Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 9   Fire Academy Accreditation, Basic ICS, LARRO Reinforcement, SCBA Finals and Ventilation

This week was the Oxnard College Regional Fire Academy's (OCRFA) most important week in years. OCRFA is an Accredited Regional Training Program.  As a stipulation to maintaining or boasting such a status, the Academy must be re-accredited every five years. Monday, October 13, 2014 was our scheduled inspection.

Cadets arrived Monday morning at their usual 0615-0630 time.  They set their gear in formation and workout circuit at and around the tower.  The Battalion stretched as an 0700 Officer's briefing was conducted with discussion focused on the orders of the day and the Accreditation team visit.  Battalion Officer Minicucci, Acting Battalion Officer Whitby, Alpha Company Officer Garcia, Bravo Company Officer Paxton, Charlie Company Officer Rodriguez and Delta Company Officer Smith all made note of the importance of this particular day.  

The Battalion's orders were to attend Basic Incident Command System (ICS) Training.  This training is presented in a classroom format with table top discussion and interactive case study. The course named, I-200 Basic ICS, is a twelve hour State Fire Training certification course. Course material covers the structure and function of the five sections the IC system.  Sections such as, Command, Operations, Planning, Logistics and Finance.  All utilized when managing emergency incidents.  

The Academy Administration's orders were to meet with and escort State Fire Training's Accreditation Team through the various areas of the academy program.  After the initial meeting to determine our method of operations, the team was given a tour of classrooms, library, hazardous materials training room, Emergency Medical Technician skills room, the fire simulator computer rooms and lastly Battalion 42's academy classroom.  The team initiated discussion with the group to poll cadet educational backgrounds while encouraging each of them to comment with opinion of their overall academy experience thus far.  The vocal members of 42 were well spoken and later receive positive review from the site team.  

The accreditation team attended a mid-day Fire Technology Advisory Committee Meeting and were able to generate conversation with the local agency Fire Chiefs attending.  Academy reviews were positive and in support of our highly reputable program.  Following the meeting the team divided, some finishing the tour of the grounds and equipment and the other to review academy files.  

By the day's end the Academy Coordinator, Fire Technology Director, Dean of Career Technology Education, Vice President of Instruction and the President of the College sat and listened to the results of the accreditation inspection. All positive with only one area requiring improvement, securing full time administrative support.  

The Battalion Officers were notified of the accreditation success and relayed the message to the group at summary prior to dismissal.  Additional instructions relayed at summary related to the preparation for SCBA finals to be conducted Tuesday afternoon.  The group elected to come together for structured donning practice after the release from I-200 and before departing for home. Another example of the incredible team work and team building this Battalion shares daily.

The group started Tuesday morning with a 4 mile formation run.  A long time coming as the last Battalion run was more than a week ago.  Cadence and pace remained for the most part. Being at the ready continues to be a focus.  During this run, two companies were dispatched at separate times.  Both to medical aids, each aid with its own set of priorities.  

Charlie was dispatched to an actively seizing toddler and Alpha to a subject not breathing, police on scene with CPR in progress on an infant. Assignments to be submitted on behalf of the dispatches include reports identifying call type, location, cross street, additional instructions while enroute, signs and symptoms, patient assessment questions and treatment of the given chief complaint. Each crew member was to submit a report and include a narrative summary of the call's events.

An 0900 report to the academy classroom had the cadets continuing with Basic ICS. Documentation of the previous day's events were being recorded by the administration, in addition to preparing for the afternoon SCBA finals and Low Angle Rope Rescue Operational (LARRO) reinforcement training.  As a gesture of thanks, the academy provided lunch for the Battalion for the professional representation displayed during the State's visit to the classroom.

Following lunch, academy apparatus was positioned to accommodate LARRO reinforcement training for the group while SCBA evaluations were conducted in the App Bay for each cadet. The class roster was used as the order of rotation.  Cadets positioned their gear for testing while another waited "on deck".  Rotations continued throughout the afternoon with only a small handful of cadets requiring the one remediation voucher approved for the end of the day. Chief Warner observed as retesting commenced, stating she was praying all would end successfully.

As the evaluations continued during the afternoon, LARRO reinforcement retained attention for waiting cadets.  This drill is all about review and conducted in format supporting peer interaction.  Each company was given two assignments.  The first, to build an entire rope rescue system, utilizing apparatus anchors, all equipment and safety measures while performing a simulated over the side 3 firefighter rescue of a manikin placed a distance away. The second to record a training video identifying the what and how of a given component within the system the company just assembled. The videos were to be shared by the Battalion and used as study reference.

Examples of the video assignments included, Squad 1: Belay system; Squad 2: Lowering system; Squad 3: Attaching belay and main lines to a firefighter rescue harness; Squad 4: Donning a rescue harness on a victim; Squad 5: 3:1 inline system changeover; Squad 6: 3:1 change of direction system changeover; Squad 7: Litter basket prep for 3 firefighters over the side; Squad 8: Litter basket lashing for victims.  Cadets did their best to take advantage of this hands on session in an effort to prepare for next week's Rope Rescue Systems 1 training.

As for the successful completion of SCBA finals, they did it.  The entire Battalion was able to meet the challenge of donning all personal protective clothing in one minute, then follow up with an additional one minute don of their self-contained-breathing-apparatus.  Good job.  A Battalion photo was taken.  The photo is displayed as this week's blog announcement.

