THE INCIDENT MANAGEMENT TRIANGLE. Most successful fire department operations require an “Incident Management Triangle” made up of three functions or operations: Coordination, Control, and Support .
“Coordination,” the first side of the Triangle, involves the management and integration of the resources needed to stabilize an incident. This is most often the responsibility of the Fire Chief or other officer, but may, in some cases, have to be done by the senior firefighter on the first unit.
“Control,” the second side, is the action required to handle the major threat to life and/or property. If fire is the major threat, Control generally involves use of water or other extinguishing agent by an engine company; if the threat is a spilled chemical, Control may be confinement, etc. Whatever the major threat, Control crews should be able to devote their undivided attention to its management.
“Support” operations form the third side of the Incident Management Triangle. These are the activities necessary to achieve two important goals:
Assist “Control” Crews— Complete tasks which, make the activities of the control crews safer and more efficient (even if those tasks have no direct effect control of the primary threat(s)).
Handle Secondary Threats— Complete tasks which will control a variety of secondary threats (electrical hazards, traffic, potential collapse or explosion, etc.).
Protect Lives and Property— Perform activities, as necessary, to safeguard people (including firefighters) and property from all kinds of threats.
FIREGROUND SUPPORT OPERATIONS? Even for the most experienced and involved members of the fire service community, the term “fireground support operations” may not be well understood or even familiar. Simply put, it refers to all fireground functions other than incident command and fire suppression, i.e., most of the fireground functions performed by ladder, rescue, and squad companies, other than direct fire attack. It was a title coined by the Fire Safety Group (now Hook and Ladder University) in the early 1980s for their course on truck company operations, targeted at general fire protection audiences, whether they operated a truck company or not. Needless to say, the term evoked a great deal of discussion– some favorable, some highly critical. But, in the end, there was enough positive sentiment to warrant the formation of an Internatioanl Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) committee on the subject and, soon thereafter, a manual published under that title.
As noted earlier, though, historically, these were called the “truck company” functions, because they were normally performed by “Hook & Ladder” or “Truck” company crews. They can be quickly recalled using the traditional acronym “LOVERS PLUS:”
Laddering & Elevated Operations
Salvage (Property Conservation)
Utility & Environmental Control
Special Other Operations
Why not just stick with the title/term fireground “truck company operations” (or “squad company” or “rescue company” operations)? Two reasons are offered in defense. First, support operations is intended to be an umbrella term used to spotlight the commonalities among ladder, truck, squad and rescue operations, without demeaning their unique contributions. It is similar to referring collectively to the functions of a football team’s offensive line, without downplaying the unique identities and contributions of the “center,” “offensive guard,” and “offensive tackle.” Secondly, it is valuable to reinforce the idea that emergency operations of all types will benefit from clearly defined primary and secondary (supportive) crews. Like any refinement in day-to-day functioning, awareness of this division of labor is well served by regular reference to “control” and “support” assignments. Calling these “Support” rather than “Truck Company” functions, acknowledges that departments should be prepared to perform them whether they have a ladder truck or not.
THE SMITHIT CONCEPT.Back in one of the very first posts on this site, in a write-up
entitled “Truck 15’s House– Baltimore,
MD” (under Stations and Places of Note), it was mentioned in passing that when Baltimore City Firefighter Jerry Smith (a very good friend, now with Rescue 1) was riding as acting officer on T15, he would throw a 3# rock hammer into his coat pocket! After a while my curiosity got the best of me and I had to ask why? Well, Balto City truck officers often find themselves responsible for doing forcible entry single-handedly and Jerry thought that if he was going to be doing it solo, he’d rather give up a little striking weight for more precision. Wallah(!): the rock hammer! OK, maybe being a little skeptical, several of us gave it a try– on entry props, car fires (under-hood access), residential calls, etc., and for these and for 90% (or more) of the stuff we do, the results were very impressive:
Tight quarters work is significantly enhanced.
Low to zero visibility work is enhanced (your kinesthetic abilities let you strike on-target with amazing precision and force).**
Reduced weight and bulk = increased agility and mobility.
NOTE** At the very least, most of the people we polled found this method preferable to being hit in the ribs by their “buddy,” flailing away in the dark with a 6-8# axe.
