Monday, December 27, 2010

Husband-Wife Firefighting Team Critically Injured

Indiana County, PA (December 27, 2010) -- My colleague from FireRescueTV, Kris Mellinger, shares this tragic story from Pennsylvania. Michael and Krystal Keith of Cherry Tree Volunteer Fire Company, Station 520, Indiana County, PA. were severely injured last night while responding to a fire call. Please take a few moments to pray for successful surgeries and a speedy recovery. Also remember their 1 year old child (pictured) their families and the members of Station 520. A horrible story to report during the Christmas season.

News Story

Cherry Tree Volunteer Fire Company on Facebook

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chicago Loss Reminds Us of Decembers Past


By; Lou Angeli

December 22, 2010 -- Today firefighters and emergency personnel worldwide mourn the loss of 2 brave Chicago firefighters who perished during a building collapse in south city. It came on the 100th anniversary of the Union Stock Yards fire, which killed 21 Chicago firefighters.

The sad incident in Chicago reminds us of Decembers past. 11 years ago this month a devastating collapse claimed the lives of 6 Worcester, Mass Firefighters who were lost as they searched for 2 vagrants in the Worcester Cold Storage blaze. The fire started when a simple candle being used by a homeless duo fell over during an argument. The couple left the structure, notified no one, and in a short time flames quickly spread to the 8 story, windowless, heavily loaded structure.

As the fire progressed to 5-Alarms, the couple stood watching the firefight from the street until police moved them into a sandwich shop across from the fire building. They never told anyone that they had started the fire. Locals knew that the couple was using the building and informed command that they might possibly be inside.

Believing that 2 vagrants were indeed trapped, a team of two Worcester rescuers entered to search for them but became disoriented on the upper floors. A second Rescue Team of four sent in to find the first team also became disoriented. The building soon collapsed and the firefighters were lost. The blaze was so intense that it took 8 days to recover the bodies. As to the vagrants, Thomas Levesque and Julie Ann Barnes, they received probation for causing the deaths of 6 fine men.

11 years ago today -- just weeks after Worcester -- tragedy struck the fire service during a much different scenario. Three Keokuk, Iowa firefighters were killed during a flashover while searching a 2 story home for trapped children. Staffing on the 2 responding engines was 2 -- the driver operators, a Lieutenant and an Assistant Chief. Hearing screams from inside the structure, rescue was their immediate mission. No lines were charged as the trio braved the flames in search of the kids but within minutes they were gone. The lone fire lieutenant, standing by to charge a hydrant, was unable to see the drama unfold as smoke blanketed the area. There was no automatic Mutual Aid.


Friday, December 03, 2010

MVC's: SOPS for First Responders

By: Lou Angeli

Note: For the purposes of providing a guideline for this segment, the term First Responder refers to members of departments who are not full-fledged Firefighters, Paramedics or EMTs. Many of you are trained in basic level EMS or have taken First Responder courses through the auspices of your local emergency management agency. Now we're taking you to the next step, as we demonstrate how you can best interface with your trained colleagues.

The Goal: Quality Patient Care:

The Fire-Rescue-EMS Services have seen more change in the past twenty years then it did in the first two hundred. Delivery of emergency services has become much more diversified, and as providers, we are required to cross train in a number of disciplines, including Auto Extrication. With the move toward rescue-engines, quick response rescue apparatus and tactical service units, this installment of Rescue US outlines how thos who arrive on the accident scene should operate and interface with other agencies.
"All over the World, a report of an MVA sets into motion a multi agency response that includes Fire, EMS, Rescue and Law Enforcement. And in most jurisdictions the simple fact of the matter is that we respond to many more accidents than we do fires."

The Mission of Fire-EMS-Rescue is to save lives and limit property damage, and that holds true during MVc’s as well. Most serious accidents result in traumatic injury to the driver and passengers, so it’s imperative that fire/rescue personnel free trapped victims, so they can receive definitive hospital care. The goal - to begin advanced treatment within 60 minutes of the onset of life threatening injuries.
The Golden Hour

No, it’s not a religious TV show - it’s the buzz phrase that refers to the time frame from the point of time when an injuriy occurs - to the 60 minute mark. To call this the critical period is an understatement, because the earlier the patient is able to reach surgical intervention of their traumatic injuries, the greater their chances for survival.
Here's a prime international example: In the case of Princess Diana, lost her life following a high-speed tunnel race with paparazzi along the Seine River. Diana's limo was forced into a guardrail, smashing from side to side until it stopped and the paparazzi grabbing one more shot.
Paris has no cetralized emergency response number, so citizens phoned police, after a hile police contacted SAMU (French EMS) who requested heavy fire brigade 20 minutes into the incidenr. From the time of the onset of her injuries, until she was released from her vehicle, one hour, ten and minutes had elpased. Subsequently, as EMS physicians attempted cardiac microsurgery aboard a slow moving ALS unit. They essentially served Diana with her death warrant as she bled out.  

The Process Begins: Rapid Assessment
In most areas of the country, Law Enforcement is often first on the scene of an MVA. After all, they’re already on the road. Trained police personnel can begin the vitally important “size-up” of the accident scene, even before EMS and Fire arrive.
Once Paramedics or EMT’s arrive on the fireground, their first task is to determine the extent of injury through “Rapid Assessment”. During the Primary Survey, First Responder Teams should consider the mechanism of injury, damage to the vehicle and the patient’s position in the vehicle.

Consider the “Collision Factor” - namely the accident itself, the collision of the patient against vehicular compartments, and the collision of the patient’s own organs against internal body components. It’s also important to recognize if the patient has received any “deceleration” injuries. It goes without saying that treatment should be initiated immediately, in order to stabilize life-threatening conditions, and provide transport without delay.

