If the fire service is going to reduce the number of deaths and injuries, then it must take proactive steps to reduce or eliminate unsafe practices. Continued following of unsafe practices becomes the norm rather than the exception if action is not taken to correct them.
How many times have you thought to yourself, “Wow that could have turned out a lot worse”? It could have been you or perhaps another firefighter on the fire or drill ground where these incidents happened. In this Training Tip we will focus on identifying some unsafe practices and provide insight to prevent it from happening to us in the future.
Let’s take a look at some common unsafe practices and their consequences. Remember the overall intent is to make the emergency scene a safer place to work and ensure everyone goes home safely.
- Firefighters not being seated and belted while the vehicle is in motion
- Operating on roadways without blocking apparatus or lane closures
- Incomplete or improper PPE for the incident
- Complacency on automatic alarms or nuisance calls
Seated and Belted
There is no reason a member should not be seated and belted while a vehicle is in motion. For starters, it is the law. Based on current statistics there are over 15,000 reported accidents resulting in almost 1000 firefighter injuries. BUCKLE UP! The time it takes to fasten a seatbelt will not have a negative effect on the outcome of an incident.
Operating on Roadways
When responding to incidents where the roadway will not be closed we must ensure that we block the lane we are working in addition to the next closest lane. The New Jersey Highway Incident Traffic Safety Guideline details who is responsible and also provides recommendations as to equipment to be utilized during an incident. Download a copy of the document here. In the event we cannot conduct our operations without stopping traffic we should post a member as a lookout to alert members of possible issues.
Incomplete or Improper PPE
How many times have you improperly worn your PPE or worn it improperly? Not only do we need to have the appropriate PPE, we need to wear it properly and ensure we wear SCBA in all IDLH environments. The Toxic Twins are almost always present at every fire and often at high levels. Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen Cyanide can impair your abilities very quickly and cause death in a relatively short amount of time. Read more about Hydrogen Cyanide here.
When responding to an alarm sounding call, how many of you actually don all of your PPE, including gloves and hoods. Do you fasten every button and buckle? And don SCBA? How many carry tools? Does the Chauffer actually engage the pump? Are we prepared for what is behind the door? Company officers must ensure all firefighters are preparing for the worse every time the apparatus leaves the firehouse. Becoming complacent during routine incidents can prove fatal.
These are just a few examples of unsafe practices firefighters everywhere engage in. Prepare yourself as if every call is the “Big One”. You need to remember we are all trained to operate safely don’t lose sight of the basics and remember the most important part of the job is to return home in the same condition as you left.