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If you had the ability to make one and only one change that effects the safety of the members on your job, what would that one change be? There are often many things that effect our safety and it is often difficult to prioritize the issues. Additionally, many of us either feel we are not in a position to effect change. I believe we are all able to effect positive change, even as entry-level firefighters.

There are four areas that account for a majority of the line of duty deaths and injuries in the American fire service (below). I believe that we can all have a direct impact on each of these four areas. Make a daily choice to address these and other issues.

1) Accountability. It is not really about a system (passport, tags etc...) it should be more about maintaining three things: contact by touch, voice or sight. If any of these are lost, accountability is lost. The company officer is the vital link (as in almost every area) to good accountability. Company officers need to instill a respect for discipline (not punishment) on the fireground that eliminates freelancing and leads to close accountability.

2) Fitness, Rest and Rehab. I believe it is our duty and obligation to each other (brothers and sisters) to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of fitness and wellness. We are all we have when our best efforts and training are not enough to keep us out of harms way. In the end, we must be able to count on each other...... We must do a better job resting and rotating and "actively" rehabbing our members.

3) Wear your seat belts and protect your people on the road. Don't wait for the Emergency Traffic Control program to be "hammered-out".......we don't need an agreed upon formal program. Position that big red truck between your people and those that will hurt or kill them. We can work on specific blocking techniques and add cones and signs.........for now Block, Block, Block.

4) In order to make solid, reasoned risk benefit decisions, officers and firefighters need to arm themselves with an extensive knowledge base in building construction, fire behavior, reading smoke and other readily available training topics. It is clear that we are not doing a great job a recognizing rapidly changing fire conditions,,, spend more time on the basic building blocks that will provide the information necessary to make good, informed decisions on the fireground.

What are your thoughts? Tell me about the ONE thing on your job, that if you could or can make that change, would greatly impact the safety of your members.

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I would love to make it mandatory to be at training each month. After missing two consective months you are on probation and can not respond until you have attended training for four consective months. The only problem is if we did that then there would be about six people available to respond to calls. The departments lack of training really showed a few months ago when a trailer burned down. Myself and my husband (the chief) had gone out to dinner about an hour away. The assitant chief and chaplian were at the high school basketball game. Neither of their radios went off, we were too far away for our radios to pick it up. When the chaplan got the phone call, he was the family's pastor, he and the assitant chief both responded. There hadn't been a call since my husband became chief that either he, the assitant chief, or myself at. This was the first. Everything went wrong. People who weren't supposed to be near the smoke were on the hose, people not even on the department were on the hose. It was a horrible. I wanted to crawl in a h*** and die from the embarrassment. Chief ripped their butts good when it was all over and since then there has been seven people showing up for training. The first training day after that call I even had dispatch page the department out. No one extra showed up. We can't be safe if we aren't training.
Well, number 4 is one of the most important in regards to training our people. But I feel that the biggest thing we as a fire service need to do is to convince our administrations that the minimum manpower should be 4 to 5 on each engine and ladder truck. That way at every incident we respond to gets midigated as quickly and as safely as possible, and without causing more damage that needs to be done. That way EVERYONE GOES HOME!

BE SAFE!
Hey Art,

I have a couple things that come to mind but I will give you the ONE that you are asking for and would best serve as creating a safer environment for the members.
Consolidating apparatus and members to one building. We have 5 companies in 4 stations, 4 Eng's and a truck, that all suffer with low membership response. By having those dedicated members respond to one station, apparatus could respond with a full crew on the required apparatus for the job at hand. This would put the firefighters at an advantage when arriving and not at a disadvantage as we respond now. (Staffing) It would also allow firefighters who have never responded first due to utilitize their skills and become better firefighters bringing the force to a higher level of teamwork which inturn becomes a safer fireground operation. We are a dencely populated town 2 square miles and the benifits would be priceless!! If only the others could see the end result. We in the fire service are not getting larger, we are getting smaller, putting a greater strain on the limited crews we have. At what rate do we continue to kill firefighters before we realize it is to late? A question we should all ask ourselves, I do every day !

