Access & Egress

“Throw ladders until you run out of them or window”
Has this battle cry helped or hurt the fire service?
Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe we, the fire service, need to throw more ladders at fire scenes. But I think we need a better focus. I believe we are coming to a point in the fire service where departments are choosing simple sounding, generalized tactics over the actual training of their members. Firefighters do not get to decide any part of their operations based on conditions because the have to check all the boxes required by their chain of command.
Boston FD is frequently looked to for the standard in laddering a fire building. But sometimes there are very few ground ladders pulled at a structure fire. Why is that? Because honestly, throwing large numbers of ground ladders isn’t the best use of time at every structure fire.
Yes, I know it’s blasphemy to say, but let’s look at why.
What ARE the reasons ground ladders should be throw thrown? Mostly it comes down to access and egress, creating ways to get in and out. More specifically ground ladders are thrown for:
Rescues; Saving people from imminent danger
Removals; Saving people who are inconvenienced and may become in danger
Advancing lines; Taking a short cut to an upper floor
Ventilation; From or with the ladder
RIT; Support and prevent the need for RIT operations
Egress; increases the routes for firefighters to leave
Other; Non fire and/or using a ladder when another tool would work just as well
We can expand this list and get more detailed but that’s not the purpose of this article. In fact I’m going to go the other way and condense it; Access and Egress
Access; providing ways for Fire Fighters to get into places above and below grade.
Egress; providing ways for firefighters and civilians to leave places above and below grade