Fire/EMS Safety Week: Survival Requires Situational Awareness and Structural Size-Up

The IAFC and the International Association of Fire Fighters are asking you to Protect Yourself: Your Safety, Health and Survival Are Your Responsibility. We’re calling on all fire/EMS departments and all IAFF affiliates to participate in the 2009 Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week, scheduled for June 14-20.

Fire chiefs should develop situational awareness of their own organizations and ensure firefighters and company officers are aware of what is happening around them as well. One critical issue is building construction.

It’s extremely important for firefighters to become familiar with and understand the make-up of the structures with which they are dealing, as their lives can depend on it. Make it a priority to ensure you and your firefighters understand the building materials currently being used and those used in the past to construct buildings in your community.

A good initial size-up of the situation at any emergency is paramount in the development of a safe incident action plan. Have a size-up checklist as a reminder, in conjunction with a tactical worksheet that will help you operate safely and efficiently.

Make sure a 360° walk around the structure is always completed at every working incident. This allows the initial incident commander to gather as much information as possible of what’s really going on. Features such as the layout of the building, location of entry/exit points and possibly the location of the fire can be assessed.

After the initial size-up is conducted, rules of engagement should be established and communicated to all personnel operating at the incident to ensure a safe, coordinated effort to mitigate the problem.

One of the most important components is the accountability of firefighters at the scene of every emergency to which you respond. Whatever type of accountability system you may use, make certain that all personnel are trained and proficient in its use. The same goes for the tools and equipment that are on the apparatus in your organization.

Ensure you and other members of your department are trained to the highest possible level. When this is accomplished you can remain calm and concentrate while operating in high-risk, stressful environments.

Visit the Safety Week website for more information on this year’s program and for planning resources developed by the IAFC Safety, Health and Survival Section.

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