Simultaneous Rescue and Patient Care
And therein lies the rub. Since MVA’s are multi-agency responses, the “rules of the road” are sometimes unclear, with responders often wondering “who’s patient is it anyway?” There are still departments in North America who DO NOT subscribe to the theory of simultaneous rescue and patient care. I’ve found this to be especially true in those areas where fire/rescue is provided by a government, and EMS by a contract provider.

Wake up Gang! Turf Wars were part of the job a hundred years ago, but in this age of micromanagement and communication, responsibilities should be crystal clear. When the battle lines aren’t clearly marked, the only loser is the patient.
Primary or Initial Assessment
Rescue Teams should provide EMS with immediate access to patients by opening compartments and removing glass. The Initial Assessment by EMS and Extrication Efforts by Fire/Rescue MUST OCCUR SIMULTANEOUSLY in order to remove the victim(s) as quickly as possible.

As the assessment takes place, Paramedics and EMT’s can immediately begin management by maintaining airways, controlling bleeding and stabilizing the C-Spine.

Secondary of Focused Assessment
Once Fire/Rescue personnel are able to remove trapped victims, secondary or “focused” assessment can take place. This exposes the patient full body to providers and allows for complete head-to-toe examination to identify other injuries, and reassess any critical findings that were initially suspected.

Risk Management
Chances are that as a First Responder, you may arrive on scene before a heavy rescue or vehicle rescue squad. So consider using some of the basic hand tools that are carried on your first-due rig. In many cases you may be able to provide access to victims using a simple halligan tool or axe. Other first-in tools may include a pry-bar, center punch, porta-power or portable saw.

Following Size-Up, Company members should be instructed to perform duties that will limit risk to victims and rescuers alike, including:

· Initiating scene safety procedures
· Stabilizing the vehicle with airbags or cribbing
· Providing adequate access to the patient
· Deflating tires (check your SOP’s first)
· Removing glass
· Advance a charged inch and ¾ hoseline
· Prepare any additional hydraulic tools
- Install portable scene lighting

Rapid Extrication

Rescue Tools are highly specialized pieces of equipment. You and fellow members should have a thorough working knowledge of these devices, including all appropriate safety precautions and maintenance procedures.

Of course, Rapid Extrication is the key to any successful Vehicle Rescue. Extrication.Com is a wonderful resource for those of you who’d like to learn more about state-of-the-art extrication techniques, especially precautions that should be taken when working with automobile airbags.

I encourage you and your members to review your department’s SOP’s and any local regulations dealing with emergency activities at motor vehicle accidents. Remember, our primary job at any MVA is to deliver quality patient care, and at the same time, keeping our own teams safe.


Photos used to illustrate this article were taken by the author during an MVC with the driver trapped near Wilmington, Delaware. The incident occured on busy I-95 northbound lanes during a holiday rush. Responders included New Castle County Paramedics, BLS crews from Christiana Fire Company and Wilmington Manor Fire Company, along with Rescue-Engines and Heavy Rescue from Christiana Fire Company, Minquas Fire Company, and Wilmington Manor Fire Company.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Working in the Dragon's Lair

"Knowing When To Back Off"
by: Lou Angeli

November 20, 2010 -- When a firefighter loses his life in a burning structure it is usually a result of unanticipated or unexpected fire development, rather than inadequacies in a firefighter’s skills.  And that goes for those in command as well.  The fire service here in the USA is extremely fortunate to employ some of the most knowledgeable fire officers in the world.

So what’s the problem and how do we fix it?  Well here in America, our approach to firefighting has always been one of adopting an aggressive attack, a tactic that requires firefighting teams to make their way inside the burning structure and remain there under even the most severe conditions. If you've ever discussed interior attack with a European firefighter you know what I mean -- they think we're absolutely bonkers.

Since the introduction of superior protective gear (Nomex and PBI) in the late 70’s, fire-training instructors nationwide have taught their students to conduct an extremely aggressive interior attack, sometimes referred to in the books as Offensive Strategy.  The idea is to take an offensive stance, moving nozzles and hoselines deep inside a building to meet the fire on its own turf.

But my personal belief is that -- unless a life safety issue exists -- firefighters should never attempt to inhabit the same space as fire.  Being there is a lot like snorkeling in shark-infested waters, then poking a Great White in the eye.

When the search and rescue effort goes south, a firefighter can easily become disoriented and lost in the blaze.  This is especially true in departments, which respond to a blaze without enough firefighters to handle a typical working house fire. In some of these cases, a firefighter must conduct a preliminary search – alone. Without a buddy by his or her side, they face the unknown alone. Panic sets in and it’s just a matter of time before they breathe-out their bottle, collapse and succumb to the blaze.

San Antonio's Captain William R. Mora studied firefighter line-of-duty-deaths for 12 years in order to determine if the was some common mistake that fallen firefighters possibly made. According to his findings released as the U.S. Firefighter Disorientation Study 1979-2001, Enclosed Structures are highly prone to producing life-threatening hazards and are directly linked to firefighter disorientation and line-of-duty deaths.

“The root of the disorientation problem in the fire service,’ the San Antonio study reads, ‘is the lack of knowledge about the extreme danger posed by enclosed structures and the disorientation sequence.”

In many communities, especially those protected by volunteer companies, firefighters sometimes ignore the important fact that fighting a structural blaze is a team effort.  Rather than wait for next arriving units, short-staffed companies often begin search and rescue -- or the hoseline advance -- lacking appropriate support and resources. Many officers refer to this as a "rescipe for disaster."

