The most overlooked and underappreciated resource on the emergency scene is the company chauffeur. Whether they are called the MPO, FEO, Driver, Engineer, or Chauffeur, the role they fill is critical to a positive incident outcome.
A few years back while sitting down at the kitchen table of our Pearl Street station, a statement made by the off going MPO of Engine 21 caught me off guard. He stated, “I hate driving, after the first two or three minutes at a job there is nothing to do; after you get water to the crew its boring as hell”. I will admit, I was a little awe struck by what I heard and it took a minute or two to collect my thoughts and respond. I took a sip of my coffee, looked this veteran firefighter square in the eyes and said, “I couldn't disagree with you more”. I went on to enumerate all of the things I do on a fire scene beyond getting water to the first line; I look to secure my own water source if we didn’t lay in, try to complete a 360 if the company officer couldn’t, and use our 14-foot roof and 24-foot extension ladder for emergency egress points if crews are operating above grade. As the incident develops I look to support my crew. I can also lay out spare bottles on a tarp, put out drinking water/set up an ad-hoc rehab area, assist other MPO’s so long as I am not distracted from my primary responsibilities. In other words, I am hustling the entire time. I don't think I convinced the other MPO of the true nature of our role, but at least I got it off my chest.
Currently in my role as training officer, I have the awesome responsibility to ensure every MPO in my department never feels for one moment, his or her role is “boring”. I have developed many company level drills to reinforce the skill set of the aggressive and motivated MPO. The Engine Company Chauffeur Drill was one of my first, and still one of my favorites. It’s easy to conduct and the skills it refreshes are critically valuable on the fire scene. Remember, we train as we fight so we fight as we were trained!
Engine Company Chauffeur Drill
- 2-story structure of any kind, preferably with windows. Your station, a drill tower or hose tower will work great. An acquired structure is even better.
- Department Pumper/Engine; Quint; Squad
- Hydrant or simulated hydrant location
Time to allot for drill:
- 15 minutes for prep
- 15 minutes per member
- The MPO should, at least, be wearing a helmet and gloves. I usually have them wear bunker pants as well.
- At no time should the MPO run; a fast walk with purpose is more efficient and of course safer.
- During ladder deployment and setting, a spotter shall be employed. He or she will be ready to assist the MPO if control of the ground ladder may be lost or a dangerous situation is created.
Identify for all members where the pumper will park at the “incident”. Explain that the following tasks shall be completed by each member after stopping the pumper and setting the brake.
1. Engage Pump
2. Set wheel chocks
3. Assist with flaking out last 100-feet of attack line (I have used 100 feet of our attack hose dumped in a pile next to the passenger side pump panel, connected to a discharge and placed a nozzle on the end). The MPO shall un-foul the hose line.
4. The MPO shall charge the hose line.
5. The MPO shall hand jack 200-feet of supply line to the hydrant or simulated hydrant. (If you have a functional hydrant to use, you can have the MPO make up the hydrant and charge the LDH.)
6. If using a functional hydrant for step 5, switch over from tank to hydrant water.
7. Perform a 360 or as much of one as topography allows.
8. Deploy the 14-foot roof ladder to the B or C side 2nd floor window.
9. Deploy the 24-foot extension ladder to the A side 2nd floor window.
Once the second ladder is set, the drill is complete. If you wish, timing the drill, and having friendly competition can be fun and a great motivator.
You may add or subtract tasks as you see fit and as you wish to tailor the drill to your companies/departments needs.