Academy Blog Series - Battalion 42

Week 3 - DRILL ROTATIONS - Hose, Ladders, SCBA, Toolbox

"Take off!...Hundred down!...WATER!...Ladder coming around!...Beam ladder!...Lower ladder!...Re-spot ladder!...PASS activated!...Seal!" were the repetitive statements made this week, as this was the first official week of drill rotations.

Tuesday morning started off early.  Cadets arrived at 0615 to unload and set-up their gear on the mat in preparation for the most active day of the semester thus far.  A Battalion stretch preceded the 0715 workout of the day. By 0810, Officer's Minicucci, Barassi, Galbraith, Giovinazzo and Whitby were leading their companies about the grounds as they prepped the day's drill stations. Hydrants were placed for hose lays, 14' roof ladders were positioned for raising, the app bay floor was swept and mopped for SCBA donning and doffing, water containers were filled and shaded areas were constructed for cadet rehab between rotations. 

At 0855, the cadets stood at parade rest in formation behind their personal protective gear, showered and dressed in clean dry workout clothing while they listened to rotation and rehab instructions. The message, "move and arrive in unison, remain focused, maintain situational awareness and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!"  as this was the first day the Battalion was required to perform in their turnouts ALL day.

A total of four 90 minute stations were planned for this day, forward hose lay, reverse hose lay, roof ladder placement and SCBA donning and doffing.  Companies were organized to complete two rotations in the morning, break for lunch, then finish with two rotations in the afternoon.

At the hose lay stations, cadets were setting up 4" water supply lines from hydrants to the fire engines, deploying 2 1/2" attack lines towards the fire and calling for water. The ladder station focus was to teach cadets to properly ground, carry, spot, raise and place a 14' roof ladder on a single story structure.  Cadets simultaneously voiced commands as they manipulated the ladder through the series of tasks.  

SCBA operations started with techniques previously covered such as, using the coat method to don, reaching back to turn the bottle on, while controlling both the mask mounted regulator (MMR) and personal alarm safety system (PASS).  Steps to donning over the head were then performed repeatedly for the purpose of muscle memory.  Once achieved, donning sessions were timed to work towards the complete don minimum standard of one minute.

The day ended well with positive feedback.  Cadets stood outside on the app bay mat in their saturated workout gear discussing the events of the day and offering or looking for peer advice on the "how to...". 

Wednesday was all about SCBA confidence training.  Timed and structured Battalion donning sessions filled the morning.  Competitive rounds reinforced company camaraderie.  As skills were developing, donning times shortened.  The timed measurement to beat, with the Battalion as a whole thus far is 100% in 1:45.  The group will continue to practice as they attempt to shave the latter 45 seconds off in an effort to meet the one minute standard.

Just before lunch, 42 was introduced to the SCBA confidence tunnel.  The tunnel is described as 60' in overall length, horseshoe shaped with canvas coverings at the ends to keep out light. It will serve as the focus for the remainder of the day and be utilized to build on cadet skill depth and confidence.

The first round had cadets with SCBA donned, MMR disconnected, while crawling the entire length of the unlit tunnel.  The next pass had the cadets breathing the air from their SCBA, mask still darkened. The third round challenged the cadets to enter the tunnel, SCBA donned and on air, narrow their profile by removing the harness assembly and traversing the base of the tunnel, then re-donning the assembly in the dark and exiting the last leg of the tunnel. 

The last pass was by far the most demanding. Cadets entered in pairs, one at each end, communicating through handie talkies (HTs) with the intent to rescue the manikin victim or victims inside. During this one pass, fully donned cadets would be managing their movement in a confined area, utilizing HT radios to relay messages of the ongoing progress inside, talking mask to mask with each other about how to remove the victim, while encouraging one another to remain calm and in control of their breathing in the dark. A powerful confidence building drill.

Drills continued into Thursday with morning set-up operations mimicking those of drill day one. On this day, the four 90 minute stations consisted of forward hose lay, reverse hose lay, 24' extension ladder operations and "toolbox". Each with its own unique challenges.

At ladders, cadets learned basic techniques and commands for a two person team to raise a 24' extension ladder. Team member communication and synchronization is key. The toolbox station offered practice in basic hand tool use for a variety of tasks such as cutting chain, fence and spreading metal bars. The station capped with the traumatic rescue of a manikin with an impaled section of rebar. Crews worked together to troubleshoot their way through the simulated emergency.

Thursday ended with the entire Battalion conducting a 20 minute knot tying session with fire technology students from FT151.  Cadets Galbraith and Powell gave simple demonstrations of how to tie two basic knots, a figure eight stopper and a figure eight on a bight. The remainder of the Battalion mentored students during their knot tying practice. FT151 prevailed by meeting the minimum tying standard of thirty seconds as Instructor and LAFD Captain Mike Ketaily proudly watched. The session closed with a question, answer period.

Friday morning started with an early morning briefing with current and upcoming officers attending. Battalion Officer Cadet Minicucci, Company 'A' Officer Cadet Kurowski, Company 'B' Officer Cadet Pelkola, Company 'C' Officer Cadet Wiatt and Company 'D' Officer Cadet Koehler were appointed and will lead the Battalion through the busiest weeks of this semester's academy. Congratulations on your new assignments.

The practice of issuing radios to Company Officers started earlier during the week and continues. This basic communication skill is one of necessity.  To take advantage of HT radio time, the Battalion formation run was interrupted with a dispatch to a simulated structure fire at the App Building. Companies were to rapidly return to their gear, fully don and respond via the HT on channel one. The turnout time was 2:45, a measurement we will continue to work on.

A surprise formal inspection followed workout.  Cadets stood at attention with anxiety as the Training Captain from Ventura County Fire Department, Captain Scott Detorre performed the task.  Formally dressed Captain Detorre moved through the Battalion, examining each cadet in the same manner as if they were County Fire Department recruits. Cadets were viewed with scrutiny and asked direct questions. They experienced the true value of preparation, a "thousand yard stare" and following the "remember your study material" advice they had just given FT151 students the day before.

The morning moved forward with marching and knot tying practice.  Fire department operations related to organizational structure, response model and training needs filled the afternoon.  Squads were tasked with creating and presenting a plan to meet fire department requirements for defibrillator continuing education training and open course driver's training for fourth quarter probationary firefighters. The week came to a close with a written Block Exam, comprehensive from day one.  

Battalion 42, you have bonded tremendously. The thirty-four of you have come together and formed a team of one.  I'm very impressed. Great job! 

Captain Crudo