Crucial to fire extinguishment is proper vertical ventilation, which we’ve all been taught should take place simultaneously with the hoseline attack below.  However, before the chain saw is on the roof, well-meaning hose teams – working alone -- may quickly find the seat of the fire and bravely open the nozzle to dampen the blaze.  But with no vent opening to release smoke and hot gases, the team destroys the delicate thermal balance, allowing super-heated air from above to drop down to the floor and bake them like Maine lobsters.

In cases like this, inexperienced firefighters may panic and abandon the line, leaving their partner behind.  The team is now separated, company integrity is lost, and it can only go downhill from here.  Call in the RIT team.

In these turbulent financial times, City finance directors take direct aim at the Fire Department, slashing away at budgets, with little consideration as to how cuts will impact publicsafety. With fewer companies and less firefighters, especially in smaller career departments,  the common concern among firefighters is whether sufficient manpower will arrive to back them, should they be told to initiate an intertior attack.  As a result, safer offensive attacks are becoming more commonplace as Battalion and Company level officers carefully weigh the safety of their crews versus the salvage of the plasma TV hanging on the wall.

There’s no denying that firefighters must enter flaming structures to conduct search and rescue operations, especially when civilians are reported trapped, or the commanding officer feels that an interior attack is warranted. However, changing the behavior of two generations of firefighters, who have had the term “aggressive interior attack” drilled into their helmets, will be a tough assignment for company officers and training personnel. Fortunately though, some more forward thinking administrators have begun to embrace alternate tactics, like large line blitz attacks using portable master stream devices.

A reminder: We’re told that the most important tactic in any type of firefight is size-up. So, the next time your company pulls up in front of a burning building, quickly establish command and learn as much about the situation at hand as you can. I f there is no life-safety issue and no danger to surrounding structures, hold back the hoseteam, by their SCBA straps if you must.  Wait for second due companies to arrive, then engage in a coordinated attack.  Like they say, “Everyone goes home!”

(1)  Mora, W.R., "U.S. Firefighter Disorientation Study, 1979-2001" (2003)
(2)  Mora, W.R., "Enclosed Structure Disorientation",, January 2006

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wilmington's Rescue-1 Disbanded

Last tour ended at 0700 hours, New Year's Day

Wilmington, DE (January 1,  2011) -- The financial climate has dealt a crushing blow to everyone in Delaware, and the city of Wilmington is no exception. With decreased tax revenues, the loss of major employers and a stagnant business climate the City of Wilmington is hurting. So it should come as no surprise that Mayor Baker has ordered across the board cutbacks, which include both police and fire.

However there was one cutback that had emergency professionals extremely concerned, and that was the decision by Wilmington Fire administrators to close down one of the most important fire-rescue assets in the state – Wilmington Rescue Company -1.

Wilmington Rescue-1 was the only Fire-Rescue unit statewide that was staffed with career, highly-trained professionals, who responded to a wide variety of non-fire emergencies at a moment’s notice 24x7.  Rescue-1’s members are an elite team, who deal with emergency incidents that neighborhood companies aren’t able to handle; like hazmat, building collapse, high angle rescue, water rescues, and many more.

Just outside the city line, well trained volunteer firefighters are being lost to the poor economic climate and changing lifestyle, a situation which has increased the value and need of Rescue-1 as a regional responder. Most Volunteer companies in northern Delaware have done away with their own Heavy Rescue units because members can no longer devote the time needed to train for all levels of emergency response. Today, county companies have combined their staffing and resources to create several regional special operations teams, which many agree rely greatly on Wilmington's career staffing and expertise.

One agency which will be hit hard by the loss of Rescue-1 is the Delaware State Police Aviation Unit. Although the state police provide the pilot and aircraft for high angle emergencies in Wilmington, the actual rescuers come from Rescue Company-1. In Fact, all 4 platoons of Rescue-1 had trained often with the the DSP to prepare for water rescue along all 3 of the city's rivers, as well as high angle rescues amidst the growing number of residential high rises, both downtown and along the Christina Riverfront.

"Through the years the members of Rescue-1 have saved more lives then any mayor or council could count." says one area training consultant. "This isn't only stupid politics,' he adds, 'Its short sighted people making decisions they have no right or experience to make."

When the closure was announced, the local press reported much like they would any other story -- with little reference to the true issue, and that is how the loss of Rescue-1 would affect the community.

So here's the quip that the News Journal forgot to publish. "When the doors to Rescue-1 were shuttered early this morning, the citizens of Wilmington not only lost hundreds of years of training and experience, they lost yet another fire company -- that's 2 in one year with 8 less men on the street. "

Every house fire becomes a General Alarm

Starting today, the cold reality is that the members of the Wilmington Fire Department will be hard pressed to extinguish a working fire quickly and effectively with an on-duty citywide firefighting force of just 26. Multiple working fires will be nearly impossible to handle as citizens wait for mutual aid companies from the county to arrive to fight their blaze. Remember that term mutual aid -- because now that Wilmington Fire Department will no longer be able to honor their part of the agreement with the volunteers, how much longer will volunteer companies allow their districts to go unprotected in order to serve as Wilmington's 2nd alarm fire assignment?

Who will ultimatelty come to Rescue Company 1's rescue? Perhaps some enterprising private contractor like Rural Metro or Falck would offer full time fire-rescue response as part of a paid per call or contract service. (however their staffing is 2...3 if you're lucky.) Or maybe the Delaware River and Bay Authority will pick up government's slack much like the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey did in lower Manhattan.

