Close Calls: A "Bad Day" on the Fireground – Part 2

A fire department in Texas had a "bad day" at a house fire, with two firefighters suffering burns. Because the officers and members took a critical look at what happened – what they did, how they did it and what they could have done better – they...


As reported last month, a fire department in Texas had a “bad day” at a house fire, with two firefighters suffering burns. Because the officers and members took a critical look at what happened – what they did, how they did it and what they could have done better – they improved their...


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Recommendation

Just being NFPA compliant does not guarantee equality. Standardization should occur on all PPE. While this is done for coats and pants, Hutto Fire Rescue must also standardize hoods and gloves and develop specific requirements for them.

4. Did Hutto Fire Rescue personnel follow their training?

Yes and no. As part of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) 2011 Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week, members went through several survival classes. However, not everyone on Engine 1 and Engine 2 the day of this fire had completed all of this training. The make-up of these crew members did not attend all of these classes. Therefore, while these procedures had been reinforced in the training, not everyone had participated.

 

Recommendation

All members must complete all required training. While the make-up of Hutto Fire Rescue staffing is unusual (full time, part time and volunteer) and the general experience level is high, all members must be trained to the same standards. Those standards are the Hutto Fire Rescue SOPs.

 

The following comments from Chief Goldfeder are based on discussions with Hutto Fire Rescue and others:

This month’s case is an excellent one because it is “your” house fire – meaning you and your department, in almost every community. No matter where you are a firefighter, you have the potential to respond to this fire. This is your fire. Are you ready?

Hutto Fire Rescue did an excellent job in going back, with a “fine-tooth comb,” to find out “what went right, what went wrong and what do we need to do differently.” Clearly, Chief Kerwood saw that as his clear professional and moral obligation to his members, their families and, naturally, his community. Unfortunately, that is not always the case in events like this. Believe it or not, there have been – and are – departments that have had seriously injured firefighters, as well as line-of-duty deaths, that have not taken the steps that Hutto has in order to minimize this from occurring again. Some departments just write it off as “part of the job.” While things turning ugly on the fireground may well be “part of the job” at times, ignoring a chance to learn from the event is not.

No doubt, it is not easy to determine what went right and especially what might have gone wrong. But that is a sign of leadership. Good bosses understand it is their responsibility to lead members through some tough decisions, discussions and possible changes.

A good review for any of our fire departments is to compare this close call and Hutto Fire Rescue’s response (how it operated that day and how it evaluated its operations) to how our organizations operate. For example:

1. Does your fire department have written SOPs and standard operating guidelines (SOGs)?

SOPs generally are tight directives that almost always must be done; SOGs are guidelines requiring officers to make decisions based on conditions and resources with much more general direction.

2. Does your department operate based on your SOPs/SOGs or are they just pieces of paper that hardly match the way you operate?

SOPs and SOGs are a department’s “playbook.” Imagine players in professional sports “blowing off” a game plan and doing what they want to do instead? How do you think the coaches would react? How do some fire officers act?

Try this as a simple model for the development of SOPs and SOGs:

a. Determine the need for an SOP or SOG.

b. Determine whether it should be an SOP or SOG.

c. Determine whether one already exists based on state or national standards and, if so, modify it for your local needs. Many departments’ SOPs and SOGs are yours for the copying online. Additionally, Firefighterclosecalls.com and Firehouse.com have SOP and SOG sections.

d. Write the draft.

e. Determine who will review it (firefighters, officers, attorneys, commissioners, board of directors, neighboring chiefs, etc.).

f. Publish the document within the department and provide training as follows: