Greetings Brothers and Sisters.... In light of the tragic events that have occurred in Boston (West Roxbury district), New York City and Charleston there have been an unusual number of multiple Firefighter fatalities this year.
So far in 2007 according to the USFA 86 Firefighters have been killed in the line of duty, there were 106 Firefighters killed in the line of duty in 2006, in 2006 almost half of the LODD's were Heart related (Heart Attacks responding to, operating at or returning from incidents)
I have been thinking about the multiple LODD's in Boston, New York City and Charleston and have asked myself what are we dying for? We as Firefighters in the United States are the best trained, equipped and the most aggressive in the world today. We as a profession tend to continue traditions and ways of operating that aren’t exactly the safest way of doing business.
Look at the recent LODD's in Boston, NYC and Charleston, What did out Brothers die for? A commercial building that is insured and probably the owners of could give a crap if it burned to the ground.... A high-rise under demolition with no operating stand pipes or sprinklers..... A row of commercial buildings with no life safety issues. We tend to go "All in” due to our aggressive nature and traditions into occupancies that we should not be
Don’t get me wrong, I'm all for going "All in" in a residential fire that someone is known to be trapped in or may possibly be trapped in or even a commercial building that may have employee's trapped or possibly trapped and doing so even of supreme sacrifice
As a Chief Officer I looked at my tactics and the way I do "Business" in the light of these tragic events and asked myself what I would do if I was faced with the same type of fire. Well faced with a fire in an occupied residential, mercantile, or commercial building the answer is a no brainier.
With that being said we as an occupation need to take a serious look at our operations and the way we "do business" at commercial or mercantile occupancies. Did you know that McDonalds and Burger King don’t even insure their buildings for loss ??? .....It’s cheaper for them to bulldoze the building and build a new one...The question I ask is ...... Why are we putting people in these buildings.
Its time for a change in philosophy and fight these fires defensively and not put Firefighters in harms way unnecessarily.
Unfortunately not many Chief Officers, or firefighters for that matter, think about things the same way. The fire service is 82% (or close to it) volunteer. Many don't use the little training opportunity they have to teach safety. And the saddest figure is the full time departments that don't use the endless amount of time they have to teach safety. The number of full time deaths recently is very frightening. Why are there unfit firefighters driving vehicles they have no proper training to drive, without wearing seatbelts? In many departments, they cut the seatbelts out because they "get in the way." Wow!?!
While I definatly know where your coming from Chief and agree wholeheartedly, It isstupid to loose anyone in these sorts of situations, however, as You should know the6brothers who werekilled in Worcester Mass Cold Storage Warehouse also died In a "Vacant" building that was "known" to house vagrants, Last I had heard In Charleston although I havent dwelled on the entire situation there were employees in thebuidling when the fire started, In NYC, as I understand, again not dwelling on the situation, there were workers on scene when the fire began, and in Boston, I have heard both that the place was closed uptight on arrival, but also that in the resturant area was opened for buisness at the time of the fire, But again , I have not dwelled on every bit of info.
How many chinese resturants are closed that early in the evening in urban america? MY main issue and focus with regard to LODD's this last year are less On "these instances" and lean more towards others... It seems like there are 3 catigories,.... multiple FF deaths incidents , as you mentioned, Captains, it seemslikeover the last year all youhave heard about is how many Captains have died in the line of duty... LOts of potential factors ofcourse and the Third Category is Motor vehicular/apparatus deaths especially from Tanker Rollovers and other apparatus crashes and rollovers.... Know we all know, how "stupid" motorists are these days all the more reason for us while responding to take even more care when driving and especially tankers and ladders that are Not your family car.... the rollovers and vehicular accidental deaths are the real tragic aspect to me... getting there in your pov or a M/A tanker if 3 minutes later is more important then getting dead..
Heres a method of training I prefer. It gives a harsh view of reality that they could be on scene at anytime and have the crap hit the fan. I ordered NIOSH LODD reports. For each and every LODD they provide a summary, a map of the building, and their findings in how they dies. they then make reccomendations on how this could be avoided. Use these tools to help give your firefighters a harsh view of the real world, that they are not invisibe.
E-913 does exactly what I do, read and learn from the NIOSH reports. They should be required reading by all FFs everywhere. Then, when we're faced with a certain situation perhaps one of the incidents will come to mind and we'll say "wait a minute..."
Now when I read them I keep thinking "it could have been me", which is a lot better than a few years ago. Then it was "it can't happen to me" which is one answer to the "why" question.
It would also in a sense be honoring the memory of a particular FF who died in the line of duty, by learning from his/her tragedy. At least that's the way I look at it. It is a feeble answer to the "WHY" question but maybe some good can come from LODD incidents.