The most recent buzz suggests that the city would pay bordering volunteer companies, to provide fire-rescue service in a fashion not yet determined. Lord knows whether such a system would work since it is the exact opposite of the current national trend --known as the combination department, hiring career personnel to assist volunteers.

In this post 9/11 environment of special response teams, Delaware will be the only state whose citizens do not have access to a career, multi versatile Rescue Company to assist DEMA on large scale emergency incidents. However with staffing at such low levels one can assume that companies won't be leaving the city to honor mutual aid requests.

Back in the old days, around the New Year, Wilmington's Fire Chiefs would often annouce their plans for the coming year during a press conference. With plenty of donuts and coffee, fire administrators would tout new equipment and tactics, which they claimed would revolutionize the city's firefighting efforts.  A sample from the list of projects included; rapid water, the automatic nozzle, providing Nomex bunker gear to all members, a fireboat capable of navigating the Delaware River, and the replacement of all front line fire apparatus, at no charge to the city. 

Unfortunately, this year's bragging rights have been suspended, because there are no changes in the works which will improve the way WFD fights fires. Why? Because effective fire-rescue work is not accomplished by machines or nozzles -- it is by all counts well trained firefighters and officers who knock down the blazes.

The first rumors of the closure of Rescue-1 came in late September -- and it came as a shock, somewhere around 360 joules direct to the brain. But this was no last minute decision by the administration. It's fair to believe that Mayor Baker's master plan earmarked Rescue-1 to be shut down after his budget was passed. And the wheel keeps on spinning around as there is already talk of dropping another company during Fiscal year 2012.

It is unfortunate to say, but the staffing issue will not be brought to the forefront until a victim dies or is injured for life. I have the same concern for firefighters, who by their determination and nature will continue crawling on their bellies to meet the beast head-on. I ask that fire officers
consider alternate offensive tactics, and to call the next due engine or truck at the first signs of Flashover.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Rescue US (Fire, Rescue and EMS): St. Louis' Proposes Firefighter Layoffs and Station Closings

Rescue US (Fire, Rescue and EMS): St. Louis' Proposes Firefighter Layoffs and Station Closings

St. Louis' Proposes Firefighter Layoffs and Station Closings

Cuts Affect 8 Companies and 70 Firefighters

Commentary by:
Lou Angeli

ST. LOUIS, MO (September 20, 2010) -- I am disheartened to learn that the Mayor and City Council are demanding layoffs of as many as 70 firefighters in the Gateway city. Such a move comes at a great loss to the community, and increases the risk to firefighters, who are already working at one of America's most dangerous jobs.

The thought of decreasing company staffing is preposterous. WHY? St. Louis is a major US city, with a heavy fire load, high risk structures, manufacturing and several Interstate highways, No disrespect intended, but It's not a county department which may see 1 or 2 working fires each year.

The concept of operating at a blaze with a handful of personnel is foreign to many firefighters, both career and volunteer. But during these hard times, more and more city administrators are looking toward the public safety sector to make cuts in order to make ends meet. To them, placing fire apparatus on the streets is what the public expects, despite the fact that many of the rigs are staffed with 3 and (unbelievably) 2 man companies.

Voices from the fire-side say government officials are using the economic downturn as an excuse to close companies and layoff firefighters. They say, and I agree, that city administrators have no intention of returning the lost companies to service once the economy is back on track.

What we're seeing is a risky trend, because city administrators are placing the public and firefighters at risk. The mere suggestion that 3 firefighters can initiate the attack on a working house fire shows a total ignorance of firefighting tactics, OSHA regulations and a blatant disregard for personal safety.

Like all large cities, the members of the St. Louis Fire Department are trained to operate as a four-man team -- officer, driver operator, pipeman and back-up man. When the first due quint arrives on the scene of a working fire, speed is of supreme importance. The company commander establishes command and sizes up the situation, while 2 firefighters advance their hoseline to the front door, mask up and prepare to enter. It's a smooth operation, like a well tuned play on the football field.

If you place only 3 firefighters in the same situation, the play goes awry and it's just a matter of time before the team looses field advantage. First of all, OSHA regulations prohibit the company officer from initiating an interior attack until 4 firefighters are assembled. That means waiting for the 2nd due company to arrive. Immediate rescue of trapped occupants is possible but at great risk to the firefighting crew. By neglecting the fire itself, precious time is lost and the blaze begins to travel from room to room -- home to home.

Shutting down companies is the cry of most city administrators. "It's a short term closing" they tell the community. "We'll reopen Station 5 as soon as we've got a balanced budget."

Does anyone recall when St. Louis had a balanced budget. These are quite simply empty promises, because firefighters know that when a station closes, firefighters and apparatus will never take occupancy in that building...ever again.

To maintain proper staffing in the St. Louis Fire Department -- or any department for that matter -- firefighter unions and advocates must take their story to the people. Citizens need to be provided with accurate information, so much so, that they can explain it to neighbors and family members as if they were firefighters themselves.

To arm the community with such information, immediately open a website which explains the dangers of downsizing a major metropolitan department. Follow that by organizing off-duty firefighters who connect with the community by speaking at neighborhood meetings, church groups and fraternal organizations. Perhaps support the speakers with a powerpoint presentation.

Local 22, Philadelphia Firefighters fought a long, hard battle when the current mayor proposed closing 7 companies 2 years ago. The communities surrounding the proposed closed stations were greatly supportive, yet the closings took place anyway. This past year, Philly's mayor initiated company "brownouts," the ultimate in public deceit. On the very first day, a young child lost his life in a fire because the first-due engine -- located just a few blocks away -- was locked behind closed station house doors.

