The term "quality service" probably means different things to different people. However, in structural firefighting, one of the key elements that defines a fire department's commitment to quality service is its approach to the concept of "loss control." The purpose of loss control is to reduce...
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The term "quality service" probably means different things to different people. However, in structural firefighting, one of the key elements that defines a fire department's commitment to quality service is its approach to the concept of "loss control."
The purpose of loss control is to reduce or eliminate certain areas of loss and damage experienced by the customer during and following fires and other types of incidents. Loss control is a customer-oriented component of a service-delivery system that is intended to provide "added value" to the performance of our firefighting craft. (As you know, firefighting is a craft when done properly.) Most of our offensive structural fires are ripe with loss-control opportunities.
Integrating Loss Control
In Phoenix, AZ, we are in the process of integrating loss control, which will replace property conservation (salvage), into our tactical priorities. Loss control is much more inclusive of customer needs than is the narrow area of property conservation. In the future, our tactical priorities will be:
|Priority||Benchmark or Completion|
|1. Rescue||All Clear|
|2. Fire Control||Fire Under Control|
|3. Loss Control||Loss Stopped|
Providing for the accountability, safety and survival of firefighters is addressed continually within each of the tactical priorities throughout the incident.
Loss control may operate either as a sector or as a branch at major incidents. Operating as a branch, loss control may have salvage as one area (sector) within its responsibilities. If loss control were assigned as a branch in the command structure, other sectors such as overhaul, occupant services, critique and other sectors/liaisons would report within loss control.
Loss Control Efforts
Fires cause many damage-oriented problems for the customer. Some problems charring, structural damage, contents damage, and other damage associated with water and smoke are obvious. Fires also cause other problems for the customer that are perhaps more subtle but that are just as devastating. Some of these include the customers' psychological and emotional injuries that accompany the death or injuries of loved ones (including pets); customers having property that is left unsecured from nature or vandals; and customers losing material items that are not replaceable.
Photo courtesy of IFSTA
A firefighter offers emotional support.
Loss control efforts revolve around minimizing damage and loss. Two types of damage occur at a structural fire: primary damage and secondary damage. Primary damage is caused by the fire and secondary damage is caused by the fire fight. Not all secondary damage is avoidable. Many times, the firefighters performing appropriate secondary damage, such as forcible entry or ventilation, reduce the overall loss. However, firefighters should be willing to personally "sign off" on any secondary damage due, which provides a personal guarantee that it was necessary. Kicking in unlocked doors, breaking $1,000 doors instead of $100 windows (when there is a choice), breaking windows that would have easily opened or walking on the customer's personal items rather than salvaging them, as well as other similar acts, do not typically fall into the category of "necessary" secondary damage. Overall, loss can be reduced if firefighters perform the "craft" of firefighting more effectively and with loss control as a priority.
Planning For Loss Control
In planning for the development of loss control as a concept, we spoke to several previous customers about our performance. Our customers had high praise for us, as you would expect. However, when we asked our customers to describe the most devastating aspects they experienced from having a fire, we gained valuable insight into ways to improve our performance.