Near-Miss System Hits Record

A record number of reports were submitted to the National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System last year.

"It's another excellent example of firefighters helping people or lending a hand. They want to help make things better and safer," John Tippett, the program's co-director, said.

The 1,082 reports submitted during 2009 included close calls on a myriad of incidents.

In addition to those on the fire ground, responders are sharing experiences that happened on EMS, wildland and hazmat calls as well as problems that occurred while driving.

"I think there's more acceptance of the program, and the willingness of firefighters to share," Tippett said.

One factor for the number of submissions doubling last year may be tied to the cooperation of FirefighterCloseCalls.com, a website run by Loveland-Symmes, Ohio Deputy Chief Billy Goldfeder.

Since last fall, incidents sent to that site now include a box asking if it can be submitted to FFNM. The reporter also is asked for contact information in case a reviewer needs more information.

While statistics are not yet available, Tippett said he knows the relationship has generated many reports.

"We also appreciate being mentioned by many instructors," he said. "I know people are talking about Near Miss in their lectures..."

"Keeping the department and location anonymous have long been credited for the program's success, Amy Hultman, the program's other co-director, said.

The seven reviewers sign confidentiality agreements that prevent them from discussing the incidents or doing their work in the fire stations. Their jobs with the program also are to be kept quiet, Hultman said.

Two additional people will be hired soon to assist in reviewing the incidents. Each report is read by two people.

"With the number of reports submitted, the reviewers were very, very busy," Hultman said. "We are fortunate to have such a dedicated group who work well together."

Those interested in being considered should have 12 years in the fire service, a knack for detail and good grammar skills. People with expertise in EMS or hazmat also may interview for a position.

Hultman said the majority of reports come from career departments. One of the program's goals this year is to increase the participation of volunteers and those in combination departments.

They are reaching out to those people in smaller groups such as state and county fire and rescue associations. "Train the trainer sessions across the country are going well," Hultman said. "We're getting the word out.

Tippett said the fire/rescue service has also made a name for itself in another way.

"I've been told that our program has a much higher percentage of submissions of incidents compared to other Near Miss programs." Aviation, mining and nuclear power plants are among industries with similar reporting systems.

Tippett and Hultman say they believe the number of near misses shared will continue to increase.

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