The key to engaging the community to fight the firefighters' fight is to have all St. Louis citizens become standard bearers. As I recall, fall is a lovely time of the year in St. Louis, and to have a few thousand citizens gathered in a park, along with some of those great looking restored apparatus, make a perfect TV and photo op.

The message which needs to be sent to the Hall -- "We, the citizens of St. Louis, support our firefighters and demand that our safety be of prime concern." Fix your budget by dropping million dollar consultants, and city financed festivals and parades...not by placing my family at risk.

Ever since 9/11, firefighting has emerged year after year as America's most respected profession. Closing fire stations and placing firemen in unemployment lines is not how such respect and heroism is rewarded.

As a former St. Louisan, my thoughts and prayers are with the brother and sisters of the STLFD. My personal thanks to the members of Squad-2, where I became better acquainted with urban firefighting under the command of Captain Vince Wright. I am not only with you in spirit -- I'm ready to come out with a few other East Coast jakes to stand by your side.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Yellow Flag Response

Playing it safe in the world's most dangerous sport.

by: Lou Angeli

Dover, DE (August 13, 2010)-- No sooner does the National Anthem end than you hear “Gentlemen, start your engines!”  In a few short seconds the “home of the brave” becomes home to the world’s top racers. The noise is deafening, but that’s part of the adrenaline rush – the excitement of NASCAR.

As the field of racecars circle the Monster Mile, just inches from one another, the roar becomes more intense as 120,000 fans come to their feet. Then the pace car drops down and charges toward pit road as the green flag waves. Heartbeats quicken as the machines move forward in a bumper-to-bumper rush and the drivers focus on the day’s mission. Pass the guy who’s holding the pole position.

On the 3rd lap, a group of concerned fans scream as others point to the turn #4. The cloud of dust and debris reveal that 2 cars have collided, smashing a 3rd racer into the wall and sending another spinning into the infield. The yellow flag comes out – and so does Dover’s Bravest – the men and women of the track's Emergency Operations Team.

The safety team makes short work of the mess. In less than a minute two fires have been extinguished, 4 drivers quickly removed to safety, and wrecked vehicles moved off the track to allow debris to be cleared. In just 3 laps, the green flag signals the restart and the Fire-Rescue teams return to their positions, ready to do it all again.

Motorsports Safety starts long before drivers and teams arrive at Dover. It begins in the garage with the manufacture of the car’s chassis, where very special attention is given to the assembly of the driver cockpit. Following the tragedy that took the life of racing legend Dale Earnhardt, car owners and builders have focused on developing a super-safe cockpit with better restraints, increased head protection and the use of tough composite materials.

These new safety systems help protect drivers from serious crashes, but racing still has its risks – and wrecks. That’s why the Fire-Rescue teams at Dover International Speedway remain vitally important to the racing program.

Each raceway on the NASCAR circuit manages its own special system for safety & emergency services. Some tracks contract out their fire-rescue and medical needs to private contactors, but Dover International Speedway operates its own fully equipped Emergency Operations Department, complete with response vehicles, high-tech rescue equipment, firefighters, rescue personnel, paramedics and support staff.

On the infield, at turn 4, is an inconspicuous red brick building, which serves as the track’s firehouse. Each morning, long before drivers and crews arrive at the track, fire-rescue personnel assemble at the station, pick-up safety gear and radios, are briefed by the Infield Track Services Supervisor and given their assignments for the day.

“Our fire-rescue personnel are hand-picked,” says Ed Klima, Director of Emergency Operations and Safety at Dover International Speedway. “All of our firefighters, medics, law enforcement officers and HAZMAT technicians have to meet nationally recognized standards before they’re accepted for special training.”

That special training includes an intensive 16-hour course, which builds on an emergency responders’ current knowledge, then expands it to include the unique hazards and dangers of motorsport racing. The students leave the course prepared to work as a cohesive emergency team whose primary focus is safety.

Chief Klima’s current safety crew roster reads like a who’s who in the East Coast Fire, Rescue and EMS, including highly trained rescue personnel from the FDNY, Philadelphia, Baltimore, DC and Wilmington Fire Departments. Add to the list dozens of emergency personnel who travel hundreds of miles from their hometown companies and you’ve got a department that rates #1 in anyone’s book. In fact, during race weekend, Dover International Speedway operates the largest Fire-Rescue-EMS agency in the State of Delaware.

From the moment the first drivers guide their cars onto the Monster Mile for practice runs, fire-safety personnel and equipment are in position, ready to respond at a moment’s notice. And it’s a quick moment, because speedy intervention is what keeps a bad situation from becoming much, much worse on the track.

One of the first things you’ll notice about the Fire-Rescue-EMS crews who protect the drivers, pit crews and media, is that their protective gear differs from that used by conventional structural firefighters. The business suit worn by Dover’s firefighters are specific to their mission and include international orange Nomex/Kevlar ® jumpsuits, Nomex® hoods, leather boots, fire protective gloves and conventional racing helmets with 2-way radio communications.

Conducting fire-rescue operations on the Monster Mile doesn’t require the big rigs like pumpers and heavy-duty rescue squads. Instead, fire-rescue trucks on the track are small, lightweight and designed for rapid response. They carry a crew of 4 and are capable of reaching any point on the track within 30 seconds. There are four such crews standing by on the infield of the Monster Mile, one located at each turn.

"Turn Truck 2" one of four positioned along the raceway.
“These ‘turn trucks’ (as they’ve come to be known) may seem small but they carry plenty of firefighting power.” according to Jack Wilson, the Infield Track Services Supervisor.

