Why Everyone Goes Home doesn’t always mean “Everyone Goes Home.”

The cowboy in us asks 'If great responsibility is founded on personal responsibility, then what place does personal experience hold?'


I think I finally put it all together….I understand it now.  Call it an epiphany or a moment of clarity, but suddenly it all made sense.  During a recent class the instructor made several references to the standard EGH ethos, “We come first” and “Risk a lot to save a lot”.  As I listened though, I understood that while he spoke of these things, his perspective was different.  And then it became clear.

People's experience level determines how they interpret "a lot" in terms of "risk a lot". In today's world of less experience, people are pushing to make a lot be very little because they just don't know any better…there experience pool is too small. They are willing to forgo saving a victim and save their own life because that is what they are being taught. Except those teaching it have the balance of experience to know that that is not what they are saying.

It makes perfect sense, risk is based on what you know, as far as what you experience.  So when a very experienced firefighter tells you that you come first and you shouldn't risk "a lot".  It has a different meaning in his mind than in yours.

But then you go back to your department and say "I just took this class where Instructor X from department XXYY says we come first" and that "we shouldn't risk a lot for little gain".  So then every starts saying that we shouldn't search vacant buildings, that smoke kills our victims long before we get there, that we can put the fires out from outside and before you know it the cops are fighting more fire than we are.  All of this is because no one in your department is comparing risk versus gain through the eyes of their instructor, and it can be very difficult to translate their experience into your experience.

When I mention LODD deaths, it is never done so casually.  Each number is a person, with family and friends.  Each number is a person taken from us far too soon, often under circumstances that were traumatic.  We owe it to these people to learn from their experiences, to not repeat any mistakes that were made.

However we have become obsessed with the numbers.  We count them up and then wring our hands that they are too high.  We seek ways to reduce them, often without consideration for what effect it will have on the commitment we gave to the public to be there in their time of need.

Seatbelts and fitness standards will do more to prevent Line of Duty Deaths, than risk avoidance techniques.  Consider this fact, if we never entered another burning structure, it would potentially only reduce last year’s reported deaths by 16. (with some of those 16 open to interpretation as to whether they occurred during inside fire operations)  That means that 65 Line of Duty Deaths would have still occurred. 

There is risk associated with stretching a hoseline, there is risk associated with searching above the fire, there is risk simply getting on the engine and responding.  Yet the degree of risk is far different.  We cannot create a culture of risk avoidance and still expect to do the job we are tasked to do.  We cannot continually develop systems and methods to reduce the risk, when there will never be a uniform application of these ideas.

Chris Brennan made the statement that ‘aggressive does not equal reckless’.  If we take the time to prepare ourselves for the job we have been tasked to do, and we do that job as we are supposed to, then we stand a good chance of reducing Line of Duty Deaths.  Just like if we continue to advocate seatbelts use, and stop letting apparatus respond until everyone is belted in, we will reduce deaths in apparatus accidents.

If we want to truly reduce risk, then we have to start with ourselves.  Get in shape and stay in shape.  Go to the Doctor yearly and make sure we are in good health.  Eat healthy. 

From there we have to train.  Train as if your life depends on it, because it does.  But more importantly train as if your crew’s lives depend on it, because they do too. 

We have to take each response seriously.  Dress for each run, and expect that fire lurks right around the corner.  Failure to do so not only endangers you, but it endangers everyone else on the fireground too.  Imagine your failure to dress leading to someone getting injured, either because they had to help you or you were taking out of the equation trying to square yourself away?

Then there is company and department training.  Realistic and relevant and repetitive.  Train until you can’t get it wrong, then train some more.

If your department has a small workload, then comes up with ways to overcome that through training.  There is no excuse for not being able to do your job because you were not prepared.  And we cannot continually redesign the Fire Service because there is too much risk for those that are not prepared.

Remember, “Everyone Goes Home” was not designed as a shield to hide behind to keep you from doing your job.  It is a program designed to reduce our Line of Duty Deaths by encouraging us to be smarter and better prepared.

I leave you with the words of Paddy Brown, “You can do everything right on this job and still get killed.”


