosives and most important a “Letter of Intent to Display Fireworks.”
When you get the initial call for a permit, ask the sponsor for a letter of intent and mail or fax them your requirements. The letter should look something like:

>Name of sponsoring organization
>Day, date and time of display
>Location of display (public park, high school football field, etc.)
>Types and amounts of aerial shells. A shell list including size in diameter of aerial shells (Explosives 1.4) and types and amounts of low level devices (Explosives 1.5)
>Method by which the show will be fired (manually or electronically remote)
>Time table of operations: when the truck will get to the town line, set up time, time of the live material load.
>A statement attesting to the understanding of all rules and regulations governing public fireworks displays and that this display will be in accordance with these rules and regulations
>A statement that only materials listed and approved by the Bureau of Explosives will be used
>A list of personnel that who will be representing the fireworks display company, their function and experience.

• Refer to NFPA 1123-Standard for Public Fireworks Displays
• Refer to your local Fire Prevention Code
• NOTE-You must have 70 feet of clearance to the audience for every inch of diameter of the largest shell (See NFPA 1123-Table of Distances)
• Beware of extended finale racks-Your inspection will allow for a certain size shells from the center of the firing site to the audience but beware that finale racks can extend for tens or hundreds of feet. Ensure that the shells at the end of the racks are the right size for the distance to the audience.
EXAMPLE: Your site allows for 8” shells because you have 560 feet of clearance to the audience. The finale racks are extended across the site and the end of the racks (the last shell) are 3.” Provided you have 210 feet to the perimeter of the firing line you’re OK. Beware of extended racks!
• An inspection must be performed by the Fire Official/Authority Having Jurisdiction.
• Double your table of distances from storage of hazardous materials, correctional and health care facilities

 aerial salutes must be labeled “salute”
 single salute shells are not to exceed 5” in diameter
 single salute over 3”-need 10 times distance of mortar diameter
 salutes inside multi-break shells shall not exceed 3” and/or 3 oz.
 dwellings, buildings and structures are permitted to be within the fallout zone if the owners give permission and with the approval of the AHJ (An Engine Company on the roof perhaps?)
 Mortars may be angled to compensate for wind (Never towards the crowd)
The angled mortars may be placed up to 1/3 of the required distance toward the spectators (Watch this one. What if the wind shifts? What if a shell lets go in the tube? Be careful!!)
 Pyrotechnic Operators are to be protected with eye, head, hearing and foot protection as well as flame retardant clothes e.g. cotton.

>Consider escorting the fireworks truck through town to the firing site with an Engine Company in the event of an accident. Use the police to establish the route and assist with the escort if necessary. (Consider charging a fee for the escort, career or volunteer)
>Establish a Unified Command with other agencies at the display site one hour prior to the shot. Maintain Command one hour after the shot as well.
>POLICE: Crowd control, site security, traffic control, egress, ingress and access
>FIRE: Weather/wind/rain, FD Unit staging, members for firing line and monitoring of fallout areas, final clearance from FAA if necessary
>EMS: Prepare for shot and post shot injuries. (Burns for operators, eye injuries for spectators), pre-determine triage site, stationery first aid station and mark accordingly

**Command Units that are committed to the display must remain committed and out of service for the display

People in the fireworks business use the phrase “Have a safe and sane Fourth (of July)” like most others use Happy New Year or Merry Christmas. John R. Hall Jr. of the NFPA was quoted in the 1997 July/August edition of NFPA Journal as saying “Safe and sane fireworks are neither.” In any event, follow rules and use your arsenal of good common sense.

(The instructional program “Managing Fireworks Displays” can be presented at your location. Also note that the manual “Managing Fireworks Displays” by Ronald E. Kanterman is available through Delmar Publishing. Contact the author at MFDCAR1@comcast.net for details on this and many other training programs offered by Gold Horn Associates.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Journal Entry 9-Fight the Fire, Not the Building

There has been much discussion about fighting fires in protected buildings. The father of building construction Francis Brannigan insisted “the building is your enemy, know your enemy.” To this end we’ve looked at buildings and over time, most of us have come to realize that it makes an awful lot of sense to use the building for everything it can give us. While we know buildings can snatch us up, let’s take advantage of them as well. Commercial buildings tend to have more “built-in” active and passive protection systems than residential although when looking at high-rise or large area apartment complexes and similar occupancies, they have their share of these built-ins as well. When these devices are installed properly and maintained regularly, they do a great job of protecting the occupants, assisting firefighters and maintaining the building in an up-right position and I know we all like that!
Let’s take a look at some of these systems and see how we can put them to work for us strategically and tactically. You may even think about pre-fire planning or assisting the Fire Marshal’s office but don’t tell anyone about that. That’s waaaay too far out of the box, right?

