The Golden Rule: Firefighting Tactics for Sprinklered Buildings

hose-line and firefighting tactics.

When it comes to firefighting tactics, the golden rule for stretching a hose-line for a structure fire is, never enter the fire area without a charged hose line. This is done for one reason, firefighter safety. The line provides firefighters with a valuable level of protection, in an area that is immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH). The fire service uses this line to protect themselves, make rescues and extinguish fires, in that order.

This does not mean that advancing or stretching a heavy, charged hose-line full of water starts at the front door. There are many times when a dry stretch is acceptable and may provide a significant tactical advantage. As far as firegifhting tactics are concerned, the stretching of hose without water is lighter, easier, faster and may allow the line to be better positioned at the drop point, outside of the IDLH area. The drop point is where the fire attack begins and usually consists of a section of the hose, the nozzle and nozzle operator. This is typically just outside of the structure on a residential or single-story commercial building fire.

Combined System Hose Stretch 

A fire department connection.

When conducting fire operations in multiple level buildings equipped with combined fire sprinkler and standpipe systems, this deployment changes as we now start to rely on building fire protection systems. We need to first determine whether the standpipe portion is automatic or manual while understanding that the fire sprinkler is fully automatic. A combined system just shares a common water supply between the sprinkler and standpipe systems and are designed under separate standards. Automatic standpipe systems automatically provide the pressure and flow required for structural firefighting, while manual wet or dry standpipe systems require the fire service to provide that pressure and flow needed from the fire department connection (FDC).

Firefighting Tactics and the FDC

This is critical in coordinating the hose stretch and understanding when the system needs to be charged from the FDC. If the system is fully automatic and the fire service has the protected stairway to operate from, the line can be dry stretched in the stairway prior to making entrance to the fire floor. The system will automatically provide the needed fire sprinkler/standpipe demand and only requires the system to be supplemented at the FDC. Once the door to the fire floor is opened, we are now engaged in fire attack operations and should already have a fully charged hose line in place prior to making that hallway entrance.

Firefighting Tactics and Manual Wet Standpipes 

A building.

This scenario is a bit different with the combined systems found in mid-rise buildings. The water is only providing the system demand for the automatic fire sprinkler side of the system. In order to utilize the standpipe portion of a midrise combined system, the fire service must provide the required pressure and flow needed for structural firefighting. This is a manual wet standpipe design and is allowed in buildings where the highest occupied floor is less than 75 feet from the level of fire department access. Any attempt at using the standpipe system without supplying it from the FDC will only reduce sprinkler demand and the effectiveness of the sprinkler system in controlling the fire.

While the drop point in a mid-rise building with a combined system has not changed, it does bring us back to the golden rule of not placing firefighters in harm’s way as they attempt to make rescues and extinguish fires. Unlike automatic sprinkler systems, once fire fighters enter a structure with a manual wet standpipe system, they are now without a water supply and deployment of a hose line is not an option for protection until the system is supplied from the FDC.

A fire department hose hooked up to a building.

This system should be charged from the FDC as firefighters enter the building, providing the needed water supply pressure and flow needed for operations and not only when we encounter a hazardous environment. This allows the interior crews the opportunity to properly deploy hose lines and the level of protection intended by the golden rule.

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