1. #1
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    Default What's wrong with OUR picture?

    Having a sincere interest in FF safety and reviewing a recent article in a fire service publication, I wanted to post this thread and get your thoughts on why we as a fire service cannot improve the FF injury/fatality rate. Despite scientific, technical, and safety code advances over many years and despite a decline in the number of structural fires, firefighters today are dying inside structure fires at a rate that parallels the line-of-duty deaths of decades ago. In an effort to reduce FF fatalities, there has been significant debate over the root cause of these LODDs. The experts in fire suppresion and safety focus on three distict functions-task, operations and strategic decision making-to point out where fatal errors occur.
    A review of the LODDs over the past decade has proven that individual FFs, officers, and chief officers are all responsible for the injuries and deaths that occur on the fireground, therefore all FFs must work collectively to reduce the risks that the fire service faces at each incident. Most of what I typed here came from a recent article in a fire service magazine...but my question to all of you is What are your thoughts on this subject, why is this still a problem, why are we still failing as a fire service. Most importantly, what are some of the new procedures your departments have developed to address FF safety or is there something new you guys are doing out there to address FF safety....I'd like to hear some of your ideas and thoughts on the subject.

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    I think the biggest is the lack of "live" fire training. To many of us are dying due to being lost inside a structure and running out of air. This is due to 2 factors: 1. higher amounts of heavy smoke and zero visibility 2. lack of knowledge of building construction. I think that the basic pre-firefighter knowledge has diminished greatly. Most firefighter from years ago were blue-collar workers (ie plumbers, construction). These were the guys who could just look at a building and know the basic floor plan. Now we have these college graduates who spent more time in college learning about the theories of fire and how to do more algebra than what is going to get him killed. When was the last time a firefighter died due to he couldn't figure out what the solution for X was? I also think that technology has passed us by in the fire service. Just look at TIC's for example, they have been around in the fire service for about 5-6 years. But the military has been using them for almost double that.

    We also need to stop the politicians from "preying" on us as a quick fix for a budget problem. They see us as why do I need 50 firefighters when I can live with 25? That is all a marketing and PR issue that we need to address. We also need to keep our names out of the papers for drinking at the station and DUI, assaulting each other at the staion and all the other general crap that is on the front page of FH every morning. We need to stop tarnishing the reputation that was work for by those who came before us. It is our job to keep that reputation for those who will follow us.

    It is time for the fire service to take a colletive step back and reevaluate our needs, goals and what we are doing to achieve those. Instead of the same old career/volunteer arguements we need to work on the issues that are killing our brothers and sisters everyday by a great show of ignorance on our part. We need to concentrate our efforts on how to help the fire service to grow and become as safe a occupation as can be.

    Ok I think I am done ranting for the moment....but maybe not.
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    I agree with 7134 when he says the politicians need to stop raping the fire service. One community near me recently publicized that their cops were having a budget shortfall, so to fix the problem they were going to lay off firefighters! WTF??

    The FD's problem is that nobody thinks they're going to need us until they need us. So the politicians resist all our efforts to educate them in safe fireground staffing, 1710, 2-in, 2-out even.

    I don't know what the answer is other than keep voting new ones into office. It does seem to me that the longer they're in office the less cooperation the fire service gets from them. When a simple concept like safe fireground staffing is treated like it's a threat, it's time for them to go.
    Last edited by EdShanks; 02-04-2004 at 02:16 PM.
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    Great topic

    I have no studies to back this up, so I'll label it opinion or conjecture, and rambling.

    Yes, we have "advances" in building codes, but look at some of the buildings we have out there. Combine this with the fact that we have less fires, on average because of increased fire awareness, so we have less real life practice. Great advances have been made in heating, appliances, wiring, ect that cut down of the number of fires, but when the fire happens, look at what we have to deal with - "knock down" architecture in all the chain restaurants, standard home trusses with minimal plates and stapling at gussets, less wood and more synthetics. I think there is a chance that a lot of newer construction will take a lot less fire load. I've seen new houses without external sheeting, just insulboard and vinyl siding. How much support will a wall like that really have?

    I can remember the advice my chief gave me when I made the switch from rubber fire coat to nomex turnout. "Watch yourself, you won't feel as much heat and you might go until you cant". And there is a large degree of truth to that.

