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2 A Days

Posted by hdf561 on July 24, 2014

Danny is back with another great insight on the fire service! Make sure to follow him on twitter @RVA_Fireman

I’m always reading articles about how in the fire service we  refer to ourselves as “occupational athletes” but I question that statement and ask Are we really?  Now before I get into my point this has nothing to do about physical fitness levels because if you know me I’m not very big into all that, it’s just not my thing.  I do work out on occasion but it’s mostly walking, or  the occasional 5k or stair climb, I am not at the forefront of all the fitness and wellness programs we have in today’s service so bare with me.


I’m speaking about training and motivation.  Today is the start of NFL training camp for my team the Washington REDSKINS!!! (And yes I say it loud and proud). These guys hold their training camp in the city I work in, you can actually see the training camp facility from the back door of the fire station!!!!! We always hear a lot about how athletes are just overpaid and over hyped and etc etc etc and how all there doing is playing a game, and in some cases I would agree with those statements. But these guys put in more work in 3 weeks of training camp then some firefighters do all year!!!  Ever heard of the term “2 a days”??? That’s how these camps usually run, it means that these teams or athletes who are just playing a “game”  have practices 2 times a day!! They also usually have meetings in between.  For example, today the team arrived at the facility  around 8am had a 2 hour practice in the rain mind you, after they went back in and had team meetings til 4pm and then  will come back out and practice or “train” for 2 more hours.


Now you may now be asking yourself “How does this apply to the fire service?”.  I counter with this, when’s the last time you drilled, practiced, or trained more than 1 time a day?  We deal with saving people’s lives, and perform one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet and we barely train once a day!!! I know my company hasn’t in a LONG time and we let the negativity of how we are treated dictate this.  I’ll be the first to admit we’ve become lazy. Most fire companies I know come to work, set the plan for the day get the daily training out-of-the-way as early as possible so they can get to their “downtime”, or you have the companies that come to work and downtime is the whole 24 hours their on shift.  I don’t want to fall into that hole anymore.  We may complain about how much less $ we make, or how the city or local government isn’t supporting us properly but if you want people to take you and your company seriously as “go getters” you gotta get out of the chair and train.


Why can’t we in the fire service being doing “2 A days” like the professional athletes are??? It doesn’t have to be something extravagant.  Use your imagination, be creative.  It can range from doing something practical like pulling lines or throwing ladders to as small as doing a scenario on the whiteboard or even reviewing a EMS protocol or department SOG.  If your reading this and thinking that there’s no way you can get your guys to do that everyday then maybe you should take it upon yourself to start drilling yourself and see how many of them start to join you.  If there not as into the job as you are that’s ok, I’ve learned that not everyone has to like it as much as I do but I guarantee you that if you start beating and banging around out on the apparatus floor few times a day they will come to see what’s all the commotion about and that’s your chance to engage them.


So my question is Why not “2 A Days” for the fire service?  It’s as simple as that, most of us are here for 24 hours so why not use at least a few hours of that to make yourself and your company the best you can be!!! Get out and train!!!!!



Posted in Company Officer, Drill of the Month, Engine Company, Fitness, Truck Company | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

How Can We Reach The Future Of Our Service?

Posted by hdf561 on July 12, 2014

I have the chance to interact with young kids, pre teens, and teenagers a lot. Sometimes it is through coaching, other times it is through my part-time job as a Fire and Safety Technician at a local theme park. When I do I often get the question…

How do you become a firefighter?

Once I begin to explain the process of becoming a firefighter or even an EMT Basic I am often met with the “that’s too much work” response especially by the teenagers.

Perhaps the question is more of a societal question, maybe it is a cultural one, but how can we reach the future of the service? How can we tell them that yes this is a tough job. It will take sacrifice, years of school and classes, time away from your loved ones, an elite level of fitness, etc. It will take all of that but the biggest thing is how do we tell them IT WILL BE WORTH IT!

