Fire Engineering Training Community

Where firefighters come to talk training

What is this term "Compliant Complacency" you ask?  Well to be honest we are seeing more of it not only on the training ground but at fires as well. The underlying cause is textbook training.  When we drive training to "the standard" we often produce compliant testing results that may not be best suited for real world situations.
When we teach classes like our Critical Decision Making Under Fire or Thermal Insult Recognition, we focus heavily on having a better understanding of the limitations of our PPE. Unfortunately though (in my opinion) some firefighters have been mislead along the way. Before we get all hysterical saying NOT TRUE, hear me out.  We all can agree that our (PPE) our Personal Protective Ensemble is absolutely critical to going home at the end of an incident... But most firefighters have no idea how their PPE was designed, tested and how it really protects us. And we didn't even mention to what degree will that PPE provide protection!  Case in point in the photo below: Why would a firefighter wear his or her protective hood this way? Now some instructors will take exception to the answer. But here it is... Because somebody allowed it to happen. Good instructors know that muscle memory is established through repetition of a skill set. Now take that repetition and focus on quality assurance that "No bare skin is showing" during donning drills; GOOD. Then benchmark these drills with quantitative testing for time. (tick-tock, tick-tock)  Focusing on these two points for compliance can simply create bad habits. Habits that instructors or testers may have instilled in that firefighter. A hood donned like the one shown above offers the firefighter less than 25% visibility and absolutely no peripheral vision. We are already handcuffed with today's hostile fire environment, why would you want to go into battle with just 25% visibility?  (SA) Situational Awareness - Training for the environment you are expected to work in!  Firefighters that are exposed to regular training the use backwards hoods for SCBA confidence; often see no problem with just 25% visibility. Why? because most of the time they were exposed to 0% visibility from a hood worn in reverse! Isn't that the definition of "Training to Failure". But hey hoods worn like this will provide additional protection to that mask lens and they have no bare skin showing!  Real world tactics require us to make critical decisions under fire; for which in reality requires the use of ALL of our heightened senses!
Properly Donned PPE Hood
The next issue with complacency is how this helmet is donned in the above photo. The ear flaps on that helmet are tucked up within the ratchet system, thus NOT providing the firefighter with a multi-layered protection factor. Remember your ear flaps are part of the "engineered" ensemble. Lastly, the ratchet itself appears to be adjusted way too tight. Just look how high the helmet is worn on the firefighter's head. This decreases personal protection THREE ways: 1. increased exposure of the forehead and above the ears which has no impact protection,  2. the impact liner (break-away feature) is not secured enough to work as designed when the helmet is struck with rotational force, and 3. riding this high adds to the amount of the surface area which is only protected by the protective hood itself from heat.

FETC NUGGET: Helmets worn this tight will increase your chances of getting BURNED another way too. Not seen or found in any textbook! You see energy from thermal insult can transfer directly to your head when worn too tight.
An exposed ratchet is NOT how the manufacture intended the helmet to be worn during a fire. The ear flaps not only protect your ears but it protects the ratchet and the impact liner as well! Transferred heat energy CAN cause a burn through conduction. A ratchet can only absorb so much energy before it heat syncs that energy to nearby objects. A hood was worn properly and was in place during the above injury. The energy caused a burn where the ratchet met the back of the user's head.  Engineered air spaces and designed coverage is a VERY critical component of your PPE and the available protection factors.

When we teach Critical Decision Making Under Fire and our Thermal Insult Recognition programs, firefighters will often say they learned things today that should be in firefighter 1 curriculums worldwide. 
Staying ahead of the curve with street smart credibility...
FETC Services and Tap the Box on Fire Engineering Radio. 
Billy Greenwood

Views: 1898


You need to be a member of Fire Engineering Training Community to add comments!

Join Fire Engineering Training Community

Policy Page


The login above DOES NOT provide access to Fire Engineering magazine archives. Please go here for our archives.


Our contributors' posts are not vetted by the Fire Engineering technical board, and reflect the views and opinions of the individual authors. Anyone is welcome to participate.

For vetted content, please go to

Fire Engineering Editor in Chief Bobby Halton
We are excited to have you participate in our discussions and interactive forums. Before you begin posting, please take a moment to read our policy page. -- Bobby Halton

Be Alert for Spam
We actively monitor the community for spam, however some does slip through. Please use common sense and caution when clicking links. If you suspect you've been hit by spam, e-mail

FE Podcasts

Check out the most recent episode and schedule of

© 2022   Created by fireeng.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service