Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 13   Training Bulletins, 42's Battalion Level Project Completion, 43's Orientation, Combined Operations, Firefighter Safety and Survival

The holiday preceding this instructional week allowed for a relaxing four day weekend, very timely, as it didn't get any busier than Week 13. 

Tuesday started with an early morning briefing to discuss the lengthy list of the day's orders, a morning run, the completion of a battalion level project assigned earlier during the semester, the relocation of academy issued personal protective equipment, cadet input on student library discussions, gear preparation for the Combined Operations (Ops) drill scheduled for Wednesday, firefighter safety training related to public service calls for snake, block exam 424, training bulletin creation, an Incident Action Plan (IAP) briefing for Combined Ops, and set up for Battalion 43's Orientation. Tuesday's buzz words?...time management.

The morning formation run was kept at a casual two miles to accommodate the end of day workout Battalion 42 would perform with Battalion 43 during the first hour of their orientation. Predesignated assignments had companies divided after the run to accomplish the greatest number of tasks in the least amount of time. Three companies prepared hose bundles and engine equipment for Combined Ops while the fourth company installed hardware onto the turnout storage shelving project Battalion 42 constructed weeks earlier. Within an hour the engines were stocked and ready and the storage project detailed and cleaned. Picture perfect gear storage.

Companies relocated their gear from the asphalt mat in front of the apparatus bay to their newly assigned area on the turnout shelves, each Company with a designated wall. The wall mounted shelving set-up will serve double duty by providing a secure location for cadet issued gear while protecting that gear from adverse weather, constant sunlight or steady rain. The latter we can only hope for.

Firefighter safety training related to managing snake calls started at 0900 in the academy classroom. You may not have thought, but a surprising number of call types for snake are generated by citizens concerned for their safety. Over the years, the fire service has captured and released thousands of these well hidden and fast moving creatures.

The lesson was interactive and entertaining. Cadets learned how to identify various snake types, the signs and symptoms of snake bites and the management of patients suffering from venomous contact. Just about every fire engine carries a snake stick as common inventory and more often than not, the firefighter is assigned the stick duty. After the proper use of a snake stick was demonstrated, the group was polled for a volunteer to transfer the snake laying in a nearby glass aquarium to a designated container on the floor. Cadet Powell threw herself into the pit. She handled the stick like a pro, clamping the snake's body with a firm grip and carefully transferring the rubber reptile to the ventilated plastic bucket. Fearless job Powell.

A written block exam covering numerous topics was administered before lunch so the afternoon could begin with researching information for the Training Bulletin assignment. Distributing bulletins with valuable training information is common practice in the fire service. The details regarding this assignment were to have the cadets work in pairs while they researched, documented and photographed a new tool their fire department was to put into service. The tool type was their choice.  Once the information was collected, it was organized and placed into a one to two page file and distributed it electronically. 

The specifics of each bulletin were to photograph the tool as it lies and as it's used. The graphics would then be inserted into a document and squared so words could be typed around them. The document would contain a header identifying their fire department name and address with the body containing three to four photos surrounded by specific information regarding tool name, function, maintenance and inventory location. The cadet's last names served as their fire department names and addresses (for ease of grading). As an example, the Stevens Fire Department, located at 123 Braun Blvd, Camarillo Ca. 93010, created and distributed their training bulletin placing new bolt-cutters in service on their Squad.

A Combined Ops IAP briefing was conducted after all bulletins were distributed (sent to my email). The Combined Ops drill is an comprehensive incident involving all academy apparatus and all companies within the Battalion in a series of fire ground evolutions. A total of eight multi-company evolutions are planned with three to four complete during the morning and afternoon sessions.

The list of drill objectives is long, leaving each cadet with the potential to perform any skill learned since academy day one. Securing hydrant supply lines, deploying fire attack lines, forcing entry into a building, hoisting tools to an above ground floor, connecting to a building standpipe and riser, laddering a building, rescuing a victim out of a window and down that ladder, performing victim search and rescue, cutting roof ventilation openings, using handie-talkies to relay all information, responding to a firefighter down to name a few. This single drill connects all Firefighter 1 topics and brings the entire semester together.

Battalion 43's orientation was scheduled for 4:00 pm.  At the suggestion of Battalion 42, a higher emphasis was placed on physical fitness. Each incoming cadet was instructed to report to orientation in conservative workout clothing and be prepared to exercise. A single round of circuit training followed by a 2 mile formation run was selected as it meets the academy day one workout regiment. 42 was to escort 43 through this session with instructions to have each incoming member complete the objective. Jog, walk or crawl, everyone was instructed to finish.

A classroom session followed the workout. Academy expectations, scheduling and operations and uniform ordering deadlines were identified. Dozens of eyes were opened as the reality of early fitness and behavior in a structured environment set in. The body of Battalion 43 performed well, with a small handful having some shape to mold, either physically or mentally. Discipline yourselves 43, the beginning is right around the corner. The semester will start at mach speed and finish faster.

