In the fire service we’ve seen huge improvements in the PPE, heads-up SCBA, handheld thermal imaging cameras and tactics. But, the ability to bring to bear muscular torque is still required to get the job done. And while the US Navy might have their first prototype robot, it’s going to be a long horizon until machines replace firefighters.
So, while automation continues to amaze, it does not excuse an inability to carry heavy objects up stairs and ladders and effect the rescue and removal of victims. These planned for events are the touchstone of our job description and drills. The time to find out that you’re not able to get the firefighters to the floor below the fire, hookup to the riser and stretch a line to extinguish the blaze is not during the real deal.
We drill for everything; ropes and knots, hose deployment, high angle rescue, collapse, confined space, ventilation, etc. But, how realistic are these drills? Do they have fidelity to the actual emergency? The kind of effort it really takes to haul out an adult victim, or the grossly overweight casualty?
Now in it’s 25th year, the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge is a microcosm of the essential functions of structural fire suppression. While ESPN has labeled it “The Toughest Two Minutes in Sports,” the better question is, can you do this in any amount of time? Can you complete the tasks before you exhaust your Air-Pak?
There’s no better proving ground than the Challenge to test you against what might be reasonably expected at the scene of a working fire. I’m not advocating that everyone has to finish the Challenge is some incredibly short period of time. But everyone should be able to finish on your feet. And, the only way you’re going to know for sure is “Just Do It™.”