Sunday, April 30, 2017

Avoiding reality, risk aversion, or just plain laziness




Avoiding reality, risk aversion, or just plain laziness are human instincts that can cost you your well-being. At a minimum, the lack of dedication to hands on training as it relates to fire ground operations can cost other people their property or their lives. Simply put, your possession of a fire academy certification, a 20 year anniversary, or a blue colored and recertified command card does not make you a skilled firefighter or commander.

Physical and cognitive ability will always be a big part of the job. Sometimes a guy has 1 of the 2 and they assume that 1 will cover for the other. Though not a popular thing to say or recognize these days is that not everyone is cut out for this job. A really “smart” guy with little physical ability has no more reason to be on the engine as the person who just can’t make good choices with limited information. This leads to a larger issue as I will outline below.

With the naturally smart athlete aside, humans are not born to be firefighters. The physical and mental skills are to be learned and, repeatedly trained on if mastery is to be gained. The associated recognition component is the most difficult to master as real life repetition for most firefighters is not even possible due to the lack of fire duty in their respective district. Film study and simulators, both physical and video can help. Exposure to those that do or have done the job regularly is even better. This is  why we as a service honor seniority.

The gap in cognitive recognition at fire scenes can be somewhat filled with physical training that is carefully crafted around the principles of effective operations. To do that, staffed fire departments should be following the historic principles that our busy urban departments are following. While we suburb (cross staffing) guys are training on everything from rapid sequence intubation, bailing out of a window and community paramedicine, the urban firefighters are going to small and large fires and then are practicing on…. You guessed it. Getting the hose out to efficiently use the stream, and setting ladders up and reviewing building construction. Most of the fire service is not getting enough repetitions on skills that can make a difference on the front end of a incident.

Attitude is the elephant in the room. Let’s face it. Guys that only train when mandated are the norm. We can’t mandate a positive attitude but we can foster one from a cadet’s start in the business. Continue to work the new people into the fold with physical job related tasks. The common way of caving into the laziness and whining will cement the lowest possible standard for the organization for years to come (where some of us are now). Terms such as “good enough” and “all fires go out” are for the weak. They are weak physically and weak mentally. Don’t rely on that attitude of being an EMS department that occasionally goes to fires either. 

 Apathy will lead to complacency and that will lead to catastrophe.

Ego can be a positive thing when hitched to a good attitude. As the fire service follows society into this abyss of self-doubting fickle Charlie Browns, it becomes increasing harder to identify what and WHO is to blame for subpar performances. We need confident people who can arrive at a large incident and say to themselves “I can fix this.” Years ago it was a good thing to be confident rather than under stated. This may be why there is a palpable disrespect for the dinosaurs out there…

Some modern firefighters have merged their false ego with their career choice. These men have seldom if ever attended a single professional training course where the methods were not predetermined, and certainly no scenario based decision making. These guys argue for hours over the merits of this or that type of tactic, and which is better for fighting fires. They argue about temperatures, direction of air tracts and cite these controlled testing’s as the only way to qualify strategies. Examples are “penciling", using a “hydro-vent”, or ultra high pressure "fog nails”, and my personal favorite “aggressive defensive attack”. All the while the vast majority of these modern experts have very little real world, uncontrolled incidents under their belt. Traditionalist “believe” and the modern man “knows” right?

 There are some common tactics between the 2 camps, but I will say that these agreements are on what the dinosaurs were doing all along as the scenario dictated. You don’t get to be a dinosaur by getting yourself killed or hurt right?

The influence of your trainer will set the course of your attitude and skill set. If you want to meet the public expectation of aggressive fire fighting, then you need to be trained by an experienced teacher.  Time tested principles work in uncontrolled and unplanned events. Know that.

hydro vent.jpg

Be honest to yourself and your community about your FD capabilities. If the traditional expectations of firefighters are not to be lauded by your modern group, explain to your “customers” that these "new tools in the tool box" are “acceptable practices” and that the “science is settled” before you let the entire apartment building burn down.


Unless there is a “car in the driveway” or a victim begging you, every building is vacant and “we only risk a lot to save a lot”. 


So remember, the first thing to do is establish command and run a lap every time, but don’t open a door to get a look, because Air is FUEL!! Give an extensive radio report without any tactical direction,  keep those Velcro tags ready because company concept is something only the dinosaurs used. HEY!! Who has rehab? Is my PIO enroute? Did I remember to turn on my GoPro? Check those boxes, and keep that Pack Tracker close because the sky is falling don’t you know…