Dave LeBlanc is a Lieutenant with the Harwich, Massachusetts Fire Department. Dave entered the Fire Service in 1986 as a Call Firefighter with the Dennis Fire Department. He worked full time during the summers in Dennis, while attending the University of New Haven in West Haven, Connecticut. In addition to his regular duties, Dave also manages the Department’s Radio system, is responsible for conducting Fire Investigations, and assists in maintaining the computers systems.


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  • Brad Maness says:

    I totally agree with your views and comments. I am so tired of people inside and outside the fire service using EGH as a way to “cut back” on how we do business. We must be safe to be effective, but not so safe that we can’t be effective. I appreciate your willingness to write this post.

  • Chris Huston says:

    Dave I am glad to see that you were able to reflect in this way and have the ability to see that we do not have a single perspective in the Fire Service. In fact, the way that you are able to write, shows that you are not attacking others views but simply adding a dimension or a "questioning factor" to possibly their one-way mindset.
    What does have me a little concerned is some of the comments on this subject. First and foremost, I am an Advocate with Everyone Goes Home. I spend my very limited free time, trying to make a difference for the people that are charged with protecting the welfare and lives of their fellow man. To one of the comments, thank you for calling me a "coward". Repeatedly, I walk into Fire Departments that really do not even want to hear what I have to say. I hope that when I finish telling them information that will improve their quality of life, they will maybe have a small change of heart. Oh and did I mention that the information being taught is based on hundreds of line of duty death reports and the trends in each one of them? Oh wait, that is what the LSI are. The actions that we take over and over again and still do not get. Isn’t that the definition of insanity?
    To add more to subject – The Survivors. Do any of you know a LODD Survivor? Have you ever spoken to one? If not, this year I encourage you to attend the NFFF Memorial Weekend. Maybe you too will have an epiphany.
    I am a little calmer now. The LSI, EGH are NOT telling you to stop being Firemen. They simply ask for you to take a step back, critically look at YOUR processes and think about ways to stop a preventable line of duty death. What works for department X will not work for department Y, but both departments can find flaws in the way they do business. FDNY and LAFD are two completely different departments. Tactically they could not follow the same SOP/SOG. Both could however use the 16 LSI and EGH to strengthen their response systems, to their needs. Now take Podunk USA. For them the best training they have is making sure tire pressures on their single truck are ok, since they have no budget. Can the LSI apply to them as well? You bet your ass. Do you think they can apply the "risk a lot" methodology in the same way as Chicago? For them, "risk a lot" is EVERYTHING! A community could lose their entire department in one fell swoop. Although any loss is tragic, which has a greater impact?
    It is all relevant, yet it is multi-dimensional. WE can strengthen the American Fire Service when we share information and work together. However, each one of us must understand our own "little bubble" and use the information in a manner that applies to us.
    EGH is not about tactics, period. Nowhere does it state, “for a fire of nominal size, a 2.5 inch hose lines, flowing 250gpms, applied to the structures exposure will do more good”. It does though teach how to operate within department policies and procedures to the extent the objectives are met with safety in mind. Department X may only be able to 1.75 in hand lines in a defensive manner, where department Y can perform search, rescue and fire control with a standard response that includes a sufficient water supply, command, extra equipment a dedicated ric….the list goes on and on. So yes, Risk is in the eye of the beholder. Around 1.2 million sets of eyes. The key is to have all those sets of eyes looking at each situation to the best of the abilities and capabilities. The program that is FREE to all of us and is filled with more than enough information is the EGH program.
    Ok so I said enough about why the EGH program is good, well it does have flaws. When you see the 300 pound Instructor show up, with his donuts and asking where the best pizza joint is to order lunch from, then starts preaching to you to get a physical and train hard, it is certainly easy to feel as though its all “smoke and lights.” I apologize if this is what has happened. I also apologize if a department official simply uses “everyone goes home” as a blanket risk avoidance plan. This is not the intent. The intent gives those without a solid Risk Management system a blueprint to start from. Everyone likes to have a burger on the grill but we all put on different toppings to suit our taste, but isn’t it still a burger?
    Dave, I have been reading your blog for sometime and I agree with much of what you say. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal accountability. What you put into the fire service is what you will get back. But are they same people screaming bloody murder at how EGH is taking away their ability to fight fires, sometimes the same type of people that feel mandatory workouts, work details, extra training and other task that make them get out of the lazy boy are not their jobs or against their contract/rights? We are all pieces of a very large puzzle you take care of you first it will all come together. Open up your minds a little bit and stop pointing blame.
    Thanks Dave keep writing, we at EGH want to hear discussions like this.
    Chris Huston – engineco22.net

  • Dave LeBlanc says:

    Chris, thanks for the response and understanding I am not attacking the program.  What bothers me is that there are some, that use EGH as that shield to hide behind.  So it turn EGH and the LSI take a beating.

