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    Default Incident Safety Officer - really useful?

    Hello,

    I'm a firefighter from Germany, and therefore not really used to having some sort of Safety Officer at the scene (that position currently doesn't exist in our manuals).

    But as I've read some interesting stuff on the advantages of having an ISO, I'd like to ask you, the ones who have already worked with Safeties, some questions:

    -Do you think the position of an ISO is really needed?
    -What do you reply to people saying "every officer is responsible for the safety of his crew, therefore we don't need a Safety Officer"?
    - Have you ever experienced problems between the IC and the ISO, for example when the ISO decided to pull crews out of a building because of the danger of collapse? Or is it common for every IC to accept what the ISO does?

    Thanks for your answers and Happy Christmas to everybody! ;-)

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    I've worked incidents with and without a safety officer. We don't assign on on a lot of our calls and get along fine. If we have the manpower and a qualified person, the position will get filled. For most incidents, even working fires, the position is filled after all other division / sector officers are in place. Placing a person in that position just to fill the position is not worthwhile. If an experienced, knowledgeable person is available, and extra set of eyes is always good.

    Although, most of my experience with SOs is on training burns. I've seen the SO pull people out of both training burns and actual house fires, with no complaint from the Incident Commander. After being advised, the problem was mitigated and we continued with operations.

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    Hello sir..A good Christmas to you also.

    While the Safety Officers duties can vary from place to place, Safety Officer is a good position. It gives the IC an additional set of eyes to watch overall operations. By me one of his tasks is to walk around the fireground and moniter everything that could cause injury. Also FF accountability. Possible signs of building collapse is a big one as we have many wood frame buildings and can have multiple buildings involved. The company officer inside fighting the fire with his crew and the IC at the command post can't see these signs in the rear of the building. He may also go up to the roof if there are extended roof operations with more than one company working.
    The SO and IC are in close radio communication.
    By me Safety Officers are also Battalion Chiefs with fireground experience. The IC will usually accept the SO's recomendation or modify it. Bear in mind this can cause the IC to change his tactics also.

    He also assists at Haz/Mat calls (accountability, supervise decon, rehab)building collapse, MVA's, or any incident where he can be used.

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    Merry Christmas back at ya!!!

    I have been on scenes through municipal as well as industrial and have seen the SO position filled with knowledgable and experienced people and I've seen it as a way get a "favored" buddy from having to actually work.

    The SO has to have working knowledge and experience of whatever the situation is you are mitigating. As stated, he is the eyes and ears of the IC and through most SOP's (including ours) can shut down operations as he/she deems necessary.

    Probably the best use I have seen is IC assigning the SO position to a more senior officer that chose not to assume command from the more junior officer. It's an effective use of a senior officer and it gives the junior officer experience while having the senior very much involved in the scene and in the position to give advice or pull the plug as needed.

    Regardless of how it is assigned, the person must have training and experience in whatever is working to be effective. If you have a building construction guru running safety over the 3rd HAZMAT scene they have ever been on, chances are, your safety doesn't know what the hazards actually are.

    Again... Happy Holidays!!!

    R2

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    I'm sure you'll get all kinds of responses as we as a whole are a varied bunch. Done right the safety officers position can be a real asset like Len notes, done wrong (lacking proper training, authority and experience) and it can be a waste at least and a joke at worst. I've seen both ends of the spectrum. In our FD we have two retired A/C's and one call Capt. that act as SO at anything 2nd alarm or above. Any time they are not present the IC is responsible for safety (really always) and may elect to assign one or more if deemed necessary.

    We operated on a M/A fire last night: large defensive operation with no SO's, but there were chief officers on all sides of the building supervising and continually evaluating the operations.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RFDACM02 View Post
    I'm sure you'll get all kinds of responses as we as a whole are a varied bunch. Done right the safety officers position can be a real asset like Len notes, done wrong (lacking proper training, authority and experience) and it can be a waste at least and a joke at worst. I've seen both ends of the spectrum. In our FD we have two retired A/C's and one call Capt. that act as SO at anything 2nd alarm or above. Any time they are not present the IC is responsible for safety (really always) and may elect to assign one or more if deemed necessary.