“Each truck carries 150 pounds of Purple-K dry chemical, as well as three 20-lb Purple K hand extinguishers that are by the firefighters’ side at all times.” explains Wilson, whose full-time job is as shift commander of Wilmington (DE) Fire Department’s Rescue-1.

Purple-K is and other dry chemcials has proven to be the most effective extinguishing agent in fighting flammable liquid fires, stopping a blaze 4 times faster than water, then smothering any remaining fuel. Each Pit Firefighter carries a 20-lb Purple K extinguisher which is armed and ready to smother a blaze whenever a driver makes a stop. Nearby pit road, is a conventional Class-A pumper which carries 1,000 gallons of water, in the unlikely event that a fire gets out of hand.

Engine 324 staged at the access gate to Pit Road.
At turns 2 and 4 are special rescue vehicles, which carry a full range of power tools, hydraulic spreaders and cutters, capable of ripping through sheet metal, tubular steel and composite roll cage components. At Dover the rescue equipment of choice is manufactured by Maryland-based Holmatro, a well-known name on the motorsports circuit and in firehouses worldwide.

Two rescue vehicles carry hydraulic spreaders and cutters.
During time trials, practice runs and each race, crashes which result in driver injuries means a trip to the track hospital, where physicians and medical teams do a full evaluation and stabilize the patient. Then paramedics move the driver turned patient to a waiting Delaware State Police MedEvac helicopter who is then flown to Christiana Care, Delaware’s Level-1 Trauma Center, for definitive care.

Delaware State Police Trooper-4: Ready to fly injured drivers to the Trauma Center

Track safety operations are certainly important, but it’s just a small part of the department’s larger mission -- to protect the city, which exists on the other side of the grandstands. Keeping order among the tens of thousands of fans and visitors is the responsibility of the Speedway’s law enforcement unit, made up of troopers and officers from throughout the state of Delaware.

One of the busiest emergency groups at Dover is the Emergency Medical Service. Paramedics and EMT’s staff nearly a dozen ambulances and specially equipped “Gators.” They treat hundreds of injuries each day ranging from a simple bee sting to life-threatening heart attacks. In all, Dover International Speedway employs nearly 300 professional emergency personnel all under the command of Chief Klima and his assistants, who operate from the emergency operations center. Don’t ask me where it is, because in this era of Homeland Security, Ed Klima isn’t telling.

One of several ALS staffed EMS Gators
Safety is not simply a buzzword – it’s a way of life at Dover. And many of the firefighters who work the track hope to convert their colleagues back home to NASCAR’s way of thinking.

“Municipal Fire departments should look to NASCAR as an example of a dangerous industry that does not accept death and injury as part of the job.” says Lynnbrook, NY Fire Chief Mike Chiaramonte. “Every member of a municipal fire department should be ingrained with the same safety ethic that is part of the NASCAR culture,” he adds.

Perhaps the best testimonial to Dover’s Fire-Rescue crews comes from a man who has circled the Monster Mile more than any other racer, Richard Petty, Jr. He’s been rescued more times than he cares to remember, and has a sincere respect for track safety teams.

Racing legend Richard Petty, Jr. -- one of Fire-Rescue's biggest fans.

“After a crash, and the driver finally is freed, the crowd always cheers,” Richard tells me. “The applause and cheers aren’t for the drives though… they’re for the rescue guys. And us drivers are cheering right along with the fans.”


Special thanks to Ed Klima, Jack Wilson and Gary Camp for helping me share this story with NASCAR fans nationwide. Photo Credits: Corbis Motion and Lou Angeli

(c) 2010, Lou Angeli, All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 01, 2010

FDNY To Reduce Staffing At 60 Engine Companies

Engine 26 in Manhattan would lose 1 firefighter per shift,
as would 59 other engine companies in NYC.
City fathers play roulette with citizens' and firefighers' lives.

Commentary by: Lou Angeli

New York, NY (Augsut 1, 2010) -- NY1 reports that The New York City Fire Department is set to reduce staffing in 60 engine companies from five firefighters to four. Many firefighters across the country may say, "big deal, we've been working with 2 and 3 man engines for years."

Well, I'd have to ask," when is the last time your engine ran 14 fire calls per shift?" Sure, your rig may turnout 14 times each day, but more than likely the bulk of your work is EMS related or auto accidents. In New York City the 14 count includes actual FIRE calls during which firefighters lay supply line, conduct searches, advance attack lines by hand to the top of a 6 story tenement, open roofs and close out the session with a hot, dirty, lengthy overhaul.

With a summer marked by several intense heat waves, sources tell cable tv's NY1 that medical leave levels have risen above 7.5 percent in the last 30-day period (due to firefighters suffering from exhaustion and heat stroke during working blazes.) However, at 7.5 percent the UFA's contract allows the adminitstrators to reduce staffing to help control overtime. (8% or 9% and the city would not be able to cut staffing.)

The Uniformed Firefighters Association says the city has miscalculated the way it computes medical leave, because the agency does not give firefighters who go home sick in the middle of a tour credit for having worked some portion of their shift. And heat exhaustion is the type of injury or illness that takes place during a blaze often after 10 hours on duty.

Firefighter staffing is a touchy subject for firefighters' unions and locals nationwide, but with the UFA it chomps at the bone. Why? FDNY tactics are based on 5 man engine companies -- not 4. With 4 man companies, there is a delay as as the first due company must often wait for additional companies to arrive to fill pre-determined job functions.  And with fewer firefighters on the scene, experts say that special calls and multiple alarms will increase, leaving other New York communities unprotected.

