Have A SAFE New Year!
By Bob Leonard
Every year we say to each other “Have a
Happy and Safe New Year”. Let’s see if this year we can back that
statement up so everyone goes home safe. With 2005’s arrival it seems
that the emphasis in training is on “Back to the Basics” and “Firefighter
Survival”. This is appropriate considering that in 2004, we lost
107 Firefighters. These 107 are; fathers, mothers, husbands, wives,
brothers, sisters and someone’s child or friend. The topics and ideas
in this article are not new, this is a “refresher” of items sometimes we
forget to do or over look. The purpose of Back to Basic and Firefighter
Survival is to help insure that everyone goes home safely. Hopefully,
this article will help to insure the same.
Let’s start with Personal Protective Equipment
(PPE) since we all have it and it is something that is, usually, ours alone.
Let’s wear the correct costume (ensemble) for the task at hand.
||On EMS, wear your gloves
and eye protection on every call
Those two items will do more to insure
your safety, than any vaccination or shot out there. Be aware that
sometimes both you and the patient need a mask. Remember to fill
out your exposure forms when the situation warrants the need, and wash
|For wildland fires if
you have the option of wearing wildland PPE, wear it.
Turn outs are just too heavy and cause
you to over heat when on an extended wildland operation. Remember
to stay hydrated, cool down and open up when rehabbing, stay informed of
the local weather forecast , fire conditions and the areas fire history.
For Structural firefighting,
the key is be intimately
familiar with your gear.
We teach Recruits to don there turnouts
the same way every time, so they don’t forget any steps or equipment.
We also teach them to store their turnouts in anticipation of a fire not
for the convenience of riding on the rig. When was the last time
you checked your turnout pockets to inventory you personal tools. When
was the last time you tried to access your tools with a gloved hand without
looking. Maybe some tool changes or tool location changes need to
take place in order for you to be prepared to go to work. Remember
to wear the appropriate PPE on every call, every time because the next
smells and bells, or frequent flyer could be the real deal, and will you
Attitudes we all have them, have you checked
yours lately? The thing about attitudes is they are contagious.
They can be positive, negative, I just don’t care, or every other Friday
(payday). What ever your attitude is, most of your peers know it
and deal with you according to their perception of your attitude.
Are you someone people have to work with or someone people want to work
with. Remember your oral board, “why do you want to be a Firefighter?”,
most of us want to help people and save them from the “ravishes of fire”.
With that in mind take every advantage to prepare for your next fire.
Spot the rig as you would for a fire on
those frequent EMS calls. While inside on the EMS call look at the
layout of the residence, is it common for that area? Are you beginning
to see patterns in floor plans, room locations? Before taking up
from an EMS call do a size up or two, talk tactics, line placement, life
safety concerns, and any hazards you might notice. This will help
keep the firefighting morale up and help crews to stay focused, especially
between those all too random fires. Another way to stay focused on
your local fire problem is to critique other’s fires. If possible
go to the scene talk about what they did and what you might do differently.
Its easy to start bashing others at this point, don’t let that happen,
remember you’re there to improve your operation for future fires.
Consider getting a copy of the dispatch tapes including the command and
tactical channels. This will help to paint a picture as to how the
incident evolved, especially the who, what, where, when, why, and how of
Lastly, stay abreast with the current trends
and training happening within the fire service. This can be accomplished
within your own department or outside. On the outside there are various
Hands On Training (HOT), lectures, community colleges, magazines and internet
sites. All helping to keep you abreast of the current trends in your fire
Hopefully this refresher is a good starting
point for all of us to reflect our own personal operation and think of
ways to prepare for our next incident. Remember the basics are what
everything else is built upon, and the basics will help to insure that
we all go home safe. Hopefully this year will be as safe as possible.
Until next time, be prepared, be professional, and be safe.
Bob started in
the fire service as a seasonal Firefighter for the California Department
of Forestry in 1984. In 1986 he began working full time for Yuba
City FD (CA), a combination department. In 1990 he left Yuba City
Fire Department to join San Jose Fire Department (CA). Bob currently
work as a firefighter on Engine 3 in downtown San Jose. He is a Battalion
1 ‘A’ shift Trainer and teaches at the Recruit Academy in San Jose.
He is also, the chairman of the Engine Company Committee for
San Jose Fire Department.