By: Ryan Rodriquez
When we show up to a structure fire, we know that there are a lot of different variables working against us and our ability to successfully put the fire out with the least amount of loss. One of those variables is what’s known as a “flow path”.
The flow path is the route that air takes when it heads in to feed the fire and the route that the fire, smoke, or heat heads for to leave the structure. What determines the direction and force of this pathway is what will feed the fire and how we as firefighters can control those variables.
The “flow paths” that we can create in our own lives help us stay focused, get to where we want to go, and accomplish the things that we want to accomplish. There are some factors with a flow path that we need to keep in mind when attacking a fire;
● We need to be aware of where the fire is headed and how that might change, as well as how the fire load can add to the intensity of firefighter heat stress.
● We also need to be aware of how additional openings or vent holes can intensify things.
I remember being on a fire early in my career where my Captain got out and immediately started smashing out all the windows to the structure before I could even get the hose out of the bed. I was really confused by this because everything I’d learned in school and in the academy taught me that the more openings we created, the more oxygen we allowed the fire to take in and the quicker it would grow and spread. Now, I’m assuming that this Captain thought he was doing the right thing, but as a result, the fire grew at a rapid pace and ultimately ended up with the structure becoming fully involved.
The value of creating a plan
Thinking back on this incident, I can’t help but think how things would’ve turned out differently had there been a quality plan put into place rather than a “Hulk smash” mentality. If we would have isolated the fire and compartmentalized it limiting its fuel and ability to spread, then attacked it in a controlled manner, things would have most likely ended up very differently.
Those of us in the fire service know how the concept of a flow path can be related to a fire scene as well as an EMS scene, but creating a FIRE flow path for our professional and personal lives can help set us up for success in our goals and relationships.
In the world of psychology, “flow” or a “flow state” is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of an activity. This is where the saying, “time flies when you’re having fun” stems from because when you are in a flow state or “in the zone”, you will lose track of time because all of your focus is geared toward the thing you are doing.
While in flow, we are doing the things that speak to our soul. We are engaged in things that we enjoy and give us a feeling of purpose. The question I’d like to help answer is, “How can I create a flow path so that I can live in a flow state more often?”
The answer to that question is purposeful action.
Think about it, when we’re on a fire scene and we are working toward fire control, we take specific and purposeful action toward creating that condition. We compartmentalize the fire, we ventilate in a specific way that won’t grow the fire but purge and eliminate it from the structure, and we attack the fire directly so that it won’t spread and will ultimately go out.
Creating a flow path for our personal and professional lives encompasses four categories; Fitness, Intellect, Relationships, and Energy. F-I-R-E.
Each of these categories is based on setting goals and taking actionable steps toward those goals. Set a specific goal for each category, then establish a daily primary tactic that will move you toward that objective. Let me run through an example of how each of these categories might look:
Objective: Lose 10lbs of fat in three months
Weekly Primary Tactic: Lose one lb of fat per week
Daily Primary Tactic: 25 minutes of cardio every day
Objective: Enroll in a Bachelor’s degree program
Weekly Primary Tactic: Make a list of degree programs that interest me
Daily Primary Tactic: Research one institution and add it to the list of possible schools
Objective: Strengthen my relationship with my spouse
Weekly Primary Tactic: Go on a date
Daily Primary Tactic: Tell my spouse something I like about them
Objective: Become more spiritual by reading the bible
Weekly Primary Tactic: Read three chapters
Daily Primary Tactic: Read for 40 minutes
The weekly and daily tactics are just enough not to be overwhelming and they can easily fit into your day regardless of your work schedule. The truth of the matter is, you make time for what’s important to you and without a plan, you’re planning to fail.
With burnout and morale issues running rampant among the fire service, don’t live your life by default. Establish a FIRE Flow Path, commit to the weekly and daily tactics that will move you closer to your objectives, and set yourself up for success!
(Visit my website for a free quarterly habit tracker to help you stay accountable at www.ignitedff.com!)
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