I was lucky, I came from a fire service family so I did not have to search hard for the direction to go. However not everyone has a dad, brother, uncle, or even a neighbor to look to for inspiration into this career.

Even more simply put how can we turn this…

teaching kids

Into this


Love for the job may not be enough to hook the next generation, but we can not sacrifice the values of our profession to get people to fill our boots. We need to find the right people, not just people.

I know there will always be the fire service kids out there, but they are easy, how can we reach the on the fence ones? The ones that have the potential but may not have the push?

I do not have the answer. What I do know is that it will be tough, it will be hard, it will take sacrifice, but….


As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on How Can We Reach The Future Of Our Service?

How can we know our buildings?

Posted by hdf561 on July 1, 2014

Frank Brannigan said the building is our enemy and we need to know our enemy. Some have amended that with the fire is our enemy but the building is our battlefield and we must know the terrain in which we are to do battle. Either way you put it building construction is important to everything we do. However just the subject of building construction is VAST and unending. Engineers, construction companies, contractors, developers, etc. are always trying to come up with cheaper, and more efficient materials to build structures. Sure these materials are sound from an engineering stand point as a lot of the current construction materials are very lightweight but very strong. However they rarely consider how they are affected under fire.

The big question is how do we become more educated in building construction. The IFSTA Manual has a chapter on it, and it covers the 5 types of buildings and some basic information but to be honest most new buildings meet a very loose definition of those 5 types, some are even hybrids which include multiple types of construction making its resistance to fire change based on the location. Needless to say the IFSTA manual and our initial firefighter training fail in one of the most important aspects of our training.

One might say research is the key, and while effective in some regards, as previously stated the subject is vast. Just taking a few glances at the local buildings code for your area will bring you thousands of pages, which can be confusing at best when you see all of the exemptions. Viewing my local building code was of little help as I quickly discovered there was very little off the table when it came to construction. Reading books like Building Construction For The Fire Service is great but it is hundreds of pages that at times can be dry and difficult to get through. There are also some great websites out there but like with anything else they can be laced with opinion instead of facts. In my opinion the best research comes from the testing companies such as UL and NIST. They are science based, and do not bring in personal opinion. They simply present what happens during the test.

Research may be great for some but it still leaves us with limited hands on experience and little tactical decision-making ability. My recommendation is a three-step process to ensure you can develop knowledge, hands on, and tactical abilities.

1. Information Gathering: Be plugged into your district. In my locality we have some local publications, and housing magazines that provide a great deal of information for the fire service. They have floor layouts of houses in new developments, where and when new developments are coming, etc. My department also has a plans reviewer that gets blue prints of every commercial and residential occupancy built so those documents are available when needed. If you do not have that simply ride in your district and if you see a new development stop, get out, and go to the construction office (probably a trailer) and ask the site boss for information.

2. During Construction: Make several visits to the site while it is being built. This will give you a view of what materials are being used, how they are being used, and the type of craftsmanship. If you have questions, get you code compliance folks involved, or ask the construction site boss or foreman.

3. Post Construction: Once the building is built go meet to occupant, ask them to do a walk through and preplan. While their talk about tactics with your crew, test the standpipe to see if the caps come off, bring something to measure hose line stretch lengths, locate and test the closest hydrants, find the electrical rooms, find the alarm panels, if elevators make sure your elevator keys work, etc. Basically look at everything to do with this building, and take every advantage the occupant will give you. If they offer to let you stretch hose in the building DO IT!

This may still be a daunting task especially if you have a dynamic and developing district. If the building is already built you can still do parts of step 1 (blue prints) and all of step 3 which will still give you a lot of information needed to be successful. Simply put it can not all be done from the computer!

As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!

Posted in Company Officer, Engine Company, Truck Company | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on How can we know our buildings?

