Ladder Company Staffing and Operations

The Importance of the 8-minute Ladder Company Response In Fire Fighting Operations:

Ladder OperationsOne area in which the Mansfield Fire Department is critically lacking, and that affects the overall poor compliance with the NFPA and OSHA standards is the staffing and deployment of Ladder companies. These companies play a vital role on the scene of a structure fire securing building access and overseeing the ventilation of dangerous, superheated products of combustion from the building.  The importance of being able to ventilate a building efficiently, effectively, and in coordination with interior attack operations is key to supporting search and rescue operations.  Once the superheated gases and smoke from the building have been ventilated, fire fighters conducting interior fire suppression and rescue operations are able to more clearly locate the seat of the fire and more effectively perform victim search and rescue.  The rapid extrication of victims from inside a burning structure is critical to saving lives: the quicker fire victims are removed from the structure, the quicker they can be treated by fire department medical personnel for smoke inhalation, burns, and other injuries related to fire.  Thus, the response of the ladder truck other fire suppression companies assigned to respond to a structure fire is critical to initiating safe and effective fire suppression and rescue operations.  Any delay in response translates directly into a proportional increase in the expected loss of life and property.

 

To ensure the rapid extrication of fire victims, NFPA 1710 states that “Fire companies whose primary functions are to perform the variety of services associated with truck work, such as forcible entry, ventilation, search and rescue, aerial operations for water delivery and rescue, utility control, illumination, overhaul and salvage work… shall [also] be staffed with a minimum of four on-duty personnel.”[1] 

 

Currently, the only staffed ladder truck maintained by the fire department is only staffed with two fire fighters.  On the scene of a fire, the operator of the ladder must remain with the apparatus to safely operate the aerial device, thus leaving a crew of only one from this company to support the attack or complete search and rescue activities. The following figures represent the capabilities of the 4 man and 2 man companies respectively. As is demonstrated a 2 man company has a 0% efficiency rating because no company level task can be performed without additional personnel supplemented from other units. This causes a delay not only in response time, as other units often must respond from greater distances, but also decreases fireground safety by reducing accountability.

 



“Ladder Company Fireground Operations when Staffed with Four Firefighters”

 

When staffed with four firefighters, in compliance with industry standards, firefighters are 79% effective in ventilating the structure, 90.3% effective in accomplishing victim search and rescue, and 80.2% effective in checking for exposures and fire extension. With only 2 firefighters, the unit cannot operate as a company and requires merging of crews at the scene to complete any functions.

 

Table 1:

“Ladder Company Efficiency: 3 Firefighters vs. 4 Firefighters” [2]

Number of Firefighters

Roof

Ventilation

Search &

Rescue

Check Exposures for

Fire Extension

5  Firefighters

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

4  Firefighters

79.0%

90.3%

80.2%

3  Firefighters

0.0%

79.6%

0.0%

2 Firefighters

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%


 


“Ladder Company Fireground Operations when Staffed with Two Firefighters”


 

For these reasons, it is the recommendation of this study that the Mansfield Fire Department ensure the safe and effective delivery of emergency services by staffing all fire suppression apparatus on a consistent basis with at least four multi-role fire fighters cross-trained as emergency medical providers.

 



[1] NFPA 1710, Section 5.2.3.2 and 5.2.3.2.1

[2] McManis Associates and John T. O’Hagan & Associates, Dallas Fire Department Staffing Level Study, (June 1984); pp. 1-2 and II-1 through II-7.


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