Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 7    Wet Hose Evolutions/Simpson Incident, Search & Rescue, Ladder Up & Overs,         Apparatus Maintenance/Inventory Control, Case Study - Drexel Incident

Monday was the Battalion's first field exercise.  The drill was scheduled to be conducted on the Oxnard College main campus, with the gymnasium serving as the structure of choice. Apparatus preparation was the day's first assignment.

Once the engines were loaded with the necessary additional tools and equipment, a travel briefing was held.  The route, sequence of vehicles, radio communications and medical plan during travel were discussed.  After the briefing, academy staff and the Battalion positioned their engines and vehicles in formation, completed a radio check and departed for the main campus.

At the main campus, cadet personal gear was unloaded and organized and private vehicles were parked and secured.  The group came together in front of the gymnasium for a short pre-evolution briefing.  Companies learned the training objectives and location of each of the morning's four drill stations.

At one station trunk lines utilizing 2 1/2" attack lines were extended from the engine.  An appliance called a gated wye, was attached at the end of the 2 1/2 to allow for the connection of a structure bundle (high rise pack).  Crews worked in teams to advance the charged 1 3/4" hand lines pulled from the deployed structure bundle.

A second station had the cadets working the hardest as they experienced techniques used to advance a charged 2 1/2" attack line.  These lines are larger and much more difficult to manipulate.  Crews of three members are used because of the cumbersome tactics.  A true lesson in hose line selection and water pressure.  Cadets were also shown how to position this large attack line in a manner in which a single firefighter could control it.

The third and fourth stations taught the cadets how to charge large supply lines and set up a ground monitor for deluge operations.  Monitors are used to spray large volumes of water on a given target. Nozzles or tips are attached and can flow 600 - 1000 gallons of water a minute. The campus grass loved us.

Companies were dispatched to the Simpson Incident after lunch.  The scenario involved a multi-engine response to the gymnasium structure fire.  Cadets operated as if they were the engine crews working the emergency.  Performing as fire attack and deploying small and large hand lines, laddering the building, securing utilities, putting a ground monitor in service, connecting to the building sprinkler system, recognizing a potential hazardous materials situation or functioning as the incident commander were the number of tasks crews would accomplish before the drill ended.

An After Action Review (AAR) was held immediately following the completion of each of the two afternoon rotations with the entire Battalion attending.  During the open discussion, Company Officers shared their thoughts and explained their crew's assignments.  Each Officer was to speak using common fire service language.  Positive feedback and a successful wet hose evolution and combined operations training session reinvented.

Tuesday started off with five mile pistol range run followed up with a Battalion stretch.  The day's focus consisted of learning search and rescue techniques.  Classroom instruction kept the cadets attention as the reserved props were prepared for the day's rotation.  The burn prop was set for multi-level area searches, the ranch house (nicknamed the drug house) for single level searching, the roof prop for simulated firefighter rescue and the apparatus bay for wide area searching.  Each area forcing cadets to perform with face pieces darken to obstruct clear viewing.

At the burn prop crews of four to five entered on bottom floor searching in the blind for a manikin victim positioned on an above floor.  Crews made their way in the dark up the stairs using the given search technique.  Once the victim was located the group worked together to safely drag the manikin down stairs while maintaining communications and controlling breathing techniques to reserve bottled air.  In another area of the prop, other crews were tasked with searching and rescuing a child manikin victim while following the same communication and breathing guidelines.

At the roof prop, companies utilized rescue techniques for retrieving a firefighter who had just fallen through the roof.  A variety of methods were demonstrated and practiced.  The use of ropes from drop bags, rubbish hooks and hose lines all offered rescue capabilities.  Cadets learned the value of team work and how the angle of approach can drastically improve outcome.

The ranch house hosted its own set of challenges.  Cadets were to enter in teams and search around the furniture housed inside to find the family of victims needing rescue during a simulated fire.  Orientation and communication again played a key role in success.  Making contact with the victims was only the beginning of the labor intensive assignment.  Crews had to organize themselves with zero visibility and drag each of the victims they found back through the house and out the front door they originally entered in.

The app bay floor offered lessons in strategic movement of teams and victims and larger areas. Teamwork helped with efforts to locate and position a victim to give cadets the best advantage for pushing and pulling the victim to safety.  Another very strenuous yet extremely productive day.

