FDNY Firefighters for a Day
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Posted by: Jesus Diaz
On Friday September 30th, on Randall's Island at the FDNY Training Center (fondly referred to as "The Rock" in a nod to Alcatraz), the FDNY Foundation hosted a leadership experience for over 50 corporate employees unlike anything we've ever experienced. In the true spirit of adult learning, traditional in-classroom training activities like role plays and PowerPoint presentations were replaced with hands-on firefighting drills using the same equipment new recruits ("Probies") use in their training.
Employees from about 10 organizations including Google, the New York Stock Exchange, and PNB Paribas were grouped into teams that went through 8 activities, called "Evolutions" together. The teams competed to win the coveted mounted Halligan (a more complex crowbar). The ATD NY team had the two of us, a woman from the Stock Exchange, and two employees from the Boston Consulting Group.
After a warm welcome from Lt. Cacciola in the cafeteria, we were given our gear which included standard issue helmets, pants, jackets and gloves. Our FDNY instructor, Lt. Christine then took us to our first evolution: Forcible Entry Demonstration/Practical. Communication and teamwork is critical here because one team member holds a Halligan to pry open a locked door while another team member pounds the Halligan from behind when he/she hears "Hit". Christine told us communications breakdowns in the past have led to broken wrists ‰ÛÒ luckily we pried open that door unscathed.
Next up was the "Hose Advancement and Extinguishment" Evolution where a 30 pound compressed air tank was placed on our backs and we were shown how to activate the air mask placed over our mouths. We hiked up 4 flights of stairs in full gear and were put in position along a fire hose in a dark room with a fire in front of and above us. We learned not only the proper way to fight the fire with a hose, but more importantly, the necessity of teamwork and support to manage the hose. One person must lean behind the lead hose operator to help take the pressure off the force of the hose that pushes back on that lead. The other team members are staggered to keep the line unkinked and to take pressure off. Fire, water, heavy equipment, face mask, smoke ‰ÛÒ lots to contend with but we all took turns and successfully put out the blaze. It was a very authentic firefighter experience.
By far the most challenging activity of the day was built on the skills learned in the "Hose Advancement" Evolution. This one was the "Unconscious Firefighter Removal". We were stationed at a "deli" that was on fire with a firefighter down inside. We were to follow a rope to him and bring him out on a sked (like a stretcher). In advance we planned our positions: two of us were to take the feet and two the head of the sked. One would be the team leader who would shout commands and lead us with a flashlight. When we entered the deli we instantly had to get down our knees because of the intense heat and smoke. You could barely see in front of you and we followed the rope in single file. You had to hold onto the person in front of you to stay with the group. At one point, one of us lost touch with the one in front and panicked - "did the guy in front leave the rope? Where are they?" But we stayed with the rope and quickly caught up with our team member. It was scary, and these situations really do happen. We didn't see the down firefighter until we were on top of him. Then we turned around, got in position, and had to drag the heavy load out of the building. Suddenly you'd come to a sharp turn or tight doorway and had to quickly adjust. Finally we saw the light at the end of the hall and successfully rescued our team mate. The pros stationed outside said we had the fastest time on that Evolution. Again no one person can operate alone. Each person needs the team and the team needs each person, especially in quick decision situations.
Other Evolutions included a Vehicle Extrication using the 75 pounds Hurst Jaws of Death to cut a car door off and peel back the roof, putting out a car fire, and a Subway Victim Removal. For the latter, the FDNY has an actual subway car on tracks alongside a platform. We had to crawl between the subway card and the underside of the platform to avoid the "live" sections of the train coming from the third rail.
Another favorite Evolution: the Roof Rope Rescue. We climbed to the roof of a 4-story building and took turns having a rope secured around us. We had to position ourselves on the wall of the roof and put complete trust in the pros as we let go and were lowered down 4 stories. We didn't look down!
Over lunch Chief Mooney did a leadership presentation and spoke about the qualities that make a great firefighter. We also heard from the Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano who talked with pride and humility about the greatest firefighters in the world. The leadership qualities of a successful firefighter relate to the same traits required to be successful leaders in corporate life including:
- Forward looking
At the end of the day the entire room was asked to follow Lt. Critsimilios and he took us to a large room with a wall of photos ‰ÛÒ it was of the over 300 firefighters killed on 9/11. "Every picture tells a story" he would say each time he told us about one of the men in the pictures.
Although the mounted Halligan went to the Google team we walked away with an experience none of us will ever forget, a new perspective on the qualities of leadership, and an even stronger level of respect for the firefighters of New York. Anyone interested in participating in this amazing experience should contact:
9 MetroTech Center
Brooklyn, New York 11201