Risk versus gain is a philosophy that the structural fire service has battled with for hundreds of years. Line-of-duty death and injury have always been dangers of the job, everything from being kicked in the head by a horse pulling the fire wagon to being caught in a flashover during an interior...
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With this new (or old) way of managing the amount of risk to take during the incident, there comes a point where we must engage the situation. The decision is most likely made at the supervisor level. By educating all members in the risk-management process, the quality of information flowing back to the decision makers will be enhanced. Now when the evaluation process begins, the decision makers will have a raised level of situational awareness with which to plug back into their decision making process. The bottom line: Are the incident objectives being met, and are we operating at the appropriate safety level?
In conclusion, firefighting is a dangerous business. Even if defensive operations were implemented on every fire, a level of risk still exists. The risk can never be eliminated, but it can be minimized. Encouraging the average firefighter to voice their fireground safety concerns, coupled with a cultural change within the command climate to support that free thinking, is not an overnight change. It begins with raising awareness of risk versus gain, training with old and new safety-related concepts at every opportunity, and putting these concepts to the test on all types of incidents.
QUINN MacLEOD, owner/lead instructor of Integrated Fire Solutions, recently retired from the Parker, CO, Fire District at the rank of engineer/acting company officer. He is NWCG-qualified as a wildfire division supervisor and holds an associate's degree in fire science and numerous state and national certifications, including fire officer and fire instructor. A downloadable version of the "Structural Watch-Outs" is available at www.integrated-firesolutions.com.