Battalion 42 was dismissed immediately following 43's orientation workout. However, prior to leaving the grounds they were to document and post their ideas for the proposed Fire Tech Student Library Project. Captain Ketaily has been the driving force behind this highly essential project. He rearranged furniture within the library to create a footprint which ideas can be drawn from, then turned to groups of students for plans. Each group was asked to document their vision on giant poster paper and tape that paper to the library walls in designated areas. 

I've examined several of the ideas posted and found a number of them attainable with drawings of computer stations, a projection unit and screen to show training videos with tables and chairs arranged to view the academy grounds. Very nice and all within in reason. Applause to every student who shared their view. 

I do, however, want to mention a drawing that stood out. It leaves no thought of library content, yet spoke volumes about student need. A simple circle, containing two words within its inner diameter, drawn on giant poster paper and taped up in plain view. WATER HEATER. If you recall back in week 2, Battalion 42 rescued two classrooms from water pouring through the ceilings. They went straight to work, creating a water catch basin from large salvage covers, mopping floors, moving and drying tables and chairs, then collecting and disposing all the broken ceiling debris.

The shower they took that morning, August 26th will end up as their last hot shower of the semester. The building system's unit that malfunctioned was the boiler, a primary component to used to heat water. While the public repeatedly posted their cold water challenges all over social media, 42 quietly showered in their own daily cold water event. Continuous inquiry leaves us with knowledge of product warranty negotiations between responsible parties. Really?...Fifty-five instructional periods have passed. That's thirty-four cold showers every morning bringing the Battalion's cold water challenge tally to one thousand, eight hundred seventy as I type...and the semester continues. If anyone following our blog having any ability or authority, please move to end these prolonged negotiations and schedule an install date. We will without a doubt shower you with warm apologies for the rant.

Company Officers requested a 5 mile pistol range run as a Wednesday morning workout. The request was approved with the expectation drill day set-up would be completed immediately upon return. Portable roof props, extra extension ladders, cadet rehab, an incident command post, a dispatching area, tables and whiteboards were all slated for the day's use.

An instructor's briefing started at 0820 in the Fire Technology Simulation Room. Numerous professional experts were on hand to act as mentors during evolutions. Represented agencies consisted of Los Angeles City, Ventura County, Ventura City, Santa Paula, Glendale, Arcadia, Sierra Madre and San Bernardino County Fire Departments. Experts were assigned to a given apparatus and allowed to select skills for the cadets to perform that would rightfully reflect the given situation or fire ground scenario.

Cadets stood at formation on the mat at 0850 listening to a safety briefing conducted by the drill's designated Safety Officer, Chief Arellanes. Drill rotation instructions and an introduction to the instructor line up followed. With no further questions, the group reported to their assigned locations and the dispatching began. "Structure Fire, Sector 38.......Engine 38, Engine 1, Engine 4, Task Force 12 respond to a reported structure fire at 100 Durley Avenue, at the Tower Apartments, Unit 224. Respond on command one."

All of the academy owned apparatus was staged in an adjacent parking lot to allow cadets to be driven to the scene with emergency lights. Upon arrival to the scene, cadets would dismount the apparatus and go to work. The basic use of the Incident Command System (ICS) was utilized, with companies performing as fire attack, ventilation group, roof division, medical group, rapid intervention crew, search and rescue group or the actual incident commander (IC).

The designation of "Tower or Durley IC" fell upon the unexpected players. Cadets Culp, Powell, Herrera R, Villavicenio, Minicucci and Wiatt all did a commanding job. Each of them managed multiple companies performing numerous assigned tasks, with all communications relayed by radio. Once a cadet would learn they would act as the designated commander, they would assign their crew to the next in company and report a designated area overlooking the incident operations, called the command post. A mentor awaited at that post to guide the new IC through the scenario, while an additional crew of cadets scribed all incident activity on a giant whiteboard for the IC to follow. An After Action Review with responding Company Officers was conducted at the end of every rotation while the remainder of the crews prepped the apparatus for the next evolution.

Combine Ops training is priceless.  There are so many true to life situations that arise from this drill. The frustrations of unsuccessful radio transmissions, being left in staging without an assignment, being the first arriving Officer trying to complete your size up of the situation as dispatch continues to update you with adverse information, dealing with a simultaneous fire and victim rescue, remaining in radio contact with adjacent companies, performing duties in close proximity of other responding crews, being reassigned to an alternate given task, requesting or ordering additional resources and staying abreast to incident real time and operations,all while monitoring the safety of your own crew. This is good stuff.

Thursday and Friday were spent teaching firefighter safety and survival skills. Statistics show over thirty thousand fire ground injuries for firefighters occurred during 2012. As a result, education in the area of firefighter safety has significantly increased. Firefighter Safety and Survival is a 16 hour certification course focused on developing a survival attitude and situational awareness to prevent firefighter emergencies while recognizing fire ground critical factors. Successful performance of twelve basic firefighter survival skills and the completion of two evolutions, geared to improve SCBA confidence, is expected.

