Sunday Fun – Close your doors

flickr - didbygraham

On a recent family trip we drove past a sub-urban/rural firehouse quite a few times. Each time we passed by, all three rigs were in quarters, sometimes bay doors open, sometimes closed, but I made an important observation I’d like you to confirm for me:

How busy your rig is is inversely noted by how many rig doors are open and how many boots sit outside said doors.

Each time we drove by all 4 doors of the ladder truck were open with boots on the ground and on some passes, even a coat could be seen hanging from the door. This tells me you aren’t running many calls.

When running a large number of calls it is important to keep all your gear safely inside the rig so as not to forget it or have it placed aside when the driver does something without you.

My system has 2 of the Nation’s busiest engine companies and one of the busiest truck companies and they don’t sit with their doors open, gear on the floor because they have become efficient in donning due to their call volume.

I thought back to my early rural days and we almost always put our gear out with the doors open in hopes of a call. Even the other night at the five-one I spotted a door open and we had had a slow day to that point.

Close your doors and put your gear back in the rig. All that “preparation” only telegraphs that you don’t get dressed all that often. Unless of course that’s the only time you get to touch your fire gear aside from the locker.

Sunday Fun – New Triage Tag

We have all come to be familiar with the black, red, yellow and green triage tags and train repeatedly on thier application.  Whether it's a neumonic a 5th grader can follow or based on common sense assessment, we know the green are slightly injured and the black tagged folks are dead.  The red and yellow cover everything else from a respiratory rate of 31 to myself, with a natural cap refill of 3-5 seconds.

We are trained to assess, tag and go to the next person.

The system works great on table top scenarios, in drills and even in the field at mass casualty incidents, but I was inspired recently to introduce a new color/tag/classification to the triage kit.

I know, exactly what we need, right? Another confusing category.


Well, this one makes it even easier, believe it or not.


White Flag by erix!I am officially adding WHITE to the triage category here at HMHQ.

When triaging you will no doubt come across persons with no injury, illness or complaint, but see the opportunity to become part of what they believe will be a chance to make a few bucks.  This is not uncommon in my area during bus incidents.  A bus will have a minor collision or hard stop and call for help.  Before help arrives, people will climb on the bus and create injuries inconsistent with the collision or direction of hard stop.

These people will fall into the NEW classification of WHITE or "I surrender."

When in a triage situation, if I encounter someone who is uninjured and ambulatory, they are not "walking wounded" but simply "walking."  Last I checked we can do very little for the "walking" other than sitting them down, tagging them green and wasting what few resources we have on them.

Same goes for persons displaced after a fire in their building or adjoining buildings.  They should be triaged WHITE and told to wait nearby for information from the Red Cross or other agency who can help them.  If there is no injury, a green tag seems wasteful, does it not?

Have you ever encountered an MCI with a crowd?  How do you know who is hurt and who is not?  By asking?  Great assessment skills there, Sparky.  Don't let your mind get lost in the sea of "Oh my God there's 10 of them!" and remember that you are doing triage based on your agency's instructions.  Chances are you're using the START Triage system, which assumes by the time you arrive and assess that life threats will be already changing mentation, respirations and perfusion.  Keep in mind that an ambulatory person missing an arm, breathing 22 times a minute with good cap refill on the remaining arm is a green under this system.

But let's get back to the lady wandering the triage area asking who to talk to about suing the building owner/bus company, or who states they were hit by debris but show no signs?  Are they GREEN or are they something less?

Currently the system does not let you make that determination.  After all, what do you know anyway.  Just tag them and deal with it later.  And by later, I mean let treatment sort it out, right?  While it does take a short amount of time to properly tag a person with name, age, allergies, medications, pulse, respiration and mentation status, we could be helping the next person who actually needs us.

Getting to them later is not a liability, spending time confirming they are uninjured is the liability.

So why does the system not account for the liability of the "walking?"


Because until now there was no WHITE category.