Ventilation training filled the remainder of the week.  Both Wednesday and Thursday mornings consisted of significant preparation to accommodate the each of the day's 4 drill station rotation.  Wednesday, cadets set up rehab, transported tools and equipment, loaded 40 sheets of OSB and 20 2x4 studs onto a utility truck, then followed that truck to the roof prop where they unloaded the wood inventory stacking it in its designated area. By the end of Thursday, at total of 76 sheets of OSB and 30 studs would be replaced.

Classroom lecture for ventilation tactics was postponed to Thursday to allow for a 30 minute open discussion between the Battalion and Chief Warner.  The topic? Academy operations and experience.  Cadets were encouraged to speak openly to share opinion of academy daily operations and offer solutions to any rising issues.  

Lots of constructive criticism, all positive, most manageable.  Numerous cadets voiced opinion that a higher emphasis on the demands for fitness, knot tying ability and attention to detail be addressed at the academy orientation held prior to the semester. All cadets approve of the hands on approach and the advocacy of a Coordinator in the midst of dozens of cadre members.

Spring 2015 Fire Academy applications are being accepted as I type.  Academy orientation will be scheduled and held in the first part of November, and at the request of 42 will be restructured.  A number of cadets have asked to attend.  It may open some eyes.

By 0930 all companies were dressed and standing in formation at the roof prop as they listened to the orders of the day for ventilation rotations.  A normal four station rotation was scheduled.  The roof prop is limited in size so station planning is strategic.  On the prop were two stations of vertical ventilation with chain saws.  To the west, at the "Ming" structure a forcible entry station using a rotary saw and across the street at the burn prop a search and rescue station utilizing charged hose lines as a guide to rescue a downed firefighter.

To improve the quality of instruction, vertical ventilation stations are categorized and set up a distance apart. This allows for better hearing ability during instruction and keeps focus on the cutting operations of a given roof.  For example, techniques on a flat or panelized roof will differ from that on a pitched roof.  On Wednesday, cadets sounded and cut the panelized areas of the prop and on Thursday they sounded and cut the pitched areas.

Companies did well working together as they used hand tools to determine the structural integrity of the walking surface.  They supported one another during cutting operations by gripping the waist belt of the sawyer cutting.  Once the hole was cut as instructed, the crew would louver the opening and punch through the ceiling below.

At the burn prop, search and rescue techniques were enhanced.  During this round of searching, crews would function as if they were the rapid intervention crew assigned to rescue a downed firefighter, following a charged hose line, communicating with each other along the way as they crawled or walked towards the sounding alarm device.  Decisions to be made when air supplies run low challenged crews to remain strategic.

At the Ming area, companies were divided into three groups. They operated rotary saws to cut rebar from metal door props and used hand tools called irons to force wooden door props, . Tool handling techniques improved as the cadets became more accustomed to the natural tendency of saw movement from a circulating blade in motion.  

Station clean up during ventilation is extensive.  The rebuild assignment was downsized for Wednesday with the thought of creating a rebuild rotation into Thursday's drill.  OSB was replaced in selected areas of the prop while 2x4 studs were replaced in another.  Crews worked to stow all tools and equipment, breakdown rehab, clean saws and recycle the large pile cut up throughout the day.  Sweeping, raking, nailing and packing finished things off.

Thursday the cadets drove their PPE straight to the roof prop.  Unloading in the dark under the lights of entering vehicles served as a reminder of the long day ahead.  Set up was similar to that of the morning before with the exception of securing a panelized walkway to ensure safe travel between drill stations.

Drill stations scheduled for this day was axe work from a ladder attached to a pitched roof, saw work on a pitched roof, rebuild work on the panelized roof and multi-company evolutions at the Ming building.  At the axe station, cadets used the tool to cut and louver an opening, definitely a chain saw appreciation station.  Over at saws, teams sounded the roof and walked up the incline to the designated area, made the cuts, louvered the opening then punched through the ceiling below.

The station at the Ming area was treated as a structure fire scenario named the "Ming Incident" with Cadet Koehler serving as Ming IC.  Koehler did a fantastic job of directing crews through the scenario.  All transmissions were via handie talkies (HTs).  A variety assignments were accomplished.  Deploying an attack line, forcing entry with irons, forcing entry with a cut off saw, ventilating horizontally, pulling ceiling, setting of scene lighting, laddering the building, and performing a primary search to name a few.  At the end of each scenario, briefings called After Action Reviews were conducted.

The plug in of a rebuild station during the drill allowed for a faster clean up at the end of the day. The Battalion was able to complete all clean up efforts within an hour after drills ceased. A short review session and end of day talk commenced in the academy classroom.  Two extremely worthy days of ventilation training receiving positive feedback.

42 you are officially midway.  By this ninth week you have individually completed testing in hose, ladders, ropes, personal protective clothing and SCBA.  As a Battalion you have successfully worked for the better of your group.  Your success is attributed to the strength of your Battalion bond.  The reinforcement training of SCBA practice before and during finals was commendable.  Officers and leaders both stepped forward to help their team members beat the challenge.  You are doing a fine job. 

Captain Crudo