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  1. #1
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    Question Your Opinion Please

    First a little background.....Griffith is located in the Northwest corner of Indiana about 8 miles from the Illinois state line. It is primarily a residential community for the 17,192 people that call its roughly 17 square miles home. In April this year we had a sizeable fire in an apartment complex. Upon receiving the fire alarm (no phone calls yet) dispatch sent our police dept. out to investigate. The PD reported heavy smoke and residents trapped. Dispatch paged the FD. I drove the first in engine. We arrived on scene in under 5 minutes. Flames were shooting out of the ground apartment and additional extension was visible above. The first crew off the engine took a hand line in while the second crew donned their packs and went to evacuate the building. Additional personnel and apparatus are still in route but will be there within a minute. One of the police officers met me at the back of the rig and ordered me to give him an extension ladder so he could get people off a balcony. I told him "No" quite firmly and told him other personnel were in route and they would handle it. I didn't want him getting hurt.

    Now the town wants to train all of the police officers to be firefighters and carry bunker gear and SCBAs in their cars because they are always first on the scene. What do you think?

    I have problems with this on so many levels but this post is already long enough. If anyone is interested in further details please feel free to e-mail me otherwise I'd really like to here your opinions here.

    Should the PD be trained as firefighters?


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    One of the police officers met me at the back of the rig and ordered me to give him an extension ladder so he could get people off a balcony. I told him "No" quite firmly and told him other personnel were in route and they would handle it. I didn't want him getting hurt.
    Bad move. It doesn't take any skill to assist people down a ladder from an open balcony. How was he going to get hurt? You delayed the rescue of these people and you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

    Now the town wants to train all of the police officers to be firefighters and carry bunker gear and SCBAs in their cars because they are always first on the scene. What do you think?
    This is a different story. There are several places where the PD and FD are called "Public Safety Officers" and they are cross-trained. Obviously, this is only half of that. If this is done properly, this could be a very beneficial arrangement. By properly, I mean that the officers are fully trained to at least a FFI level, they adopt SOP's, developed in conjunction with the FD, that tell them what they can and cannot do, that they develop a plan for continued training, that they develop a procedure to ensure that untrained officers do not have access to SCBA's, that they develop a respiratory protection plan and a personnel accountability plan and that they drill constantly with the FD. Anything less than that is a disaster waiting to happen.

    BTW, what does the PD Union have to say about this? Hard to believe that they won't ask for extra pay for this. What about the state civil service commission or it's equivalent? This is not in the PO job title, so there would have to be a job title change. There is an awful lot more to this switch than buying turnout gear with "PD" on the back.

  3. #3
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    George,
    Thank you for your reply. I must however disagree with with your statement regarding the amount of skill necessary use a ladder to rescue people from a balcony. Although it is not the most difficult thing to do in the world if anything would have gone wrong (i.e. ladder fall due to improper set up, victim get scared and fall, PO fall, etc.) it would have been my fanny. IC accountablity of the PO would aslo be an issue. Even if some feel I am wrong I must say my intent was to keep people safe and I will never be ashamed of that.

    Now to the second portion of your post. I think the issues you raised are excellent and next time this comes up maybe I will have an opportunity to bring some of these concepts to light. We have discussed the continuing training as being a serious issue. I guess we will see how this concept progresses.

    Thanks again and point well taken.

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    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    if anything would have gone wrong (i.e. ladder fall due to improper set up, victim get scared and fall, PO fall, etc.) it would have been my fanny.
    Not quite sure about that. You, as driver, are responsible for knowing who is taking equipment off your truck. You, as driver, are not responsible for it's use. If a FD member took the ladder and it fell or a person fell, would that be your fanny? Again, not quite sure you would have been responsible.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    But if he was also IC, then he would be responsible.

    I think two questions that need to be answered as far as his responsibility would be 1) Was there an officer on scene and 2) if there wasn't, what is their SOP in regards to who is in charge?

    Were you in charge?

    I know in my FD, if an officer isn't on scene then the driver is in charge.
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  6. #6
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    I was not acting IC. My Safety Officer/LT. was officer on my rig and assumed IC until another ranking officer arrived. I most likely would not be solely responsible if something would have gone wrong with the PO but I certainly would have been drug into the middle of it if something did happen. I am, however trained as a back up safety officer and regularly either act as safety officer or assist the safety officer at the scene. I was also the second highest ranking firefighter on the scene initially, second only to the officer on the rig. I am willing to continue discussing this freely if you like but I am also still interested in learning your opinion on training our PD in fire/rescue.