    I agree that the best way to reduce is training.

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    PFD you had to get me one the way things are built now.

    I have come to term any building younger than 10 yrs as firefighter killers. These slap them together as cheap as totally possible attitude towards homes is the culprit. How many of us have been on a house fire that the home is at least 20 plus years old....those suckers can handle alot of fire load. Now a house the same size that is 5 years old will collapse on you faster than a Seaman jumping on a Singapore prostitute. When I went to the academy our building construction instructor showed us alot of pictures. Now before this I could really care less what type of home it was as long as it was on fire and I had water...all was right in the world. Now I look at building in the respect of about how old it is, the fire load, and how fast it will kill my brothers. We have 3 bow-string truss buildings in my area. You would not believe how many guys don't know how deadly those are. And whats more....they have had a second roof put on so if you don't know you buildings or look at pre-plans.....your going to be dead. And I agree our modern building codes have stopped alot of fires, but they need someone who look at the codes from the aspect of what happens AFTER it is on fire. Those gusset plates are great and cheap...and they hold till you subject them to a fire. I think the fire service needs to fight for a voice in the building codes ....because the idiots that make them don't think like we do.

    And I agree another great topic Chief. Even thought it gets me a little ticked off.
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    Originally posted by ff7134
    PFD you had to get me one the way things are built now.


    glad to brighten your day

    Part I think is to emphasize saving of life, and rethink a sometimes subconscious attitude to "save it at any cost"

    How long do we stay in after all the occupants are out.

    Saving property is a very important aspect of firefighting, but as a group we need to keep the risk/reward ration in mind. There is no easy, cut and dry, cookie cutter answer to this, because each fire is unique.

    However, knowing that each fire is unique, do we need a guideline that tells us "for x amount of time with this type of fire, interior attack is safe until y"? To a degree, we have this information, but we need to put it to better use. One thing I often see is lack of designated safety officer.

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    There are I think a few factors, as POC department for us I would say that they are the lack of total self motivated learners. Also the lack of true structure fires on a regualr basis. Finances for us havent been to tricky, so I dont think that is and issue but could be. We have also for the last few years (knock on wood) the recruitment/retention for us has been good. May be a daytime shortage but nowhere as bad as it used to be. Work with your neighbors, auto aid has been great ! Another thing I will add is the silliness of saying you have a full time FD running 2 person engines. how full time is that ? and that is your only FT vehicle.
    For large cities, I agree that they just keep hackin away and you loose personnel, ride short, close stations, and yet it goes on day after day.Is it a factor hell yes. Another thing that our thread starter hasnt mentioned but has written a good article about is everyones fitness. No matter how you slice that .........it is a factor.
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    Josh,

    I agree that there are alot of departmetns that scrimp on staffing...and mine is one of them. At the station I run out of we have 3 guys as a minimim staffing. That is for and Ambulance an a Engine. Ideally we have 4 but with kelly days and vacations, and if Sation 1 is short and we have 4 they pull one from us, manning is an issue. Our "Ladder Company" has a minimum of 2 guys, and the Engines have 3 and the Ambulance had 2 as minimums.

    But you know how the power that be scream when we mention "2in-2out" and that we need more guys.Yet they turn around and hire more people for the Road department and stuff of that nature. I think that we have shot ourselves in the foot by being to good at fire prevention and things like that because with the decrease in fires has caused the percieved notion that we don't need all these guys. And we are the first ones on the "chopping block" when the budget goes south. I don't really know what the solution is....but I am afraid that the real "Eye-Opener" will be when a smaller department has a LODD and it is found that is had mostly to do with sub-standard staffing and the municipality is sued for millions.
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    Unfortunately, the fire service is not serious about reducing LODDs.

    Werju hit the nail on the head at the end of his post. Stress is the leading factor in firefighter fatalities. If you look at the statistics for 2003, 109 firefighter fatalities were listed on the Fallen Firefighter Memorial site. Out of those, 51 were the result of heart attacks. That number could be reduced significantly if firefighters were required to undergo a stress test each year. The problem is that most departments can't afford the requirement and many that could won't, because they don't want to know the results. Many will argue that this isn't fair to older members, but the facts speak for themselves.

    The second leading cause of death is MVAs. We need to buckle up and use some common sense when responding. In some cases, SOPs should be revised to reduce the number of "code red" responses.