STAY SAFE !! Dennis
I think the lack of training play a huge part in deaths and injurys. If you don't trian for the worst case scenerio, or any scenerio for that matter, how can you expect to be ready when the moment of truth arrives. As previousley stated, when things go south, it is embarrising, and it gives the fire service a bad name. Coming from a volunteer dept, I have realized it is hard to get any positive feedback from the community in which we serve because of past members actions. Houses that were once standing are not today because of carelessness and lack of training, Equipment breaks down and malfuncitons, bad things happen at the worst times, but if you are not trained to an acceptable level then you will not know how to handle the situations that could possibly face you on the next scene. It goes back to accountability for me, not only on the fireground, but at the meetings, in the classrooms, holding other members accountable for the actions. It could be my life in their hands.
The one most positive corrective measure would be to have the power to boost the overall work ethic by which our firefighters approach the job. Having a positive, progressive and enthusiastic work ethic and a high set of personal standards and goals would erase many of the failures that cause us harm. A good work ethic results in the employee (career or volunteer) who is willing to learn, practice and follows the rules. An employee who can recognize failures--personal and departmental--and work towards a solution will add stability and respect to the organization. Many of us are quick to blame others for failures--city council--the chief and city manager--the union and so on--when in fact too often we are part of the problem and we should be part of the solution. A good work ethic--one that should be contagious-- can conquer many problems when exercised with tact, professionalism, diplomacy, education and research to support the position. Establish a good work ethic and the tasks that need addressed on the job will be addressed appropriately--For Example--why do we not wear seatbelts? Why do we need a written SOG and disciplinary action for not following the SOG--If we respect the job and have a good work ethic--we follow the common sense rules and wear the seatbelt without having to be told!
John,

Thanks for the reply, couldn't agree more. The leadership of our officers is critical, I ask my officers to always remember that they are being watched, evaluated and measured in everything. However, all members would do well and the service would benefit greatly if personal leadership was the status quo. Make daily choices and decisions to do what is right, be the firefighter, officer, person that others will look to and emulate. This should start from the day new members walk in the door. Seek to become craftsmen, tradesmen in the craft and trade of firefighting. In time, seek to be the member that other members will identify as the "go to guy" regardless of the issue. It all starts with the individual. We spend alot of time running down the leadership in our varied organizations, perhaps we would do better to look in the mirror...... Thanks again John.
Eddie,

Thanks for the response. We can only hope to improve our image in the public if we keep our house in order. As my late father told me, seek to establish a great reputation and build credibility over time. Once you have established these two items, defend them at all cost. This can be extended to our organizations. It is so difficult to establish our reputation and earn the respect of the community, and they are so easily damaged. I have decided over my career that beyond customer service and all of the other buzz-words that it is really more basic .... I emplore my officers and shift members to seek a positive outcome from each contact with the public. It may be as simple as looking professional, a kind word, a complete explaination of why things happen on a call etc........ We may only get one shot at establishing our reputation with a member of the public, a negative contact will color their opinion from that point forward.

Thanks again Eddie. ( i have a candidate on my shift with the same name)
Gary,

I agree; however, first, lets stop hurting our cause. We can't expect elected officials to understand our staffing issues if our own members continue to hurt our cause. Example: When a rig is taken out of service, do we "fill the bay" with another rig, a suburban, a car, four bicycles.....or something with the manpower? or..do we distribute the manpower to other rigs? We can't continue to leave the bay empty. Those elected officials will get the idea that we don't need the missing rig. Additionally, on those rare days (usually in Jan. Feb and March) when we do have four members on the rigs, why are we so quick to give-up the "extra" man to run errands, go shopping or stay behind to cook. The fourth man isn't "extra"! Rather, we are finally getting closer to the manning we need to do our job more effectively and effectively. Let's stop hurting our cause. Don't leave the bay empty and don't be so quick to give up the "extra" man. We don't ever have extra men.

Thanks again Gary
My suggestion has nothing to do with training, administration, or techniques. The only way you can change something in a person especially safety is their attitude. Attitude is 98% of what drives us to do what ever it is we do. I want to train every shift with my engine company, but some days my attitude drives me to say I don't feel much like having company level training. Other days I may be responding to a call and have an attitude that the call is only two blocks down the street so I don't wear my safety belt. Attitude is what makes us all to choose what it is we will be doing for that moment and in the future, whether it be a good choice or a bad choice. Attitude never applies to the past for then it is simply to late. What is your attitude going to be? Safety we all say is our top priority when performing our work. Its just to bad our attitude doesn't always show it.
Bill,

Thanks for the reply. Your comment ties in well with John's reply regarding work ethic. Our service has a new emphasis on safety; however, as you point out, attitude and choices will drive you in the right direction. It is hard to do what is right all of the time. It takes constant attention to your every word, phone conversation, e-mail and action. Any one can talk the talk, I want brothers that walk the walk. Actions are what matters, not words.... Keep fighting the good fight brother. The good news is that great attitudes are contagious.

Thanks again,

Art

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