Saturday, December 31, 2011

Why We Test

To my knowledge, the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge is the only sport in the public safety sector that conducts drug testing. We do this not because it is easy or that we even want to do it. We do it because people who cheat undermine the very ethos of what we’re all about.

Drugs in sport has permeated professional and scholastic ranks for decades. With seemingly so much on the line, people are willing to cut corners or cheat to win. In the Tour d’France, it’s virtually impossible to win without the aid of a pharmacopeia of supplements. One wonders if baseball will ever really recover from the abuses of the past.

In our sport, it’s not money, but the prestige of the fire service that’s at stake. Professional athletes have publicly rejected the notion that they serve in any capacity as a role model. Like it or not, Firefighters are held to a higher standard. People allow us, even command us to enter their premises when they’re not there. We are afforded a level of confidence that’s a sacred bond. And in all but the most infrequent of circumstances we meet their expectations.

In our early years, we tried the voluntary compliance route; i.e., “I affirm by my signature...” Regrettably, that did not work. Testing appears to be the only true remedy. As Ronald Reagan said, “Trust but verify.” A drug might be legally prescribed, but might also be a banned substance for the purposes of sport.

And so, we will at considerable expense continue to test at the World Challenge and other random locations. Presently, we’re revisiting the protocols for sample accessions and the consequences for violation. Again, it is your responsibility to know what you’re taking. Labels on some products can be misleading or downright inaccurate. There are respected brands that have submitted samples for assays and have posted bonds to validate the purity of their products.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hose and Nozzles

This is the first in a series of BlogSpots that will be written in response to the survey that was extended to all of our Challenge Competitors. We greatly appreciate your input and expressions of interest. Please feel free to add your comments and questions.

All-American Hose
Four or five individuals commented on the hose provided by our new sponsor, All-American Hose who joined us on short notice at the end of the 2011 season. The respondents thought that we should have announced that we were changing to another product.

While we welcomed All-American in Fort Pierce through a number of public address announcements, we did not make mention of their arrival on the website.

We were virtually out of attack hose and are overjoyed to have them on board. Yes, this hose is different; we just didn’t know how different. You think that attack line is pretty much a generic product, but we were wrong. The difference between All-American and other brands is that it’s a true 1.75” interior diameter- one of the few products that is as advertised. It’s also a lot tougher than any other product out there.

Over the course of a season, it was not unusual to go through 50+ sections of hose. At ≈$250/section, well, you do the math (it's ≈ $12,500). That's a pretty big line item for a consumable that never fought a fire. We're saving a lot of landfill space by using a product that's "green" in an unintended way: lasting far longer than any competitive product. 

The hose that we used in Myrtle Beach was first placed in service in Fort Pierce. It performed admirably. Admittedly the broom-finished concrete added significantly to the friction that was required to overcome in order to move quickly. That's going to happen no matter whose brand of hose we use. 

What is different about All-American Hose is the fact that it does not kink. Kinking accelerates the demise of the hose because wear-points quickly form and compromise the integrity of the hose. One bright spot is that we may no longer need the protective carpets where the hoses are staged. When we first employed them, our hose degradation was cut in half. 

We’re keeping tabs on the durability of this product and you should look for a major advertising campaign extolling the virtues of All-American. Right now, we’ve accumulated 99,525 dragging feet without a failure. That‘s for 1327 competitors over 9 days of competition. Impressive.

One competitor commented that the blue side target would not fall down. On reviewing the replay, we noted that hitting the oval with the FCC Trademark was never intended to trigger the slide. One must hit the fire target. In the C.A.B. meeting, one of the members remarked that the nozzle does not deliver a straight stream. That is correct; if you don't pull the bale all the way back, a ball cock nozzle will distort the spray pattern because there is not a straight line from the hose to the tip until the ball is fully opened. We place a quarter inch washer in the bore to restrict the volume, thereby reducing the potential for water on the course. 

The fastest competitors can open the nozzle, knock down the target and close it, all within 2 seconds. That burst of water takes less than 1 gallon, and perhaps even less. We maintain a constant pressure of 125 psi (≈3.5 bar) that allows reasonable precision, assuming that the operator aims at the right target and fully opens the bale. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Beating the Grim Reaper

I just came across this study and couldn’t wait to share it with you. The article speaks for itself. Of course, in our crowd, I can see guys still running into their late 90’s!