    These two factors resulted in 76.9% of LDDs last year. I would think that focusing on these would be a tremendous start.

    One final point that is interesting is the age of the firefihter at the time of death. In 2003, 31.2% were under the age of 40. That means that 68.8% were over the age of 40. Those numbers should be flipped. Younger firefighters have less experience and training so it would appear that they would be more likely to be LODDs. I'm not for mandatory retirement rules, but we also need to use some common sense.

    Just my opinion. Obviously, many disagree.

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    ff7134 wrote: "I am afraid that the real "Eye-Opener" will be when a smaller department has a LODD and it is found that is had mostly to do with sub-standard staffing and the municipality is sued for millions."

    In the year 2000 the administration - yes, "them" - paid about $38K for an outfit called "Tri-Data Studies" to come in and make recommendations about our department. I honestly think the admin thought they'd use it to get us off their back! Boy, were they wrong! The study used phrases like "dangerously understaffed" and "critically understaffed" and warned them that they were creating a situation that opened them up to a major lawsuit, and guaranteed they'd lose it, if someone was hurt or killed on a fire scene. How bad was it? We protect 50,000 residents (daytime population at least double that) in 25 square miles with (at the time) 8 firefighters per shift!! That includes the A/C on down! We work out of 3 stations.

    So what did they do? They did hire some firefighters. I have to give them that. But our minimum manning is still 8 per shift! At the moment we have 12 per shift if everyone's there, which is a whole lot better than 8, but that's 36 firefighters (including white-shirts) total to protect a daytime population of over 100,000 people. We also have 3 FPOs who work 8 - 5, as does our chief.

    We've all told our wives that, God forbid, if any of us gets hurt or killed on the job, sue the crap out of the township officials. It's their policy that keeps the staffing so low. They paid a whole lot of taxpayers' money to get a professional study done, and they choose to ignore it.
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    Mr Shanks,

    I know where you are coming from, and I have told my wife the same thing about sueing. At least you guys have gotten them to hire more people. We have suggested it and told them....have a study of the department done. No way they are afraid of what they will find out.
    All I have to say, keep up the Fight Bro.
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    Ed...your situation parallels ours. I'd like to get a copy of that report to read if I could. Send me an e-mail or pm if it's possible.
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    Default The one area where mutual aid hurts

    We are a 100% unpaid, volly department, only one of our surrounding departments has any staffing, which is one (1) Paramedic/FF on duty 24/7, so this doesn't apply to us or affect us.

    My statement about mutual aid potentially hurting is in those areas where the area officials look at the staffing on their paid dept and say, "hey we can be lean here because we have mutual aid". And the next department over says "hey, we can be lean here because we have mutual aid". Which as we all know is not why mutual aid exist. Kinda like the Ohio Lottery "being for the schools", but then the amount that it brings in has long ago been subtracted from the general fund. So instead of raising the level, it is another means of maintaining the same level. Supposedly.

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    Default whats wrong with OUR picture

    As said by 7134, how many new FF's see actual fire in a training class. Unless you have the luxury of attending the state fire academy or are on a "big" city FD you will in all likly hood NOT see fire untill you are on a truck and pulling up to a "working" fire. That is not the time or place to learn not to burn!
    Yes, new constuction is a big issue in the way homes and commercial buildings are being constructed. With all the hydrcarbon based material used in the framing members,( foam wall boards etc...) composite floor and roof members, a collapse point is all but unreadable. Time was the basic structure had good warning properties.
    As far as staffing goes, is there an answer for under funded bugets? You can pass a "SAFETY FORCES" levy only to see the monies sit and "wait" for people to be hired while the levy money grows and the interest goes in to the general fund instead of back in the the safety forces budget's.(both FD & PD).

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    Great post !!

    I agree with the inexperience factor, that also goes for inexperienced officers leading inexperienced firefighters.
    More so in the volunteer ranks that dont go to a lot of fires.

    Poor fire ground managment, there is still alot of departments not using some type of ICS or have a accountability system in place.

    Lack of proper training, poor understanding of fire behavior and building construction.

    Of course the manpower issues is a big factor too.

    Its a no brainer the fitness issue is a big factor, just go to state fire school and look at all the out of shape,over-weight firefighters walking around.

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