Health & Safety Committee: Our role in emergency scene safety

August 1, 2022

Almost anything can go wrong on an emergency scene. Thus, we have innumerable professional standards, local protocols, and tips of the trade that work to make us safer in the dangerous situations that we encounter each day on the job. It is important to study these, learn them, and live them. We need to internalize these procedures, and we need to make them a part of every act and decision so that action and safety become one. 

As professionals, we embed safety in technique. Instead of being a second thought, safety has to be organically part of execution from the beginning. I hope your mind is spinning with examples…

…the list goes on and on, and it is up to us to make these procedures part of our daily operations. This requires training and practice. 

I recently observed several of our units in a multi-unit fire-training scenario. I marveled at the confidence and speed with which a crew committed to forcing a commercial storefront door. The K-12 roared to life, and sparks erupted as the simulated deadbolt was cleanly cut in two.

Then I saw that the firefighter with the saw had neither gloves on nor eye protection in place. Suddenly I could have cared less that the crew opened the door in less than X seconds. Our actions are not fully effective if they are not safe. In my mind, I saw images of bloodied hands, and eyes burned black by sparks. 

Contrary to what our firefighters sometimes might think, they are the most important part of our professional lives. If we do not address safety issues with them, it is most likely due to not wanting to hurt feelings. We don’t want to hurt feelings because we want to be liked. We want to be liked because we are still too focused on ourselves. 

Focus on the men and women with whom you serve – our firefighters – so they can do the job, both today and tomorrow, that we need to do.

It is up to us as leaders (and we are all leaders, at every rank) to guide our team members in being effective and efficient. All of that also depends on them being safe. What makes us valuable as firefighters is our professionalism, and the two key elements of professionalism are safety and effectiveness. Neither can stand alone in our business. 

Safety does not become part of execution just because of training and practice. Perhaps most importantly, it requires communicated and reinforced expectations.   

This job is about the public we serve. To serve them well we have to take care of our own. Embed safety in your operations every day.

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