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  • Instructor Syndrome

    A few months ago I attended a training workshop for local fire dept's with several classes over a weekend. One of the classes involved primary search and rescue using a TIC.

    I have always been comfortable wearing an SCBA in drills as well as actual incidents. Never a problem.

    When our team entered the building I immediately realized they had done a VERY good job of blacking out the interior. At the first room to be searched our team leader showed me, with the TIC, the layout of the room and an obstacle to be searched behind in the center of the room. He and another firefighter went across the hall to the next room.

    I started out ok but soon realized I had lost my sense of direction. I then just reverted to doing a right hand search. It was a large room with closets.

    I completed the search of the room but was totally spent and quite frankly a bit panicked. I was caught by surprise, my adrenaline was sky high and I couldn't control my breathing. Like I imagine an anxiety attack would be. I had to bail out of the search before we were done.

    I was totally embarrassed and kicking my self in the butt. Here was a Batt. Chief who wussed out of a drill in front of 30 or so of his peers. We had a newbie in our team who had no problems.

    We had a chance to go in again and the second time I was ok and completed the excersize with no problem.

    In hindsight I can see how I allowed this to happen. For the past few years I have been the one performing our in-house SCBA drills. While I have donned SCBA's many times for both structure and vehicle fires, It had been a long time since I had done it in an intense drill like this one. At actual incidents you're focused on the task at hand, you don't have time to panic. Drills are different.

    I'll call it instructor syndrome. Where a person is knowledgeable enough at a certain task to teach it to others. But by doing that they neglect to actually train on it themselves. Knowing how to do it and being able to do it are 2 different things.

    I know, I know, what the heck's a Batt. Chief doing with an SCBA on? Shouldn't he have a notepad and a cup of coffee while sitting in the command vehicle? Sumbich should know better.

    We since have started rotating instructors to prevent this from happening again.

    Anyone with a similiar experience? Hopefully this may help someone in the future.
    My wise and profound comments and opinions are mine alone and are in no way associated with any other individual or group.

  • #2
    I think anyone who hasn't had at least one "oh s***" moment is probably lying or never strapped on a pack.

    Officers should never be exempt from training as hard as the firefighters, especially if you are one election away from being a firefighter again.

    There is no such thing as courage, only degrees of fear.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

    "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

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    • #3
      Very cool of you to share that experience.

      As a teacher (day job) it is important to never demand anything from your students that you can't perform and more importantly, perform correctly.

      Great example of humility rarely seen anymore.

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      • #4
        for information sake, how did you lose your place in the room? you said you finished in a right hand search pattern, did you have a point of reference when you started?

        Comment


        • #5
          I think the key point (or the one I sympathize with) is that as a front line leader.. LT, CP, or even BC you are stuck in the position of having to lead your crew, but also lead the in-house drills. As an instructor your role is to stay detached an oversee (and guide) the entire drill. As a front line officer your role is to lead your crew while performing the drills. You usually cannot do both.

          The take away is that if you find you are always the instructor you should also attempt to jump into the drills as often as possible as well. There's nothing worse then a training chief who hasn't seen the front line in forever.
          So you call this your free country
          Tell me why it costs so much to live
          -3dd

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Blulakr View Post
            A few months ago I attended a training workshop for local fire dept's with several classes over a weekend. One of the classes involved primary search and rescue using a TIC.

            I have always been comfortable wearing an SCBA in drills as well as actual incidents. Never a problem.

            When our team entered the building I immediately realized they had done a VERY good job of blacking out the interior. At the first room to be searched our team leader showed me, with the TIC, the layout of the room and an obstacle to be searched behind in the center of the room. He and another firefighter went across the hall to the next room.

            I started out ok but soon realized I had lost my sense of direction. I then just reverted to doing a right hand search. It was a large room with closets.

            I completed the search of the room but was totally spent and quite frankly a bit panicked. I was caught by surprise, my adrenaline was sky high and I couldn't control my breathing. Like I imagine an anxiety attack would be. I had to bail out of the search before we were done.

            I was totally embarrassed and kicking my self in the butt. Here was a Batt. Chief who wussed out of a drill in front of 30 or so of his peers. We had a newbie in our team who had no problems.

            We had a chance to go in again and the second time I was ok and completed the excersize with no problem.

            In hindsight I can see how I allowed this to happen. For the past few years I have been the one performing our in-house SCBA drills. While I have donned SCBA's many times for both structure and vehicle fires, It had been a long time since I had done it in an intense drill like this one. At actual incidents you're focused on the task at hand, you don't have time to panic. Drills are different.

            I'll call it instructor syndrome. Where a person is knowledgeable enough at a certain task to teach it to others. But by doing that they neglect to actually train on it themselves. Knowing how to do it and being able to do it are 2 different things.

            I know, I know, what the heck's a Batt. Chief doing with an SCBA on? Shouldn't he have a notepad and a cup of coffee while sitting in the command vehicle? Sumbich should know better.

            We since have started rotating instructors to prevent this from happening again.

            Anyone with a similiar experience? Hopefully this may help someone in the future.

            Just happened to me two weeks ago. Ours was a little simpler but it did involve gear and SCBA. It was pretty much just putting the gear and pack on correctly being timed. I messed up a few different things but the biggest was I failed to cover the back of my neck. I pulled the Nomex to far forwards after putting my mask on. I am going to make it a point now to train with the guys not just train the guys.

