Remain Calm, All Is Well

Dave LeBlanc on how the smart firefighter keeps his head while everyone else is running around losing theirs.

Maintaining your calm on the fireground maybe be one of the most important skills you can acquire. There is enough excitement and confusion already, if we arrive and start screaming and yelling nothing will get done.

In December, Baltimore had a fire that claimed the lives of six people. In “Expect Fire – Baltimore” I wrote about how effective the Engine Boss was when confronted with heavy fire and people trapped at 4 a.m.

Take a moment to watch the video above. It is a video of the FDNY operating at what is termed “a classic brownstone fire”. As you watch, listen to the radio communications. There is no screaming and yelling, yet they are searching for confirmed victims. Certainly that has to heighten your pucker factor. Yet the brothers performed their assignments and got things done.

There is no running. Moving quickly, with purpose is essential. We have things we need to do, and they need to be accomplished quickly, but it is difficult to maintain focus and observe what is happening around you if you are in a full sprint with all your equipment on. It is difficult to maintain control of your body, if you are flat out running, with all of your equipment on. Especially in the northern part of the Country during the winter months, where a little bit of water can equal ice.

The firefighters operating at this fire were all focused on the mission. They had a fire to put out, there were multiple victims to be rescued. They worked together. As information became available, it was relayed to all units.

Take notice of one other thing. How much of the communication was done face to face, or with a raised voice from 20 feet away? You can see quite a bit in this short clip. While the radio may be one of the most important safety devices on the fireground, often times it is most effective if it is used in receive mode. All too often people chatter on the radio about anything and everything. The radio gets clogged with traffic, and important messages can be missed. As an example, in early 2000 a firefighter fell through a floor at a residential fire. The Lieutenant landed on a pile of debris, reoriented himself and then called a mayday. His transmission was broken up. Before he could call again, an Officer called Command to request the PPV by set up. Effectively covering the downed Lieutenant’s first mayday and preventing him from transmitting a second. Fortunately it all worked out. A second mayday was transmitted and the Lieutenant was able to crawl to a rear door and be rescued.

If you keep in mind that we didn’t create the emergency, we are just there to make it better, then there is really no reason to get excited. Excitement is contagious and if everyone is busy “jumping through their ass” then who is going to put the fire out?

Dave LeBlanc is a Lieutenant with the Harwich (MA) Fire Department. You can read more of Dave’s articles as well as listen to his online show at Firefighter Netcast on “The Front Seat”, on

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