    Thanks again.

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    Some of the sheriff's deputies here are already firefighters with one of the departments in the county. They are on scene a few minutes before the FD gets there and can assist with evacuation immediately. Those few minutes could be the difference between a rescue and a recovery.

    As for the PD being sent to investigate a fire alarm before the FD is paged ... IT'S STUPID !!! Put the apparatus on the road now, not 5 minutes later. We had that same thing here. We showed the sheriff how it could "bite him in the butt" and he changed the dispatch policy. (We are dispatched by the sheriff's office.)
    Another lifetime volunteer proud to serve my community.

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    I agree with you 3Swings, I wouldn't have given him a ladder. First the Police have no business operating on the fireground, they don't have our radios, they aren't in our accountability system, and most important they don't have training as firefighters.

    I'm also leary of having them carry gear and an scba in their car. For how many years have we tried to stop freelancing. If a cop has everything he needs to enter a fire building with him then that is what he will do.

    We still have cops doing mouth to mouth on pt's, even though they carry barrier devices. How can we expect them to do the right thing while waiting for us at a fire. Like we tell our cops that dump their extinguishers on dumpster fires. "I won't go around shooting people, as long as you leave that extinguisher in the trunk."

    If the cops want to go to the fire academy and train with you on a regular basis (several times a month) then they could be an asset.

    A much bigger problem is the dispatcher holding a call until the cops arrive.

  9. #9
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    Default Touchy Situation

    3Swings,

    First let me ask...How many Serious Fires do you have each year where you pull up on the scene and have a situation like you encountered here ? I give the Police Officer credit for asking for the ladder --- He's sworn to protect life and he was trying to lend a hand. The heat of the moment and the delay of the alarm I'm sure got everybody pumping as it was. My personal opinion is that the Police Officer wasn't trying to be a hero...He saw you were short handed and knew other units were on the way. By you saying no you're not giving him a ladder because other crews are on the way and will handle it is dangerous...to the fire victims mainly. Fire scenes are a mass cluster in the first 10-15 minutes and we sometimes can use all the help we can get....Now that doesn't mean I want to help a Police Officer catch a Bank Robber but If I happened to come along an Officer in Trouble {Say in a fight or struggling with a suspect I'm going to jump in there and try and help....We're all Emergency Service Workers whether we carry a hose, a gun, or a stethoscope.

    As far as cross training PD and FD....Good Idea or Bad depending upon your locale, amount of calls, times of calls, ect....Alot factors into that one. Police are always on Duty and yes do get to scenes before the FD because they are already on the street. This can be helpful but it can hurt especially if we as Firefighters don't know the PD is geared up and inside it makes an existing accountibility system fail.

    Just my Thoughts
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  10. #10
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    Once again, the anti-cop rhetoric takes place.

    To hell with the cop getting hurt, to hell with personnel acountability, to hell with ICS, to hell with everything at that point but one thing:

    THE PEOPLE ON THE BALCONY WERE TRAPPED AND COULDN'T GET OUT OF DANGER. THE POLICE OFFICER WAS THE ONLY ONE USING HIS HEAD! HE SAW THAT PEOPLE WERE IN DANGER. HE KNEW THAT THERE WAS A FAIRLY SIMPLE SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM. BUT HE WAS PREVENTED FROM SAVING THOSE LIVES BECAUSE "HE MIGHT GET HURT?" PLEASE!!!!!!

    If it was my family trapped on the balcony, I would do three things.

    1. Punch the first FF I saw in the mouth
    2. Sue the living daylights out of the FD
    3. Lobby for the PO to get a commendation for his life saving efforts

  11. #11
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    Thats a good attitude to have. Remember, in the Fire Service its "Me, You, and Them", I look for my own Keester First, then my Crew, and THEN then Public. And thats right out of the IFSTA Fireground Company Officer text. Sorry, I think the cops need to stay away from Firegrounds outside the scope of their responsibilities....If there is no traffic to direct, crowds to control or cars to be ticketed, than keep away from the fire. You dont't see a Fire engine rolling on a Bank Robbery do you??? Use some common sense here. The Police have no business trying to fight fires when the Fire Department is already there. If there is obvious rescues to be made PRIOR to our arrival, than by all means try to be a hero.....when we get there, go back to being a cop.
    You Waste your time, YOUR LINE IS MINE!