    People create ideas to promote their idea of what EGH is.  I think this can lead to the confusion and the reluctance to listen, because some of these ideas are diametrically opposed to what we are supposed to be doing as firemen.
    At the end of the day, you can only fight your fire the way your resources will allow you to do it.  So you have to be able to take the information you are given and apply it appropriately to your situation.
    But you have to be prepared to fight that fire, and save those victims, to the best of your abilities and as resources allow.  EGH does not tell us that it is ok that we aren't trained, or are overweight, and therefore don't have to do the job the public expects us to do.
    Thanks for reading and the input…..

  • Ben Fleagle says:

    Chris and Dave,
    If I remember correctly, EGH started out as a focusing acronym.  "Hey, pay attention!  Do The Right Thing!  The goal is to come home alive!".  At least that's the way I took it.  I never thought it meant that we don't die, or that we are forbidden from being good, aggressive firefighters.  But over the years it has become a "mantra" if you will.  I don't think the first guy to utter "EGH" ever intended that.  I think,…..me personally, ..that it has had the affect of causing us to evaluate what we're doing.   But it is not a law.
    @Chris, I think where I click with Dave's viewpoint, is that there is far more invovled in using such a statement than seems obvious at first glance.  There are times when those responsible for department welfare, fall back on terms like "EGH" in order to justify a lack of confidence, in whatever form it may be.  There are also times when all of us recognise the sheer lack of common sense applied.  At those times, EGH becomes the mantra that reflects frustration with senseless deaths.  But I think it was only ever intended to say, "Hey, watch out for each other, the goal is that we all go home!"
    I am fortunate.  The Chief I work for makes it clear.  We will be professional at all times.  That in turn means to the educated officer, "Take risks when you have to, but you had better be able to justify it."  Wild, reckless behavior is not welcome in our department.  But neither is a lack of results.  The same chief who tells me I better plug in my regulator and use the SCBA on my back, is the same one that will order me to take my company into the burning home to hunt for the occupants that the neighbor says, "are still inside".  We do what has to be done, that is our job.  But we do it smart.  I think that is all that is being asked here.
    Love you all, Brothers!
    Ben Fleagle
    FTM-PTB-DTRT and yes, Leather Forever!

  • Chris Huston says:

    Ben thanks for adding to the discussion. You are right on the money when you said
    "The same chief who tells me I better plug in my regulator and use the SCBA on my back, is the same one that will order me to take my company into the burning home to hunt for the occupants that the neighbor says, "are still inside". We do what has to be done, that is our job. But we do it smart."
    Let me say, and I am sure that most educated adults already undstand this, I am only able to add from my point of view and what I see and hear. Just as you are one point of view. The continuing theme that I see, and its from multiple places, is the bashing of a program designed to make us better. From comments it sounds more like those that are wanting the change, the change that EGH has taught them, is wrong OR they are using it for the wrong reasons. A comment made on another site talked about how the needs for a large metro FD is different then a small rural, hmmm, and that a National program cannot work. That is a misconception. The 16 LSI are really generic statements, use an initiaitve as a MISSION STATEMENT related to that topic to enhance your department SOP/SOGS. 
    #3 Focus greater attention on the integration of risk management with incident management at all levels, including strategic, tactical, and planning responsibilities.
    Put an real effort into your risk management plan. For a larger department this could mean adding an ISO to each alarm level. For a small rural it means learning ICS. It doesnt however mean we don't go into burning buildings.
    Dave could you do me a favor? Suggest to your reader they go to Everyone Goes Home website and read each one of the Initiatives, with an open mind.
    Thanks guys keep it up, this is how we will affect change, even if it takes pissing people off!
    Just to add, some people feel that the EGH Advocates only talk the talk, please feel free to stop by my website: http://engineco22.net

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