To be tagged WHITE in an MCI a person (they are not injured so are not a patient) must:

1) Be ambulatory

2) Have no sign or symptom of illness or injury


There, wasn't that easy?  I just saved you 8 backboards and 3 ambulances at your MCI.

Sunday Fun – Red Lights

Do you have a red light outside your firehouse? Ever wonder why? Besides “tradition” or “it’s just always been there?”
Indeed some of the best stuff on this job comes from the early days of the American Fire Service.

Much like the early days of the railroad, when the brakeman would take the red light from the rear of the train and hang it from the door of wherever he was (Often houses of ill-repute, hence the red light district) the tradition of lanterns at firehouses is similar.

There have been great discussions about why fire apparatus run with the color lights they do. Most are red, some red and blue or red and green, but why red?

In my service the red lantern outside the house signified that the company, or even earlier, the hose wagon and hand pump were in the shed/building. In the early years the community served as firefighters. There is a great scene from the HBO miniseries John Adams when he returns home from a long day and someone outside yells “FIRE!” He scrambles for his coat and grabs his buckets and is out the door. Turns out it was British soldiers firing on a gathering, but that’s a different tale.

When hose carts and pumps are introduced, they aren’t simply parked on the street or in an ornate fire hall, but in a shed. The way to spot the shed was by the lantern hung on the door and a simple marking.

When the piece of equipment was taken out, the lantern was placed on it and the shed would be empty. If the door closed and others came for the pump, keep in mind everyone is mobilized to help, and the lantern is gone, they move to the next shed that keeps equipment.

The lantern on the door signifies the equipment is in place.

As companies began to specialize there was a need for volunteers to organize either at the scene or at the Company Hall. If they arrived at the hall and the lanterns were gone, they would go to the fire. If the lantern is hanging, they would organize a team to pull the gear. A lantern clearly visible from the end of the block saved each member from running to the hall to peek inside.

Here, Ladder companies hung green lanterns and steamers red. In dual company houses there needed to be such a separation to avoid confusion.

Today our ladders still run with a single green light on the front. It also makes it easier to see them coming at night so you can decide whether to lay a line and block the truck or wait a moment and let them through.

Conveniently, as the apparatus continued to evolve, the lantern became a lamp, then a light, then a beacon, now a strobe or LED. And the old position of the lantern is taken by a red light which still signifies to the community that the building is a fire hall. Although now the light is always on.

If you know of a company that shuts their lights off when they are out of quarters, I’d like to know.

Sunday Fun – Getting Mugged

I carried it on the plane.

I carried it in the pocket of my heavy winter coat, or what they call in Baltimore a “wind breaker.”

I had a permanent marker ready as well.

In the booth at EMS Today I had it proudly displayed.

When on the EMS Garage show I had it with me.

Why you ask?

So that if I run into Mike “Fossil Medic” Ward or the Firegeezer I can get the world’s first autographed Firegeezer mug.

Yup, Fanboi Alert.

Mark Glencorse caught this shot just as I handed Mike Ward the mug and the pen.mike ward

Thanks Fire Critic for capturing this shot of me and Bill Schumm, the Firegeezer himself.

And so the mug takes it’s place amongst my other Fire treasures.  I’ll have to order another one to actually drink out of because I am so not washing that one.  Ever.


Sunday Fun – The Art of Paul Combs

The name is familiar and when you see his cartoons in the pages of Fire Engineering Magazine, they make you sit back and really think about your job and how you do it.

I have always enjoyed Paul’s no nonsense approaches to fireground safety, seat belt use and wearing your equipment.

But it was this image that caught my attention in a different way:

Please take a moment to browse the amazing images at Art Studio Seven, from the Fire Service Political Cartoons, to the illustrations and drawings.

But when you look at the cartoons don’t just read the words but take a few moments to explore the entire panel.  There is so much more every time I go through.

Thanks for sharing your talent, Illustrator Paul Combs.

And if the Chief wanders by while you’re reading this Sunday Fun, show him the site, he’ll recognize that signature with the big “O.”  Now you guys have something else in common.