    We operated on a M/A fire last night: large defensive operation with no SO's, but there were chief officers on all sides of the building supervising and continually evaluating the operations.
    You have stated an obvious and valid point, even though these senior officer's aren't specifically titled and assigned as "Safety"... they are.

    Good discussion

    Be safe, R2

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    Not always, but I typically find that the Safety Officer is someone who does not want to be on the line because they were "shaky" at best in their performance. Because of this, they often find "Safety issues" with nearly every aspect of the fire fight.

    They are scared ans always stayed away from the building so you should too!!
    RK
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    Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

    "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


    Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MemphisE34a View Post
    Not always, but I typically find that the Safety Officer is someone who does not want to be on the line because they were "shaky" at best in their performance. Because of this, they often find "Safety issues" with nearly every aspect of the fire fight.

    They are scared ans always stayed away from the building so you should too!!
    That is the last person I would want to see as my safety officer. You want someone who is very experienced and knowledgeable. Someone who can catch issues that others can't because they are focused on their jobs. Thankfully, my experience with safety officers is different than yours.

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    I think it's still an emerging philosophy for most of the United States. Some departments have been doing it and doing it well for years. In my area it's usually an afterthought if thought of at all.

    I think that we still need better training and a clear set of requirements about who is qualified to be the SO. Some departments around here seem to appoint a permanent "old guy" (not to be insulting) to fill the role. Not always the best choice, as they haven't seen action in a long time and may not be fresh with their knowledge and usually have no formal Safety Officer training. Not to mention, what if they don't show up?

    I think on the list of things we need done in NJ, I would rather see the state continue to focus on the Fire Officer requirements, then the safety officer (since it's highly unlikely that they can do both at the same time).

    My thoughts are that the department sending the FAST team could send a Chief Officer (with safety officer training) as well.

    Perhaps some day, we'll get there.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MemphisE34a View Post
    Not always, but I typically find that the Safety Officer is someone who does not want to be on the line because they were "shaky" at best in their performance. Because of this, they often find "Safety issues" with nearly every aspect of the fire fight.

    They are scared ans always stayed away from the building so you should too!!
    I agree here and have heard stories about this. Some depts put the pepople in their "click" in and as Memphis says they find a safety issue somewhere. I think used properly it works, but getting the right person in there is the important key. If you get the wrong person it goes down hill. I see depts put in some people that have very little experience in that position and they think it's a power position where they can bark out orders and go above the line officers resulting in a huge ****ing match.

    However I see a lot of depts spend so much time getting all these positions filled such as a safety officer, RIT/FAST Teams and Rehab in place before any supression can take place. I am a fan of all of this but in the mean time a room and contents fire that could have been knocked and saved turns into a 3-4-5 depts coming to a fully involved fire now.
    Last edited by dday05; 12-27-2008 at 06:57 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dday05 View Post
    However I see a lot of depts spend so much time getting all these positions filled such as a safety officer, RIT/FAST Teams and Rehab in place before any supression can take place. I am a fan of all of this but in the mean time a room and contents fire that could have been knocked and saved turns into a 3-4-5 depts coming to a fully involved fire now.
    Really? They WAIT for those positions before starting operations?

    That's foolish.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

    "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

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    It seem like when something new is learned the mindset says ok we need to do it this way and this way only. Then you do it with no result and or the home burns down. Then it seems like you start operating the way you use to then the pieces start to fall together such as having your m/a units fill some of those positions and what not. Are you following me? As we all say on here if you can put the fire out most of your problems will go away.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    Really? They WAIT for those positions before starting operations?

    That's foolish.
    I do alot of training with other departments and I know of one that will not commit to an offensive attack without Safety and RIT established first when dealing with a structure fire, HAZMAT or confined space rescue scene.

