The American Firefighter is many things. In one day, they can be a mechanic, electrician, appliance repairman, teacher, plumber and furniture mover. They may perform traffic control duties one minute and receive a last chance confession the next.
The variations we enjoy are unique to the fire service. So many jobs are routine and boring. Ours has the opportunity for great thrills. There is a distinct feeling of excitement you get when called on to perform. The job itself presents the opportunity to get a charge. We do not need to add anything to the mix. In fact, many additions will spoil the stew. The contributions we make often make dangerous situations downright foolhardy.
Decisions made without forethought can bring about disaster. Not sounding the floor on entering a burning structure, failing to check the water level in your pump, and skipping a 360-degree recon of the building and scene. These can all have a poor outcome under some stressful conditions.
It is imperative that we make good decisions. Our health and safety are at risk. The general public's health and safety are at risk. We need to conduct a risk/ benefit analysis. The results will help us use sound judgment. Sound judgment comes from combining experience, education and training.
Many of the decisions we make can be made at a time when no pressure is present. Time-pressure can muddy the waters. Preparing for a situation before it happens gives us the opportunity to think clearly. We can develop a plan that can be put into action when the need arises.
This is the essence of standard operating procedures/guidelines (SOP/Gs). Equipment placement, riding positions and tasks can be pre-planned. The personnel do not have to ask and wait for a response from the officer. They know what is expected and then they perform the task. The efficiency of the team is improved.
A great deal of time is spent thinking about the fireground. As firefighters, company officers and chiefs, this is our natural inclination. This is where our hearts lie. Hence, most SOP/Gs are written for the fireground.
Chief I. David Daniels has put everyone on notice that emergency medical services (EMS) is the future of the "fire" service. Many departments across this country have taken measures to satisfy this service requirement. Ambulances have become commonplace in firehouses.
EMS calls also require decisions to be made. They have pre-planned treatments based on the diagnosis of the problem. EMS SOP/Gs come in the form of protocols established at the state and local level. They aid in decision making and treatment of the people entrusting their care to us.
The American Firefighter fills both job requirements: firefighter one call and emergency medical provider the next. Some services keep the roles separate and others cross staff the apparatus. Either way, the patches on our arms are the same.
We began by stating that the American Firefighter is many things. One thing left off of the list was driver. Regardless of the call, we need to get to the scene. Every call requires us to be drivers. If we place the same emphasis on every aspect of our jobs as we do on firefighting, then we need to be "professional" drivers.
SOP/Gs usually include a chapter that dictates the proper operation of the apparatus entrusted to us by the taxpaying public. These will outline warning lights usage, back-up policies and dictate the use of a chock block when parking.
We have outside standards we must conform to as well. State law dictates the rules of the road that govern us. They are sometimes the result of best practices and scientific study. There may be a penalty described for not following the rules.
Other times, these rules have been added as a result of an incident. The incident most likely will be labeled an accident. Merriam-Webster defines an accident as: 1 a : an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance 2 a : an unfortunate event resulting especially from carelessness or ignorance / c : an unexpected happening causing loss or injury which is not due to any fault or misconduct on the part of the person injured but for which legal relief may be sought.