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Safety 101 - Lesson 12

Fire officers have been found guilty of criminal acts as a result of firefighter deaths during training activities.

Each year firefighters are injured and killed with identified causes and contributing factors being related to training exercises.

Over the years training exercise-related fatalities have been linked to such activities as:

  • use of improper materials in the development of the fire to be fought or the ignition source of the materials.
  • subjecting personnel to structures unsuitable for training
  • creating fires that are too hot to subject personnel to
  • not following standard operating procedures
  • and the list can go on...

In fact, fire officers have been found guilty of criminal acts as a result of firefighter deaths during training activities.

Suffice it to say, firefighter accidents and deaths should not be occurring on the training grounds. The training grounds should be highly monitored, an example of safe operating practices, and no place for free-lancing, hazing, or related activities.

NFPA 1403 should be used as a guideline for any live training activity and the officers in charge should assure safety officers are in place, procedures and guidelines are followed. After all, one purpose of standard operating procedures/guidelines is to be used as training tools. Why violate the procedure or guideline when you are training personnel to perform in the safest, and most efficient manner possible?

The National Fallen Firefighters' "Everyone Goes Home Program" is all training oriented. The sixteen initiatives identified, and the various tools developed to heighten the awareness of causes for line of duty injuries and deaths and how to prevent them, all are designed to reduce the frequency and severity of firefighter injuries and deaths.

While training scenarios can and should be the most highly controlled set of scenarios, it is also a great opportunity to reinforce all of the initiatives to reduce firefighter injuries and death. Find a way to implement the following key points into training activities you are conducting. Remind personnel that:

  1. The fire service can no longer accept firefighter injuries and death as a normal part of doing business.
  2. There is individual and organizational accountability for the health and safety of firefighters.
  3. Understand the risks being faced and don't risk more than you are willing to lose.
  4. All members should have the right to stop unsafe practices.
  5. Each organization must implement training standards and qualifications, based on the work they will be required to do.
  6. Personnel must be physically fit to perform the job they are expected to do.
  7. All incidents should be investigated.
  8. Safety should be built into vehicles and equipment being used.
  9. Response policies should not increase the probability for injuries and death.
  10. There should be incentives tied to safe performance

Couple these initiatives with the data indicated above and you are on your way to developing the criteria upon which to act locally to prevent firefighter accidents, injuries, and death as it relates to training exercises.

Lesson #12

No one should be injured at training exercises. Training exercises should illustrate expected performance and be the opportunity to correct mistakes in performance.

Safety 101 - A new series from the technical and administrative perspective, designed to help you reduce emergency responder injuries, illnesses, property loss and death!


Dr. William F. Jenaway, CSP, CFO, CFPS is Executive Vice President of VFIS and has over 30 years experience in Safety and Risk Management, in the insurance industry. Bill is also an adjunct professor in Risk Analysis in the Graduate School at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. He was named "Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year" as Chief of the King of Prussia, PA, Volunteer Fire Company, and is the author the text Emergency Service Risk Management.