    Rehab can wait a little while but I can't see how having SO and RIT in place is "foolish" in my opinion. Please explain.

    Be safe, R2

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    Quote Originally Posted by robertr2m View Post
    Rehab can wait a little while but I can't see how having SO and RIT in place is "foolish" in my opinion. Please explain.

    Be safe, R2
    What are they doing while they wait? Standing at the front door with a charged line?

    Sorry, start your attack. Usually that will mitigate the hazard.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

    "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    What are they doing while they wait? Standing at the front door with a charged line?

    Sorry, start your attack. Usually that will mitigate the hazard.
    Securing the utilities, complete size up, set up for attack, co-ordinate incoming companies to position on scene (assign next in as RIT) or stage, arrange EMS deployment, etc.

    Just to play devils advocate... first engine in wraps a hydrant (or maybe not), lays a supply line and makes entry. Moves into the structure, does some suppression and search, burns air bottles and egresses only to find they are one man short, out of air and having to waste precious time getting more air to go back when they could have had a team already in place, ready to go.

    I pretty much agree that Rehab can wait and maybe even the SO since the IC can act as one to a certain degree but anyone whoever goes into a burning structure w/o a RIT team is relying way to much on luck.

    I entered the fire service and was trained on fast attack... one hoseline in on tank water, incoming engine lays a line and officer of the truck takes command. I'm very glad it isn't an option anymore just like interior operations without a RIT on standby and SO advising IC is, at least for this particular department.

    My department requires a RIT on standby.

    When I teach RIT whether is pertains to HAZMAT or fire ground ops, I try to make it very clear that the only "911" that is available to firefighters is RIT.

    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    Sorry, start your attack. Usually that will mitigate the hazard.
    RIT's not in place for the "usual" (unless loosing firefighters is a common occurence in your department). It's there for the "unusual" in my opinion.

    Great discussion!!!

    Be safe, R2

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    Quote Originally Posted by robertr2m View Post
    I pretty much agree that Rehab can wait and maybe even the SO since the IC can act as one to a certain degree but anyone whoever goes into a burning structure w/o a RIT team is relying way to much on luck.
    Cripes. Put the friggin fire out, and your chances of needing that precious RIT team drops about 75%.

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    Quote Originally Posted by emt161 View Post
    Cripes. Put the friggin fire out, and your chances of needing that precious RIT team drops about 75%.

    Sooooooooooooo...... would like to volunteer to be in the 25% of firefighters who may need it????

    Be safe, R2

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    Quote Originally Posted by emt161 View Post
    Cripes. Put the friggin fire out, and your chances of needing that precious RIT team drops about 75%.
    Are you saying that RIT teams are unnecessary on structure fires?
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    robertr2m.... I don't know your area or department but as you did, I'm going to play devils advocate.

    Engine from your dept pulls up to a single family home with one window of fire showing...one room, quick knock down and the building is saved. Will they stand there while the fire spreads waiting for a RIT ?

    I'm glad you dept uses a RIT. How long is it before you have a RIT on scene for every location? Is one dispatched with the initial alarm ?

    Haz/Mat and structural firefighting are apples and oranges. Even with a back up team H/M is a slow approach, not an aggressive attack.

    I don't feel it's relying on luck. It's skill, experience, the balls to get in there, and knowing how to put them together.

    Just to mention, my dept dispatches a RIT automatically on report of a W/F. At high rise fires I've seen 2 RITs in place.

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    Quote Originally Posted by robertr2m View Post
    Sooooooooooooo...... would like to volunteer to be in the 25% of firefighters who may need it????
    No one ever does, but I think the point is that standing around waiting makes everyone operating on the scene including yourself more prone to serious injury by allowing conditions to intensify and deteriorate.

    I also think you may be talking about apples and oranges. Although I think 2 in in / 2 out is a joke and will do more to cause injuries than it will ever do to prevent them, I think you are speaking of that and ChiefKN is speaking of another entire company that is a dedicated RIT team. They are 2 separate things.

