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New Quint Class Offered June 29, 2014

Posted by Jim Silvernail in Combat Ready for Suburbia.
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I just had the opportunity to deliver a new offering this week, “Fire Ground Decision Making for Quint Operations.”  For the past four years I have been delivering a variation of presentations under the “Suburban Fire Tactics” theme at various regional and national events.  I have been preparing and awaiting for this delivery since the inception of the SFT.  As an officer in a Quint system for the past 11 years, I have been documenting and assessing different operational needs and deficiencies in relation to this concept in the suburban setting. 

This past week 6/23-25/14, this delivery, including practical evolutions,  was put to the test over a 3 day period in a suburban Chicago setting.  The Addison Fire Department ( in the northwest suburbs) had recently purchased three new 75′ Quints to replace their compliment of engines and a tower ladder.  This class was designed to create an interactive discussion and workshop to discover the new challenges and necessary adaptations which this system would bring to this agency.

Most agencies realize that there is more involved than simply making a trip to an apparatus manufacturer and purchasing a whole new type of apparatus.  Replacing a ladder and engine company with a Quint requires a new operational game plan.  There are many intangibles which must be understood.   The efficiency desired through the quint system will require adoption of operational guidelines, specific to agency capability and needs, in order to achieve effectiveness.  Often, sacrifices are experienced in the form of: reduced booster tank size, reduced hose lengths and loads, compartment capacity, and reduced aerial length.  Operational guidelines must be implemented which take these changes into account.  Examples can include: the need to forward lay and the need to explore new procedures for commercial and extended stretches.

The delivery focuses on the achievement of the ultimate goal, the coordinated fire attack.  It does not simply explain the operations of the specific fire apparatus.  The apparatus manufacturer could achieve this task.  The elements of a safe, effective and efficient fire ground are broken down to the individual fire ground functions and implemented according to function prioritization, agency capabilities and response area characteristics.  Consistency will be achieved through the development of effective Standard Operating Procedures.  All challenges are tested through a final practical evolution.



Suburban Fire Tactics is hitting the road in June….Who is next? May 21, 2014

Posted by Jim Silvernail in Combat Ready for Suburbia.
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Suburban Fire Tactics is hitting the road in June. Our first stop is the state of the “Land of 10,000″ Lakes, Minnesota on June 12-14 for their annual MSFDA Conference. Then we will be headed to the suburbs of Chicago, Addison F.D. on June 23-25, to discuss Quints and decision making. Great way to kick off Summer!

Who is next? If you are interested in any of the SFT deliveries, please give me a shout.

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FDIC 2014 Recap April 13, 2014

Posted by Jim Silvernail in Combat Ready for Suburbia.
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FDIC 2014 is officially in the books.  Another fantastic year of inspiration and learning.  Also another fantastic year for Suburban Fire Tactics.  The message is getting bigger and stronger every year.  I have to truly thank Fire Engineering, PennWell, Bobby Halton, Diane Rothschild, and the entire cast at Fire Engineering Books and Videos.  I am so fortunate to have SFT under this brand with so many talented people.  THANK YOU!

The Suburban Tactics classes saw over 150 participants this year.   The workshop session of “Company Officer Development: Fire Ground Decision Making for Suburban Company Officers” had phenomenal discussions, problem solving, and an unbelievable participation into FIRE FIGHTING.

The Classroom Session saw a packed room in a large classroom.  I was overwhelmed by the interest level in this subject matter.  My only complaint is that I truly can’t get the full participation level in this allotted time.  This subject matter is so unique to all participants, that I love to share their challenges and tactical decision making.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to all who gave up their time to come see my deliveries.  It means absolutely the world to me and is very humbling.

I was also able to share some very quality time over at the bookstore/author’s booth with some of my very favorite people and mentors.  This year I was slotted with the great Mike Ciampo.  I took his ladders class almost 12 years ago.  What an honor.

The opening ceremony was unbelievable.  Erich Roden and Bobby Halton absolutely lifted participants to all time highs and made you remember what loyalty and service is all about.

Of course, I also enjoyed doing the FE Blog and Talk show “Small Town Tactics and Tools” with Chris Willis.  We were able to chat and discuss how size up begins sooner than the bell.  It begins by looking in the mirror with an honest assessment.