Cadets started the lesson in the classroom for a couple of hours learning terminology, safe attitude development, survival concepts and self reliance during an actual emergency. Case study utilizing information from Green Sheets were covered. A Green Sheet is the overall analysis of an investigation involving a given firefighter fatality incident. They are painfully true as only facts are recorded. Great life safety learning tools. The Battalion was divided into two groups before lunch and relocated to either the tower for Mayday scenarios or the roof prop for profile narrowing situations.

"Mayday, mayday, this is Firefighter Gio with emergency traffic. I'm the nozzle man on Engine 38, I'm 50' inside the building on a 100' line with 3/4 air.".........."Copy Gio, 50' in, RIC is enroute."......"The roof has collapsed, heavy debris in my way."...."Copy, roof collapse, heavy debris, RIC from IC, give me an update"....."IC from Firefighter Gio (low air bell ringing in the back ground)..My air is low, alarming sounding, I'm still trying to follow the hoseline out"...."Copy Gio, low air, continuing your way out"....."Firefighter Gio from RIC"....."Firefighter Gio from RIC, how are you doing?" reply.

Radio transmissions filled the airways of channel for a couple of hours as crew rotated through their given scenario. The more radio talk performed the better the communications and thus the life line.  Multiple cadets stated the value of communications is key. Learning how to analyze your surroundings and calmly relay traffic regarding your situation gave each cadet a stronger foundation of self confidence. Cadet Gio was ultimately rescued, somber transmissions nonetheless. 

Profile narrowing is a method used to escape or pass through very small areas while remaining connected to a self-contained-breathing-apparatus.  A tunnel was constructed with a guillotine style slat inserted into the center, leaving about eighteen inches of clearance to belly slide under. Cadets would crawl through the tunnel, arrive to the slat and manipulate their body, while on air, under the obstacle. Smallest guy wins every time.

Instructors became more and more creative with the narrow areas cadets were to pass through. They had cadets working themselves through the structural framing members of the roof prop as if they were escaping from a residential fire. A few cadets were so narrow savvy, almost nothing held them back. Cadets Smith and Garcia moved from point A to B like liquid metal.

A late lunch had the group reporting to the tower at 1330 hours (1:30pm). A safety line presentation was made to demonstrate how each cadet would utilize the line for the remainder of the afternoon's drills of hose slides and ladder bailouts. These type of exit techniques are utilized for rapid escape from life threatening fire. When a firefighter resorts to this exit strategy, it's all or nothing, meaning set yourself at the window's edge, move away from approaching danger, take a strong grip on the hose or ladder, then slide down and hold on. However, for training purposes and the safety of cadets, a rope safety system was secured to each person actively moving through the skill. 

Instructors were methodical in their approach to ensure cadets had their hands and feet moving in sequence and in correct position. A number of cadets in a haste to exit, missed the step of wrapping their feet around the hose properly, leaving them with the potential for a dangerous fall. (absent their safety line of course). Hand placement on specific ladder rungs for a rapid exit was crucial and strategic. Once secured the cadet would swing their legs and body around, grip the ladder beams and slide to safety. Station breakdown and an after action of events closed the day out.

Friday started off with an early Officer's briefing with discussion of the last round of appointed leaders. The group came to a quick consensus with announcements to be made after the drill station set up of hose, apparatus and equipment at the roof prop. The remainder of course mandatory skills would be performed in and around that area. This day by far was the more difficult of the two. Cadets would soon find patience, talking yourself calm, remaining in control of your body and thought process would be the only path to success. The Battalion as a whole performed well with only a few cadets ready to throw in the towel. Frustrations and heart rates were high for a small few.

Two main events were set up with cadets rotating through all day. A staggered lunch was taken to keep the rounds moving with all cadets performing. Wall breaching and escaping was set up as an obstacle course. Cadets would start at a wooden sheeted wall, axe a hole large enough to escape through, make it to the other side, crawl twelve feet to a drywall sheeted wall, breach it using their feet, tear the gypsum away enough to squeeze through, then crawl down a tunnel containing dozens of wires strung from side to side at eye level. Cadets were forced to think and perform (swim) their way out of their entangled situation. 

The other event had cadets start at the nozzle on a charged hose line, communicate to the IC via a handie-talkie (HT) and feel their way towards the engine and safety utilizing hose couplings for direction. No easy task, as each cadet had to feel their way along a few hundred feet of tangle hose, up, over and through objects to safety. Daunting tasks with anticipation of arriving to the engine pump panel objective. The day finished with SCBA air emergencies and buddy breathing techniques during rescue. 

42, this week was more than memorable for a few of you. You were worked to extreme limits and held your own. A bitter sweet Friday, as all training related to structural firefighting is now complete. A good turnout cleaning is a future I'm predicting for each of you. With announcements made, Acting Battalion Officer Gratz, Alpha Company Officer Hamilton, Bravo Company Officer Brinkman, Charlie Company Officer Gullo and Delta Company Officer Villavicenio.