On the outside: Top 4 fireground tasks

We must emphasize the importance of these outside functions and train on them


It goes without saying that fires are dangerous — and so we have to be prepared to operate efficiently and safely to be successful. Every aspect of the fireground operation is important and crucial to our overall success.

Not everyone can be inside the fire building and the positions outside are just as important.

There is always a struggle to convince some firefighters that what they do on the outside is needed and important. We all want to be the one on the nozzle, in the heat and smoke pushing down that proverbial hallway.

We must emphasize the importance of these outside functions and train on them. When we train on interior firefighting, often we don't train on controlling the utilities or getting the fan in position.

Here are few things that are important for those on the outside.

Utilities
Controlling the utilities is vital. For the protection of everyone operating on the fireground, we must ensure that the utilities are controlled.

Natural gas meters need to be shut off. A fire fueled by natural gas can be catastrophic and make extinguishment near impossible.

Shutting off the meter from the outside will remove the hazards of gas fueling the fire and may be the source of the fire to begin with.

LP gas will need to be shut off for the same reasons as natural gas. In addition, we need to check tanks for exposure issues.

The vapor space in these tanks can heat up and cause a dangerous situation that could result in a BLEVE. It may be necessary to put an unmanned or manned exposure line on the tank to keep it cool.

Electric is another dangerous utility that needs to be handled early in the call. We know water and electric don't play well with each other, so we must try to protect our crews putting water on the fire from it.

If we can, shut off the electric at the meter base or at an outside shut off. Older homes and buildings may not have a shut off on the meter base and these will need to be shut off from the interior at the panel or by the utility company.

It is not recommended to pull meters or to cut drip loops anymore. However, follow your guidelines and policies regarding electrical emergencies at fires. Some departments still carry drip loop cutters and use them in extreme situations.

Ventilation
We wont discuss the specific aspects and types of ventilation, but this is a function that is commonly performed from the outside.

If vertical ventilation is needed, someone has to get on the roof and cut a whole from the outside. Positive pressure ventilation requires someone to set up a fan from the outside to pressurize the building.

Some horizontal ventilation will be performed by firefighters operating from the exterior as the outside vent man. Finally, performing vent, enter and search starts from the outside.

These are important positions and require tasks to be performed from the outside.

Water supply
Hitting the "plug" is vital to those inside depending on water to put the fire out. Without an adequate water supply, crews will not be effective in extinguishing the fire and forcing the attack team to retreat from their position.

This can result in the loss of the property and possibly the inability to perform and conduct a search and rescue.

Being able to quickly connect to the fire hydrant and troubleshoot any problems is one of the most important jobs on the fireground.

This is especially true in regards to rural water supply operations where tanker (tender) shuttles are being used and the water supply must be closely monitored.

Command
Someone has to be in charge. There has to be someone that everybody reports to.

Making sure adequate resources are deployed and/or requested can make the difference between a successful attack and failure. He/she is the eyes and ears on the outside, watching for changing conditions that interior crews can't see.  This person is ultimately responsible for the overall operation and the results that ensue.

As we can see, outside functions are important. What I've lined are by no means the only functions performed on the outside, but it is a common list.

The takehome message? Take pride in every aspect of what we
do on the fireground. Don't down play these tasks -- they could make all the difference for everybody involved.

Until next month, train hard and I'll see you next month in "From the Fireground."

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