  12. #12
    Forum Member RyanEMVFD's Avatar
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    Default dam if you do, dam if you don't

    i agree that the most dangerous part is the PD being dispatched 5 minutes before fire. as for the PD officer getting the ladder and police being crossed trained as firefighters... well, if they are trained properly and will work closely with IC and stuff then why refuse the extra help. As for the ladder, that's sticky. I probably would have given the officer the ladder. It aids in escape and frees up time for the other responding units to hook up water, aid in fire supression, setting up RIT crew and other stuff. The officer realized the danger he was getting into when he asked for the ladder.

    There are several depts out there that cross train as both police and fire. A very good example is the Dallas/Fort Worth Department of Public Safety. Their personnel are trained for police, fire and ambulance skills and rotate on a regular basis, i think one every month.
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    I AM BOTH A DEPUTY SHERIFF AND A VOLUNTEER FIRE FIGHTER. I SEE BOTH SIDES OF THE TABLE. THE FIRST MISTAKE WAS THAT THE DISPATCHER SENT A ROAD UNIT INSTEAD OF TONING OUT THE F.D. AS ALOT OF YOU KNOW, IT DOES TAKE TIME TO GET PERSONELL TO THE FIRE HOUSE AND GET A TRUCK OUT THE DOOR. SO WHY WOULD YOU SEND AN POLICE OFFICER TO A FIRE CALL FIRST? WE DO HAVE SEVERAL DEPUTIES THAT ARE FIRE FIGHTERS. I DONT SE THE PROBLEM WITH THE CROSS TRAINING BUT, IF THE OFFICER WAS THE FIRST ON THE SCENE AND ADVISED THAT THERE WERE PEOPLE TRAPPED AND NEEDED A LADDER, I THINK I WOULD HAVE GIVEN HIM ONE. USUALLY WHEN COPS ARE ON THE SCENE, THEY ARE NOT THAT HARD TO MISS. WE ARE THE SCEOND LARGEST COUNTY IN THE STATE BUT DO TO WORKING ALL OVER, I AM ACQUAINTED WITH MOST OF THE FIRE DEPTS. ANOTHER Q

  14. #14
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    OOPS I HIT THE WRONG BUTTON
    AS I WAS SAYING, WHEN THE OFFICER WAS DENIED THE LADDER, WAS IT KNOWN IF HE WAS A FIRE FIGHTER OR NOT? I AGREE WITH WHAT SOMEONE HAD SAID EARLIER, THAT SINCE MANPOWER WAS SHORT AND THE OFFICER COULD HAVE GIVEN HIM THE LADDER SO THAT HE COULD CONCENTRATE ON THE FIRE ATTACK. DISPATCH COULD HAVE BEEN RADIOED TO RELAY THE SITUATION OF THE TRAPPED PERSONS AND THAT PD WAS ATTEMPTING RESCUE.
    HIND SIGHT IS 20/20 BUT IF THE COUNCIL IS DEBATING ON WHETHER TO TRAIN THE COPS OR NOT, THEY SHOULD FACTOR IN THAT, AS COPS, WE RISK OUR LIVES EACH TIME WE PUT ON OUR UNIFORM AND THAT WE CAN MAKE THE DETERMINATION OF ENTERING A BURING BUILDING IF THERE IS AN OPPORTUNITY. I KNOW THAT I WOULD NOT ENTER IF I KNEW THAT ATTEMTPED RESCUE WOULD TRUN INTO A RECOVERY. JUST A THOUGHT.
    M.

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    I would have probably given him the ladder. Or assigned someone to help him set it up.

    Agree with others that your dispatch protocal may need changing. Unless the officer just happened to be a block from the apartment complex, page the FD first.

    As for the cross-training issue...it sounds like a great idea on paper. I've never worked in a department that had PSOs. I would think that, as others have said, the additional training and procedures needed to make it effective would be prohibitive. Not that it can't work, but if I'm the police chief, I'd rather have my guys spend the time they would spend in FFI and training at the firestation on other things.
    Bryan Beall
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  16. #16
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    Angry SO........ SUE ME!!!!

    Come on man! Think about what you are saying!

    Anyone worried about personal liability exposure from allowing a police officer to throw a ladder for people to climb down from a burning building, needs their priorities adjusted.

    Lack of adequate personnel at the scene is a potential liability.

    Not allowing the officer to help is a potential liability.

    Did you say that you drove the rig? Have you considered your exposure there?