2014 Richmond Fire Beat The Heat 5k

Posted by hdf561 on June 16, 2014


This past weekend I got to participate in one of my favorite races. The Richmond Beat The Heat 5k benefits the Richmond Firefighters Foundation by providing scholarships to the families of Richmond Firefighters. Besides the obvious benefits it is a race with mostly firefighters which is always fun.

This year was even more fun because it was the first time I was able to run a race with my two sons

photo 1 Here we are at the beginning of the race

I got to run with my oldest while my wife ran with my youngest.

photo 2 Here is my wife and the boys before the race

Since this was their first race we had little expectations as far as time, the goal was simply finish, have fun, and share our love of fitness with them.

WE WHERE BLOWN AWAY!!!!!! My oldest and I finished in about 31 mins. which is only about 6 mins off of my fastest time! My wife and youngest where not far behind and finished in 38 mins !

photo 3 Post race with the bling!

For an 8 and 5-year-old this was phenomenal and I could not have been more proud! This just goes to show that your fitness journey does not have to be a solo one, and getting your family involved can be rewarding on so many levels! I was even prouder when they asked can we do this again!

My hats off once again to the City Of Richmond Fire Department for hosting a great event! They have improved this race every year and it keeps getting better! If you are in the Richmond area or close next year you should do this race. For veteran runners it is perfect for a PR attempt as it is flat and fast. It is also the perfect race for beginners, walkers, stroller pushers, etc. Most importantly it benefits the families of firefighters.

If you can’t get here next year, try to sign up for a race in your home town, or better yet create one! Racing is one of the best ways to keep on your fitness plan as it gives you a concrete goal to accomplish. You do not need to be the fastest just race against yourself!

As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!

Posted in Fitness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 2014 Richmond Fire Beat The Heat 5k

What do you want to be?

Posted by hdf561 on June 8, 2014

There is a lot of debate about what is and what is not aggressive. A lot of people determine aggressive based on their location on the fire ground. I have often thought that aggressive should be defined as the actions you are taking not where you are standing.

As I have been debating this for several years I have begun to think that perhaps we are defining our fire service “actions” with the wrong words. I have seen very non aggressive moves right next to a fire, some very aggressive ones on the exterior, and vice versa.

Take a look at the definition of aggressive

adjective: aggressive
ready or likely to attack or confront; characterized by or resulting from aggression.
“he’s very uncooperative and aggressive”
Some of the synonyms are hostile, belligerent. One of the definitions included the words destructive and often harmful!
Are these things we really want to be viewed as?
I think the term I want to be most identified with is effective.
adjective: effective
successful in producing a desired or intended result

Some synonyms include successful, powerful, and potent.

These are words I want to be associated with. I want to be able to handle anything thrown my way and be successful at it.
I think as a service we need to judge our tactics and actions based on effectiveness, not location, or our perceived definition of aggression. I have worked in fire departments on a 2 person engine with no back up where interior operations where a lot of times not an option. So we would work on flowing large-caliber hand lines from the exterior. Flowing 300+ gals a min from the exterior then transitioning to the interior may not seem aggressive to some (I disagree) but I guarantee you it is effective and those fires went out, probably faster than some who may have gone interior with 1 person initially.
I have also seen departments take undersized lines interior to very large fires only to get overwhelmed and chased out. They where trying to meet the definition of “aggressive interior firefighters” but where not effective in putting the fire out so what was the point?
The fire service is VAST and dynamic! There is not and should not be one way to handle fires as each fire department is a little different. The tactics of the FDNY guy with 5 man engines usually do not work on the two or three-man engine.
So when evaluating your tactics and actions focus on how effective they are vs. where you may be standing (interior or exterior). Always take whatever you may see on the internet, YouTube, blogs, etc. and put it in practice at YOUR fire house, with your crew, and your equipment.
I always have and always will love going inside on a fire building, however it may not always be the best option for your staffing, or your department. Even as well staffed (first in assignments) as my department is with our actual rig manning (3 driver, officer, firefighter) it may not always be feasible.
As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!

