Organizational efforts are one thing. However, it is on the fire scene where things have a great potential for maiming or killing our troops. What are some things which you must do at every fire to keep your people safe? Since most injuries occur at the scene of fires, we will concentrate in this area.
1. Fires are not unpredictable. However if firefighters and officers ignore what a fire might do, they stand a good chance of being injured.
2. If it is cold, dress warmly. Watch where you are walking and be careful on ice. We shoot lots of water and nature insures that it will freeze in cold weather.
3. If it is hot, conserve your efforts to the greatest extent possible. Rotate your operational forces frequently. Insure that fluids are available. Be sure that your local EMS component is available to monitor the physical condition of your people.
4. Use self-contained breathing apparatus. And do not limit your use to interior operations. Vehicle fires can generate dangerous levels of toxic smoke.
5. Monitor the fatigue level of your personnel. Tired people are more apt to become injury statistics.
6. When using forcible entry tools, keep an eye out for people who feel they must wander near to you. They may have an unconscious desire to be struck on the head. Do not help them along.
7. When climbing ladders, be sure that you have someone securing the base of the ladder as you climb.
8. Do not overload ladders. Refer to the manufacturers specifications for guidance.
9. Be aware of the fire building. Does it have a bow- string truss supporting the roof? Might it have one of those new rubber roofs that can hide a multitude of structural sins? Or could it be a light-weight truss or metal pan deck, just waiting to drop an unsuspecting firefighter into the blaze?
10. Do not day dream when it comes to assessing construction. Are there cracks in the walls? Are the floors sagging? If you are up on the roof is it solid or spongy? Or is it a new roof style where you cannot tell the difference.
11. What is the potential for collapse? There is no sure guide as to whether a wall will fall a little or a lot. We always treat them like it will be a lot, if it happens. It is safer that way.
12. Keep your aerial devices away from electric lines. Be at least 10 feet away, more if they are high tension. Not only does it make good sense, it is the law.
13. Keep your breathing apparatus on during overhaul.
14. Give your teammates room when they are using hooks and axes to overhaul a fire building. They need room to maneuver.
15. Pay attention to what you are doing. Day dreaming can be dangerous.
For more information of safety, I strongly recommend that you obtain the IFSTA text on Firefighter Occupational Safety from Fire Protection Publications. It will cover each area mentioned above in much greater detail. Let me urge you to make safety a part of your life. All that has been taught in this text revolves around the safe application of the information. The alternative is not an appetizing prospect.