Passive Fire Protection - Discussion:
Let’s look at something as simple as a fire door for example. It stands to reason it’s called a fire door for the sole purpose of holding back fire. I’ll go out on a limb and believe that fire ground strategists (incident commanders and company officers) would like to confine and contain the fire in its area of origin as would the line folks. Keeping fire doors closed or closing open ones will help you do just that that. The door and everything around it is known as a “rated assembly.” That includes the frame, hinges, door check, handle and latch, etc. When the door is tested at a nationally recognized laboratory, they put fire against the entire assembly and then rate it for time (1 hour, 1 ½ hours, two hours, etc.) Using doors alone will buy the occupants time to evacuate and will buy you time to organize your thoughts and do a size up while providing a safe haven. It is as important to close or keep closed these devices during a fire as it is to inspect them regularly and report them for repair. Don’t leave it solely to the Fire Marshal’s office. Take action and get it done as if your life depends on it because it might. Other things to look for while you are out and about:
• the integrity of spray-on fire proofing
• fire stopping where rated walls are penetrated
• smoke doors and barriers are working, self-closing, no obstructions
• fire barriers are undisturbed, integrity in tact

Passive Systems - Tactical Considerations:
• If a rated door, window or shutter is open, close it
• If a rated door, window or shutter is closed, leave it closed
• When checking for fire extension, insure complete fire control prior to opening rated walls, ceilings, etc.
• Incident Commanders should assume that the rated devices, walls etc. are only rated for half of what they were designed for, as a safety margin
• Pre-plan your target hazards showing passive systems, how they work and how to use them to your advantage
• Know that passive protection may the building’s only protection

Active Fire Protection - Discussion:
Sprinklers, standpipes, fire alarms, detection, special extinguishing systems etc. make up the world of active fire protection. (Things that move, flow, expel, sound and flash.) Like passive systems, they need to be installed correctly and maintained in order for them to be effective. Although they all seem similar, active systems are designed for the occupancy they protect. Some examples are: The number and type of sprinkler heads installed in a building depends on a few things like what is being protected (warehouse vs. office space), how high the ceilings are, available water supply and many other factors. Another example; smoke detection systems are installed with consideration of room configuration, ceiling height and configuration, occupancy type, etc. Special extinguishing systems are placed in areas for specific hazards and are engineered for that the hazard, like a clean agent system in a computer room or a foam system on a bulk storage tank.
When you’re pre-fire planning or doing inspections (you are doing these, right?), look for defects or impairments and get going. Again, you are urged to not shrug it off and leave it to the Fire Marshal. Work with your Fire Marshal’s Office. I hate to be the one to tell you but they are the most informed fire people in your district! Take action and get it done as if your life depends on it because it might.
Other things to look for while you are out and about:
• Go to the valve room. Insure all water supply valves are fully open.
• Go to the pump room. Make sure valves are open and everything is in service
• Insure there is power to fire alarm panels and there are no trouble signals
• Insure all special protection systems are in service. Check special panels
• Check water supplies on private properties (tanks, suction tanks, cisterns)
• Get the owner’s permission to play with fire alarms, voice communication systems, fire phones and smoke control systems. (You can’t figure these out at 0300.)
• Make sure there is a clear set of instructions in the fire panel that you can use and understand.

Active Systems – Tactical Considerations
• Assign a firefighter with a radio to the sprinkler control valves and/or pump room.
• Shut sprinklers only upon the order of the IC and insure a well-coordinated ventilation and suppression attack is ready. (Leave the FF at the valve to open it back up if needed!)
• If a fire is imminent, and a special hazard system is installed (range hood protection in a restaurant, clean agent in a computer room, etc.) discharge the system via pull station or activation button. Let the system do what it was designed to do and allow it to operate. You’ll be glad you did.
• It is always prudent to wear full PPE. It’s especially prudent to wear it in or near special systems. In the case of a total flooding CO2 system, the gas will bring the 02 level below 15%, not good for us. You also need to wear SCBA if you are checking adjacent spaces in case the media leaked into the next room especially the cylinder storage room.
• Use voice systems to give occupants instructions. If your radios are not working up to par (who’s do?), use it to give instructions to your firefighters. Remind personnel that they may be able to use a house phone to call a lobby command post or Fire Command Center.
• If there is a Fire Command Center, assign a company to staff it to assist the IC with operations.
• For large complexes, maximize the use of the smoke control system.

Get out in to your district and take a good look around. Find active and passive systems in your buildings and note them on your pre-fire plans. Learn to work smarter not harder. Fight the fire, not the building. Stay well, stay safe,
Ronnie K
(The program “Fight the Fire, Not the Building” can be presented at your location. Contact the author at; MFDCAR1@COMCAST.NET for details on this and many other training programs offered by Gold Horn Associates.)