We're supposed to be responders to All Hazards - in other words, we don't do just one thing. In the range of things we do, it never ceases to amaze me how many times I hear or see really bad ideas espoused as the way to do things. Examples abound;

1) Refusing to wear seat belts in the rig "So we can go right to work at the scene".

2) Putting a vent crew on the roof of a structure that is an obvious defensive fire that has already autovented.

3) Putting engine crews in the collapse zone on a defensive fire.

4) Forcing crews to wear structural firefighting PPE for situations where it actually creates hazards from heat stress, lack of mobility, or negative buoyancy such as remote wildland fires, USAR calls, and water rescues.

5) Advocating rescue procedures based on how easy they are to perform even if they create excessive risk to the patient.

My responses to the above are;

1) If your rig only makes it halfway to the scene and you are ejected from the rig, how did the few seconds you "saved" on this call make it worth the end of your career and maybe your life? A few seconds to buckle in pale by comparison.

2) If the fire is through the roof, the fire has already been vertically ventilated. It's the fire's way of telling you to put the truckies to work somewhere else.

3) If your hose stream can't reach the interior of a defensive fire from a safe location, either get a bigger stream in play or just protect exposures with the one you have. You don't need to see how close you can get to the fire when it can drop a wall or an overhang on your head.

4) If you fight wildland fires, do USAR work, or do water rescue, dress for the sport you're playing. Wearing structural PPE to wildland fires can kill you from heat stress and will greatly reduce your mobility. Mobility is a big deal when you're hiking 100 yards - or 5 miles - in a wildland firefight. Mobility is a big deal in confined spaces, trenches, or structural collapse. Structural PPE doesn't help you float, so don't wear it to water rescues.

5) We need to follow best practices because they're the best thing to do, not because they're the easiest thing to do. Rescue procedures need to be evaluated on what we might do TO the patient as well as what we can do FOR the patient.

The photo above shows a best practice - placing a barrier board between rescue tools and the patients. That provides fragment and impact protection for the patients just in case something goes wrong. The rescuers in the photo are demonstrating a best practice instead of just hoping that they get lucky.

If you do something dangerous or stupid and get away with it once, you're lucky.
If you get away with it twice, you're VERY lucky. If you get away with it three times, it's now your SOG.


If you count on good luck as an SOG, sooner or later you'll be attending a LODD funeral for someone that was killed by "We've always done it that way."

Be smart, and don't count on good luck as a SOG. Eventually, your good luck will run out.

I don't want "Unlucky" on my tombstone. How about you?

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Comment by Ben Waller on May 28, 2009 at 10:11pm
David, I agree with you that enforcing the rules is important, but there are a couple of caveats there.

1) The vollie Chief isn't in every rig every time, so if the subordinates are not convinced that wearing the seat belts is a good ides, then enforcement may be spotty.

2) The career officer can take a day off, leaving a subordinate as the acting officer. If the subordinate isn't convinced, the crew may use the officer's vacation as their own vacation from following the rules.

The National Fire Academy has several leadership classes on executive leadership and managing change. In these classes, they discuss the differences between "Technical" change and "Adaptive" change. An example is that if you purchase new pumpers with the LDH intake on the rear instead of at the pump panel, teaching the engineers to make the connection up at the rear is a Technical change. However, until they get enough repetitions to eradicate their habit of taking the LDH coupling to the pump panel, they're going to keep on doing that, even though there's no hookup to be had there. Once the engineers get in the habit of doing things the new way, they've made the Adaptive change.

"Convincing my guys" tells us that at least one of us is having difficulty with the Adaptive change.

Adaptive change is usually much harder than technical change, because it involves changing habits, ways of thinking, or other ingrained human behavior. It can be overcome. To get help implementing Adaptive change, remember that "Converts make the best Missionaries."
Comment by Ben Waller on May 28, 2009 at 10:02pm
Ray, That's a good point about the ladder.

The rescuer is on a step ladder, and he's two rungs down from the top.
You just can't see the ladder through the other rescuers.

When we do the "Picture Window" evolution, we always make the top cut first, The cutter is supported by the post while it makes the cut. The rescuer moves down a couple of rungs prior to making the bottom cut, so he's in a better position when he cuts the unsupported end of the post.

Ben
Comment by Kirk D. Baughman on May 28, 2009 at 8:31pm
all true need to make sure everyone sees and reads this!!!!!!!!! way to go.
Comment by Willie Townsend on May 28, 2009 at 3:55pm
This is so try in the fire service. Everyone get on the scene and get tunnel vision. Train safe, work safe.
Comment by David White on May 28, 2009 at 12:27pm
Excellent post. I don't get the "convincing my men" comments though. If you are a supervisor (company officer or above) it is your duty to see that your subordinates take appropriate safety precautions (wear seatbelts, right PPEs) and engage in tactics where the risk matches the potential gain. Every supervisor should read the article in this month's Fire Chief magazine about the fire officer's civil and criminal liability during emergencies. The legal environment we work in is changing because of ongoing poor safety practices.
Comment by Brian Dumser on May 28, 2009 at 11:25am
Nicely written, and so very true. We've actualy gotten away from the "it's always been done that way" method. As I always say, "let common sense be your guide!" Stay safe!
Comment by Mark Klaene on May 28, 2009 at 11:22am
Wow, not sure which surprises me more , the need to post something so obvious or the comments that imply there are folks out there that actually fit into 1 or more of these 5 "don'ts"

Had I not seen this I would never believed that firefighters actually still do these things in this day and age. Seems like all of these are either common sense or basic fire training.

Thanks for an interesting post !
Comment by Roger Close on May 28, 2009 at 9:53am
Oustanding post! I'm ready to pin on my "Real Firefghter" badge and help spread the word to ALL the Bretheren. Let's use that thing on top of our shoulders for something besides a hat rack.....it's way overdue. Dont get me wrong i love and respect the tradition in our profession...but i refuse to participate in the"We've always done it that way crowd" Amen Brother Ben!
Comment by Padre Pete on May 28, 2009 at 9:10am
Thanks Ben. Great post. Note to Brother Bowles: You are no "Nerd". Help me find some more fitting title for those who respect safety training and practices. Safety believers need to be elevated not demeaned. Why add fuel to non-believers fires? Maybe they should be called "Real Firefighters".
Comment by Dave Wenck on May 28, 2009 at 9:03am
Very true, in our small station i have pulled the seat belts out from under the seat and i use them and so do most of the guys but there are still ones that don't. Two of the newer rigs have shoulder type belt's , one ems and one engine,i alway's make mention if i make a call to buckle before we leave.

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