The Purpose

This is a very simple post but one that I am finding is ever more important. Take a look at the picture and what is the first thing that you think of? What do you see? We've all done this drill or scenario and we have all at one point or another felt the anxiety of being "stuck" in a box, tube or tight spot. Some may have had instructors that guided us through and others may have been screamed at they needed to get out or they were going to die in there.

The main purpose of this post is to find out what we are trying to accomplish. It is more than just getting through the prop. We want to emphasize calm and deliberate actions. I like to point out the small things. Calm breathing and think one step ahead. What is at the other end and how should I prepare my next action accordingly? Is there a drop off? Is there a tighter space? I also like to practice getting to my pockets. Whether I actually need to or not, if I get into a position that I would need them, I have practiced that. I will be confident that I can reach my wire cutters in a tight spot. The same with my flash light; can I turn it on? Do I have an extra one I can get to?

Can I reach my radio? Can I reach my PASS device? I like to feel the space I'm in with one hand and arm to determine what the shape of the space I am in. It may just help me with placing my tank. It's not always on the bottom corners. There could be debris or the opening may be wider at the top. Feel the shapes and contours.

I know this sounds simplistic and time consuming. It is! But, if we do it over and over again, we will be better and faster at it. With these drills it's not always about speed. Creating good habits that will be easy to recall in a crisis situation just may save your life.



  • Jason, I have fielded many of th same questions during training and given many of the same answers. It's not about the fact that we would never, or almost never, intentionally crawl into a situation like is depicted but if we have to get out we better be able to do it and slow ourselves down enough to think and remain functional. 
    We recently had a confidence course built inside a semi-trailer at our department. I thought that it would be just more good practice and a chance to brush up on my own personal skills as well as an opportunity to train some newer members. That is until my air supply was kinked off twice in an obstacle like the one in the picture. Talk about panic setting in! Small spaces don't bother me. Being in a small space where I can't get my hands to my mask and having no air does. It was  very real teaching moment to slow down, think through the problem and come up with a solution, quickly. Eventually I jammed the mask-mounted regulator against the floor of the tunnel and pulled backwards, breaking the seal of my mask and enabling me to get a gulp of air. I was able to keep moving and complete the course.
    After the course was completed some other members said they had something similar happen and the only answer we came up with was that the second-stage hose somehow became kinked to the point that it completely stopped the air flow. An important lesson was learned and something to keep in the back of our heads.
    So while the actual scenario and drill may indeed not be something we would normally enter into it doesn''t mean that the skills that need to be performed during aren't important or that new lessons can't be learned.
    Good post to start some thinking going.

    • dc802 says:

      Thanks for the comments and your advice to the forum. Hope your well and please contribute anytime. Stay safe Brother, Jason.

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Jason Hoevelmann

Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal with the Sullivan Fire Protection District, a combination department, and a career firefighter/paramedic with the Florissant Valley Fire Protection District in North St. Louis County.
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Great read Jason. I liken this issue to the recent unfortunate events in Kentucky in which a firefighter was killed and another, his mother, seriously injured when struck at the scene of a car fire. The response to the tragedy was for the fire department to immediately institute a complete shut-down policy of any incident…
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Well written Jason; nice job. Bill Carey
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Jason; Some good information the fire service is very dynamic and always changing. thanks for the article will share with the fire department officers for "food for thought" and some insight information..
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