One Step Forward, 3 Steps Backward

We spend a lot of time thinking before we write commentaries. When one is written, a huge attempt is made to insure that it carries the ?correct? message and that it provides some information to help correct a problem?or alter some thinking.

But yet everyone and their mothers wants funding to take care of the above three concerns. And are they a problem? Sure! But there is no way that we will be able to even think about handling hazardous material incidents, weapons of mass destruction challenges and terrorism response until we figure out that if we ride on the back of a fire engine, we will probably get hurt and maybe get killed. We cannot possibly handle the above three major concerns if we don?t know how to expertly:

  • Drive the apparatus carefully.
  • Provide officers to clearly and strongly command and control a scene.
  • Backup apparatus without running into the firehouse or ripping off the compartment doors.
  • Properly wear our protective clothing and related equipment.
  • Know how to and when to vent.
  • Put a seat belt on before the rig moves.
  • Stretch a line and have proper water flows.
  • Develop an effective and affordable radio that allows us to communicate on the fire ground.
  • Not get run over while operating on a scene.
  • Track our crews on the fire ground.

Just a few basics that can absolutely reduce the injuries and deaths we keep reading about.

It?s 2004 and honestly, when I read the news article I thought it was an archive that someone sent me. But it wasn?t. It was reality and as the hippy T-shirt says, ?REALITY SUCKS?.

Some of our Brothers and Sisters justifiably die in the line of duty each year. These are the small group of brave firefighters who attempt to save a life and end up losing theirs in situations where the risk/benefit was determined. At the time it was worth the risk. Those are genuine Line of Duty Deaths and the risk that those firefighters take is well beyond just simple words of honor. Without question, their supreme sacrifice is in the highest form, traditions, service and respect of the fire service.

On the other hand, many of our Brothers and Sisters get injured in situations that could have been avoided. Some of those are at simple basic levels of supervision or self-supervision and accountability. We are glad that the firefighter who fell from the tailboard of the apparatus this weekend is fine. Maybe her accident can be a final straw type lesson to other fire departments that still ride the back step to change and fix some behaviors that hopefully make this one problem go way for good.

So where does this get fixed? Not at the IAFF, the IAFC, the NVFC, the FDSOA or the USFA. It gets fixed in the front seat by the officer in that seat. It gets fixed at the local level by a fire department?s leadership (official or unofficial) looking at the big picture and identifying a few easy fixes that can be done to take care of those kids.

Members riding tailboard? Stop it. Have members ride in a car or van if that?s what has to happen.

Members tearing up apparatus while driving? Fix it by re-evaluating your driving program-and the drivers.

Members getting burned due to poor PPE usage? Correct it by retraining members on the critical importance of properly wearing their PPE.

Members getting run over at scene? Meet with the cops now and develop a block the scene plan that protects your members and the cops.

When parents give us their kids and expect us to turn them into firefighters it is a reasonable but unspoken request by those parents to return their kids home safely after every run, with the rare exception of an extreme life and death live saving attempt. Some time spent thinking about the big picture and what could go wrong at all levels, will probably make life a lot better for a lot of firefighters and officers, but most importantly, for the families who trust us to take good care of their kids.