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Let's Talk Fire Drill Time- Size It Up!
Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
Must Have For The Serious Fire Fighter
Well, well, well it would appear we meet again. I trust you hose monkeys have been behaving yourselves in my absence. I apologize dearly for the delay in this particular issue of Let's Talk Fire but the winter weather has smacked my department in the face a bit harder than usual this year which has kept me rather busy. This time around we are going to be exploring a subject that is often overlooked and under appreciated. Despite those facts it is a subject that can decide the very life and death of firefighters on scene. What is this task you might ask? Well hold up probie and keep your pants on. No seriously put your pants back on. How you ever assumed that those rubber ducky boxers were appropriate attire for the firehouse is beyond me entirely.
Today we are going to look at the fine and delicate art of size-up. Size-up as you should know is the way we go about planning for action at a scene. It involves getting a full visual and mental picture of the scene to better decide how you will resolve the issue making the scene dangerous. It should be the primary objective of the first arriving fire fighter. to conduct a size-up and give feedback to any firefighters who may respond.
Tones are our first hint size-up is beginning.
Despite what has been said by trainers in the past size-up does not start once we arrive on scene. Size-up begins as soon as the initial call is radioed in to your station. It is all about gathering facts and formulating a plan based on those facts.
Let's say your at your station eating some cereal and talking about the UK game the night before. Suddenly tones drop and you are being paged to a structure fire on main street. You are informed that all residents have made it outside of the structure. You may not realize it just yet but you have some vital information already. No residents inside means you do not need to be to concerned with rescue operations. That means you have one less worry. The second vital information is that the location of the burn structure is main street. Most city's have a main street and it is usually roadside with homes closely bundled. This means apparatus position is an issue you will need to worry about as well as exposure concerns. This is what I often call phase one of the size-up process.
Security Bars should be included in size-up reports.
Phase Two- The 360 Degree Size-Up
Phase two is a little bit more complicated. Phase two begins as soon as you arrive and is often referred to as the 360 degree size-up. Start at your A side and make the rounds all the way around the structure. Note where you see flame or smoke as well as any issue that could present you and your department with a hassle in dealing with this scene. Where are the utility shut offs? Is there a threat of power lines? Note everything that can hinder or assist with this particular scene.
During this phase of the size-up you are starting to see the whole picture and drop the blinders. Now you must use what you discover as the foundation of the plan to resolve the scene. I like to look for means of entry and exit while conducting my size-up. Know what you can do to get in and out of any structure.
Let's say you failed to note security bars on the first floor windows. Now your crew has two men sent inside to attempt to locate the seat of the fire. They become trapped and attempt to make egress through a living room window when they discover the window is barred. This is not a situiation anyone wants to be caught in. You could have noted the bars and once entry was made a truck crew could have removed the bars.
Remember any action we note in phase two will develop into the game plan we use to clear this scene. I can not express how important this phase of the game is. I often find myself reflecting on Bryclin Street and how a simple 360 could have prevented firefighter death.
Phase Three- Rinse and Repeat
Size-up is not a one time deal. Every so often you need to do another size-up and make note of changes in the fire behavior. Has the flames decreased? Is there more or less smoke? What has changed? I like to use my secondary and other size-ups to also maintain accountability of my crew. Just like any plan we make in the fire service we must be flexible and ready to change our tactics at the drop of a hat. That is where multiple size-ups can really help us out.
While many departments ignore conducting multiple size-ups it should always be a priority to monitor changes in the scene. While the first size-up may have revealed smoke exclusive to the basement the second might show that it has now broke through to the third floor. This may have been ignored if we blinder up and just go about fighting the fire on it's own level. Use your ability to observe these changes to your benefit.
That's right kids it is time to actually get some training in. I am going to show you a picture and I want you to take notes of things you see that are hazards and things that are helpful to you. Take some notes and see if you can get all the things listed. I will of course show you the right answers afterwards. Don't get discouraged if you don't key in on all of the answers. We seldom see everything in one swoop and thus the need for more extensive search is present. Be alert to not only things that are obvious hazards but to those that look safe that could be destructive to your safety.
This is a skill that we can not afford to neglect. I am a very concerned advocate of the importance of the size-up. Practice it on a regular basis. When you are driving through your response area take time to make a note of houses and key issues such as what roof types they have. Know your water supply options and how you would best position apparatus and resources in different areas in your response district. Take time out on occasion to get out and take a visual scope of your city and note things that would create a problem for your department.
Remember look for hurts and helps. Each is just as important to us as firefighters and we need to have a record of each to be more prepared for the scene.
Some factors to notice.
What type of roof are you dealing with? The type of construction also plays a huge part in how we will attack this fire. While the smoke is mostly light there is still a substantial amount of it present so we know we most likely have a working fire.
The real key is to always be aware of the situation and what poses a threat of changing that awareness.
The Issues I Found
How did you do?
The size-up is often something many young guns overlook and they shoot right for the hose. We need to move past the mentality that we simply put the wet stuff on the red stuff and open up the idea that safety is the key. Look and listen. Take mental images of potential escape zones that you may need to utilize to save yourself or one of your crew. Be observant to every aspect of the scene and understand that firefighting is a constant conversation between you and the fire. Listen and plan based on it. Understand that what we do is dangerous and any precautionary action we can take to limit the danger we experience is worth doing.