Wednesday, April 3, 2013


 Tactical efficiency is vital on today’s fireground. What is Tactical efficiency?

Tactical: Definition-  from Merriam-Webster:

                   (1)     : of or occurring at the battlefront <a tactical defense<a tactical first strike>                                                                                                                                                                                                 

                   (2)      : using or being weapons or forces employed at the battlefront.

 Efficiency:  Definition- from- Merriam-Webster

               (1)            a : efficient operation

                                 b : effective operation as measured by a comparison of production with cost                       (as in energy, time, and money) (2) : the ratio of the useful energy delivered by a dynamic system to the energy supplied to it.

     Or, how I like to put it, performing tasks efficiently on the fireground. In today’s fire service it is extremely important to operate efficiently. With departments who are short staffed, see brownouts on a daily basis, departments who are laying off fire fighters, today’s modern lightweight construction and all of the plastics inside the structures, open floor plans, the list can go on! A question that many departments face is, how can we be efficient and effective on the fireground with less manpower and less time to operate? For many, this question has been around since the first day that they opened the doors for business.

     We all know that engine companies may need to operate as a truck at times, and trucks as engines. By training our firefighters to operate this way, we become more tactically efficient on the fireground. This allows tasks to be accomplished in a timely manner instead of waiting for the first due truck. Now, let’s take that mindset and break it down to the individual firefighter. For this blog we will focus on the task of ground ladders.

 The ground ladder is a staple of the fire service.  This wonderful piece of equipment that we carry is so much more than a piece of wood or aluminum. Some departments out there have a great pride in their ladder work and it shows in photos that we see on the Internet. The photo below shows a ground ladder placed at almost every egress point in the area where fire was involved. This is a great photo demonstrating the pride that this fire department has in its ladder work. Any firefighter who needed to rapidly egress, or remove a victim had a way out. I applaud them for their work!


       For others, this tool is often overlooked and only placed on the fireground if we have an immediate need for the ladder (i.e. VEIS). There are plenty of documented cases in which a firefighter needed to immediately exit a structure from above grade and had to wait for a ground ladder to be placed. Can every fire department make their fireground look like the picture above? The answer is no. This is due to the size of the department, apparatus responding, number of ladders available, and manpower. Whether you have two ladders on scene or fifty ladders on scene, utilize these life saving tools that are given to you and stay ahead of the power curve! If you set up five ground ladders and none of them are needed on the fireground, so be it. But, remember it is much better to be looking at a ladder, than looking for one!

How can we efficiently perform the task of placing ground ladders with limited manpower? The answer is very simple…Practice! By building a solid foundation of lifting, carrying, and raising ladders, we can improve our fireground operations. If we normally use two firefighters to carry and throw a 24-foot extension ladder, can we train our firefighters to carry and raise a 24-foot extension ladder by themselves? You bet we can! For some of you, this is standard practice, but for others it is not. If we were taught that any time we raise an extension ladder it must be done by a minimum of two firefighters, we tend to stick with that mindset. You would be surprised how many firefighters feel defeated before they even attempt carrying and raising a ladder by themselves, only because they have never tried it! If we can train our firefighters to become comfortable with raising ladders by themselves, we can now place two ladders in the same amount of time. We are now operating in a tactical efficient manner.

 A solid foundation of ladder skills must be mastered before jumping in to a 24, or 28-foot extension ladder. The ground ladder, just like any other piece of equipment that we lift must be done utilizing proper technique. We lift with our legs, not our backs.  To become comfortable and efficient with ground ladders, utilize the crawl, walk, run method. If this is a new method of operation for you, start with just your helmet, coat, pants, and gloves. Once this is mastered, add your S.C.B.A. Then add tools to the drill. Perform as many repetitions as necessary to perform this task until you cannot get it wrong! Start with a 16-foot roof ladder and perform multiple repetitions of lifting, carrying, and raising the roof ladder before moving on to the 24-foot extension, and once comfortable with that, move on to a larger ladder. There are several ways in which we can carry a ground ladder to reach our objective, so pick what works best for you and use that method. Although, in a single firefighter ladder carry and raise, it is easiest to carry the ladder in the high shoulder method.

This method allows your skeleton to bear the weight, and also makes it an easier transition when moving the ladder from the shoulder to a vertical position. When raising the ladder be sure to check for overhead obstructions, and always face the building when raising a ladder. This will allow you to observe fire conditions as well as allow you to see your objective. By raising the ladder this way, the fly section will be in. For an immediate rescue the ladder could remain with the fly section in ( See Duo Safety Statement photo at the bottom of the page).  Two other options for efficiency include, closed halyard systems, and marking of the balance point on the ladder. Follow your departments SOP/SOG when carrying and placing ground ladders. 

      With a ground ladder that is marked at the balance point, utilizing a closed halyard system, fly in, and a firefighter who is capable and comfortable with performing a single firefighter ladder carry and raise, we can operate in a more effective and efficient manner. This will allow us to accomplish more fireground tasks in a timely manner, and also provide a rapid means of egress for victim or firefighter removal. Again, we are now raising two ladders in the same amount of time it takes for two firefighters to raise one ladder. This in turn makes the fireground twice as safe for egress for all members operating in an IDLH atmosphere. The ladder that you place at a window early on in the incident may very well be the tool that you use later in the fire to save your life! So, Get out of the firehouse and build you ladder skills! Practice, practice, practice, become comfortable, create muscle memory, and make yourself more effective and efficient on the fireground.

Below is a link to an excellent article from Fire Engineering on single firefighter ladder carries and raises, and a statement from duo safety regarding using a ladder with the fly in.

Single firefighter ladder article From Fire Engineering

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