Finally, I can’t end this entry without talking about the brotherhood.  I love the opportunities to meet and reunite with so many industry professionals and true brothers at FDIC.  I am so glad that I was able to go to the Fools Bash, the dinner with Tommie Grigg/Cindy Huse (FE Magazine and FE Books and Videos), lunch with Cindy Huse and her cast of characters, breakfast with my friends PJ Norwood and Jason Hoevelmann, and the FE Books and Videos Author’s Dinner.  I know I am missing something.  But it isn’t just the formal events, its the small chance encounters and quick conversations with brothers from all over the country.


I am starting to get requests to bring SFT on the road this year and am beginning to finalize the dates.  If you have interest in having your own/customized conversations about suburban challenges, tactics, quints, truck-less agencies, limited resources, limited staffing dilemmas, creating SOPs, company officer decision making, rural challenges, automatic/mutual aid, PLEASE contact me so we can set it up (not limited to the list).



FDIC 2014 April 4, 2014

Posted by Jim Silvernail in Combat Ready for Suburbia.
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FDIC 2014

It is that time of year again! Let the learning and brotherhood commence!

FDIC 2014 March 30, 2014

Posted by Jim Silvernail in Combat Ready for Suburbia.
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FDIC 2014 is almost a week away!

Suburban Fire Tactics 2014 November 22, 2013

Posted by Jim Silvernail in Combat Ready for Suburbia.
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This is a small sample of “Company Officer Development: Fire Ground Decision Making for Suburban Company Officer.” In reality this material will benefit all Non-Urban Company Officers and Officer hopefuls. This course is being presented at FDIC 2014

Check out Suburban Fire Tactics on the PJ Norwood Show November 22, 2013

Posted by Jim Silvernail in Combat Ready for Suburbia.
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I have the privilege of being on the PJ Norwood SHow with PJ and Justin on Nov 27, 7:30 est.

talk radio

A New Collaboration June 3, 2013

Posted by Jim Silvernail in Combat Ready for Suburbia.

I’m thankful to become the newest contributing author for Fire Ops Online. My newest article, Effective vs. Efficient, A Lesson in Creative Fire Tactics is now available through Frank Viscuso’s, my friend and fellow author, website. I’m proud of this outstanding opportunity that Frank has extended to me.

Effective vs. Efficient: A lesson in Creative Fire Tactics

There is absolutely no doubt that there is an epidemic in America. Fire Departments across the nation have braced for budgetary downfalls and major cutbacks from city hall. Fire Chiefs and Commissioners have been forced to tighten the bottom line and even cut companies.

One option we have in suburban America is to use and embrace of the elements of the “quint” concept. The quint concept and partial quint concept have been widely accepted in this demographic due to the lack of adequate resources, lower fire volumes and the pursuit of efficiency. The use of the quint concept system; however, is not limited to suburban application. In fact, more urban agencies are turning to the concept to attempt to solve the problems of budgetary downfalls. Is this trend for everyone?

This subject may be controversial; however, my intent is not to suggest or dictate a better system for your agency. My intent is to stimulate your thought process and to facilitate the assessment of your agency’s needs in relation to tactics and strategies. This is not a time to remain close-minded and to relax with tradition. Those who rest on tradition and history have no future.

Read the rest of this article on Fire Ops Online.

FDIC PennWell Author’s Dinner May 4, 2013

Posted by Jim Silvernail in Combat Ready for Suburbia.
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FDIC PennWell Author's Dinner

What a fantastic group of professionals!

Flipping the Coin: Fireground Decision Making for Company Officers April 15, 2013

Posted by Jim Silvernail in Combat Ready for Suburbia, Size Up.
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This article originally appeared on FireEngineering.com, 04/03/2013.

By James L. Silvernail

SFT-FDIC-CoinA few years ago I was privileged to take a truck company class from a prominent truck company author from the West Coast whom I greatly respect. During his lecture he briefly discussed the quint concept and how he did not fully understand it. He also described how being a quint officer was very complicated, requiring years of experience to understand how to implement tactics that achieve a coordinated fire attack without dedicated truck companies. The joke was, “if you are a quint company officer, do you flip a coin upon arrival to determine if you are an engine or truck company?”

I have been an officer in a “modified-quint” concept system for approximately ten years. Honestly, there are times when the decision to commit to engine or truck work is not complicated. However, there are times when this system is tested and it can be a challenge. Without dedicated truck companies, many functions that are essential for a coordinated fire attack can be easily missed or not performed in a timely manner. Unfortunately, this is reality for many of us in suburban America, as well as many urban areas that are turning to this concept in attempt to cut budgets and gain an efficient, economical advantage.

