Archive for January, 2015

AFA’s and Aerial’s

In some of our recent posts we have been discussing a handful of important aspects of 360’s. The first one about not being able to complete a 360 can be found here and the second one about 360’s on Automatic Fire Alarms can be found here. We started discussing the importance of utilizing the aerial during AFA’s. So now we have to ask: Do you bother using your aerial device during AFA’s?  If not, you may be missing out on a valuable street training opportunity.


As we mentioned, one of the greatest benefits found when using aerial devices during automatic fire alarms is the tremendous training it provides crews (when staffing and time permits). It is much better to practice during “insignificant calls” when adrenaline is not clouding our minds. The most important training opportunity this provides is aerial placement and set up. A majority of the time, the AFA’s from commercial buildings are unintentionally set off during normal business hours. The cause of the alarm is frequently due to brunt food in the break room or HVAC malfunctions. These AFA’s during business hours allow for us to practice positioning the ladder truck in crowded and tight streets or parking areas. Once the alarm has been handled, and the occupants allowed to return to the building is when the real training opportunity begins. The entire crew can meet back up at the rig (which is left set up) to discuss placement, reaches, scrub areas, victim rescues, etc. It can also be a great time to discuss apparatus placement with the Engine company crew as well.


We all know that outriggers can be one of the biggest challenges we run into when setting the truck up on crowded or small streets and parking lots. If you are assigned to a ladder truck that allows for short jacking, you may have a few options to overcome these challenges. For example, the truck shown here allows for short jacking. When setting up on a narrow street the tractor operator pulls to the opposite side of the street adjacent to the incident building. The tractor operator will exit the truck and place the short outrigger, often called the off side, straight down. This leaves room for the opposite outrigger, often called the working side, to be fully extended. The truck is now fully stabilized (on the building side) and ready to have the aerial placed in service. Doing this over and over creates good muscle memory for the “real emergency” when ladder placement is crucial and must be done right the first time.



Another benefit found when utilizing aerials during AFA’s is simply practicing getting off and back on the tip of aerial. Unfortunately there have been many LODD’s due to firefighters falling while getting off or on a roof from an aerial. Since AFA’s are low emergency calls, is a great time to build muscle memory at a slower pace to practice safe access to real roofs from aerials.


So whether it be during AFA’s or just drilling, get those ladder trucks out of the bay and set them up in your first due! You’ll never know the capabilities and limitations of your rig unless you use it. You may even surprise yourself on what you can learn from a non-emergency call like an AFA. Every call is a training opportunity.

Photo credit: Dennis Stevens,


AFA’s and 360’s

In our last post we discussed situations when a 360 of the fire building may be delayed or unable to be completed at all. That post can be found by clicking here.

Now we will ask some additional questions: Do you even bother to perform a 360? If so, what types of calls do you perform them on?


Most people would probably lean toward doing them more often than not, but those were really just the primer questions. The real question is this: Do you take the time to perform a 360 on “nothing showing” or “automatic fire alarms?”


If your staffing situations allow, it should be a part of your SOG’s to have a 360 done on these seemingly insignificant calls as well. For example, Winter Park has the Outside Truck crew perform a 360 on all automatic fire alarm activations. It is signified as being complete by a simple radio transition: “Outside Truck to Command, 360 all clear, standing by utilities.” It’s a great training opportunity for everyone, not just the ones tasked with completing it, but for everyone listening as well. It’s a simple way to keep the 360 on everyone’s mind.


It is important to mention that the 360 on these seemingly “insignificant calls” may be abandoned (or modified) if other tasks are required of the Outside Truck crew. For example, most buildings in Winter Park require the aerial ladder to be extended to access and investigate roof top air conditioning units (which are often to blame for our Fire Alarm activations.) Often times in this situation the 2 man Outside Team will split up, The Tractor Operator will set-up and extend the aerial for roof access, while the Tillerman performs the 360. After the 360 is complete (and announced on the radio) the Tillerman will join up with the Tractor Operator and access the roof.


Again, these recent discussions of the importance of 360’s are not being shared to delay initial operations. We are simply trying to demonstrate their importance and increase understanding of times when they should, and times when they shouldn’t (or can’t) be completed. Taking the time to standardize how and when they are completed will help set you up for success on the fireground. Also, taking the time to practice them on “insignificant calls” will help them become standard practice and part of everyone expectations.

Photo credit: Dennis Stevens,

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