There are common mistakes in all jobs, but when firefighters make a mistake it usually involves some one getting hurt. It’s not really that we forget about safety, or that we get reckless, these things have a way of happening if we don’t work at remembering them.
When we first arrive on the scene the officer should always do a 360 degree walk around the building. Walking around the building helps us a first responders, and also helps possible victims that are visible from the sides or back of the building that would otherwise be unnoticed.
As first responders a walk around will provide our officer with all the exits of the building, and building hazards we need to be aware of. When things are moving fast it is easy for the officer to go right to work, or to skimp on the 360 by just peeking around a couple corners. Missing the geography of the building is limiting your knowledge of the situation you are getting into.
“Has anyone seen the IC? He is inside the building.” Too often the Incident Commander falls back into the firefighter role and he wanders into the building to see what is going on. I find this happening to me a lot.
We get the thrill of putting out a fire in our blood and it very hard to stand outside while everyone else gets to go to work.
I have seen Fire Chiefs that can’t stay outside, they seem to always justify going inside because there may still be an IC outside. Once you reach the level of Incident Commander or Chief you need to leave the firefighting to the firefighters, trust that they know what they are doing. If you don’t trust what they are doing inside maybe you should get involved in their training and make sure they know what they are doing
There is a lot to do when we get to a fire, and sometimes we don’t have enough people to get it all done. We don’t have trouble knowing what needs to get done, but we do have trouble deciding what is not going to get done.
We can’t open the roof, force the front door, lead-out the hose, and throw the ladders if we roll up with only 4 or 5 firefighters. Decision making now becomes more critical because you need to decide what you need to do and what you can wait on.
Not completing all the tasks you know need to be done makes you job more dangerous. If you are short on staff make sure your crew knows what you are going to accomplish with the amount of people you have.
Train with the number of people you will have at a fire. Training should replicate how you respond, including all the resources you respond with.
There is not a firefighter out there that doesn’t turn things up a notch when there is a rescue or a child involved in the call. We seem to throw away our common sense and go all in without thinking.
It’s easy to tell firefighters to stay calm, it’s not your emergency, but that saying doesn’t work, because when we are dispatched it does become our emergency.
We all make mistakes. Being conscious of these mistakes will make it easier for us to avoid them.