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Ocotber 22, 2002
Didja' Ever Suffer From N.T.S.?
By Chief Billy Goldfeder

Seems that ever since Bruno started reminding us that the impression we give
the public may just possibly have a contributing factor in our ability to get
the public's support...many FD's seem to go out of there way to "do the right
thing"...be it helping Mrs. Smith, Jones or whoever. That's generally a good
thing. On the other hand...sometimes we just don't think.

"NTS"...(Non-Thinking-Syndrome) effects ALL of us...just read some of the articles I have written... "uhh...ya mean ya do a spell check and reread a document BEFORE you hit the SEND button"!? Then there was the time I had a fire in a large mansion style home and called for dozens of tankers...only to find a significant and easily accessed source of water on the property....And
then, there was the time that I didn't do a walk around and...... Yeah...we ALL suffer from NTS from time to time.

There are times when it's no big deal ....but then there are times where our lackadaisical, poorly focused, careless "don't worry...we are FIREFIGHTERS" irresponsible attitudes kick in and then, there is a mess to deal with.

All of you can provide numerous examples of some of the more serious NTS situations that have occurred...some are even caught on video. Remember the FD years ago that had hundreds of citizens (and kids) at their open house...and the FD lit a small shed on fire...and the FF's responded to show the public the job they do...and the shed burned more heavily...and the firefighters, on their knees...walked right into the flames and the firefighters caught on fire?? Yeah... firefighters on fire. 
Just the thing for some 3 year old to witness.

Now, this past weekend, a fire department with a good reputation sadly ended up airlifting "one of our own" after a bonfire was lit by the firefighters...and a few firefighters caught fire....with hundreds of

Naturally, the effects it has on the public is one thing...but burning some firefighters? I guarantee you that the FD has safety policies, regular training, requires FF's to fully gear up when responding and on a scene and other FD related policies. BUT I'll bet that the NTS kicked in with a "non-emergency" scenario providing a false sense of laid back calm. No sirens...no urgency...hell, the firefighters are setting this fire..whats not to like?

And then boom...and more burned firefighters in front of hundreds of citizens...and lil'kids. The publics impression is severely altered...numerous lives are interrupted...firefighters are in pain and
perhaps scarred for life...all for the sake of a bonfire. Ever burn your finger? Try second degree burns on your face.

NTS strikes again. (This is the part where you hear Homer Simpson smacking his own head and saying "Duuupe") So what do ya do about NTS? I think that NTS is UNavoidable when strict policies and procedures aren't followed (or don't exist)...NTS strikes when proper supervision isn't applied...NTS strikes when strict and daily discipline is lacking...NTS strikes when serious, applicable, disciplined and regular required training is lacking...NTS strikes when we don't have
qualified people involved...NTS strikes when command and control isn't applied and NTS strikes when only one "head" does the thinking without fostering appropriate input. NTS is related to Murphy........and his law.

In conclusion, a constant state of expecting the unexpected (with the above ingredients) whether on an emergency scene or a non-emergency duty is the only way to minimize the unexpected. NTS may strike 1 out of 2 firefighters...or more....we've ALL gotten nailed by it before. But with a
regular "dose" of:

  • Organizational Discipline.
  • Written and Easy To Understand Policies.
  • Constant & Applicable Training.
  • Qualified Supervision.
  • Command and Control...at all times....emergency or routine details.
NTS can be minimized! NTS is the enemy of risk managers...and ALL firefighters and especially fire officers are supposed to be "risk" managers. NTS can and has happened to each and every one of us. Expecting the unexpected is extremely difficult and challenging.... Why? Cuz' ya don't expect it. "DUUUPE"