Giddyup Probies: Getting on the Gear
Photo Courtesy of TonyStl's Flickr Stream
If you don’t have bunker gear you don’t have anything. That’s why, as a probie, being issued a set of bunker gear was the first step in equipping me with the tools that probies want and firefighters need. Before you can learn to handle a hose, force a door, or carry a victim, you have to be able to put on the right protective equipment. Although it isn’t as exciting as doing tactical training, it’s pretty cool to pull all those PPE components out and learn what they’re for and how they’re made. Then they tell you how long you’re going to get to put it on: 60 seconds.
There’s not much that I’m able to do in under a minute. I can run out to pick up the mail, can do a set of 50 push-ups, I could probably even win a game of checkers if my opponent were the perfect combination of fast and foolish, but putting all that bulky gear on in that short amount of time seemed highly daunting. Now that I’ve been at it a few months, I can see that it’s not only possible, but that 60 seconds is a pretty comfortable margin. From what I’ve seen, most people should be able to get their bunker gear donned in about 30 seconds flat. Nevertheless, to those who are as green as I was when I got my gear, the subject deserves some discussion.
Why is practice important?
Speed is critical because fire is fast, and because the apparatus does not leave the bay until everyone is aboard. If it takes you a full 2 minutes to get your gear on and get on the truck, then it doesn’t matter how fast everybody else on your company got ready, that truck doesn’t leave for a full 2 minutes after the tones dropped. I learned in my most recent lecture on fire-behavior that given adequate oxygen and fuel, fire doubles in size every 30 seconds. That’s a pretty impressive figure. So since you took an extra 60 seconds to get your gear on, the fire is now 4 times the size it would have been on arrival if you had been faster. That can make a huge difference. Don’t believe that it can really happen that fast? Then go check out the video of the Station Nightclub fire in Rhode Island that occured on February 20th 2003. 5 1/2 minutes is all it took to go from ignition to a fully involved building.