    2 in / 2 out is not having a RIT team, having a RIT team is not 2 in / 2 out.
    RK
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    Management is making sure things are done right. Leadership is doing the right thing. The fire service needs alot more leaders and a lot less managers.

    "Everyone goes home" is the mantra for the pussification of the modern, American fire service.


    Comments made are my own. They do not represent the official position or opinion of the Fire Department or the City for which I am employed. In fact, they are normally exactly the opposite.

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    Memphis... 2/2 is not RIT nor do I think it is (or referred to it as such). I agree with you on the whole 2/2 out concept, it's unrealistic and overkill in my humble opinion.

    But waiting for the next arriving engine to establish RIT on a w/f is, in my humble opinion, common sense.

    Our department does not have a seperate RIT team that is dispatched. It is the second in truck, per SOP and is toned out at the same time as the initial alarm. Can IC order an interior attack w/o RIT in place? Sure. If it happens when I'm the first truck in then yes, I'm in as ordered.

    Am I happy about it? No. But, I but my put my big boy panties on and trust my officer that his "balls" or ego isn't writing a check my crew can't cash.

    Len... very much aware of the difference's in Haz and FF, been doing both a long time and alot of the time I meld the two together in discussion. I was just stressing that I feel, in my humble opinion, that both need a RIT.

    If I am ever in the seat to make the decision based on your description then it would be a very good possibility that I would still wait for a RIT. Mitigating factors would be if there was a rescue involved, which I would probably order them in unless it was obviously untenable.

    Regardless of ego, lack of or existence of balls or someone screaming in my ear... that house is not worth a fraction of my or any of my crews life and if A RIT helps turn a potentially fatal situation into just a bad one then I do not see the downside.

    The job still gets done, maybe not as quickly, but it stills get done.

    Conversationally, when I first got in, we had an veteran that would loudly proclaim he didn't have time to put on that SCBA and cussed it loudly and proudly.

    Again, very good discussion... differences of opinions discussed and no one calling anyone else names

    Be safe, R2
    Last edited by robertr2m; 12-29-2008 at 12:11 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by robertr2m View Post
    Sooooooooooooo...... would like to volunteer to be in the 25% of firefighters who may need it????

    Be safe, R2
    Way to avoid the point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RFRDxplorer View Post
    Are you saying that RIT teams are unnecessary on structure fires?
    Did I say that?

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    Quote Originally Posted by RFRDxplorer View Post
    Are you saying that RIT teams are unnecessary on structure fires?

    no, that's clearly not even close to what he is saying. What he is saying is, if you go in and put the fire out, things usually go well. If you wait outside, doing a giant song and dance while filling out your ICS positions and waiting for the stairs to align, that fire you could have stopped in the bedroom is now the fire that the foundation will stop for you.


    The key is, sometimes its safer to go in early and catch the fire early, then to let the fire develop and get bigger but have the RIT team standing on the front lawn. One course is the proactive way of fighting fire, one is very reactive.

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    Our RIT is a mutual aid company. It is dispatched upon confirmation of a working fire, and takes about 10 minutes to arrive on scene. That's about 8 minutes after we have arrived on scene.

    If we waited for them, then we would be standing on the lawn waiting. It's just not practical in the real world to wait.

    I would prefer that we establish a "box alarm" dispatch system where upon any report of a fire, RIT is sent from the m/a as well. However, that's not the reality.

    It's not that I disagree with the concept, but putting it into play everywhere is not so cut and dry.

    I know in some parts of Pennsylvania, RIT can travel almost 10 to 15 miles to get to some scenes.

    You should teach the way you are, but as are a lot of things they teach in the academy, it doesn't always translate to the real world.

    Is it "foolish"? I don't think it's foolish, it's just the way it is, maybe it will change some day.

    I do however, think it's foolish to sit there and watch a house burn up without being searched and starting operations.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

    "When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water."

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