The amount of LODDs is a staggering number, but we have to keep things in perspective.Fact is we have been dying for various reasons since the first to call themselves firefighters.As a rule most incidents that have taken lives has been something that is unforseeable,of course there are bad calls to.Since 9/11 the media has been looking at us with a new interest(we sell papers and get people to watch tv)before that day in September no one really noticed or payed any attention to the fire service unless it affected them.We are involved in a dangerous business no matter how safe we think we are sometimes things happen that we cannot predict,we learn from them train for them but this is a progressive business.The more we learn about fire the more it changes also.As far as residential vs commercial how can you draw a line, its still someones livelyhood and we do have people inside these places as security,maint.,janitors and so on,even the homeless in the vacant warehouse deserves the chance to live.We dont always have the luxury of knowing that a building is empty,so we go in and find out.Each one of us feels the pain of loss, some cant deal with it and leave the service but the rest of us learn from it and get back on the truck to do what we were born to do FIGHT FIRE.This is an offensive business if we try to take a defensive position we are defeating the purpose of our being in existence.WE cannot save a life or put out a fire from the outside,therefore we are called FIREFIGHTERS this is a offensive term on the defensive side of things we protect the surrounding areas from spead and heat as best as we can.I wholeheartedly agree that we can and should do things proactive to protect ourselves,ie:TRAINING,EXERSISE(get your fat ass up and do something type)DRILLS and more TRAINING.Everyday is TRAINING DAY.
EVERYONE GOES HOME
We also need a healthy dose of a commanding officer with some common sense. Taking "building construction" Length of time and amount of fire, you can safely manage an interior attack. It is when you have rapidly deteriorating conditions, Poor ventilation, inadequate manpower, and NOT ENOUGH TRAINING to back up decision making that you increase the liability of having a LODD or severe injury. If you have a mcdonalds or burger king as you state and the building is engulfed in flames, umm last I checked set up master streams and stay back shes coming down. I think there needs to be a BALANCE. Seeing the extent of the fire, if there are multiple ways out of the area your crew is in, and making sure its vented before entry will vastly help the hose lines inside. They can't see everything that a commanding officer can see, and vise versa. (this is where good radio communications is essential (see also TRAINING)) I can't envision myself willing to work for a c/o whom was afraid to enter "the burger barn" for a fire in the bathroom, because it may kill one of my crew. Using the TRAINING and COMMON SENSE is whats needed, not a plan to stand outside and watch the small fire grow into a major conglagration while you sprinkle water in because it's not insured, or your afraid.
If the buildings not safe thats one thing, if you have no indicators of a collapse, and the fire is managable, get off your butt and get to work. You can preach safety, but until you impliment the safety into the SOP's and not the SOG's and actually ENFORCE it, it will be nothing more than more "crap" to read, and leave on the table at the end of training like so many do.
This is why it is IMPERRATIVE to put people into commanding roles (election of officers) whom have the proper training!!!! If you think it's hard to fund your activities and fire department now, wait until you get a 4 million dollar civil litigation suit when the victims wife learns the commanding officer wasn't trained properly, and possibally contributed to why they were in the building. Do a google search, departments, indivisual officers and the towns/cities get sued all the time.
I am all for firefighter and fireground safety. You are ALL right about the fact that commanding officer's are needed to justify their choice of operational plans, (IAP) to his or her boss, and the men/women that are working under their direction.
With this said, I look at the other side of the coin, traditionally we usually ask the instilled question of "Why are we NOT going in?" but I decided years ago to ask the question..."Why are we going in?" and forcing myself to justify the actions and dangers I expect my men to endure.
The other comment I really like to hear (from a fellow peer) and use often is, "Don't commit to a loser" If we would justify our choice of actions and stay away from the born losers, we would be better off. This goes for all actions on the fireground. The use of the "red line" or even inch/half line in today's btu producing furnishings - all losers. Heck, I have seen, departments commit to interior operations without a solid water supply to ever overcome the btu curve on a fully involved floor using a single or two inch/three quarter or two inch lines. Instead of choosing a blitz attack on the curve and then transferring to the clean-up or mop-up interior attack. Fires have changed, btu's have increased, construction has changed... commanders need to change.
The person developing the IAP really needs to have his or her game together to keep everyone going home at the end of the day.
Here is another thought I have had recently, any thoughts on what they are considering a LODD today? I have a real hard time to justify, any sorrow when I read another cardiac arrest on the fireground or at home when the person was 70, or 20 weighing 400 lbs or pre-exisiting cardiac conditions? With the inclusion of post incident medical LODD's for lets say MI, as compared to the past when these were not included in the statistics, do we really have an increasing trend in the #'s or are the past stats and today uncomparable?
"It would also in a sense be honoring the memory of a particular FF who died in the line of duty, by learning from his/her tragedy."
I agree, Joe. We've got to learn from these LODD's or else our Brothers & Sisters died in vain. One of my Battalion Chiefs sends out NIOSH reports via the dept. e-mail every week. Sometimes I read one and realize that could have easily happened to me or one of my crew. NIOSH reports can be a valuable tool. Stay safe!