The Resource Question
What does the fire service need to limit risk to firefighters, paramedics, and the public?
NFPA Journal®, March/April 2012
Recently, we were asked to serve as technical experts, along with several other chiefs, on a project to assess resource deployment to high-rise/high-hazard fires. The project was part of a larger study, the Multiphase Study on Firefighter Safety and the Deployment of Resources, a joint effort by the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and the Center for Public Safety Excellence. The study’s goal is to determine the staffing levels, response times, and deployment of resources that work best when responding to a variety of fire or EMS events, in an effort to minimize the safety risks to firefighters, paramedics, and the public. The study will include the participation of more than 400 fire departments from around the country and is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighter Grant Program.
The results, according to the study’s website, firereporting.org, will be “especially useful to the many fire departments across the nation that are challenged by budget crises, rising call volume, personnel and equipment shortages, security issues, and an overall expectation to do more with less.” These and other factors, all too often, are present in line-of-duty injuries and deaths among firefighters. Preliminary results from the high-rise experiments are expected early this summer, with full results and conclusions available early next year.
For the high-rise study, our challenge was to devise an attack line for a 20-story commercial building with the fire in an interior compartment on the 15th floor. We decided that the attack line would require a minimum of 150 feet (46 meters) of 2 ½-inch hose, with a 1 18-inch smooth-bore nozzle.
Most fire departments that protect high-rise buildings keep a standard high-rise pack that contains hose, nozzles, valves, wrenches, and various equipment needed to connect to the standpipe system. Having a standard high-rise pack can save time and energy, especially for a fire on an upper floor of a high-rise building. Unfortunately, a “one size fits all” approach fails to account for differences in flow rates and available space. In residential buildings, nearly all fires on upper floors are within the capabilities of a 1 ¾-inch hose; a 2 ½-inch hose can be difficult to maneuver in small rooms and hallways typical in residential buildings. Commercial buildings with large open areas often require the higher rate of flow supplied by a 2 ½-inch hose, and there is often more space available to operate.
The idea of matching rate of flow available through a hose line to the potential rate-of-flow requirements for a building is not limited to high-rise buildings, but it is an important concept to be applied at all structure fires. Pre-incident planning should include surveying the building size and configuration then calculating the needed rate of flow. Using this information, hose and nozzle types can be matched with potential fire conditions. Fire officers must also know the limitations of various hose sizes and the flow rates for nozzles — knowledge that can only be determined through hands-on training and testing. They must also determine the capabilities of the standpipe system in buildings within their jurisdiction.
For more on the Multiphase Study on Firefighter Safety and Deployment of Resources, visit firereporting.org.