Company Pride

The purpose of this piece is to preface the online symposium “Reducing Firefighter Deaths and Injuries: Changes in Concept, Policy, and Practice”, from 22 September to 3 October 2008, by the Public Entity Risk Institute and the IAFC.

Three months from now, after various national fire service organizations and departments have presented information ad nauseam about wearing all of your PPE, eating right, exercising and driving safely, another larger body will begin presenting information about why we fail to do what seems so simple. The Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI) has begun focusing on why many of the messages and recommendations from LODD reports seem to go unheeded. The focus will be on the “culture” among other possible factors within the nation’s fire service [1].

Culture can be loosely described as behavior that is socially taught. For us, our greatest culture is our company pride. Company pride is what perpetuates our purpose, our sense of acceptance and belonging. We are quick to tell the new guy from out-of-state that we really don’t care how they do it back home but that he’s in our county now, our department and he’ll do things our way. Company pride is what motivates us to not be beaten in to the box or to have the line taken from us (really though, how often is that happening?). It also motivates us to make sure jobs get done, the housework, the committee work, the work that nobody likes to do and is usually behind the scenes. Pride is also there for us as a tool of correction. It’s probably difficult to say you’re a member of xyz department which recently was seen doing something stupid on YouTube. It may cause you to think twice about wearing that department t-shirt after some of your guys are on Billy G’s latest posting. True there are bad apples in every bunch and the actions of a few do not constitute the actions of the majority, but what if you are not learning from the mistakes? I’ve heard from many firefighters in various departments that the NIOSH reports all are beginning to say the same things: poor sizeup; poor staffing; poor communications; poor command. PERI has begun to take information and research to try and find where and what disconnect there is in the learning.

From the Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting System I read the reports submitted during the period the “Probie’s Guide” articles were written (no, I don’t believe I made an impact, but that wasn’t the specific purpose). During that period, from 2006 to 2007 I searched reports filed regarding fires in single family dwellings. The parameters I chose were Communication; Decision Making; Human Error; and Situational Awareness. I then read through and noted the ones that involved operating a hoseline. Of the 16, 12 submitters believed that the same close call that happened to them will happen again. They mean that the same contributors to their personal experience will be repeated and possibly injure or take the life of one of their coworkers. If you read them, there are some that are simply the result of operating in a hazardous evironment (see, ‘put water on the fire’) and we can all learn from what the participant himself learned. The majority of them are the results of things gone wrong long before the fire started. It is akin to owning a gun and shooting yourself in the foot while cleaning it, because you failed to unload it – and you expect to shoot yourself again the next time you clean your gun.

Where is the pride in that?

December 2007
Report No. 07-00007499
Member of hose team injured in floor collapse; Deck gun weakened structure.
Do you think this will happen again? Yes

May 2007
Report No. 07-0000926
Firefighters operating hoseline within collapse zone, stuck by falling roof material
Do you think this will happen again? Uncertain

April 2007
Report No. 07-00008522
Firefighter falls from second floor inside home under construction
Do you think this will happen again? Not Answered

March 2007
Report No. 07-0000749
Engine officer and crew fall through floor into basement
Do you think this will happen again? Yes

Report No. 07-00008466
Firefighter on first engine suffers burns to ears and other areas due to not wearing a hood.
Do you think this will happen again? Yes

February 2007
Report No. 07-00008144
Hose team falls through floor; Mayday transmission delayed.
Do you think this will happen again? Yes

Report No. 07-00007355
Hose team caught in flashover in mobile home
Do you think this will happen again? Yes

Report No. 07-00007300
Nozzleman falls through burnt second floor.
Do you think this will happen again? Yes

January 2007
Report No. 08-00002611
Engine company was found in argument over advancing the hoseline while room flashed over, burning a firefighter.
Do you think this will happen again? Not Answered

Report No. 07-00008455
Engine officer and two firefighters on initial line become disoriented; third firefighter has problem with SCBA.
Do you think this will happen again? Yes

Report No. 07-00007277
Engine crew burnt attempting to advance line into structure.
Do you think this will happen again? Yes

Report No. 07-00006988
Nozzleman falls through floor.
Do you think this will happen again? Yes

July 2006
Report No. 06-00003933
Disorganized fire attack; many contributing factors
Do you think this will happen again? Uncertain

June 2006
Report No. 07-00008899
Hose team caught in building collapse.
Do you think this will happen again? Yes

May 2006
Report No. 08-00002722
Hoseline operated though rear window pushing fire onto the truck crew searching
Do you think this will happen again? Yes

January 2006
Report No. 07-00008955
Engine crew pushed out due to opposing handline from the exterior
Do you think this will happen again? Yes

References
1. Reducing Firefighter Deaths and Injuries: Changes in Concept, Policy, and Practice, PERI Virtual Symposium Center
Sources
Next Week Dedicated to Safety, Health, Survival“, Firehouse.com June 2008
Public Entity Research Institue
National Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting System
The Probie’s Guide to the Engine Company” Firehouse.com (five article series)
Photograph courtesy of Fire In The Hole Photography

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