The public has a set of expectations when they call the fire department. They expect that we will: 1) Save anyone that is inside 2) Put the fire out.
Many departments (including mine) give awards for saves and great stops on fires. I’m all for awards and unit citations, but if you really think about it, we are giving awards for meeting the expectations of the public. Does any other job do that?
Speaking of Expectations
I set out my trash every Wednesday. I expect that by the end of the day the garbage will be taken and I will put the can back in the garage for another week. Anything short of that and my expectations are not met. I don’t care if the garbage truck broke down, if there was a lot of trash to pick up on this day, the weather was bad or if the garbage collector simply looked at my can and said to himself “risk a lot to save a lot, I’m not hurting my back on this trash.” If the trash is still there at the end of the day on Wednesday my expectations are not met.
Let’s look at our "Brothers in Blue". If I arrive at my house and it looks as if it’s been broken into, I will call 911 and expect a cop to show up. I expect that he will: first clear the house to make sure no one is still inside and then will take a report. Nothing less.
How something really bad, like an active shooter incident. Do the cops say, “It’s too dangerous”? No, they execute the plan with ballistic armor and automatic weapons and do what they are trained to do.
How about us? I’m not advocating going on a suicide mission but let’s meet their expectation. Let’s make it a priority to search EVERY structure and get the “all clear”. Let’ “Go” be the default and the “No Go” be the exception. Why? IT comes back to the title of this blog: If not us then who? The public, that's who. They will go back in to try to save what’s important to them. Think about it. The untrained, unprotected public is willing to go in to save a family member, friend or stranger even if it means they perish doing so.
Shouldn’t we be willing to use the equipment and the training that we are given to meet the expectations that they have of us? Don't we owe it to the public to approach every fire with the mindset that we will get “Water on the Fire” and an “All Clear” in the first 10 minutes? If we need to go defensive shouldn't we seek out any tenable space via VES before we write off anyone inside?
If your department or your crew isn't doing it already, it's time to establish an aggressive search culture!