Safety officers are a vital role in the fire service. This can be one designated individual per department, but is better suited through a NIMS system to select a qualified individual at the fire scene. Often it appears a lot of volunteer departments select an "old timer" who isnt certified to go inside with a SCBA. This is great because your utilizing manpower which may be strained. My major concern with having this happen is the role should be designated for someone who can walk around the scene. The job is to ensure scene safety completely around the scene, not stand around the command post and make comments to the IC who is up to their neck in other more important things. Again the downside of having a department safety officer (who misses the big call) is members have an issue with taking criticism from a person who wasn't on the scene. Whats your take? How does your department handle the Safety Officer Position?
Technically, our departments policy says the Safety Officer should be filled by the highest seniority Lieutenant, but typically one of our Asst. Chiefs fills the role. He does a great job, and he is very well respected as an ISO.
Our department runs an exam and interview process. The highest combined score is promoted to Safety Officer. His only job is to be a Safety Officer and is dispatched to all Working Fires, Heavy rescue extrication calls, hazmat, water or ice rescue, rope rescue, etc. We have two per platoon, they are on shift and respond out of their own stations/offices. They do a great job at keeping us secure.
When they pass they are ranked, just like the other promotional exams (ff's to Lt, Lt to Capt, etc). The top ranked will be promoted to the next open position, and so on. The promotion would be equivelant to a Lt, one bar, same pay. I am not entirely sure what they do when not at calls (they run quite often, since they are covering a city of just under 1 million), but I do believe they work with the training department, committee work, and I know a couple of them do research for Safety Systems, stats, protection against CO and Hydrogen Cyanide poisoning, etc. I'm sure there's a lot more to it, but I only see them at a call or if we happen to drop into headquarters.
I'll see if I can get some more info on the position and let you know.
The roll of safety officer is very important. He sees things that others do not. His job is look for, 1 safety issues with personnel, 2 what the structure is doing. He/she is suppose to be looking at everything, from all angles. This person should have experiance in fighting fires, know the signs of structural collapsise, be able to read the smoke that is pooring out of the structure. They are there for us.
I would only add also they look out for the public as well. Sometimes the crowd can gather too closely to get the feel for the action, and they stand in clouds of smoke, or close enough to be hit by debris which the safety officer can have a police officer correct by moving them. Otherwise your right on the money
There are two distinct Safety Officer jobs within any Fire Department.
The first we are all familiar with, I'll call it the "Incident Safety Officer," as assigned in accordance with the NIMS. This is the Officer who, according to NFPA 1521, is responsible for ensuring that safety issues are managed effectively at the incident scene. This Officer advises the IC and has the authority to stop or suspend operations he or she deems unsafe. This individual should be an expert in fire behavior and building construction and collapse potential (more so than other Officers and Firefighters) and be qualified to serve as SO at emergency incidents. This individual does not sit at the Command Post act as a distracter to the IC; he or she is actively moving about the incident scene to serve as a second set of eyes for the IC and doing a continual 360 degree size-up.
The second job is that of “Department Safety Officer,” which is covered by NFPA 1500, the standard for the Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program. This is the officer who is not only a qualified and experienced Incident Safety Officer, but also runs the department's ergonomics program, hearing conservation program and other health and safety programs not directly related to emergency incidents. Although these programs apply to Firefighters and EMS Personnel, they also apply to Dispatchers, Secretaries and other administrative employees.
So while each incident has its own Safety Officer, for small incidents it is the IC (i.e. a dumpster fire with a single engine response), for larger incidents a department may have a designated "Green Helmet" Chief Officer assigned to each platoon and advises Battalion, or Division Chiefs. But those three, or four, Platoon Safety Chiefs should work with and be advised by the Department Safety Officer who is overall in charge of ensuring the Safety Officers assigned to each platoon are performing their duties within the Department's Occupational Safety and Health program, and in accordance with NFPA 1500 and NFPA 1521. The Department Safety Officer may, or may not, be assigned to a platoon depending on the size of the department, just like in some departments The Chief may not actually respond to incidents and is mainly an administrative function, either way the Department Safety Officer serves as the Mentor, Coach and evaluator for the platoon Safety Officers.
Couldn't have said it better myself. Like I said it frustrates me that a basic position that has been explained on here 100 times, it's in NIMS, it is in FF1 and FF2, and is common terminology across the fire service is not only overlooked, but blatently disreguarded as if "nothing can happen wrong" It is sad but all too true
While it is everyone's responsiblity to "be a safety officer," there needs to be someone who is not activiely involved in fire suppression/rescue activites to be an objective evaluator of the safety of the operation. Often we get a case of "smoke blinders" and cannot see that we may be making a big mistake, or that the situation has changed outside of our immeidate location.
Everyone's a Safety Officer, you're absolutely right, but while we're each focused on accomplishing our jobs, we need someone to watch our backs.