Posted in Company Officer, Engine Company | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

You Never Know What You Will Find

Posted by hdf561 on May 27, 2014

We all know the importance of getting out in our district, preplanning, etc. New buildings are popping up everyday and we know the dangers of new construction, and how in conjunction with low mass synthetic housing material, and high heart release rates make the environment in which we do business more dynamic and possibly more dangerous.

Even knowing this it is still important to go out and see these buildings while under construction so we can see the possible dangers.

building construction 2

This is a roof system I found at a construction site. As you can see there is some damage to the wood, and the gusset plate is loose. These systems are built-in mass production and usually sit out in the elements for weeks, then when delivered to construction sites are dumped off of a truck and left to sit again until being put into place.

Do not assume every building is on the up and up, and to make sure someone is assessing building stability at every fire.

As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!

Posted in Company Officer, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Turning Your Commute Into a Classroom!

Posted by hdf561 on May 12, 2014

One of the biggest things I always here about why firefighters do train everyday is time! To be honest I get it! Most firefighters in the country are volunteer and are working a full-time job, raising families, and still trying to find time to serve their volunteer departments and communities.

The same can go for career firefighters who often have one or more part-time jobs, and families. I myself have my full-time fire department job, a part-time job, and 2 beautiful boys who are playing multiple sports that me and my wife are heavily involved in (coaching, team parents etc.) My wife even works her full-time job and teaches EMT-Basic (among other things) for her part-time work, so I get being taxed for time.

What I often try to do is find a way to maximize the time I have, kind of like a NASCAR pit crew. They analyze where even seconds can be saved in order to make a faster pit stop.

One of the ways I have found to do that is during my commute to work! Most every firefighter I know has between 15 mins and an hour when heading into the fire station. Instead of zoning out to work like I used to, I have begun listening to podcasts while going to work.

classroom car 2

classroom car 3http://www.petelamb.com, http://www.viewsfromthejumpseat.com, http://www.firefightertoolbox.com, http://www.fireengineering.com

There is a TON of great content on podcasts today, and they run the range from simple to complex, fitness to leadership, EMS to firefighting.  In the above pictures are some of my favorites that I listen to on my rides to work. I also listen to them while I am working out, again a time maximizing effort.

Another resource available is Audio Books. A lot of people do not like reading books, or reading period but by listening to an audio book in a couple of rides to and from work you can get a great message and education just by listening.  Here is a link to some audio books available right now! http://www.pennwellbooks.com/audiobooks.html

Another tip is you can utilize your commute to work to improve your district knowledge and size up skills. I’m sure most of us take the same route to work and home everyday. Instead try to take different paths to work, and note different streets, buildings, and water supply options. If you see something interesting take a picture and share it with the crew when you get to work.

classroom car

You may spark a discussion about how to deal with the problem, and maybe they will want to go see it for themselves. Also while your riding your district pic a random house and do an on scene report for it.


This was a house in a district I used to work in that I rode by hundreds  of times, and when it finally caught fire everyone on the shift knew what the exact location of the house, and the closest hydrants, I sized this house up a lot as did everyone on my crew so when it came time for the real deal we where ready!

I know time is something there never seems to be enough of but by taking the time we do have and maximizing it, we can make huge strides in our fire service knowledge.

So take the time, to make the time and soon your commute will be your classroom!

As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!

Posted in Company Officer, Drill of the Month, Engine Company, Truck Company | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Turning Your Commute Into a Classroom!

Simple Hose Roll for DPO

Posted by hdf561 on April 29, 2014

This is just a simple trick that was taught to me and I have been passing on for years. Every engine company carries short supply hose sections of various sizes and lengths. I often found that when these rolls get above about 25 feet they can become a little difficult to deal with. Storage, deployment, etc. they are just difficult. A lot of these rolls are simply straight rolled, or doughnut rolled and placed in the compartment, or tray and not thought of until the next fire. Getting a water supply established is one of the most important things to do at a fire scene so making it more efficient for the driver who is usually operating alone should be just as important.