Men Who Step Lively May Outpace Grim Reaper
Tongue-in-Cheek Study Determines the Reaper’s Walking Speed
By Cari Nierenberg WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD Dec. 15, 2011 --

Older men who walk at least 3 miles an hour need not fear the Reaper. They stay ahead of him and tend to outlive guys who move along at a slower pace, new research reveals. In the study, published in the Christmas issue of the journal British Medical Journal (BMJ), Australian scientists attempted to nail down the Grim Reaper's walking speed. (The usually straitlaced journal loosens up this time of year with offbeat scientific papers like this one.)

 While the Grim Reaper is a fictitious symbol of death, other studies have shown that how fast older people walk helps predict how long they may expect to live. Slower walking speeds in older age have been linked to a greater risk of death, while swifter strides have been associated with a longer life. Older men and women who can pick up the pace are likely healthier and fitter than adults who move more slowly.

So the Concord Hospital research team in Sydney set out to predict the pace of the skeletal figure in the long black robe. By knowing this, they reasoned, they'll find out how fast men need to hoof it to stay out of the Reaper's grasp. To do this, they looked at data from more than 1,700 healthy Australian men who were 70 or older. Roughly half of them were born in Australia, about 20% were Italian, and the rest came from other countries. Each man was asked to walk at their usual pace for about 20 feet. They were clocked twice over this distance with their best time recorded.

During the five-year study, 266 men died. When the researchers looked at the walking speeds of these men, they were able to estimate the pace of the cloak-shrouded Reaper. They suspect he's likely to catch up to those fellows who amble along at about 1.8 miles an hour or less.

"We predict that this is the likely speed at which the Grim Reaper prefers to [walk] under working conditions," write the researchers. Their results also found that older men who could walk faster than 2 miles an hour were 1.23 times less likely to meet up with death. But the men who had the biggest leg up on the Reaper were those with the quickest steps. All 22 of the men who walked at a pace of at least 3 miles an hour were still alive five years later. "The faster speeds are protective against mortality because fast walkers can maintain a safe distance from the Grim Reaper," say the researchers in a news release.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kamloops, Eh?

Not everyone has heard of Kamloops. And I would have attached no special significance to the place had my wife and I not driven through it on the way back from Alaska four years ago.

I even got a sort of strange going over from the Immigration Officer at the Vancouver Airport when he asked me my destination last Tuesday; “Kamloops” I replied. After a considerable pause, he remarked, “...Why?” (This is not to say that I was oblivious to the concept of a team from there, but had not yet met the individuals that comprised that team.)

Actually, they’ve got a great ski resort just a half hour outside of town: Sun Peaks. Shawn Davidson and I spent Wednesday on the slopes and we took video with my iPhone. Shawn was a ski patroller there during his idle youth and hasn’t lost much of his fearless skills. You can check us out on (( He’s the very fast guy.

Thursday, there was a very special presentation of the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge World Championship Trophy in the Kamloops Convention Center (a place with an arena large enough to hold an event).

All the city government department heads and key personnel were present to observe the presentation of the trophy. I made some very complimentary remarks about the dedication and hard work that it takes to come out on top. We had a great buffet lunch following, and I also did a stand-up interview for their local TV station. The piece aired twice and I believe that we’ll be getting a copy.

Later in the afternoon, I visited the number one station and looked at their training course- the hose tower and front apron. The guys in the hall were very complimentary of the TV and were planning to get an AppleTV for next year’s broadcast.

Later that night the team took me out for a great dinner at Earl’s and I spent time talking mostly to Graham Mackenzie. He had completed the survey and provided me with some comments on subjects that I was not aware of. That’s one of the great things about feedback. We can’t think of everything and the competitors have a perspective that is different from our own.

So Kudos to Graham Mackenzie, Don Clarke, Mike Brown, Scott Leslie, Shawn Davidson and Mark Brise for a job well done. This has been a journey of significant perseverance.

So, over the next week or so, I’m going to provide my responses to your feedback. This is the relentless pursuit of perfection, or at least perfection that we can afford!