The Basics: What does it mean to you?

Often times firefighters will wonder why during an advanced topic such as rappelling they are struggling with rigging and rope work in general. The answer to the question is because during Fire I they choose to not work until they can’t get their basic knots wrong. When you see an engine company who arrives first but is not the first line in the door it is because there is a lack of Basic skills training to deploy the line. The point I’m trying to make is no matter who you are if you have not mastered the basics you will not succeed when called upon to do advanced operations.  Firefighters to often believe after finishing fire school they have mastered the basics; I can not even began to tell you brothers and sisters with less than ten years on the job that are not constantly drilling on the basics how you are doing yourself a disservice.  I use the ten year mark because you have had a decade of time to practice until you can’t get it wrong. There are some who will read this that don’t fill the bill, but for the most part everybody believes basics are for the rookie. I challenge you to stop hiding behind what you feel is seniority and get up and do some more drilling on the basics.


  • Damn Yankee says:

    Ah great points. Man, I remember my first Captain talking about how “this department was going to hell in a handbasket…” because we were so involved in all the high speed crap and trying too hard to do too much (Jacks of All Trades) that we were leaving the basics behind. And sadly, he was right.
    It’s no excuse. I understand it is up to me to now make the extra time, for these skill drills and evolutions. But if your department doesn’t put much weight into Basics it’s not easy.

  • Nate Q. says:

    The crew was just talking about this the other day…regarding the abundant sense of entitlement that seems to be becoming more and more popular. I love your point about practicing until you can’t get it wrong. It seems all of us should be taking those words to heart. I’m sure everyone in our profession can agree that in our field, failure is not an option, but how many of us take that responsibility seriously? I like the analogy of a professional sports team. They have regular practices, training camps, etc., where they are constantly working on the fundamentals, among other things, in pursuit of that perfect game. Thanks for kicking us in the pants.

    Remember two things:

    -Don’t be a 2/20 (talk like you’ve got 20 in when, when you’ve only been here 2 years.

    -Seniority doesn’t automatically make you an expert…you could’ve been making the same mistakes for 20 years.

  • Bill Carey says:

    The “basics” that everyone defaults to have unfortunately become muddied in our present day and age. Constantly having to adapt to various inside and outside influences, departments are doing more with less as well as eagerly taking on more in order to safeguard their operations (budget justifications).

    If we take away all the variables, even the ones we create ourselves, the basics are simply:

    Stretching hose and applying water.
    Throwing ladders and ventilating.
    Providing first aid.

    Everything else comes about after we look at the situation at hand, our own capabilities and limitations, and what we can afford (monetarily) to do, regularly. It would be good for some departments to stop and think ‘what would we focus on if we had to start all over again from the ground up?’

    The education, character and attitude of the members will then allow the department to build upon the three basics above. It is much like baseball; don’t bother trying to turn the double play if you can’t field grounders.

    Bill Carey

  • anchorpoint1 says:

    I’ll save my angry rant for flashover Friday. I love the salty new guys. And I love the firehouse quarterback. One knows everything based on that one car fire and the academy. The other knows everything AFTER you’re done but won’t say anything to help during the incident.
    Whenever I’m confronted with an issue that doesn’t have a readily available answer I always fall back on the basics. “Is this a technical rescue or is it just an access problem” “Can this all be solved by killing the power, or waiting for it to burn out?” I always say am I it?
    Keep It Simple Stupid. As simple as you can, which usually turns into a basic skills evolution.
    This was supposed to be short. Stay Safe

  • drillmaster2 says:

    Two words come to mind. COMMON SENSE! seems to be harder and harder to find everyday.

  • Awesome comments from the gallery! I couldn’t agree more with the comments that have provided. Maybe we (as “salty dogs”) don’t realize the basics apply to us. Do the “basics” care if we have a decade or two under our belt? I think not.

    The problem with following this site is you have to think. Am I doing the right thing as a FF/Officer? Am I doing my job safely and looking out for my fellow FF’s?? When are ya’ll at this site going to give us a break? I hope your answer is, “Never!”.

    As a state fire academy instructor, I have to ask: are instructors providing the appropriate oversight and evaluation for candidates in basic firefighter training courses? Are we (instructors) overlooking basic mistakes candidates are making? If we, as instructors, do these things, we make the company officers (and departments) life miserable.

    Not everyone is qualified to wear the badge or helmet.

  • drillmaster2 says:

    Freddie, my answer is never! With coming up through the ranks comes a ton of resposibility. In my mind, if you want to step up then not only accept the responsibility, expand on it everyday. This site is a place to go to grab a drill and expand the knowledge and knock the dust of the basics we must be proficient at every tour, sorry bout that Fire Student1, needed to put that up and out there Brother! Freddie, I agree, not everyone is cut out to wear the badge or helmet.

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