By simply rolling the hose a different way we can reduce the foot print of the hose roll, make it easier to handle, and make the deployment of it easier.

5 inch 1

You start with the hose laid out as you normally would, and make sure it is drained.

5 inch 2

You then take the hose over top of itself placing both the couplings at the same end.

5 inch 3

Start rolling!

5 inch 4

Your end result should look something like this. As you can see the foot print of the hose roll itself either upright or on its side is literally cut in half. It also gives you the advantage of exposing both couplings. Additionally it ensures that any residual water is no longer in the hose, any residual air is no longer in the hose, and makes handling it a lot easier.

When it comes to deployment, this roll almost wants to unroll itself! If in a tray or compartment you can simply grab both couplings and walk. If you choose you can still do the bowling ball roll, or connect either to the piston intake valve or large water intake on your engine then walk to the hydrant or vice versa. You can also hand ne coupling to another firefighter and then you both walk in opposite directions.

Simply put the only way you can unroll the single doughnut is to unroll it yourself, trying to bowling ball a 50 foot section of 5 or 4 inch hose is inefficient at best, and nearly impossible for some firefighters.

The best part about it is that it is a simple and basic change that you learned in your firefighter 1 class! This one little change can make a huge impact in your pump operator efficiency.

What other tips and tricks are you using in your department? Send them to averagejakeff@gmail.com and I will feature them on the site. Do not forget to keep following along on twitter @averagejakeff and as always the comments section is open for business for discussion and thoughts.

As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!



Posted in Engine Company | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Simple Hose Roll for DPO

FDIC 2014 Wrap Up!

Posted by hdf561 on April 15, 2014

WOW what a great conference FDIC2014 was. If you wonder where the brotherhood is then look no further than FDIC! This year the classes where once again great, as well as the opening ceremonies with Chief Bobby Halton and Eric Rohden, but everyone knows about that in anything you read you hear about the education you get from going to FDIC and it is by far second to none, so I want to focus on some other things in my FDIC wrap up.

I will however as usual give a shout out to the best class I took at the conference and that was Reading Buildings: The Rapid Street Approach. it was taught by Dave Dodson of Reading Smoke fame, and Chief Jon Mittendorf who has been a staple in Truck Company Operations for decades. They are taking a new look at how to identify buildings to enhance fire ground operations. They have a book coming out through Fire Engineering Books and Video and I will no doubt be buying it.

During the conference I got the chance to meet some people who I have only interacted with over social media, one of them was Kerry Falzone from Plymovent she gave me the chance to be part of a program I really believe in called #HOOKUPTHEHOSE if you have not seen it here is the first PSA!

I regret that I did not get a pic with me and Kerry but she is an awesome person and so passionate about protecting firefighters from the dangers of cancer caused by vehicle exhaust no matter the product they use. It was great to meet her!

Another person I got to spend some time with was Andy Starnes. Andy is a Captain in the Charlotte North Carolina Fire Department. Andy is involved in the Kill the Flashover Project http://www.killtheflashover.com , and writes for Firefighter Toolbox http://www.firefightertoolbox.com . On top of all that though Andy is a top-notch person. We ran the Courage and Valor 5k together and climbed the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb together as well. The whole time he was encouraging and even stated we started the climb together we will finish together.


Here is my brother, Andy, and I getting ready to run the 5k. It was awesome to meet Andy, he is one of those people who has never met a stranger in his life, because within minuets you are his friend.

Another person who I had met before but got to spend some more time with was Andrew Catron from the Model City Firefighter Blog http://www.modelcityfirefighter.com/


Andrew is a blogger, and firefighter in Kingsport TN. He is also a Ride Backwards http://www.ridebackwards.com sponsored athlete! He is usually seen hanging around Capt. Wines and Rhett Fleitz (Ironfireman and Fire Critic). Andrew also ran the 5k and participated in the 9/11 memorial Stair Climb both while wearing his TECGEN http://www.tecgenxtreme.com/ gear!

