Salka: Confronting Danger as a Firefighter

See John Salka live at Firehouse World: John Salka will be presenting "Chief Officers Combat School" and "Rapid Intervention School" during Firehouse World in San Diego, Jan. 25-29, 2015. Find out more at FirehouseWorld.com.

We hear it all the time, "Stay Safe" or "Be Safe." What does that mean?

Well, for starters let's take a look at the definition of safe: Safe – freedom from the occurrence or risk of injury, danger or loss.

OK, so then what is danger? Here's another definition; Danger – able or likely to cause physical injury.

So then to "be safe' we want to be free of the risk of anything that is able or likely to hurt us. That's what the definitions say. Is that what we mean or want when we are fighting fires and handling emergencies? Without going back to the dictionary too many more times, I think we have a pretty clear or basic definition of safe or safety as it relates to us as firefighters.

So can we, as firefighters, as emergency responders and first responders every really be safe? What I'm asking is how do you know when you're safe? If you are still breathing and you are not physically hurt, are you safe? Where on the fireground is the red line that you should not cross?

Here is the best question of the day: is the line in the same place for all of us? Can some firefighters, officers or chiefs expose themselves to a higher level of risk than some other firefighter on the scene? Can an experienced company officer with 26 years on the job in a relatively active fire company perform more "dangerous" work than say a brand new officer with five years in a relatively slow unit?

Isn't danger really a very relative thing? Doesn't your level of danger, and therefore safety, depend on external conditions such as your level of experience, training, familiarity, ability and knowledge?

I know I've asked more questions here than I've provided answers, but what I think doesn't matter.

Safety is relative isn't it?

What do you think? Let us all know by leaving a comment below...

 

 

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