Sunday Fun – If you build it…

There is always talk around the dinner table at the firehouse that the house was clearly not designed by anyone who had ever even seen a firehouse before.
“The locker room is too small!”
“This kitchen sucks”
“Can’t we have a toilet on the ground floor?”

The usual complaints.

So this Sunday we’re heading out of HMHQ and over to the architect’s office with a copy of Gerry Souder’s book and the following demands.

#1 – Humidor Cabinet
The guys are having an occasional cigar, but why have the engine parked infront of the smoke shop every weekend? With this cabinet, each member can purchase and store quality cigars to enjoy 50 feet from the closest door, per policy. If your organization prohibits the use of tobacco products while on duty, install this in the basement. has a lovely selection.

#2 – Commercial Dishwasher
At a busy triple company house, feeding and cleaning up after 14 people can be a chore. But if you use a commercial strength dishwasher, you can wash an entire load of dishes in 90 seconds. That is not a typo. 90 seconds. I work at a big house that has one of these and it is awesome. Pile in the silverware, press on, wait a minute and a half and POW, clean forks.
It takes a few more cycles since there is only one tray, but the water heats up to 170 degrees and cleans those things like no one’s business. The folks at ArchiExpo can tell you more.

#3 – 3 Burner Bunn-o-Matic Coffee Maker
Forget those fancy fru-fru drinks for $3 a pop at the local coffee shop. Save those for heading home. That’s your reward for staying safe and going home again. Until then, we need 3 piping hot supplies of delicious coffee. Some may tell you the 4 burner is the way to go, maybe if you’re having a lot of meetings at your house, but if you’re all career, 3 should do fine. And while you’re at it, stop buying the crappy coffee at the warehouse store and spend the extra $2 a pound for some quality coffee from a local vendor. Chances are he’ll be glad to brag that you buy his coffee to drink in your house. No gifts, buy the coffee.

#4 – Wireless
Do I even need to include this in our dream house? What house these days doesn’t have wireless yet? Get a private phone line installed and collect the $5 a month from the members and get a network set up. You’ll likely want two routers, one on each side or end of the house so that the computer up front gets as strong of a signal as the dorms. We’ll also need a communal computer for research and checking for updates on firegeezer. That brings up another thing, networking the network. That fancy TV you spent all the money on last year you currently use to watch Dancing With the Stars has a video input on the back. Run a cable from the computer to the TV and watch training videos, fireground close calls, and post important information. We recently had a boss do this to the giant TV to give a ventilation drill. he fired up the video on the communal computer and everyone actually wanted to try it and was involved. We watched, we learned, then we went and did it. And add in the free printer, make it wireless so all the laptop guys can use it too.

#5 Truck Turntable
Too many folks are getting hurt and some have even died while the apparatus is backing up. Why? Why are we even “spotting” these things, only putting ourselves in danger to protect someone’s investment. Let’s install a truck turntable. Pull in, press the button and just like Batman did, we’re turned around and ready for the next attack from the Riddler. I can hear some of you groaning about how elaborate, expensive, problem prone this might be but it can never fail. It simply becomes a floor if it stops rotating. Not sure how the tillers will do with this, we’ll look into something. And for those of you singing the praises of drive through bays…I don’t want to hear your bragging anymore.

#6 Slidepole
No slide. Slide Pole.

Sunday Fun – Kids + Fire Trucks = Blog?

While wandering the interwebs for a completely unrelated post on robots (Just go with me here) I came across something fun.

Kids Firefighter Blog was started by a family who had trouble finding a single site as a resource for kid friendly toys, information and activities related to the fire service. They cover coloring books, regional activities, lego, you name it, if it relates to kids and fire trucks, chances are it’s in there.
I especially enjoyed this photo series of classic fire apparatus built with Legos. So close to my 900 series, I had to post a pic.

With so much going on around the Project, I’ve been neglecting my traditional Sunday Fun stories of the tradition of our Profession. Until I get my piece on red lights finished, visit our new 2nd Alarm Company