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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 http://www.firefighterclosecalls.com/home.phpFirefighterCloseCalls and http://www.firefighternearmiss.com/Firefighter 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’

TOUGH LODD LOVE

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

Comments - Add Yours

  • Troy

    Firefighters are not taught consequences on the fireground. We are taught the mechanics of safe procedures (what and how), but not the operational application of those procedures (why, when and when not).

    We do not study past bad outcomes, let alone focus on preventing a recurrence. In some cases, the opportunity for learning does not seem to present itself until something happens very close to home; it is not enough that it happened to someone 1,000 miles away. When something bad happens, we often are reminded – almost with fateful acceptance – that 'firefighting is dangerous'.

    Perhaps, rather than creating additional consequences, we can focus on learning the ones we have already endured.

  • Troy

    Firefighters are not taught consequences on the fireground. We are taught the mechanics of safe procedures (what and how), but not the operational application of those procedures (why, when and when not).

    We do not study past bad outcomes, let alone focus on preventing a recurrence. In some cases, the opportunity for learning does not seem to present itself until something happens very close to home; it is not enough that it happened to someone 1,000 miles away. When something bad happens, we often are reminded – almost with fateful acceptance – that 'firefighting is dangerous'.

    Perhaps, rather than creating additional consequences, we can focus on learning the ones we have already endured.

  • http://www.firegeezer.com Mike "FossilMedic" Ward

    Hi Troy,

    Thanks for the comment.

    I agree that distance dulls the impact of a fatal or serious injury.

    But, after years of significant effort to decrease LODD deaths we still have brothers and sisters not wearing seat belts, not using full PPE in hazardous environment and, in the Indiana incident, attempting to provide service without appropriate training.

  • http://www.firegeezer.com Mike "FossilMedic" Ward

    Hi Troy,

    Thanks for the comment.

    I agree that distance dulls the impact of a fatal or serious injury.

    But, after years of significant effort to decrease LODD deaths we still have brothers and sisters not wearing seat belts, not using full PPE in hazardous environment and, in the Indiana incident, attempting to provide service without appropriate training.

  • Troy

    Are we sure that those efforts have not made a difference? The numbers have not gone down as we would like, but they have not gone up either, even while fires are becoming more dangerous. Many departments have stepped-up and made some positive changes. Some never will – until they experience a LODD. Even then, it may be chalked up to 'firefighting is dangerous'.

    Is it lack of common sense, or the desire to do something coupled with a lack of knowledge? I think it is mostly the latter, and that is something we can try to fix. I do not believe it will be fixed by denying PSOB's any more than denying workman's comp claims would reduce firefighting injuries.

    Our firefighting training focuses only on teaching the basics. Firefighter I and II are basic firefighting. Fire Officer I and II are basic management. Fire Officer II is basic chief officer management.

    Where is the curriculum for fire behavior, reading smoke, flashover and backdraft? Where is the national curriculum on risk management? It is barely mentioned in IFSTA Fire Officer I, II or III or in the 16-hour NFA Incident Safety Officer class.

    We are not training our firefighters to succeed by only teaching the basics. I guess that used to work because there were 20-year veterans in the department that could fill in these gaps with the new firefighters on-the-job. Most volunteer departments and many of the newer career departments do not have this person, so the knowledge gaps remain.

    Thanks!

  • http://legeros.com/blog Legeros

    A report on a North Carolina duty death, and the medical fitness component, gets me thinking about Mike's posting here. How should rural and really rural departments treat medical fitness, safety initiatives, and such? Obviously with equal emphasis and importance. But what about resource limitations. When the pool of people is smaller or grossly smaller, what's the role of, say, medical fitness? Do you developer lower-impact operational tactics? Do you try your hardest to safely “use what you have?” etc.

  • http://legeros.com/blog Legeros

    A report on a North Carolina duty death, and the medical fitness component, gets me thinking about Mike's posting here. How should rural and really rural departments treat medical fitness, safety initiatives, and such? Obviously with equal emphasis and importance. But what about resource limitations. When the pool of people is smaller or grossly smaller, what's the role of, say, medical fitness? Do you developer lower-impact operational tactics? Do you try your hardest to safely “use what you have?” etc.