These absolutely do have their place. In fact, I have learned a great deal in these classes and I hope I never have to employ these techniques. Their value will be returned if even one firefighter's life is spared by performing these techniques.
Now, here comes the part that will turn many off. These slick techniques are useful during emergencies on the fireground. They are fun to perform in training. They raise the bar for excitement and it is a superb way to get full group participation. A training officer's dream.
Realistically, our beloved fire service is facing unprecedented financial cuts that are decimating fire departments across the nation. Firefighters are being laid off in double digits in many cities and towns. The remaining force must continue to perform the same duties that once took X-amount of personnel and do they same job with a severely restricted work force.
Realistically, we need to re-think our aggressive-by-nature attitudes so that we do not jeopardize the safety of the crews. We need to take a better look at the risk/benefit analysis of performing risky tactics because we do not have the back-up we are used to on the fireground. We need to reduce the chances that we are put into such a risky place from which we will need to "bail-out."
Since budget dollars are stretched to the breaking point now, we need to concentrate and spend money where it will be the most cost effective. This is determined by looking at the cost of training and also the cost of sustaining a workforce. It must include the potential cost of injury or the immeasurable cost of a line of duty death.
Training is based on educating our members on all aspects of firefighting, drilling on perishable skills, learning about new technologies and working to maintain a safe working environment. After all, in our incident priorities, our primary consideration is life safety and that starts with our own life.
Perhaps it is time to choose to create a new tradition. Save the life of a firefighter. As Chief Cline stated, we need to overhaul our training program by changing what we focus on. Firefighter safety begins with good decision making. Training programs need to be focused on teaching firefighters how to recognize areas that will be dangerous. They need to be better equipped with tools to decide how they will mitigate the problem safely. Training needs to be based on preventing dangerous situations from occurring. Basic fire theory, strategy and tactics for firefighting and fireground safety should be the new concentration of training.
The self-rescue techniques certainly have their place and we will never be able to completely eliminate the dangers of this job. In our turnout gear, the labels even deem this job "ultrahazardous, ultradangerous." It is and it will be forever more. Staffing cuts only make this job more dangerous.
By choosing to change the tradition of "doing things the way we have always done it" and instead making the new tradition "the way we do it now," we will save firefighters lives. Preventing line of duty deaths is the ultimate goal. Refraining from getting into dangerous situations by training on good strategy, tactics and decision making will save Firefighters lives. Employing a sound risk/benefit analysis, we will save firefighters lives.
Our new tradition that needs to be passed down is one of safety.
JAMESON R. AYOTTE, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is a fire lieutenant/paramedic with the Amesbury, MA Fire Department. where he is the shift commander of Group 3. Lt. Ayotte holds a B.S. in Exercise Physiology and an M.S. in Physical Therapy from UMass-Lowell. He is a certified Fire Officer I, Fire Officer II and Fire Instructor I. In addition to working as a full-time firefighter, he works as an instructor at the Massachusetts Fire Academy. View all of Jameson's articles here. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.