In a couple weeks, I’ll be attending the Everyone Goes Home Safety Summit. I’m pretty excited about it because I support the Life Safety Initiatives
and what the program’s trying to do. To prepare for the event, I’ve been studying up on the LSIs and it occurred to me that despite how many times I’ve read them, I don’t really remember them. Of course I remember something about changing to a safety-based culture, and I know there’s something in there about empowering firefighters and building safe apparatus. But I couldn’t just rattle them off—and I bet most firefighters can’t either.
So I took a closer look to see why, and here’s what I think. They’re too long, and they aren’t action-oriented. That is, they talk about things happening without pointing out who will do them. Very few of them point to specific actions firefighters and company officers can take.
Take #11, for example:
“National standards for emergency response policies and procedures should be developed and championed.”
Who exactly is tasked with developing national standards? Do we really believe there will one day be one way of doing things?
Now, lest you think I’m getting down on the LSIs, let me say that I believe these statements were left open-ended because what was needed at the time they were written was buy-in at the 10,000-foot-level to change the fire service. They might have also been left deliberately vague to encourage the best and the brightest in the fire service to step up and decide how to change—and to some extent, that has happened.
But now that we have that buy-in, now that policies have changed, I think it’s time to revisit them from a “take-action” perspective. So here’s my attempt at 16 life safety initiatives, directed not at those who create policy, but those who go out and do the job every day.
1. Wear your seatbelt and make sure your crew does too.
2. Join the IAFC’s Safety, Health and Survival Section. It’s doing great work that could save your life.
3. Perform a 360-degree size-up. Slow down and ensure you’re not risking too much to save very little.
4. When you see something that’s wrong or unsafe, speak up.
5. Get a copy of the IAFC’s Officer Development Handbook and follow the path it charts for new and existing company officers.
6. Work out every day, and make sure your crew does too.
7. Read. Reports, news, trade magazines, Web sites, etc., whatever you can get your hands on. Then share it with your crew.
8. Don’t be afraid that new technologies will make your role less important. You’re still going to get to go inside. Just make sure when you get there you’re using the tools that can help ensure your safety.
9. Learn from tragic events. Don’t be judgmental; don’t assume it won’t happen to you.
10. When you’re applying for grants, explain how the equipment or apparatus (or additional staff/training) will contribute to enhanced safety.
11. Use ICS and NIMS at every incident, even those where it’s not necessary.
12. Train for the major incidents—but remember that you’re more likely to get hurt or killed at the everyday, mundane incidents.
13. After traumatic calls, seek out someone to talk to.
14. Volunteer in your community to spread information about fire and life safety.
15. Become a member of the ICC and vote for residential fire sprinklers. Make sure your city council understands why they’re so important.
16. When you’re speccing apparatus or purchasing new PPE, demand to know whether and how it improves your safety.
Maybe I'll return from the summit with some ideas on how we can really bring the LSIs to life everyday.