On Friday I got to climb in my 4th 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb but first at FDIC climbing this time for Battalion Chief Orio Palmer

photo 3

I am huge supporter of the 9/11 Stair Climbs, a lot of people talk brotherhood but by doing a climb you LIVE IT and FDIC was one of the best climbs I have done by far. The stadium configuration makes it a tougher climb but the camaraderie was so much more during this climb as you are constantly passing people on the stairs. I found myself fist bumping and encouraging others, and others doing the same back to me! It was something I had never experienced before during a climb.

You can see the emotion, the Brotherhood that was present during this climb. It was truly an honor to share the stairs with my brothers and sisters, and also my wife Karen who has done every climb with me!

photo 5

While there I also got to participate in the FOOLS BASH, and Firefighter Turnout hosted by the First Arriving Blog Network that hosts a lot of popular blogs like Fire Critic, Iron Firemen, First Due Tackle, Boron Extrication, Statter911, Model City Firefighter and a host of others! I was able to interact with Paul from First Due Tackle http://www.firstduetackle.com during several events and he even gave me his challenge coin! The Firefighter Turn out was AWESOME! There was gaming, good food, and of course BROTHERHOOD! I do not think it could have gone better, and I hope it is not the last time.

Lastly I did get to meet one other special person…

photo 2

Chief Fire Wife Lori Mercer! Lori runs the website http://www.firefighterwife.com which is a group determined to make fire marriages work. Lori works tirelessly with other fire wives giving them support in a multitude of different areas of life in order to improve relationships with their firefighters! My wife is a member as has become extremely active in the sisterhood even becoming a moderator and poster in the Fit Fire Wife subgroup. Lori may be the most sought after and popular person at the conference as she was always in demand. She is doing great things for firefighters and their wives, it was great to meet her!

Again too many great things happen at this conference to confine it all to one post, I couldn’t come close to listing all the people I met, or the impact things had on me. I just know that FDIC is the greatest fire service conference on the planet no matter how you slice it. I love going, and I want to go every year! That may not always be a possibility but I know what the conference has done for me and my passion. If you have never gone then you are missing out. Save your money, sleep on a floor in your buddies hotel room, do what you have to do to get to go an experience this event!

As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!

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Posted by hdf561 on April 4, 2014

In just a few days I like many of my fire service brothers will be heading to the greatest fire service conference on the planet FDIC!

While there we will take classes, walk around the exhibit floors, network, and enjoy the brotherhood that is hanging out with 40,000 like minded people.

The one other thing people will be doing is searching. Searching for that tid bit, that trick, that “secret of the fire service” .

Well I have figured it out! No it’s not RECEO, SLICERS, DICERS, SLAPCHOP, UL or NIST Studies those are all tools that we have at our disposal.

The secret of the fire service is THERE IS NO SECRET!

There is no one end all be all solution. The fire service is too fluid to have the one and only plan, and fire departments themselves are too dynamic and different to adhere to one set of tactics.

So when you go to FDIC next week (or any other class or conference for that matter) keep an open mind. Do some preplanning and research before going and take classes that apply to the position you are in, or trying to get to in your career. Take what applies to your department and leave the rest. Then go home and apply some sweat equity to your new found tactics and see what really works for your department.

The saying of “there is more than one way to skin a cat” holds true. The current cat the fire service faces is not a baby kitten, it is a fully developed mountain lion seeking to kill us! To pigeon hole yourself to one style, one idea is borderline negligent!

be water

The above quote from Bruce Lee speaks volumes about how we should approach our fire service problem. We already use water now we must act more like it, not dismissing ideas, but being open to multiple forms and using the one that works best despite our tradition, culture or ego.

I hope to see you all at FDIC and be sure to follow me on twitter @averagejakeff

As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!

Posted in Company Officer, Engine Company, Truck Company | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on THE SECRET OF THE FIRE SERVICE!!!!