Command Post: Riding the Right-Front Seat – Part 9

My previous column (December 2011) began examining four environmental elements of our fireground size-up by discussing the first element, construction, as part of the risk-management process. To recap, you have been taught to look at what you are doing as...


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What types of dangers am I referring to? Perhaps the primary life-safety problem to which firefighters are exposed comes from the many forms of modern construction and construction materials that are designed and built to just barely overcome the force of gravity. I’ve been in buildings that should have fallen to the ground under their own weight without any exterior damage from fire or excessive wind.

Here is a list of life-threatening matters you must always consider:

• Heat, smoke and other toxic byproducts

• Electrical hazards

• Injuries and death from the use of power appliances

• Structural collapse

• Chemical exposures

• Freelancing

 

Your crew’s safety

Being in the right-front seat comes with serious responsibilities, not the least of which involves the safety of those entrusted to you. In addition to the range of hazards you will encounter, you must determine the work quotient of your team. You can seriously injure people by giving them more tasks than they are capable of performing safely. Plainly put, if you ask too few people to perform too many tasks, you risk killing or injuring them. One key to achieving success as the person riding in the right-front seat involves providing a proper size-up of every incident.

However, there is another size-up that is mentioned less frequently: Size up your team so that you have a handle on its strengths and weaknesses. You will soon discover that your team has strengths and weaknesses. Build on the strengths while working to eliminate the weaknesses.

Wise leaders know what their people can do and what they cannot do. Try to operate within the identified limits of your team’s capabilities. Over time, you can broaden their list of “can-do” capabilities, but always minimize the risk to your team and maximize its ability to serve your community. n