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I've done it and you've done it. It is going to happen again and it's going to happen soon. With every line of duty death the Monday morning quarterbacks come out and tell us all what they should have or should not have done. We preach and teach to learn from these tragedies by understanding the circumstances surrounding the incident. But, what are we doing to make sure that this doesn't happen?

Our job is dangerous. Worcester Fire Department is a highly trained department and according to some reports I have gotten, fight these types of fires every year. There are some additional factors like high winds and possibly illegal renovations that compromised the structural integrity of the building. Neither of these two factors can be anticipated or controlled. We have a job to do and when we are told that someone is in a building, we do what we can to get to them. As I write this I have not heard confirmation that there was or was not a victim found.

I have no doubt that we could dissect and scrutinize what happened and we would have done this or that differently. We will hear how simplistic it should have been and others pounding the table that we don't enter buildings that are compromised. Guess what? As soon as that building catches fire it is compromised!

What frustrates me more is that in the fire service many are real good at solving problems after the fact and few try to identify and solve them before they are actualized. It's not just judging the YouTube video or a line of duty death, no, it's many things. "That guy doesn't know what he's doing." "That guideline is outdated and inefficient." "That small time volunteer fire department doesn't know what they're doing." Of course, most of these "kitchen table experts" have no desire to be proactive or to put themselves out there to take the lead on a project to make a positive change.

Sometimes, and I'm not saying this is the case yet, things are not preventable. Sometimes we are going to lose. We hope not, but we are running into burning, compromised buildings to save lives and property. When someone comes to us and is telling us someone is in the building, if we can make a push, we will and we should. This is what we do and why we are here. There is no time to run down a check list to determine if a certain profile is met. We don't have time to switch our size up decision making. We have to consider the situation presented to us at the time and use our training and experience to do our best to attempt a rescue.

But, if we do want to be Monday morning quarterbacks I suggest a different approach. Take your expertise and knowledge to some less fortunate departments in regards to resources for training and teach. Share your experience and knowledge with these departments and individuals to keep bad decisions being made on the fire ground. I believe that this is the best way to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for others. Whether there were mistakes or not, we can help to prevent those who don't have resources to perform appropriately on the fire ground.

We recently did a class in a remote part of our state and had two firefighters arrive with some hand-me down gear and SCBA. Neither had worn the gear before and neither had ever had on an SCBA. They stated they had been fighting fire with self purchased boots, gloves and helmets. That's it. Nothing more. This is still happening. We had to pull these two firefighters aside and walk them through some basics about gear and SCBA operations. We took extra time with them just to teach them basic firefighter skills. They were more than willing to learn and were eager.

The point is this: let's put our efforts into training and teaching firefighters to operate safely instead of beating up departments, officers and firefighters after the fact. Can we learn from these tragic events? Absolutely! We should learn lessons in a constructive manner from not just tragic events, but from every call we run. There is always something to learn whether things went well or not so well.

Train, be tolerant and make a difference in a positive way. Stay safe and thanks for reading.

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Comment by Jason Hoevelmann on December 18, 2011 at 8:49pm
Thanks guys, it's an honor to get your comments. I truly enjoy the feedback from everyone. Stay safe and have a great Christmas.
Comment by Jeff Schwering on December 18, 2011 at 4:29pm

Jason, very well done! Yes, we all at some point have played "Monday Morning quarterback," we owe it to ourselves to take a long look in the mirror, for those of us that take training seriously. Common Sense Thinking in todays Fire service is mandatory. We must be tolerant, proactive, and have a positive attitude in teaching. Judging is an easy way out, step up to the plate. Teach on every alarm, lessons are everywhere. Be part of the solution, not a part of the problem! Great Job Brother!

Stay Safe



Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on December 18, 2011 at 3:46pm


I had to mention NIOSH because they follow me on Twitter!

But, I know of the "target audience" that you were referring to and I agree with your statements.

I have written on this very emotional issue. Unfortunately, they left the Internet when my blog site was taken down.

I know that NIOSH has been trying over the years to improve their information, but their problem with getting it out in a timely fashion remains.

And there are many who have a problem with their "template" approach.

Internal reports probably yields the best information, but many departments keep them internal.

I have some thoughts.

Be looking for a blog.

Thanks and you and your family enjoy the holidays.


Comment by Jason Hoevelmann on December 18, 2011 at 3:02pm
Good to hear from you. Thanks and yes, in a literal sense, it could include NIOSH reports. The post was mostlly directed at those that don't do their diligence and just like to complain and offer nothing constructive nor do they do anything in a proactive way. I have some issues with NIOSH reports too, but that's another day and another post maybe. : )

Anyway, thanks again and have a Merry Christmas. Hope things are going well in IL, take care,
Comment by Art "Chief Reason" Goodrich on December 18, 2011 at 1:52pm

Based upon the "Monday morning quarterback" comparison, that would include NIOSH, because correct me if I'm wrong, but since they weren't at an incident, they are taking information AFTER the incident, making assumptions and stating opinions that fire departments are supposed to take and to learn from.

I DO NOT believe in beating up a department after a serious and/or fatal incident.

However; if the aggrieved department at some future appropriate time share lessons learned, then I am all ears.

Jason; you took a topic that some have been excoriated for even mentioning and managed to make very good points.

We honor the fallen by first healing, then learning.

Comment by Nick Morgan on December 11, 2011 at 11:36pm

Excellent post Jason and very well written.  It takes far less effort to criticize another firefighter, department, etc., than to be a force for increased learning and positive change in the person's own department.  Also, I've noticed over the years that those who do the most criticizing, and yes I've been guilty, usually are not doing everything right themselves! "Physician, Heal thyself!"


Comment by John Shafer on December 11, 2011 at 7:44pm

Amen brother!! Very good read and I totally agree,we would all be better to get out and help others more. It makes you a better firefighter in the long run! Nothing positive comes from Monday morning quarterbacks.

Comment by Bobby Halton on December 11, 2011 at 7:34pm

Jason, Well said it is called hindsight bias and it makes everyone omnipotent, knowing the end everything leading up to is suspect. Also the worse the outcome the more those who are looking at it become self-aggrandized with their self-righteousness and rear view mirror wisdom. They use a crystal ball and say if they had only done this or done that then this or that would have happened or this would not have happened , nonsense.   We would do better to appreciate why the people we are learning from believed what they were doing would be successful. And you are absolutely correct somethings are going to happen we can’t foresee and this is a very dangerous job, unfortunately it always will be.

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