Just got back from Pt 1 of a two part course on "Liability Record Keeping and Report Writing For the Fire Service" and I am wondering if and how those of you who are members of small volunteer departments handle your report writing. Is this something that you even do? If so, when? Do you take the time when you get home at 3:00am to write things down or do you wait til the next day and hope things are still fresh in your mind?
98% of the time it's done immediately after the incident while everything is still fresh in our minds. We type and log ours into our computer program, rather than writing it out. Two copies are printed out, attached to the trip sheet, as well as saved to the hard drive.
We try to do them immediately after the incident, but not always. We use the online fire reporting system to report them to the state. We then write a discription of events that happened on the call an addendem into the report that we printed off from the reporting system. Sometimes we wait until we talk to the members who were involved with the call to make it as accurate as it can be. Being on a volunteer department that runs very few runs, its hard to make every call. But being only one person is responsible for doing these reports, it critical to communicate with your department to get down the points that you need to record. For those early morning/ late night calls, we tend to do them after we get some sleep and rested up. It tends to help us think more clearly, and not want to hurry the process.
One report only, usually done by a line officer or OIC of the incident. The only time we have had to do individual reports was for something really serious, crime scene, future litigation, stuff like that.
I write a report of every call no matter what it was. Sometimes it may be the next day or even several days latter. This is submitted to the State Fire Marshals Office online. Many times I will put out a press release immediately after the call, who, what, when , why, and where. But depending on the seriousness of the call the reports are written fairly soon. Many times however, I will go back and add to a report when more information is know.
This seems to be the norm, and is understandable, but .... while some scenes are obviously more serious, how do you predict when any scene (large or small) might come back to bite you as a liability issue? How are you going to cover your butt, so to speak, if there isn't documentation? This is what we are being told in this course but how does the average small town volunteer find the time and energy to do the paperwork?
This is great and I think every department everywhere has their minimum reports that must be filed with their "higher-ups". But what I am looking for is whether individuals write some type of report even if its not formal. For example, I keep a journal of every call I attend. My husband used to blog his calls until the department asked him to stop. For us, these were just ways of coping or even just clearing your mind. But, with this course I am being told this is what every fire fighter should be doing to some degree.
Report writing is done by the incident commander of the incident.
Why would you personally need to write an individual report for every call you went on? The incident commander, the senior fire officer is the one in charge and therefore liable for any and all of YOUR actions.
If something did go wrong, the Incident Commander, the Fire Chief and/or the Town will be left holding the liability. Now as far having individual witness statements or reports, this may cause further damage if your personal report is found to contradict what happened during an incident should the incident commanders report was found to be scutinzed by a lawyer.
As far as covering your own butt under a civil lawsuit, if that is what you are worried about you need to find another career. Firefighters who are asked to write a report of action, is usually done when the incident warrants multiple statements to what was seen or done. Ie: a fatal fire incident. These reports are not to cover your butt for a civil or personal lawsuit, but more to assist the fire investigator in the investigation process as to what caused, happened, or was disturbed from the fire department personnel post arrival.
For a more specific and correct answer though, you need to go see your fire chief.
BTW: internet blogging about department response, actions or personal opinions are going to get you, your husband and the department sued. I totally agree with your chief.
Thank-you for your comments. I am not personally concerned about civil action but am responding to what we are being taught and looking for comments in that direction. Your comments tend to agree with my way of thinking. My journal, as I said before, is a way of clearing my head and was never intended to be a public access document or to be used in court.
Perhaps this is more of a regional thing. It would be interesting to hear whether this is being taught in other areas as well.
I agree about the blogging and once the issue was raised so did my husband.
I will always try to do them immediately. It is always best, while the incident/facts are still fresh in your mind. Always make notes if you can, and KEEP the notes. You'll never know when you may have to refer back to them, i.e., it becomes a legal matter, or the PD has to get information from you, or your department reguarding the incident. Just my two cents. :) I hope everyone had a safe and Happy New Years.
Just as a warning.... Personal journals are subject to submittal if you get a subpeona. So I would not make them known to anyone. This has got many good officers in trouble with personnel issues, because it documented times and places of incidents in which were not handled appropriately.
Can I ask another question?
What does keeping a "personal journal" have to do with your "Liability Record Keeping and Report Writing For the Fire Service" class. You stated this was done to clear your head... I do not anyone who keep a journal to clear their head. Do you mean this in a mental health way, like a debriefing?