Near-Miss, Weekly Report: Little Thing, Big Problem

Oct. 14, 2006
Mixed with even a moderate call load, the school visit, open house or station tour can take on an almost "What can go wrong here?" aura. The answer is plenty.

This week's ROTW reminds us that near misses do not always have to be spectacular events out on the street to have significant consequences. Report 06-396 is particularly poignant since the emphasis during Fire Prevention Month is safety.

Fire departments are heavily involved in public education and fire prevention activities, both in station and at various schools, community fairs, etc. Some stations are on non-stop visits and appearances during the school day. Mixed with even a moderate call load, the school visit, open house or station tour can take on an almost "What can go wrong here?" aura. The answer is plenty.

A child's natural curiosity is a factor that has to be considered. Report 06-201 recounts another event that occurred during an open house activity. The reporters in both reports were quick acting, averting disaster. Their actions are commendable. Using these two accounts should provide us with reminders that we must remain vigilant, even during seemingly innocuous activities. If you have had a similar experience, take fifteen minutes and submit your report to so another firefighter can learn from your experience.

After reviewing 06-396 and 06-201, consider the following questions:

  1. What criteria do you use to assign firefighters to station tour/fire prevention activities (e.g., # of people expected, ages of group, etc.)?
  2. Are the objectives, duties and responsibilities of conducting a tour clearly spelled out to those members conducting the tour (e.g., station visit, public education demonstration, visitor safety, etc.)?
  3. Does your safety briefing to visitors include "steer clear" instructions for station hazards and "what to do" if the station is alerted for a call?
  4. Do you let visitors don PPE? If so, has the PPE been cleaned and decontaminated first?
  5. What additional steps do you take to ensure the safety of visitors (e.g., no access to shop areas, lockout/tagout of SCBA compressors, no entry to areas where station slide poles may be located, etc.)?

Report Number: 06-0000396

Report Date: 08/01/2006 15:01

Event Description

During a tour of an ALS ambulance children were given the opportunity to walk through the patient area of the ambulance. The children in groups of five would climb into the unit. They would then be seated on the bench. The students would ask questions concerning the equipment. The group age varied from 9- 12 years old. One of the children lifted a door on a sharps box and stuck his finger into the opening. I stopped the child just in time. What a mess that would have been if the child suffered a needle stick. Little things can be a big problem. Think ahead.

Lessons Learned

Watch children during tours at all times! Remove or tape up all sharp box's prior to tours of ambulances. Reviewers note: In addition to the hazard of sharps containers, it may be better to keep children outside the ambulance compartment due to potential exposure to germs and body fluids. It can also be difficult to monitor large groups in areas where syringes, other medical devices, and narcotics must be closely guarded.


Department type: Paid Municipal

Job or rank: HSO

Department shift: 24 hours on - 72 hours off

Age: 34 - 42

Years of fire service experience: 21 - 23

Region: FEMA Region IV

Event Information

Event type: On-duty activities: apparatus and station maintenance, meetings, tours, etc.

Event date and time: 10/10/2005 10:00

Hours into the shift: 5 - 8

Event participation: Involved in the event

Do you think this will happen again? Uncertain

What do you believe caused the event?

  • Situational Awareness

What do you believe is the loss potential?

  • Life threatening injury is working with the National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System to get the word out about previous fire fighter near-miss incidents. Each week, will publish the Fire Fighter Near-Miss Report of the Week (ROTW). If you would like to receive the ROTW, please e-mail: [email protected] with "subscribe-FHC" in the subject line. If you have had a similar experience and would like to report it and to learn more about the program, please visit:

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