While inside our patient’s house, take the time to notice other small danger potentials. One example of this is permanently mounted, large-window air conditioners. These large-window units, which get bolted into the window seal, can be a formidable challenge if you need to remove a victim out of that window. Often houses that have multiple medical runs will have patients on home oxygen. While attending to these patients, notice the storage locations and the amount of cylinders. It would be a great idea to find out where and how they are stored. Make a note of the storage locations for possible explosion potential in the event of a fire. Blocked interior doors are another example of hidden dangers. The best part about finding any one or all of these dangers is the potential to correct the issues before a fire happens. We are not there to inspect the building, but friendly reminders from your fire department can be made to make everyone safer.
In today’s society, it seems vacant structures are appearing everywhere. What better time to make note of these structures than when you are either making a run or driving back from a call. Many times vacant structures attract homeless people looking for a place to stay. This will often lead to not only fire calls, but also medical runs. Once again, a pre-plan of the vacant structure is essential. Some other considerations or adjustments to vacant structures can be overall structural stability, possible holes in the floors, and boarded up means of egress. Heat sources inside these structures can be troublesome. Most vacant buildings don’t have power, so homeless people inside may start small fires inside for light and heat. Noticing burn marks or trash piles while inside can provide a clue should a fire happen to occur. Now, once your EMS run is over, how about stopping on the way back to the station to look around a vacant house. Pull the rig over, get out and do a walk around making notes of what you find.
These are a few points to get you thinking. While EMS runs are an everyday requirement of today’s fire service, they are also a great chance to educate ourselves to the conditions of the buildings to which we respond. From multi-family dwellings to a single-family detached house, we can learn a lot while providing top-notch emergency medical service. Patient care always comes first, but the secondary product of these runs is definitely the looking around aspect. While on your next run, open your eyes and take note of your surroundings. Heck, next time you run that same high rise, ask the ladder to meet you and set up just see where you can reach. These are all good ideas to make your next fire safer for you and your crew. Be safe everyone and the next time the bells goes off for an EMS run, remember, what you see could save your life!
RYAN PENNINGTON, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is a firefighter/paramedic with the Charleston, WV, Fire Department. He is currently assigned to Station 7 and a member of the West Virginia Task Force 1 USAR team. He has over 15 years of combined fire, rescue and EMS experience. Ryan is currently a West Virginia State Instructor 2, Hazmat Technician, and Certified Fire Officer 2. Ryan was a guest on the Engine Company Operations in Today's Buildings podcast. View all of Ryan's artices, blogs and podcasts here. You can reach Ryan by e-mail at Ryan33@suddenlink.net.