    Situational decisions must be made at all incidents. Every one of them could become a law suit.

    Liability is not a concern of your Fire Chief. If it were, they would never allow a police car to see if it‘s really on fire before they dispatch the fire department.

    There is nothing wrong with police officers being firefighters. They must become a “firefighter” the same as everyone else. They must be a “firefighter” same as the other “firefighters” or turn in the gear.

    Why assume it will be bad? I think it would be great to pull up and see two firefighters packed-up ready to pull hose.

  17. #17
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    Apart from the wee problem of the Police being despatched to a fire alarm. Which is kind of like sending the refuse collectors on a fire call. No offence meant to the Police there, but "Different horses for different courses".

    Now to the guts of the problem as I see it.

    Additional personnel and apparatus are still in route but will be there within a minute. One of the police officers met me at the back of the rig and ordered me to give him an extension ladder so he could get people off a balcony
    Note where it stated.. in route but will be there within a minute

    1 minute, 60 seconds. How long after you say "Go for it mate, I will get you assistance ASAP." are you going to have the next crew looking for work on the scene?

    Probably before he has got the ladder off the truck, over to the house, and raised it to the trapped people.

    GIVE HIM THE LADDER.

    Not being personal or anything but he probably "asked" for a ladder to get moving and help the people (his and our job) as well as advise you in the least amount of words why it was needed.

    Considering that most people have at least once in their life put up a ladder for one reason or another. Why does it require FF1 training and regular refresher courses to do the same thing to rescue a person?

    within a minute
    Come off it, give him the ladder.

    The one thing that was not said was if the people were rescued ok.
    Psychiatrists state 1 in 4 people has a mental illness.
    Look at three of your friends, if they are ok, your it.

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    If there is obvious rescues to be made PRIOR to our arrival, than by all means try to be a hero.....when we get there, go back to being a cop.
    Typical anti-cop rhetoric

    The Police have no business trying to fight fires when the Fire Department is already there.
    He wasn't trying to fight fires. He was trying to rescue people that the FD was not, at that time, able to rescue on their own.

    like someone else said, I'm more concerned about PD getting dispatched instead of the FD for a activated alarm.
    That's a very valid point. That issue is the underlying problem here and must be addressed before another incident occurs.

    My problem is these officers, if not properly trained will go in by themselves if they have gear and get in trouble, and NOW there is an accountablity issue!
    Also a very valid point. Issuing gear and SCBA to ANYONE who is not trained to use it within an IMS is asking for trouble. And trust me, most cops would not want the responsibility of fire suppression when they are untrained. Most towns with a vol. FD do not have an abundance of cops. Committing them for a significant period of time to perform fire suppression duties is not a wise use of manpower.

    Anyone worried about personal liability exposure from allowing a police officer to throw a ladder for people to climb down from a burning building, needs their priorities adjusted.
    Absolutely, 100% correct.

    within a minute Come off it, give him the ladder.
    Well said, from "down under"

    Go for it mate
    Never heard this uttered on the fireground in 26 years

  19. #19
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    &%^#$! Lost the long response!

    Here is the short version.

    In my neck of the woods, PD is dispatched to all calls along with FD. We have a few PO's who are members of our FD but most are not. Those PO's do not want to be firefighters. I have personally written letters to the Police Chief commending the actions of PO's at fire scenes. They (being on duty) arrive first at almost all calls and have made several rescues and knockdowns on reasonable fires. I would not want to be the one to tell a first arriving PO not to help, but please go direct traffic. If the PO's requested gear and SCBA, I would make sure they are trained, include them in our drilling, and make sure they have procedures to follow. I would rather they be protected than not. I also would not expect them to continue with fire fighting once the FD arrived. It all comes down to who and why we are there....to help John Q Public.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

  20. #20
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    Personally I would have gave the officer the ladder. once the extra units arrived, they could be sent to take over the rescue. If you thought liability was an issue, then you might have sent him to the IC to get permission, thats what they are for, right? Unless he was inside with a hose? If that was the case, I would have gave the ladder. Around this area, I don't know of any cops that are also firefighters, I agree that with the right training and continueing training with the fire dept. it could be a good thing.

    Think about this!

    what if that less than a min turned into 2 or 3 min for an unknown reason? 2 or 3 min, the people could have died by the fire or the smoke. then what, you refused to give the cop a ladder which would have saved them. Whose butts in a sling now??

    I would rather risk by butt saving them rather than risking it for NOT saving them.

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