Wednesday was October 1st.  To promote breast cancer awareness, the Battalion donned their pink shoe laces with their workout gear.  Two circuit training rotations while wearing their SCBAs and fashionable footwear had the group motivated.  A Battalion photo was taken and will be displayed in the campus news letter, October edition.

A full inspection was scheduled for 0900.  Cadets were to prepare all areas assigned as well as all gear and materials assigned.  Attention to detail caught a number of them off guard. Valuable lessons learned in having everything at the ready.

Structured SCBA practice followed.  Competitive sessions of donning increased competence. Timed donning rounds helped with setting the units up properly for the most effective don in addition to building muscle memory for the task.  SCBA/PPE donning finals will be conducted on Tuesday afternoon, October 14th.

Drill set up for the Wednesday's afternoon session was completed before lunch. This drill was used to build ladder climbing confidence while wearing full PPE/SCBA and hoisting tools and equipment.  Several ladders were placed and secured to different levels of the buildings in Ladderland, each offering its own climbing challenges.  

The 14' foot roof ladders were secured to a small building with a metal frame rail at the roof. Cadets would arrive to the railing, step onto then over the railing then finally onto the roof while maintaining full control and points of contact.  The 24' extension ladders were either placed in a second story window or onto a second floor roof.  Cadets would climb the ladder, enter the building from the window or walk the roof top.  A ladder circuit was created so cadets could climb up one, walk across to the next window and climb down the next, all fully donned and breathing air from their SCBA.  An excellent confidence builder.

Tool and equipment work was also integrated into the ladder session.  Companies practiced hoisting tools aloft to second story windows and roofs.  Cadets performing as the up team demonstrated how to tie themselves off on a roof to protect them from falling as they were lifting tools.  Down team cadets showed how to position themselves safely as they held the tag line of the hoisting operation. A variety of tools and equipment were hoisted, pike poles, rubbish hooks, medical bag, chain saws and axes.

Techniques for deploying dry hose either up a ladder or up a stairwell were also demonstrated. Cadets would advance the nozzle and hose to the ladder.  The first cadet would climb towards the roof with the nozzle as the second crew member shouldered additional hose while climbing the same ladder 10' behind the first.  Once both members were to the climbing objective, they hoisted the remaining length of hose needed to the roof.  A solid session of performing typical fire ground tasks.

Thursday started off with an early morning block exam.  Upon completion of the exam, cadets filtered out the rear door of the academy classroom and made their way to the apparatus bay. Apparatus maintenance and inventory control was morning's secondary assignment.  Tools and equipment utilized from the wet hose evolutions and the Simpson Incident were to be returned to the cash of academy housed inventory.  Cotton jacket hose was removed from the hose beds, washed and placed for drying.  Engines were washed and remaining inventory realigned.  The clean up session was complete by the lunch period.

Case study involving the Drexel Incident filled the afternoon and closed off week seven.  To prepare the group for the early morning fire situation, mapping, approach routes and hydrant locations were discussed. As a pre-plan for map access, the Battalion was instructed to bring laptops, tablets, phones and any internet capable device to the classroom session.  

The group was to work in crews of four, each utilizing a different mapping view of the area. One on a map view with a street name focus, another on a satellite view with a plot plan focus and a third on a street view with a building face focus.  An interactive engine company response session, challenging cadets to navigate their way to the specific address while taking into account hydrant locations, approach routes from north and south and potential exposures during the early morning fire.

The incident itself was referenced from a year's old review called "Post Incident Analysis" (PIA). Within the PIA are the actions of each of the responding companies and the over all outcome of the incident.  As each action was reviewed, the cadets were challenged to describe the manner in which they would accomplish that order as if it were assigned to them. A great critical thinking session.  Actions such as deploying the first attack line, laddering two sides of the building, cutting ventilation openings, securing utilities, managing a rescue situation, forcing a door to gain entry, pulling ceiling to check for extension and performing as a Rapid Intervention Crew (RIC) were all part of the critical thinking challenge.  A perfect way to bring reality to the lessons and techniques the cadets have experienced during this academy thus far.

42, you are progressing extremely well, sharing experiences with each other you will remember for decades.  The lessons you're learning in both fire service operations and crew/cadet daily life are real. The level to which you've chosen to manage these lessons shows your maturity and respectful since of responsibility.  I am extremely proud of your "high road" decision making and drive to right a wrong, as that style of behavior will always prove successful.

Great job,

Captain Crudo