In a statement issued by the UFA they say "This miscalculation is further magnified by the FDNY being 300 firefighters under head count, and that three recent heat waves took a great physical toll on firefighters working in 100 degree-plus heat."
The union goes on to say, "It is a fact that any reductions in engine company manning endangers firefighters and public safety, especially given that the last five years have been the busiest in the 145-year history of the FDNY."
But Mayor Bloomburg is a man on a mission and is holding fast -- and will reduce staffing with or without the UFA's approval.
Well, there's is a benefit to Bloomburg's decision, one that will make fire enthusiasts go nutso. With trimmed down crews, fires will get out of hand from time to time, perhaps growing to greater alarms. More "jobs" mean more photo and video opportunities for the buffing community. Hopefully, one of these buffs will capture a situation that will clearly demonstrate the UFA's fear, and force Bloomburg to take his razor sharp cost cutting blade to some other agency's budget.
NY1 material reposted with approval.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

27 Years -- Looking forward to many more!

On the 27th anniversary of my career in Fire-EMS, I’d like to thank some of the men and women who have influenced me over the years: Chief Sean Mulhern, Capt. Ed Hojnicki, Sr., Chief Jerry Donahue, John Smith, Jamie Turner, Lou Amabili, Dr. Ben Corbalis, Battalion Chief James O. Paige (deceased), Battalion Chief Allen J. Huelsenbeck, Deputy Chief Vincent Dunn (FDNY-ret – my mentor), “the 343,” Dennis Smith (Firehouse Magazine), Chief Frank Schaper (St. Louis), Les Warrick, Bill Walton, Lawrence Mergenthaler, Michelle Fox, Deputy Chief Ray Downey (FDNY Special Ops – deceased), Capt. Terry Hatton (FDNY Rescue-1 - deceased), Uncle Joe Angelini, Sr. (Rescue-1 – deceased), Cousin Joe Angelini, Jr. (Ladder 4 – deceased), Paramedic Bonnie Siegfried (FDNY), EMT Reggie Cervantes (NYC), St Bernard Parish (LA) Fire Department (pictured), Joe Leonetti, Sr., Chuck Snyder, FF/EMT Michelle Smith (deceased), and most recently, Cathleen Rossi-McLaughlin (AI), Dr. Steve Murphy, (AI), the crew of Rescue-Engine 126, Chief Brian Reeder and Capt. Sean Byron. Thank you.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Fundraiser for Firefighter John Glaser

Shawnee (KS) Firefighter John Glaser, 33, died from injuries he suffered while fighting a large house fire on May 22, 2010. His death affected towns in and around Shawnee, but also a community 1500 miles away, Claymont, Delaware..

Claymont, DE (June 25, 2010) -- A little over a month ago, John Glaser, a 6 year veteran firefighter, perished while fighting a house fire in Shawnee, KS. Early on in the firefight, a mayday signal went out for a firefighter down. RIT Teams immediately searched the home and found the 33-year-old man unresponsive at the rear of the home. He died a short time later in the hospital.

Normally, firefighters from distant states would have acknowledged John's passing by commenting on various websites and paying their respects via emails. But Claymont, Delaware firefighters learned that John Glaser was a Delawarean, born and raised in their fire district north of Wilmington. And they responded as if he were one of their own.

Today, Station 13 firefighters along with Jakes Hamburgers conducted a fundraiser, in support of John's wife and 2 children. Why? Firefighters worldwide are family -- and even though Glaser served nearly 1500 miles from Claymont, DE, the Shawnee KS firefighter was remembered as if he was still a resident of the community.

The young volunteer firefighters from Claymont who organized the fundraiser are to be commended for their actions and hard work. And special kudos to local restaurants like Jakes Hamburgers and Moe's Grill for understanding the importance of helping out in the community in which they're located.

Posted here are some photos from the event:

photos by: Lou Angeli

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hot Fun in the Summertime

SOPs and Protocol for Warm Weather Firefighter Rehab
By Lou Angeli

Simply stated Firefighter Rehab is designed to ensure that the physical and mental well being of members operating at the scene of an emergency (or a training exercise) don't deteriorate to the point where it affects the safety of any other members. After all, "stressed out" is not a good thing when you're working at America's most dangerous job.

Back in 1993, the US Coast Guard conducted a study dealing with the effects of interior firefighting on the human body. The results of the study are posted in the Coast Guard's Firefighting Initiative, but in short, researchers noted that our body core temperature (even for short exposures), often reaches 104 degrees (F) during the firefight.

(1) Primary Mission

The primary mission for fire command is to identify, examine and evaluate the physical and mental status of fire-rescue personnel who have been working during the emergency incident or a training exercise. Following a proper survey (see below), it should be determined what additional treatment, if any, may be required.

According to FEMA, "Any activity/incident that is large in size, long in duration, and/or labor intensive will rapidly deplete the energy and strength of personnel and thus merits consideration for rehabilitation."

2. Launching The Rehab Operation

A specially designated Rehab Area, (or Group) remote from the fire or emergency incident, should be established at the discretion of the Incident Commander in consult with the senior Safety Officer. If the Incident Commander determines that Rehab is necessary, qualified EMT-Ps or EMT-Bs (assigned to the first alarm response) should be assigned to manage the Rehab Sector under the command of a fire or EMS officer or supervisor.

Note the emphasis of the "first alarm response."

EMS personnel must be on scene and available to provide treatment to fireground personnel at a moment's notice. If EMS does not respond as part of the initial turnout, consideration should be given to the fact that OSHA will certainly ask why they weren't... especially if anyone is injured.

