Basically, the drill requires the participant to crawl in a particular pattern around a grid made of nine tires without benefit of sight. The sensory benefits of this exercise include:
- Mental mapping: This process starts by seeing the layout of the tires along with any physical characteristics of the ground before restricting vision. Once the drill begins, the participant is forced to link what is being felt by their hands to the image of the space and its characteristics. Senses of hearing and smell can be linked to this mental image as well if there are noises or odors present.
- Linking senses to memory: One variation of the exercise puts a different object in many of the tires. Participants must figure out what the objects are, remember what they are when asked, and even return to the tire containing a specific object if asked. This a fantastic tool for strengthening the link between touch sensors (your hands) and the brain.
- Triangulating: Depending on the specific noises present, participants are encouraged to use two or three different sounds around them to keep their sense of direction.
- Sensory integration: Participants are also encouraged to integrate all of this information together to fill out the mental map they made before they started. Doing this successfully creates a single mental "image" that includes information from all of the senses (except taste - I would discourage that).
Of course the drill teaches many other things that are much more specific to firefighting than most of us need, but the relative simplicity of the drill means that many of us could adapt this drill into a useful exercise. It is still more complex and will take a bit longer than any of the exercises in The 15 Minute Fix: SENSES, but if you have a safe backyard and your knees are good enough to crawl around it (or you have some good knee pads), you could adapt this drill into an effective multi-sense exercise.
Here is how I might go about it:
- First, get a partner. This will keep you safe and improve the effectiveness of the exercise. Kids six or older can be great partners for this exercise - it makes a great game.
- Since you probably don't have nine tires, grab nine grocery bags (paper or plastic - doesn't matter, as long as you can't see though them and they're all the same). Have your partner find nine different objects and put them in the bags.
- Your partner should place the bags in a nine-point grid in your yard. Ideally, your grid is 30'x30' although if your space is limited it can be slightly smaller.
- Decide on a route you will follow, perhaps an "S" or a "G" shape (doing it differently each time you do the exercise). Study your route looking for physical clues in the ground (dirt patch, depression, patch of dandelions, etc.) and listening for auditory clues.
- Go to your starting point, blindfold yourself (sleep masks are an easy way to do this), and try to crawl the route you have decided on, stopping to reach in each bag along the way to identify the object inside.
- Use your senses to keep on track. Try to determine your location by feeling for the physical clues you saw before you started. Try to maintain your sense of direction by listening to where the sounds around you are coming from.
- If you get lost, start over. Safety tip: make sure your partner stops you if you are getting too far away or too near danger (e.g. the street, rose bushes, cliffs, etc.)
- Bonus: Once you have completed your route, keep your blindfold on and have your partner list three of the objects. Return to each of them in order.
- Bonus: Incorporate your sense of smell by placing paper towels doused in various odors in each bag instead of different objects. Identify the smells as you go along your route.
If you like this drill, think it sounds good but can't do it for space or other reasons, or simply want to learn more about being able to feel, hear, smell and taste better, then give The 15 Minute Fix: SENSES a try. Although the Nine Tire Drill is somewhat more complex, takes longer to do, and is best done with a partner, it is similar in approach and nature to the exercises in SENSES.
I learned about this drill through Les Baker's excellent article, "The Nine Tire Drill," that appeared in the August 2014 issue of Fire Engineering magazine. Fire Engineering doesn't rank high on most of our reading lists, but the article is an interesting read.
Thanks also to firefighters everywhere. I have nothing but awe and admiration for the work they do.
Age well my friends!