A what?  A tetrahedron is a 4 sided triangle.  It is a three-dimensional triangle with the fourth side as the base.  

We use a tetrahedron as a model to demonstrate three sides are the elements, while the fourth side is the dynamic that interconnects them.  

I like tetrahedrons - they can be used to describe many things which seemly get out of control, like backdrafts. PTSD is an emotional backdraft... | Jeffrey Hosick

Source: Wikipedia

The fire service uses a tetrahedron to describe fire.  Fire has three elements:

  • OXYGEN
  • HEAT
  • FUEL

The fourth element is IGNITION which starts the chain reaction between the elements.  

Fire happens in an internal combustion engine.  Fuel, air and heat are present, but without the spark from the spark plug, nothing happens.  

Extinguishing a fire is as simple as stopping the interaction.  Building a fire is as simple as starting the interaction.  

The same simple principles for fire exist whether you are building one in a wood stove for heat or extinguishing a burning house.  

Well, simple in concept. There are times we only see that the fire is not burning. A backdraft is the perfect example. Backdrafts occur when the everything is in place to create a fire, except for oxygen.

We see smoke; we see the fire is not burning. If we look to the tetrahedron, we recognize the fire is not burning because it’s missing an element – oxygen. If we don’t rely on experience and knowledge, if we use only our eyes, we could think there is no fire.

In a backdraft, the heat builds up. To look inside, we’d see all the fuel is still in place. Furniture, tables, pictures, papers look normal.  If we approach it, add a source of oxygen by breaking a window or opening a door, we’d hear the sound of the fire sucking in air as if breathing in through a straw, or see cracks of smoke puffing out, then being sucked back in. Then it explodes as it breathes out and everything in the room lights on fire at the same time.  

I like Tetrahedrons – as a model as it can be used to describe many things which seemly get out of control, or need to be built.  

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is an emotional, mental and spiritual backdraft.  Critical incident stress and normal reactions to abnormal situations build the heat. Then we fuel it with depression (numbing out) and anxiety (focusing on threats and potential threats) until it supersedes coping mechanisms.  Unawares, we push on until a crack sucks air in and we explode into pieces.

As I begin to blog, write ebooks and design e-courses, my intention is to use models such as tetrahedrons to help my first responder brothers and sisters, whether they’re fire, police, military, prison guards, chaplains, nurses, child protection workers, as well as their partners, children, and friends, recognize the dangers of personal backdrafts, avert devastating personal explosions. 

Please share the articles, ebooks and videos forward. Comment, ask questions, disagree – I am here to engage in helpful discussions and listen to experiences. I await grace to extinguish the burn and help us recover as a phoenix.

Jeffrey Hosick | Veteran Firefighter, Chaplain, Therapist and Speaker