The FSW Logbook

By: Christopher Brennan

When I first found out I was going to be starting as a full-time firefighter I sat down to have a drink with a friend, fellow Instructor, and mentor, a retired Deputy District Chief of the Chicago Fire Department. He said, “Tim, Keep a journal.” (At the time the Chief thought my name was Tim, which has since become a running joke. When he asked me why I didn’t correct him I said, “Chief, I’m just honored to be having a beer with you, you can call me anything you want.”) I did that intermittently in the form of writing about significant fires and blogging occasionally. In 2009 I finally decided to start keeping a log of the fires I go to every year. It is a great tool.

If you workout seriously you keep a log. You record your sets and reps and weight loads, or you keep track of mileage and time. The idea is to measure progress. The Fire Service Warrior can gain the same kind of advantage from recording the fires and significant incidents he responds to. The FSW Log Book can be a spiral notebook, a binder with loose-leaf sheets, or on a computer. I record my runs on an Excel spreadsheet

My agency responds to an average of 111.5 Structure Fires per year (in the time I’ve worked there). I respond to an average of 25. In those responses I may be on the pipe, I may be driving the Truck, I maybe the Engineer of the Still Engine. The Log book helps me keep track of these experiences and learn from them.

Most of us fulfill multiple roles on any fireground, and change positions from shift to shift, or call to call. How many sets and reps are you getting on the Nozzle? How many as the Engineer? How many as the Outside Vent? If you are shifting assignments regularly keeping a log book gives you something you can reference back to; a tool to remember the lessons and learn from them.

At a minimum record the date, address, construction, and your basic observations. How detailed you are depends on what matters for you. This isn’t for public consumption, it’s your lessons learned. Some folks will need to record more information. I record just some basic memory joggers. Hope this can be one more tool in the toolbox. Cheers!

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