EXPERIMENTATION WITH THE SMITHIT. The small hand sledge did a pretty good job of setting the Halligan adze or fork into the gap. However, during our experimentation, we did some testing comparing the 3# hammer with a 3-3/4# flat-head axe on a short hand sledge handle. Both showed advantages and limitations. Having a slightly wider face, we felt the hand sledge gave slightly more consistent low/zero-visibility striking. It was also better balanced (which may have accounted for more accurate strikes. On the other hand, the flat-head axe provided an ever-present (and pretty effective) wedge. And, if the Halligan has squared off shoulders on the fork end, the narrow width of flat-head privides clear advantages when striking in low or zero-visibility conditions.
The narrow proportions of a short-handled flathead axe (3-1/2-4 pounds) may be the best choice of striking tool if the forks of your favorite Halligan has square shoulders– it will reduce the hand sledge’s tendency to strike off center and deflect off to the side.
For striking the adze end of a Halligan bar, the rounded surface of a hand sledge (rock or blacksmith’s hammer) seems to get the best reviews.
ENHANCING PORTABILITY.Almost immediately we concluded that using a 3-4 pound short-handled “hammer” for striking was a superior way for an individual to perform forcible entry. At this point, several friends use the technique religiously (so to speak). However, everyone has been wondering how best to transport (carry) the small striking tool(s)?
That’s where our earlier blog post rather casually tossed in a couple of photos of methods we use to “marry” a short striking tool to a Halligan. Unfortunately, as noted by one reader– Mitchell Sowers– there wasn’t really enough detail included to be useful. So, the following is an effort to clarify the idea. So far, the best method we’ve found mates the striking to the Halligan’s forks, as shown in the photos below– for implementation, you’ll need:
a) A 3# – 4# striking tool of your choice.
b) The Halligan(s) with the thickest fork (at the crotch or bottom of the fork) that you plan to use with this method.
c) Two fender washers (wide diameter with a much smaller hole) for a 1/4″ bolt.
d) One nut, wing-nut, fiber lock-nut (my preference), or internally threaded handle (shown below) to fit the 1/4″ bolt you plan to use.
e) a light-weight coil spring, approximately 1″ long x 1/2″ diameter– not requiring too much pressure, since its strength doesn’t actually come into play.
A 1/4″ bolt long enough to thread through all of the above– with the nut in place– without compressing the spring much, if at all.
Our local experimentation with Jerry’s original idea took two different directions. The first (the most direct application of his concept) utilized Estwing’s classic “rock hammer,” a small hand sledge. Estwing’s rock hammer has a good feel and balance– and it’s easily one of the coolest tool designs on the planet.
CASE STUDIES.The following photos show some of the variations explored in developing this Halligan/Maul team of entry tools. Users who like Jerry’s original idea will undoubtedly find additional refinements to improve their compatibility.
WORK WITH IT– MAKE IT WORK. Even if you’re a forcible entry purist, he bottom line is that, if you: 1) regularly find yourself responsible for forcible entry on your own and/or 2) carry a hook or some other non-striking tool with your Halligan, you should give the lighter-weight rook hammer or hand axe a try. And, if fact, Jerry’s original method of stuffing the rock hammer in his coat pocket works pretty well, as is. I think the Estwing version is one of the coolest designs on the planet. But, Jerry’s 3# hammer with a wood handle, is a bit lighter and enough shorter that it fits comfortably in most coat pockets. By contrast, the Estwing (also advertised as a 3-pounder) isn’t as pocketable. I find I’m always more conscious of its weight and it is enough longer that some coat pocket flaps won’t close securely around it.
CAPITAL FIRE TRAINING. If you find yourself fightin’ fire and hungry for training in the Northeastern U.S., be sure to take a look at Capital Fire Training’s web sight and schedule of class deliveries. The CFT Instructors have earned a very strong reputation for rigorous training with great attention to detail, especially in the areas of integrated engine/truck operation, up-to-date RIT and personal survival strategies, and fire officer development. Robert James (“RJ”) has been a particularly tireless supporter of our company’s efforts to get on its feet– hope you’ll help us return the favor. Contact: capitolfiretraining.com