The procedures and policies we use are proactive and current with the industry standards. This is in the best interests of the city and the safety of our firefighters and citizens. Most people that die in a fire die from smoke inhalation, not the fire. A full response with adequate fire suppression personnel is their best chance for survival. Below is an explanation of how our department operates and why.
Fire fighting is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Fire doubles in size every 20 seconds with temperatures rising to over 1800 degrees. Smoke is so thick that you can not see your hand in front of your face. Firefighters are wearing approximately 70 pounds of gear and have to crawl while pulling hose and carrying equipment. The stress and exertion levels are high, and although in good shape, exertion comes quickly. Interior attack and rescue teams need to be rotated. The success of a good fire department comes from good training, good equipment, physical fitness, and enough firefighters on the scene to perform this dangerous job safely and efficiently.
Our department utilizes the Incident Command System. This system organizes tasks and responsibilities like any well run business. In the past, firefighters would free lance, doing whatever function they felt like at a fire scene. This system was disorganized with no accountability on the fire ground. Firefighters who were lost during operations were not missed until it was too late and the efficiency of the firefighting operations was poor. Due to increased liability and a need to be more accountable with how we use our personnel and equipment, operational changes needed to be made.
Due to approximately 100 firefighter deaths per year the NFPA and OSHA mandated changes in fireground operations. Incident Command, Personnel Accountability, Two In Two Out (Rapid Intervention Team), and Safety Officers were made required standards that would increase firefighter safety and improve firefighting operations. NFPA standard 1500 addresses Occupational Health and Safety including fire ground Incident Command, Rapid Intervention Teams, and Communications. NFPA standard 1521 addresses the Safety Officer. NFPA standard 1561 addresses Emergency Incident Management System. NFPA standard 1710 addresses the number of personnel required to meet these improved standards and safety for firefighting personnel during firefighting operations. When the required positions are filled there are a minimum of 14 firefighters needed on scene. MIOSHA part 74 addresses Fire Fighting Operations and the duties of the employer. MIOSHA part 554 addresses Bloodborne infectious Diseases and protective gear. MIOSHA part 42, 92, 430 addresses Hazard Communications. MIOSHA part 451 addresses Respiratory Protection. The Department policies are developed based on MIOSHA regulations and NFPA standards.
The Royal Oak Fire Department takes pride in the fact no firefighter has ever died in the line of duty. The fire loss records indicate the majority of fires in Royal Oak are contained to the room and contents and few citizens have died. The Department feels this is due to the quick response with the right number of professional firefighters trained and equipped to do the job.
NFPA also calls for 4 Firefighters per truck; so more people reach the scene ready to make entry, protect property, and conduct the other jobs necessary for fire ground operations. Although our department can not place 4 firefighters per truck, we meet the standard by placing the required number of personnel on the scene by sending additional apparatus. Keep in mind that all apparatus are in service by radio and as soon as the Incident Commander has determined whether there is a fire or not, these apparatus can be called upon to respond quickly to other emergency calls.
Below is a description of the procedures used during fire responses;
- The officer reviews the information provided from dispatch and determines the nature and extent of the situation.
- All apparatus will respond safely and efficiently to any area in our city within 4-6 minutes. All personnel will be equipped in full turnout gear with members assigned to make entry wearing SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus).
- The officer will establish command, conduct the initial size-up of the situation, deploy the other apparatus, and assign personnel. The officer will establish needed water supply and determine what other resources may be needed such as Police, DPS, Utilities, or other Fire/EMS units (which may require the use of mutual aid).
- The Incident Commander will assign someone to maintain the accountability board during fire suppression operations. This person will keep account of all personnel working the scene.
- The Incident Commander will assign a member to be the Safety Officer. This person is responsible for overseeing the operations for safety. The Safety Officer calls for a PAR (Personnel Accounting Report) every 20 minutes. All members will then report back via the portable radio to report in. If an employee doesn't respond, then the RIT Team knows where the employee had been assigned to work and where to start their search. All fire suppression operations continue while the search is conducted.
- The driver of each apparatus in operation at the scene remains with their vehicle. They are responsible for pump pressures and maintaining an uninterrupted water supply. This person will also assist with bringing additional equipment from the apparatus and replacing the breathing bottles of the team members from the search and rescue or fire suppression crews.
- A team will set up the PPV fan (positive pressure ventilation) to push the smoke and gases out of the structure. The ladder truck may be utilized for this operation to open the roof with saws to give the smoke and gases an avenue to escape the structure. This is critical for the safety of our personnel and any occupants that have not been found and brought out to safety yet. Each team requires a minimum of two personnel.
- Saving lives are our first priority. Search and Rescue teams will immediately be deployed to look for occupants and bring them out to safety. This will require the use of the Thermal Imaging Camera that allows us to see through the smoke for victims. Each team requires a minimum of two personnel.
- A Rapid Intervention Team of two or more personnel must be established and stage (stand ready). This team is held in reserve to effect rescue in case our own members become trapped or lost.
- Teams will be deployed to search for the seat of the fire and extinguish it. Multiple teams may be necessary depending on the extent of the fire spread. If the fire has extended into the walls, then tools to open the walls or ceilings will be used. Each team requires a minimum of two personnel.
- A team may be assigned to man a hose line to protect adjacent buildings or to evacuate neighboring buildings.
- This is the procedure of protecting the occupants property from further damage. This may require tarping belongings, furniture, carpeting, etc. This takes place during extinguishment if personnel and time permit.
- This is the clean-up stage of the fire suppression operation. Removing any smoldering materials and looking for hidden hot spots. This has to be done carefully so evidence useful to the fire investigation for determining the cause is not destroyed.
This is when all equipment is picked up and returned to the apparatus. Hoses are drained and rolled. Back at the station, the hose is washed and placed into a hose dryer. Equipment is cleaned, refueled, checked, then returned to its place on the apparatus.
The Fire Department is responsible for providing emergency services to our city of 11.78 square miles with a population of over 60,000. The current staffing for the department is 71. There are 5 staff officers (Chief, Asst. Chief, Marshal, Inspector, and EMS Coordinator) and 66 fire suppression personnel (3 shifts of 22). The run total was 4,668 in 2002. This is due to the increased medical care and transport we now provide to our citizens.
The Department policies and procedures follow accepted industry standards. These policies and standards ensure the safety of our personnel while doing a highly dangerous job.