“’Stand fast,” “Stage,” “Level One stage,” are a few of the terms some of us use when arriving on the scene of a fire where we may need the other incoming companies to hold back a bit while the first-arriving company investigates. Once we begin that investigation, or vetting of the scene, we can then put the remaining companies to work or return them to service.
We live in a great time of abundance of information and unfortunately misinformation, thanks to the speed at which we receive news and at which we can comment on said news. Social media is a catapult we use to launch our opinions, thoughts, beliefs, and hearsay into a developing story. Unfortunately, as we fly into the mix of reporting, updates, and commentary the dialogue often derails and we find ourselves buried in another of the many fire service debates.
A case in point is the recent Queens fire, backdraft, flashover, smoke explosion, collapse, exhaust point velocity event this week. On Facebook and Twitter, the discussion about what is seen in the video involved whether it was a backdraft or smoke explosion. Some readers even questioned the reported roof collapse. Deputy Assistant Chief Anthony De Vita told reporters there was a collapse in the rear and said that the collapse caused “a backdraft-type of situation, a smoke explosion.” Chief De Vita went on to say that the cause of the collapse was undeterminable at that time.
Whether or not it was technically a backdraft or smoke explosion, and whether it occurred precisely before the collapse or after isn’t significant to us, the outsider, now. Of course, we want to learn from the details but what some of us fail to grasp is the details aren’t out yet. So instead of trying to champion your interpretation of what you see happening, try these ideas for a better result:
- Remind yourself you are not the investigator. If you want to be proud about what you have immediately deduced happened, then be quiet and enjoy yourself in your own company.
- Consider similar structures in your first-due. When was the last time you were in one? When was the last time your crew did a walkthrough?
- Review your department’s strategy and tactics for fires in commercial rows with your crew. Is everyone on the same page? What will be the points that you need to improve on?
- Go through a drill based on the scenario of an ‘explosion’ while your initial companies are operating? How will your incident command and communications go? Can your PAR be done in the hectic environment? Will your report of a missing firefighter get through? Can you and your chiefs manage multiple maydays?
- How will your apparatus be positioned? Consider the time of day in your area and available staffing.
- Go through the readily available resources online at FirefighterNation, FireRescue Magazine, Fire Engineering, and Fire Apparatus for a quick drill or discussion with your crew.
It is natural to want to know the details right away but when we invest our energy, education, and talent into arguing with other outsiders about what we insist happened, we deprive the firefighters working with us of the opportunity to ask, “what if this happened to us?” and to learn about the what if.