Create Opportunities

Don’t just look for opportunities,
create them

Take advantage of a training opportunity when it presents itself. These photos were taken a couple of months ago as face masks / shields weren’t recommended yet and non-essential businesses were beginning to close. (author photo)

By Bill Schnaekel

I was recently honored to have another company officer conduct some ride time and training with us on our truck. This wasn’t a matter of remedial conditioning or anything like that. It’s a mentoring program of sorts for members who wish to come out into the field that were previously assigned to a different division. I always try to take advantage of it when asked because the request usually comes from people I respect. It also gives every member on board a different perspective and, quite frankly, it makes me proud to brag about my crew, as if to say, ‘come see it for yourself’.

So, there are a couple of different spins I can put on this, but I know I tend to be rather wordy, so I’ll try to keep it short.

DON’T tie your rope to a safe area as that area may become an IDLH when you come back. DO tie it off outside, in a stairwell, or any other place where you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, you can get out. (author photo)

Whether you’re in a volunteer or career department, don’t just look for opportunities, create them. Short on drill ideas? Circumstances limiting your ability to get together and train? This impromptu rope-assisted search drill was conducted within fifteen minutes, after clearing from a fire alarm. Obviously, we had to get permission but that’s usually not a problem, especially given the virus-related shut-down. This was a perfect chance to build upon our repetition in a somewhat realistic environment.

FireRescue Magazine:
Lines Off, Ladders Up: A Training Approach for Successful Fireground Operations

Predetermine who’s doing what and the respective tools each member should carry BEFORE the alarm comes in. The only way to accomplish this task is to see and do what works best. (author photo)
Keeping the rope taught about a foot or two off the ground is very important. Don’t be afraid to work ahead as long as you’re in the line of sight or can maintain verbal contact. Careful consideration should be paid towards air management and whether or not conditions are improving. (author photo)

Prior to this, the Lieutenant asked for my thoughts on large area search. I told my fellow officer that I honestly think its impractical and a subject most crews don’t want to touch. I assured the Lt, however, that the only reason why I felt that way is because we, in general (our industry), don’t practice it enough.

Discuss the outcome amongst yourselves after it’s over. Take advantage of the next opportunity that rolls around until it’s harder for you to go about your technique the wrong way as opposed to doing it right. (author photo)

Considering all the other factors that play into a large area search (conditions, construction, resources or lack thereof, etc.), it’s way outside the comfort zone for most. There are certainly ways to make it more manageable. These include preplans, staffing, communications and smarts, just to name a few. BUT, absolutely none of it will matter if you don’t practice managing the rope itself.

Don’t throw ladders in training unless you intend to climb them (theoretically speaking). You’ll have a much better idea of what works and what doesn’t from a more important perspective. Soon, you won’t have to do something silly like “checking the angle”, once you’ve gone up and down them enough. (author photo)
Pay attention to the sound and how the halligan “feels” when you’re forcing the door. If you’re not around the entire door, you’re probably creating more work for yourself. (author photo)
As a reminder, forcible entry size-up also consists of the door itself. (author photo)

Bill Schnaekel was born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania, Bill is a fifth generation firefighter who has had eight other relatives in the fire service since 1898. He served as a volunteer for six years prior to getting hired in 1998 by the Fairfax County (VA) Fire and Rescue Department, one hundred years after his great-great grandfather had joined the service, and is a lieutenant assigned to Truck 411. Bill is also a State Suppression Instructor in Pennsylvania. In the past, he has served as a Battalion Training Officer and assisted in training both recruits and field personnel at the Fire and Rescue Academy. Currently, he is working on a degree in fire science through Tidewater Community College. In February of 2013, he created the Facebook Page Holding1and1, a resource to discuss fireground operations and firefighter interests with his friend, Lt. Mike Dowling.

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