Walking the Talk: Training is an Essential Part of Survival

By Rick Graba,
Everyone Go Home® North Dakota Advocate

The morning of March 24, 2009 both Brooks Martin and I had read a news article about a fire in Lidgerwood, North Dakota. The community of Lidgerwood has a 26 member, all volunteer fire department. The success of this incident and lessons learned and reinforced are a direct result of this fire department’s commitment to the 16 Life Safety Initiatives and the Everyone Go Home® program.

A close friend of ours, Rick Jorgenson, is the training officer for the Lidgerwood Fire Department. Rick’s commitment to firefighter safety and wellbeing is well known throughout North Dakota and that is why he is a Courage to Be Safe® facilitator. Brooks and I sent Rick J. an email inquiring about the fire. What follows are the emails that Rick J. sent to us about the fire. In his most recent email Rick wanted to share with “everyone” about the Mayday they called and why the Courage to Be Safe® program is the link that makes Everyone Go Home®.

Our Correspondence with Rick

March 24th, 2009

We just saw the news about the fire. Is everyone is ok?

Rick G. & Brooks

March 24th, 2009

Rick G. and Brooks,

We are OK. I did have to call a Mayday. We did our first attack into the building. We went in, got about 75 feet and started pushing the fire back. We went in deeper to try and knock it down. We were just about to the back of the building but we reached our “point of no return” and needed to head out. I’m not sure if there were chairs and tables stacked up against a wall that fell, but when we tried to withdraw our hoseline was covered with chairs, tables and I don’t know what else. We couldn’t retreat with the nozzle. The line was caught and we just couldn’t pull it so I called a Mayday. Bo, Warren and I followed the hoseline out through chairs and debris. We got to the door just as Warren’s low air alarm started. He said he was scared enough to make a hole through the brick wall with the TNT tool. Only injuries are that we all have burns on our necks. Not sure how it got that hot so quick. The fire was probably burning in the void spaces between ceiling levels. Thank goodness for training! Without it, I’m not sure the outcome would have been the same. I’m not saying we weren’t a little nervous but we all felt a lot more comfortable having trained on this.

We had 15 departments mutual aid on this call. They were called by our emergency manager.

Our statement to every group before doing anything in an IDLH environment, even overhaul, was “No building is worth a firefighter’s life!”

Courage to Be Safe & Stay Safe Always,
Rick Jorgenson

Rick Jorgenson, earlier in 2009, at the at North Dakota Fire School discusses situational awareness.

Rick Jorgenson, earlier in 2009, at the at North Dakota Fire School discusses situational awareness.






March 31, 2009

Rick G. & Brooks,

I want everyone to know about the Mayday we called last Monday night. When we decided to get out of the building, Warren’s air was at 1100 PSI. Bo’s and my air were at 1400 PSI. It took us a little while to get out of the building. Believe me we were moving as fast as we could. I didn’t know it right away, but when Bo ran into the RIT guys coming to get us, they banged helmets pretty good. That was about 15 feet inside the building. Warren’s low air alarm went off just as we were exiting. He had used approximately 600 PSI to get out of the building. If we wouldn’t have monitored our air supply and waited for the bell, he would have been 100 PSI short. Our retreat went fairly smooth, and we did not have many problems following the line out. If there had been more chairs and debris to go through, it would have taken more air to get out. It all ties together, incident command, risk assessment, advancing the initial attack line, air management, firefighter survival, calling a mayday, situational awareness, RIT, and having the Courage to Be Safe. It’s kind of like a chain, if you miss one link or forget to monitor one part, you may not get a chance to make that mistake again!

Stay Safe,
Rick Jorgenson

April 13th, 2009

Rick & Brooks,

Thanks for the helping get the message out to everyone. What we did should be nothing but standard operating procedure for every department in this country. What it took to do it was training, common sense, and discipline. It was very difficult not to press on to the back door of that bar but we had to be disciplined enough to realize that it wasn’t worth our safety. When every firefighter and department has the tools, training and discipline to make the right decisions, we will get closer to accomplishing the goals of the Everyone Goes Home® program.

Stay Safe and Have the Courage to Be Safe,
Rick Jorgenson

The responses we received from Rick were no surprise to us. That is what happens when a fire department’s leadership and its members truly walk the Courage to Be Safe® so Everyone Goes Home® talk and train like their lives depend on it, because it did!

When planting for a year, plant corn.
When planting for a decade, plant trees.
When planting for life, train and educate people!

Rick Graba, North Dakota Advocate
Brooks Martin, North Dakota, Region VIII Advocate