Original Post from: http://www.firehouse.com/article/12038368/overcoming-the-four-common-barriers-in-modern-fire-behavior-firefighter-training-education?utm_source=FH+Training+%26+Tactics&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=CPS160614014
I have been very blessed to surround myself with others who share the same passion and have learned and will continue to learn a tremendous amount about the subject of modern fire behavior.
The biggest take away that I have found thus far is this: I have learned to keep an open mind and adapt concerning the subject of modern fire behavior. My previous education from antiquated training manuals (that provided a good foundation) has grown to my current education level due to such programs such as the “Kill the Flashover Project.”
While learning, studying, and understanding the new information about how fire behaves, we must come to a common understanding as to why there is “push back” from within our ranks and offer solutions in order to correct them.
Below are what I often see are the four most common barriers to obtaining the coveted balance of science and tactics so we can be more successful in understanding why we continue to injure or kill ourselves needlessly.
Barrier 1 – NFPA 1403
It handcuffs firefighters on how we can burn certain materials to duplicate real world fire conditions and behaviors. Acquiring structures to perform live burns is becoming increasingly difficult, not to mention the liability for departments.
The solution – The NFPA has changed the fuel packages in response to complaints from fire service educators. Within the new standard is the ability to have more than one live fire within a structure to re-create flow paths. All of the safety features/protocols associated with acquired structures still stand.
Barrier #2 – Training Safety/Training Paralysis
In most fire academies the burn buildings are made of concrete with many safety features built in so the temperature doesn’t allow for a realistic environment. Also, there are little to no furnishings, wall coverings, etc. to show signs of pyrolysis to warn firefighters as to an impending flashover due to increasing heat release rates.
The solution – Work together with local, county and state building departments to assist fire departments with acquiring structures and increase the level of understanding with all surrounding fire departments. Quality video, thermal imaging camera images, and thermal couplers would assist with “showing” the science and data while still in the learning environment.
These technological advances also provide an additional level of safety that could not be achieved in a standard training fire. By having these systems in place and establishing a technology branch, the incident commander can receive live real-time thermal data to insure that the firefighters are not exceeding their thermal protective performance (TPP).
Barrier #3 – Antiquated Tactics
The current recruit manuals are still teaching to over ventilate and open everything up. There is still a thought process of coordinated ventilation with a fire attack, but very little mention of anti-ventilation practices. A lot of the new tactics are very regional due to building construction and is limited to positive pressure ventilation (PPV) or vertical ventilation only.
The solution – Teaching and showing how a transitional attack is beneficial for all parties involved so our members can reduce the thermal insult placed upon us. Use science and the data to prove that reducing the temperature inside the compartments can actually increase our safety as well as the survivability profile of victims.
The transitional attack must become a staple in our arsenal if we are to succeed, especially with lower manpower and newer and more dangerous building construction. We must also understand that a transitional attack is an offensive tactic and is not a ”one-size-fits-all” tactic that can be employed on all fires. The word “transition” should be understood as moving from one area to another not a stationary exterior position.
It implies a knockout punch followed by interior firefighting crews “transitioning” to the fire compartment to finish the job of extinguishment.
Barrier #4 – Tradition, Tradition, Tradition….
We used to feed horses back in the early days of firefighting. We have since stopped because the technology has allowed and demanded us to do so. I use the bag of oats analogy to explain and paint the picture for others. We need to help people understand that they shouldn’t be the person left holding the bag after the fire service leaves them behind.
The solution – Make new traditions! The very definition of the word “tradition” is to continue a pattern of culture, beliefs or practices. We must strive to instill in the future of the fire service the best practices and culture of adaptability just as those before us taught us how to survive in their environment, we must teach others to improvise, adapt, and overcome future changes to ours.
In order for others to embrace the new traditions, we must instill a sense of ownership by teaching the next generation without disrespecting the current one.
“Part of what we need to do is celebrate what we did before and improve upon it.”
-Alan V. Brunacini
In closing, as firefighters we have adapted, improvised, and overcame every obstacle or new change that has been added to our service arsenal throughout the history of the fire service. Our traditions of pride and service over self, brotherhood, and sacrifice will all live on, but our tools, tactics, and the environment we function in will continue to change.
Let us once again, step up and take the lead and show our citizens that they can put their trust in us. We will learn, adapt, and tackle our new environment. No barrier shall stand in the way of our service.
Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies.
JOHN DIXON is a career fire officer with an urban fire department in New Jersey and has over 19 years in the fire service. He is a certified Instructor II and Fire Officer III. Dixon has a passion for the fire service and for training, mentoring and inspiring up-and-coming firefighters and officers. He also serves as an Instructor with the Bergen County, N.J., Fire Academy. You can contact him through his website: InstructorJohnDixon.com.