Please notice that I used the term efficient in the paragraph above as opposed to effective. There is a vast difference between the two meanings in these words. Many leaders and policy makers across the country have turned to the elimination of fire apparatus that does not have the ability to pump water for fire extinguishment, i.e. truck and heavy rescue companies. They have found that it is efficient to combine these functions into one apparatus. Rescue engines have replaced the heavy rescue and 75-foot ladders with pumps have taken the place of nonexistent truck companies. Depending on their function at a fire, these apparatus may be expected to conduct either truck company functions or engine work. On paper, this looks extremely efficient in a fire department budget. But is it effective?

In regard to a coordinated fire attack, there is nothing more effective than a timely, coordinated team effort between engine crews and the functions that facilitate or assist these crews (truck work). In a system where well-trained truck companies and engine companies arrive simultaneously or in close proximity, this is almost a guarantee. Both companies know their duties and commit.

Does this mean that systems without truck companies are ineffective? No, but such setups require greater coordination, training, and experience. Many of us who already work under the conditions of this system understand this. The policymakers who decide to transition to this system need to understand that there is more involved than simply removing apparatus from service. The answer is having effective standard operating guidelines, experienced company officers, and training.


Often, the easiest part of the equation is building customized standard operating guidelines (SOGs) and implementing training. The hard part is finding fire officers with the desired leadership attributes and fireground experience. It is no secret that fire activity has seen a decline in the last decade and fire officers do not experience the same amount of fires that they did in the past. This dilemma will continually challenge our industry. The answer is not straightforward; however, we must build upon the experiences of our predecessors and to commit to increased training.

SOGs must be customized for the individual agency and created in regard to agency capability at the company level. What does this mean? You must understand the individual abilities of each fire company and how many fireground functions they can effective deliver in a timely manner. Often, we fail to effectively complete a function because we try to attempt numerous functions simultaneously with limited resources. Is it practical to attempt to deploy two hoselines, locate a fire, force entry, and ventilate with a single three- or four-person engine company? Good Luck!

When designing SOGs for structure fires, certain principles must be adhered to. Fireground functions must be prioritized and generally assigned to incoming resources/units.


  • Situational awareness and size-up must absolutely be the first action on any emergency situation. This includes building awareness, exposure protection, fire involvement, fire conditions, fire location, victim potential/location, extra hazards, just to name a few.
  • Rescue always takes precedence over property conservation; however, with limited resources, our main form of rescue may be line deployment (removing the hazard and placing the nozzle between the victims and the fire).
  • Primary line (flow) placement is a high priority: “No other action taken on the fireground saves more lives than the proper size attack line, stretched to the correct location, and placed into service at the proper time.”
  • Placing a line into service requires facilitating (assisting actions), including locating the fire (including opening interior walls, voids, and ceilings), locating victims, forcible entry, and ventilation.

Because placing a line into service can be an intensive undertaking, consider using the 1 +1 principle. This principle means using two crews per hoseline: an engine crew/hose line crew (who is responsible for hoseline deployment and flow) and a facilitating crew with forcible entry tools. The facilitating crew is responsible for fire location (opening up), forcible entry/egress, victim removal, and can assist with the line stretch. This system allows for the hose crew to concentrate all efforts on the hoseline and allows for interior facilitation and safety net (in the need for interior forcible egress).

  • Have a command and safety structure
  • Provide a safety net for all operating companies; including rapid intervention and rehab.
  • Have a backup line and be prepared to place it into service
  • Complete all incomplete truck company functions, such as utility control, throwing ladders, incomplete forcible entry (removing bars on windows and securing secondary egress points), verifying effectiveness of ventilation, and salvage and overhaul.
  • Have the ability to transport/triage all victims (including fire department personnel).

The term generally was used to describe assigning fireground functions to incoming units. That’s because every fire is not the same. “Let the situation dictate the circumstances and actions.” A good fire officer, especially a quint officer, must be flexible and be ready to implement actions which will most impact the fireground. The best example of this decision making is a rescue situation with limited resources. Does the officer elect to defer line placement in lieu of performing a rescue? It is a difficult situation which has many variables and the decision will require experience and training.

Sitting in the front right seat isn’t easy. It requires skill and the ability to make quick decisions which could impact life or death situations.

  • Have a game plan
  • Be flexible and adapt to the situation
  • Have the experience and training to be able to make these decisions

Don’t simply “flip the coin” on arrival. Have a game plan and know your agency’s SOGs, but also don’t be afraid to deviate when the situation dictates. Know what functions are necessary to impact the operation and commit to implementation.


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