The numbers don’t matter – Capt. Dave LeBlanc

USFADataImage

As we continue to discuss the future of the fire service and it’s mission as it relates to fire attack, protecting civilians and our safety, something has become clear.

The numbers don’t matter. It was less safe to return from an incident this year than it was to operate on the fireground. 9 out of 87 deaths occurred on the fireground, while actively engaged in firefighting activities (advancing hoselines, search and rescue, ventilation) [1]. And of the 87, 44.7% were not incident related.

Yet from the daily dialogue one would would think differently. Considering the thousands of fire fought in this country, and the danger involved in firefighting, do those numbers warrant the the constant barrage of putting ourselves before victims, changing our tactics and the “over safetyification” of our jobs?

This isn’t to say there isn’t room for improvement. We can always learn more, train harder and do better; but with every LODD there is a chorus of “see, we told you this job was dangerous and we were right,” versus an honest assessment of what actually happened.

I have been accused of being angry, ranting, having a bad understanding of risk assent and management and of improperly advocating for the victims to advance my agenda.

I do believe the victims come first, and will not apologize for that. I believe that in all aspects of what we do, but especially when it comes to fire suppression. If we change our mindset, and slow ourselves to reduce the importance of life safety, we fall into the same trap we do when when consider an AFA as just “another false alarm”. We become complacent and are not prepared to do what needs to be done when we have to act.

There is a lesson to be learned from every line of duty death. We owe it to those that have fallen to learn from their incident. But we need to stop using LODDs as an excuse to not prepare, to not be ready and to not complete our mission.

 

References

1. Actually there are 10, but when using USFA data as defined by Activity Type we are currently limited to nine: Toledo 2 (Search and Rescue); Boston 2 (Advancing Hoselines and Search and Rescue); New York 1 (Search and Rescue); New Jersey 1 (Ventilation, but fell due to medical emergency); Texas 1 (Advancing Hoselines); Indiana 1 (Collapse while setting up unmanned master stream inside commercial building); Philadelphia 1 (Listed currently as Unknown, but news reports indicate Advancing Hoselines); and New York 1 (Search and Rescue)

 

Related

“Maryland Department, NFFF Team Up to Reduce Firefighter Deaths” (includes Tampa2 report) NFFF, FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation, December 2014
“On Duty & Line of Duty: What Is the Difference?” Carey, FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation, March 2013

 

Image courtesy of United States Fire Administration, 2014 Firefighter Fatality Data, from 8 January 2014 to 25 December 2014

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Comment by Dave LeBlanc on January 4, 2015 at 7:25pm

I am sorry you are confused Bill. let me explain.

There is a huge emphasis on changing how we fight fires, based on the "100 firefighters" that are killed each year.  There are some that advocate risk avoidance over risk preparation.

This "rant" as you call it is simply an explanation of what the numbers are, for real, and a call to hold true to the mission of the Fire Service.   Something many seem to have forgotten.

Comment by Bill on January 3, 2015 at 10:23pm
I am confused about your rant. It's purpose isn't clearly indicated. Are you trying to say that the fire service isn't dangerous based on the small percentage of fatalities on the fire ground?
The dangers within the fire service are growing daily. New chemicals and products being created that are harmful to firefighters. After many years of fighting the system, a law is being enacted that is regulating flame retardent labeling on furniture. Flame retardants are associated with a range of health problems including cancer and hormone disruption.(Quinton)
The fire service is dangerous regardless of how many firefighters are injured or die on the fireground. Firefighters are receiving doses of airborne products on all scenes from fires and EMS calls. We have no idea what is being inhaled on these calls. It takes years for our occupation to actually discover what is killing us and by that time it's to late for many. If you can smell it, then that product is entering your body.
The fire service is a dangerous occupation that answers the call for any and all requests for service regardless of the unknown hazards. We must prepare and always factor the safety of firefighting personnel as a top priority; regardless of numbers.

Reference
http://www.capradio.org/articles/2014/12/29/flame-retardant-labelin...

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