Experts Share 10 Ways to Stay 'Safe'

Bill Tricarico and David Denniston don’t like it, but aren’t surprised, when they get calls from fire departments saying, “We’ve got a little problem,” or “You’re not going to believe this one.”

5: Failure to have written policies

Number five is failure to have written policies. Denniston said his department’s policies are kept in a green binder on a shelf that is covered with dust.
“The worst days I have had are the days I see someone with the green binder open,” Denniston said. “That usually means that something bad has happened, or someone is looking to attack someone using the policies to do so.”
Denniston said polices need to be written, reviewed, revised and enforced.

4: Inadequate training

Inadequate training comes in at number four. Tricarico said that too many departments are lulled into thinking that everyone knows how to do a particular procedure, or has perceived skills that don’t measure up to standards. He said training and preplanning are fundamental to safe and effective firefighting.

3: Failure to utilize ICS

At number three, Denniston said, is failure to properly use the incident command system (ICS). Too often, departments just feel overwhelmed with ICS, but Denniston said they just need to keep it in perspective.

“The incident command system is a tool box,” he said. “You don’t have to open it up and use every tool in it, just the ones you need.”

Often, firefighters who are hurt, or families of those killed, say the leadership at the scene was at fault for the mishap or tragedy, and that shouldn’t happen, Denniston said.

2: Failure to respond safely

Failure to respond safely is at number two, and Tricarico said he often hears of frustration from officers who do not know how to get their firefighters to drive safely and obey traffic laws and rules of the road.

“I can’t drive it for them,” Tricarico said, repeating the comments he’s heard from chiefs.

Offering some startling statistics, Tricarico said there are 15,000 apparatus accidents annually, which is a 26 percent increase over the past 10 years despite that being a period of time that has shown a decline in the number of fire calls. It is the second leading cause of death of firefighters and thousands go to the hospital for treatment after wrecks.

To remedy the situation, Tricarico recommended routine driver training and emergency vehicle operations classes every three years.

Implementation and enforcement of seatbelt policies will also go a long way toward keeping firefighters safe.

1: Failure to lead

And, at number one, is failure to be a leader. “But they won’t like me,” is the argument Denniston hears.

Leaders have to lead and not be afraid of alienating the staff, Denniston said, adding, “It’s not easy to do.”

Summing up the program, Tricarico said he has developed a new fire service triangle. With safety being in the center as the goal, the sides of the triangle are policies, training and enforcement.

“If any one of those sides isn’t there, it all collapses and instead of safety, you have danger,” Tricarico said.

Using a quote from another presenter he and Denniston heard years ago, Tricarico said: “Every day you are given the opportunity to polish or tarnish your badge. Which will you do today?”