As our pursuit of increased staffing and budgetary support continues, ask yourself, what's happening on the modern fire ground? Are we modifying our tactics to support the safety and survivability of our personnel during these troubling times, or are we taking short cuts hoping to make due? Fire departments across the country face these same taxing issues, some worse then others. Unfortunately, our means of overcoming these limitations has put us at a greater risk.
Photo Courtesy Timothy Sendelbach
The Safety Engine Concept A proactive alternative for fire ground survival.
Look around your fire ground, is it supportive of firefighter survival, or is it lacking those critical safety features previously established during every firefight? Critical factors such as adequate scene lighting for accountability and operational effectiveness, ladders for secondary means of egress/access, continual scene size-ups, an established Incident Safety Officer? Have these and other critical safety measures been eliminated from the modern fire ground, if so, why? Do we blame these shortages on budget constraints, staffing limitations, or is it just a failure to modify and/or realign our fire ground tactics?
As I continue to research fatal incidents of the recent past, I constantly find myself asking, are we doing all we can to make the modern fire ground safe and survivable? Are we utilizing the available resources to establish a fire ground that supports safety and survivability for all firefighters involved? While you ponder these thoughts, consider the following incidents; Worcester, MA (2 R.I.T. teams (four firefighters) initially deployed to rescue lost crewmembers conducting an upper floor search - 6 fatalities), Kansas City, MO (6 R.I.T. teams (twelve firefighters) initially deployed to rescue a lost/disoriented member in a smoke filled warehouse - 1 fatality), Austin, Texas (1 firefighter severely burned following a flashover - rescued via a passing firefighter who had heard the screams of the injured firefighter), Honolulu, HI 1 firefighter overcome by smoke, disoriented, lost, - rescued via an existing crewmember).
The aforementioned incidents are proven examples that we must do more. Case and point, rapid intervention teams used in what is considered their traditional sense are NOT the ultimate answer to our fire ground problems.
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce the Safety Engine Concept as a secondary means of developing a more "survivable" fire ground. This concept shines light on the fact that if we think about our own careers, most will agree that the likelihood of us facing a self-rescue situation is more probable then an actual rescue requiring outside assistance. If this is indeed the case, which I believe it is, then why don't we place more focus on establishing a fire ground that is more reflective of a "self-rescue" effort?
As Gordon Graham, Risk Manager of the California Highway Patrol once said, "If it's predictable, it's preventable." The Safety Engine Concept adopts this same philosophy in that it incorporates fire ground forecasting (a means of predicting what might occur) based on cue-based decision-making to initiate proactive measures, which support firefighter self-survival.
PLEASE NOTE: This in no way should be interpreted as a means of lessening the importance of rapid intervention teams. Rapid intervention teams are an absolute priority. The Safety Engine Concept is simply designed to be a proactive and/or preventative means of fire fighter rescue.