First Arriving Network
First Arriving Network

A Commentary That Needs Repeating

Bill “Backstep Firefighter” Carey, in discussing a confined space close call in Indiana, makes an observation that we all need to think about:

It is 2010 and we still have civilians putting on a fireman’s costume and trying to mitigate emergency situations.

Unfortunately if one of these civilians dies, then their death will be investigated, most likely declared having occurred ‘in the line of duty”, and memorialized with a department funeral, flag-draped coffins and tons of electronic condolences on Facebook. A year later NIOSH will release an investigative report and we will read of their department background and errors. We’ll hear their names read aloud at Emmitsburg. Maybe OSHA will fine them.

This is where I have a problem. In the fire service ‘learning disconnect’ how will we get beyond the subculture of acceptable errors and faulty inbred thinking? Maybe it will have to take the first refusal of PSOB benefits for having operated in defiance of convention and common sense. (emphasis added by FossilMedic)

Maybe it will take rethinking our social networking and whether or not such venues as and Near-Miss have desensitized firefighters and failed to alter cultural norms. I don’t believe that is the case, but it should be considered. It certainly merits discussion in a post other than this brief one.

When civilians, and that is what you are when you operate without outside of your required education and guidelines, don the costume maybe they should be punished. Of course you can’t do worse than dead but, if these civilians aren’t concerned about their own lives, maybe they’ll stop and think abut how their actions will affect the benefits intended for their family. If that doesn’t work, let them sell memorial t-shirts.

Original source: “But They’ll Die as ‘Valiant Heros’


This “Tough Love” message rings true for me. In the mid-1980’s I wrote a letter to ISFSI CEO Edward H. McCormack, Jr. after attending my second FDIC conference.

In a stirring evening opening session, Cincinnati firefighters dramatized Paul Harvey’s “Fire and Ice” essay in a theatrical presentation with smoke and dramatic music. On the stage was a silver casket that dominated every presentation made by McCormack and others. I left the conference feeling that they romanticized and glorified dying on the fireground.

I made the same suggestion about consequence for non-compliance when I wrote about Safety Blind Spot last June. 

Mike “FossilMedic” Ward

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