Recently we were on our way to the local civic arena to test the latest crop of rookie in their job skills abilities. Our department uses this test to measure the skill level that a new person has achieved in the first year of joining our department.
I arrive on the ambulance that day to see the 105-foot ladder truck sitting up proud and beautiful against the sixth floor wall of the parking garage. The guys are finishing up the final preparations to administer the test. While we are waiting I noticed a captain climbing the ladder. He had his ladder belt, helmet, gloves, and turnouts on as he ascended the ladder. You could tell that he was comfortable with the ladder, but was still paying close attention to the climb. Then it hit me, wow what a concept. Here he is climbing our 105-foot aerial ladder with all his safety gear on and he's totally focused on safety. When was the last time that you climbed a ladder and were not 100 percent focused on safety?
I think that we could put the perspective of climbing the ladder truck to work in our everyday routine as firefighter's and EMS workers. When was the last time that we did any task with 100 percent of the focus on safety? You might be thinking that everything that we do doesn't have the dangers associated with it like climbing the ladder truck. Well maybe that thought gets us into situations that end up hurting or even killing us. Please join with us in this article as we compare climbing the aerial ladder to safety procedures in our everyday operations. "Reaching new heights for safety" is not only a slogan for our behavior, but a topic that we should all preach and follow through on every day?
When was the last time that we rolled out the door with a 100-percent focus on our safety? It seems like we all have a gazillion things on our mind, everything but safety. Did we turn the oven off, wonder how the kid's day are going, or maybe I'll get called for overtime tomorrow. We all are guilty of it and it happens to everyone in our chosen profession. It seems like in the past 15 years of my career the emergency service has changed. Our run numbers are up and our fires are down. So, are you guilty of not focusing on safety? Just like the rungs on the ladder each step of our day should be focused on a different step toward safety.
Step One: Preparation
The first step in preparing to ascend the ladder truck is the proper selection of personal protective equipment (PPE). You will need your helmet, gloves and ladder belt. This is also the first selection in making emergency runs as well. Your choice in PPE is the most important step in any run. Just remember that selecting the right equipment is paramount for your safety on all runs, not just fires. Proper PPE is just as important on EMS runs. With H1N1 making its way throughout our world this should be fresh on everyone's mind. The selection should include your gloves, gown, and glasses as well. Just remember that being complacent on EMS runs could lead to taking home some virus to your children and none of us want that to happen.
Wrong PPE selection in our firefighting ensemble can also lead us into trouble. Most of us have one selection problem: we select not to put it on properly, if at all. When was the last time you went to an automated fire alarm with just your duty uniform and your keys? These types of calls are OK, but they breed complacency. How many times a shift do we run the same high-rise building for burned food? Five, 10, or more? But what's to say that the fifteenth run isn't the call of a lifetime. The thing about these types of runs are that sometimes you don't find out there is a fire until it's too late and your right in the middle of it.
Even if you are assigned to the busiest company on the busiest truck, engine, or rescue we should prepare for every run like it's the biggest run of our life. This will help us in many ways. First we will have multiple times to practice "the right way." Second, if something does go wrong we are dressed and ready for the party. Why is it that when we were rookies all we heard about everyday was safety but once off probation we were allowed do things half way?