            Comment


            • #7
              I teach FF Survival and RIT quite a bit. With that being said I do every thing that I talk about when we do hands on. It number one in my mind shows the students that you know what you are doing other then just talking about it.

              On a side note I harp big time on training with your TIC. Only because people become so use to using it we get lax in searching. I have heard people say we don't need to train on search & rescue since we have a TIC it does the work for us... I always ask what happens when it has a failure or the batteries die then you guessed it back to our old ways quote unquote...

              And if interested I do our drills with Glad Press N Seal once everyone completes their drills and ready to move on... It works nice. 99% of the time a face piece only needs one sheet. When you find the FF who pokes a hole in it so they can see that requires 2 sheets. It shows shadows and works really nice to conduct some drills where you need to be blacked out. And smoking the room with a smoke machine I like but this way you can monitor the person and make sure they are doing what they need to do correctly or what not. It does leave a little residue on the face piece that wipes off when you are done though.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by LeatherHed4Life View Post
                for information sake, how did you lose your place in the room? you said you finished in a right hand search pattern, did you have a point of reference when you started?

                The idea behind the drill was to use the TIC to search rooms and to only manually search the areas in the rooms that could not be seen with the TIC. This makes for a much faster primary search.

                In my case there was an obstacle in the center of the room and I started outside the room in the hallway. All I needed to do was, using the entry door as my starting point, go straight to the obstacle and swipe behind it with my axe handle. Then I should have turned 180 and with the obstacle at my back, return to the door or at least the wall that the door was on. Where I screwed up is I am so used to just doing a right or left hand search I started out with a right hand then remembered that the object is in the middle of the room. I then left the wall and located the object. After searching around it I totally lost my sense of direction. I just crawled until I found a wall and proceeded with my right hand all the way around the room until I found the doorway. I could tell I was back in the hallway by my teammates voices nearby.

                I know when reading this it seams pretty simple and I shouldn't have gotten screwed up but that goes to show how much you lose your wits when you start to panic.

                At least we trained enough that following a wall was second nature and I knew to do it regardless of my mental state.
                My wise and profound comments and opinions are mine alone and are in no way associated with any other individual or group.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by voyager9 View Post
                  I think the key point (or the one I sympathize with) is that as a front line leader.. LT, CP, or even BC you are stuck in the position of having to lead your crew, but also lead the in-house drills. As an instructor your role is to stay detached an oversee (and guide) the entire drill. As a front line officer your role is to lead your crew while performing the drills. You usually cannot do both.

                  The take away is that if you find you are always the instructor you should also attempt to jump into the drills as often as possible as well. There's nothing worse then a training chief who hasn't seen the front line in forever.
                  Exactly. Well stated.
                  My wise and profound comments and opinions are mine alone and are in no way associated with any other individual or group.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by dday05 View Post

                    And if interested I do our drills with Glad Press N Seal once everyone completes their drills and ready to move on... It works nice. 99% of the time a face piece only needs one sheet. When you find the FF who pokes a hole in it so they can see that requires 2 sheets. It shows shadows and works really nice to conduct some drills where you need to be blacked out. And smoking the room with a smoke machine I like but this way you can monitor the person and make sure they are doing what they need to do correctly or what not. It does leave a little residue on the face piece that wipes off when you are done though.
                    Great Idea. I never thought of that. We do have a smoke machine but that can get a bit expensive after awhile for a volunteer department.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by BSFD9302 View Post
                      Great Idea. I never thought of that. We do have a smoke machine but that can get a bit expensive after awhile for a volunteer department.
                      Crumpled up wax paper does the trick as well. Maybe not as nice as the Press-n-seal but also doesn't have the residue.
                      So you call this your free country
                      Tell me why it costs so much to live
                      -3dd

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by voyager9 View Post
                        Crumpled up wax paper does the trick as well. Maybe not as nice as the Press-n-seal but also doesn't have the residue.
                        Would you put this on the inside or tape this to the outside of the mask.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Put it on the inside.... no fuss, no mess!
                          ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
                          Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            We have a training house that we use quite a bit for search and interior drills. Everyone has been in it numerous times and can go through the house easily without help. We use the foam mask inserts and then reverse or pull our nomex over the facepiece. Does a pretty good job of blocking out anything useful. But our training officer mixes things up, puts up barricades that basically redesign the rooms. He also makes wire mazes, but they'll change every couple months. Usually we have to go through a wall, which is pretty easy to do when it's dry wall. But everyone once in a while he'll change it. I remember going through the house, finally finding the wall I had to "exit" through. Hit it a few times with the sledge hammer and it was barely yielding. He had used a solid laminate countertop, which although still able to break through, wasn't as easy as drywall. Definitely gives you one of those "Oh Crap!" moments when it doesn't yield after a couple hits.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Similar thing happened to me a few months ago. Was doing a confined space/ff survival exercise for training, and got stuck. I've got about 15 years experience, not claustrophobic, have no problem wearing a pack...BUT, this was the 1st time I've ever gotten truly stuck. I could not move forward, backward, up, down, etc... I had gotten wedged in so tight, the instructor had to hit the lights, and physically push me back the way I was coming through while I pushed back myself. IT SUCKED!!

                              Although I knew i was in a safe environment, my emotions got the best of me, and I pulled my mask off. Once I got "un-stuck", I donned my mask and continued on. I also went through again to prove to myself and the instructor I could do it.

                              Lesson learned: Reality Checks are best to be had in training then on the fireground!!
                              A Fire Chief has ONLY 1 JOB and that's to take care of his fireman. EVERYTHING else falls under this.

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