Because they work side by side with the front line troops, company officers play an important role in Rehab. In fact, the federal government suggests that the safety of the fireground rests here, at the supervisor level. If a company member shows signs of fatigue or illness, the company officer will likely be the first to recognize the problem.

Anticipate Rehab needs early in the incident. During large-scale operations, Incident Command should consider augmenting existing resources by requesting additional EMS personnel or even another engine company or squad, to assist in the operation of the Rehab Sector.

(3) Locating the Rehab Sector

It is crucial for Command to establish The Rehab Sector away from any environmental hazards, or by-products of the fire, such as smoke, gases or fumes. During hot months, the ideal location might include a shady, cool area distant from the incident. In winter, a warm, dry area is preferred.

Regardless of the season, the area should be readily accessible to EMS-Rescue personnel and their equipment, so they may restock the sector with supplies, or in the event that emergency transport is required.

Rehab sites can also be established in the lobbies of nearby buildings, parking facilities, or even inside municipal buses. Misting/cooling systems, heating systems, SCBA refilling and canteen service should be stationed in or around this area as well. During large-scale incidents, like multi-alarm fires, Command should consider establishing Multiple Rehab Areas as the situation warrants.

(4) Coordination and Staffing

Command of the Rehab Area should be assigned to a chief or company level officer, who is designated as the Rehab Officer under most Incident Command structures. The incident itself will determine just how many people you'll need to do the job, however a minimum of two trained EMS personnel should initially be assigned to monitor and assist firefighters in the Rehab Sector. Utilize volunteer canteen or auxiliary members to assist EMS personnel in making "working" members as comfortable as possible.

(5) Evaluation of Fire-Rescue Personnel

It is important for command and company level officers to continually monitor personnel for telltale signs of exhaustion, stress, and or physical injury. Individual members are encouraged to report to the Rehab Sector at any time that he or she feels the need to do so. Symptoms may include weakness, dizziness, chest pain, muscle cramps, nausea, altered mental status, difficulty breathing, and others. Regardless of physical well being, all fireground personnel should report to the Rehab Sector immediately following:

- Strenuous Activity
- Forcible Entry, Advancing Hoselines, Ventilation, etc
- The use and depletion of two SCBA bottles
- Thirty (30) minutes of operation within a hazardous/dangerous environment
- Failure of SCBA

(6) Examination of Personnel

Arriving personnel should be examined by qualified EMS personnel, who should check and evaluate vital signs, and make proper disposition, i.e. return to duty, continued rehabilitation, or transport to medical facility for treatment. The workup should include:.

- Scoring for Glasgow trauma scale.
- Checking Pupils
- Checking Vital Signs, such as blood pressure, pulse, breathing rate
- Checking lung sounds
- Administration of a 2-lead EKG, when chest pain or irregular heartbeat is presented
- Skin condition and color Body core temperature
- Heart rate should be measured as early as possible in the rest period.

If the firefighter's heart rate exceeds 110 beats per minute, it is recommended that an oral temperature be taken. If body core temperature exceeds 100.6F, the firefighter should not be permitted to wear protective equipment or re-enter the active work environment, until temperature has been reduced and heart rate decreased.

It is recommended that re-examination occur at ten minute intervals. Using standing orders or existing protocol, Rehab Team Members should record examination results on medical evaluation forms as indicated by the local jurisdiction.

(7) Treatment During Rehab

Upon completing the physical examination, the following steps should be taken to minimize further risk to fire-rescue personnel: Turnout gear, helmets, masks and hoods should be removed immediately. Prior to ingesting anything orally, fluid or solid, it is recommended that the firefighter clean his/her hands and face with water and a cleaning agent, as provided by Rehab Sector personnel.

- The firefighter should rehydrate
- Oral rehydration and nutrition is recommended in the form of 1-2 quarts of fluids
- Body core temperature should be reduced by cooling the body
- Cool body temperatures gradually using misting systems, fans, etc
- Individuals should be offered Oxygen therapy via nasal canulla or O2 mask.
- Standing rest before reporting for further assignment

The firefighter will only report to manpower staging when presentation is deemed normal by the attending EMS personnel. Note: According to FEMA and the NFPA, Water is the best rehydration agent, however some agencies suggest a rehydration solution of 50 / 50 mixture of water and a commercially prepared activity beverage administered at about 40F. Avoid cooling the body using ice packs or hose streams. Cooling should be gradual, limiting further shock to the body.

In the event that presentation appears abnormal, the Firefighter should immediately receive additional treatment, especially if conditions persist following fifteen minutes of rest. As is appropriate in most locales, those complaining of chest pain, difficulty breathing and altered mental status must receive immediate ALS treatment and transport to definitive health care. Follow your local jurisdiction's ALS protocols in this event.

(8) Accountability

Members reporting to the Rehab Sector / Group should enter and exit the Area as a team. Their company designation, number of personnel, and the times of entry to and exit from the Rehab Area should be documented. This can be done either by the Rehab Officer or his / her designee on a Company Check-In / Out Sheet. Keep crews together, and don't allow overanxious members to freelance the event.

(9) The Vital Importance Of Firefighter Rehab

Very few firefighters who wear the badge are athletes. But, from the moment the alarm is sounded, and that first surge of adrenaline reaches the heart, we're asking our bodies to work triple overtime. Couple that with 55 pounds of business suit, 1200 degree temperatures and another 50 pounds of hand tools and equipment, and the importance of effective rehabilitation at the fire scene becomes crystal clear.


Originally published in Fire Chief Magazine -- written by Lou Angeli
for printed copies contact @Lou