Original post found at: http://www.firechief.com/2014/11/11/can-the-fireground-be-research-driven/
John Buckman III
However, the practices and solutions to fire suppression techniques are not always implemented on the street. In fact, many times the research is combated vigorously, occasionally almost violently.
In many cases the resistance is based upon the emotional attachment to the idea that we have to “fighting the red devil.”
Traditionally, safety research has focused on data analyses to identify firefighter safety issues and to demonstrate that a new practice will lead to improved efficiency and firefighter safety. Much less research attention has been paid to how to implement practices.
Yet, only by putting into practice what is learned from research will firefighters become safer.
Implementing evidence-based safety practices are difficult and need strategies that address the complexity of fireground operations, individuality, leadership and ultimately changing the culture to be evidence-based safety practices environments.
Evidence-based practice is the conscientious and judicious use of current best evidence in conjunction with expertise and new values to guide fire service leaders through the decision-making and change-management process.
Best evidence includes empirical evidence from randomized controlled trials. UL and NIST are doing a significant amount of controlled trials in a variety of situations. This is the first time in the history of the fire service that we have research that is being used to validate, or not validate, our current strategy and tactics.
When you research how the theory of fire suppression was developed, it is very hard to find evidence-based research.
History of evidence
Chief Lloyd Layman is considered the father of fog firefighting tactical operations. He first presented a paper “Little Drops of Water” in 1950 at FDIC in Memphis, Tenn.
That paper was extremely radical for the time and coined the term “indirect attack.” Most of the theory Chief Layman shared came from research conducted by the Coast Guard.
The fire service has not been blessed with a sufficient research base and therefore decision making is derived principally from experience. This has not always served the fire service in the most positive manner.
The books written in the fire service in most cases are based upon larger departments with adequate staff and equipment resources. Departments with limited resources or long response times try to emulate what is written in the tactics textbooks.
Each fire department needs to take the information being disseminated today and examine it to determine a course of action that matches their situation and the facts available.
The strategic decision making process is different for rural, suburban and urban departments based upon resources, response time and staff capability. Ultimately, the size and complexity of the fire will determine the strategy.
One of the new decision-making models developed by Hanover County (Va.) Fire-Rescue Div. Chief Eddie Buchanan and used by the International Society of Fire Service Instructors in their new video “Modern Fire Behavior” is SLICERS. The acronym stands for Size-up, Location of the fire, Isolate the flow path, Cool from a safe distance, Extinguish; Rescue and Salvage are added in as necessary.
This is all about hitting it hard from the yard for 15 seconds, then going inside to put it out. While most agree that the latest research can improve firefighter safety, they struggle to translate the research into fireground tactics and implement that change in a successful manner.
This program rethinks the tactics of old and incorporates the latest research into tactics using the SLICERS method. The concept has been vetted with the lead researchers involved and has their endorsement.
The acronym is designed to replace the well-known RECEO VS method that has been widely adopted by the fire service over the years. This program also discusses overcoming resistance to change and the lessons learned in real-world implementation.
SLICERS is one decision making model. If you are satisfied with the model you are currently using and you believe it gives you the required options to make the right decisions at the right time to ensure firefighter safety and appropriate tactical application.
The REVAS model was an upgrade from the RECO model developed by Chief Lloyd Layman in the 1950s. RECEO was the foundation for Layman’s 1953 book “Fire Fighting Tactics.” His tactical priorities of Rescue, Exposures, Confinement, Extinguish and Overhaul were innovative, but were developed when a 2×4 was truly 2×4 inches, cut-and-stack framing still existed, and interior furnishings were still primarily made from natural materials.
Today, as we all know, the structural components are lighter and less capable of handling a fire of any consequence. Framing materials are now made from small dimensional lumber and engineered wood products. Floor plans are an open concept that includes many common spaces with few, if any, doors.
Lightweight trusses with gusset plates are the antigravity mechanisms of choice, and interior furnishings are primarily made out of plastics and hydrocarbons (comfortable gasoline). These interior furnishings burn more quickly and produce many times more BTUs and poisonous toxins than natural materials, creating atmospheres that are survivable only for a very short time.
The additional challenge we face today is that many times there is less staffing available for fire combat operations. This staffing reduction is caused by a variety of factors, but the incident commander must be aware of the staffing or lack of staffing issue.
The command component must develop a risk-management assessment and plan. A realistic assessment and plan will reduce the risk to firefighters and ultimately reduce injury and death.
Simultaneous vs. sequential
Chief Billy Goldfeder years ago talked about the fire departments’ ability to deploy tactical operations simultaneously or sequentially. There is a huge difference between the actions tied to those two words.
If you have limited staffing or other resources that are not adequate, the commander must prioritize the tactical actions necessary that are logical and make sense. This is a part of the tactical decision making model and establishes the sequential priority to tactical actions.
This is part of the critical decision making process that needs to be enhanced. The effective incident commander must recognize that the sets of facts presented today may require a different response to a standard decision making process.
Accumulating the right experience is critical to growing in the role of competent incident commander and not making decisions based upon automatic responses to recognized patterns.