The “Me” Environment

I have to admit that I am a proponent of safety.  I believe in wearing seat belts. I believe in wearing all of your protective gear and equipment. I believe in being healthier.  I believe in doing a 360 and situational awareness.  These are just a few of the safety issues that I believe in.

What I will never understand is a statement that puts us, the firefighters, above the victim that could still be saved.  This is not new but something that I just have to get off of my chest.

I recently wrote an article "Techniques for VES".  The beginning of the article specifically states that two firefighters are always ideal for operating.  With that being said, I understand that there will always be those that disagree with things that I write, and I'm fine with that.  What I am not fine with is the recurring theme of "never" do this and "never" do that.

When I instruct I am very careful about not using "never" and "always." We know that in our business those two words can come back to haunt you.  Although the article was about VES, I know that that is a hot button topic. What prompted the article was a training I attended and questions about the tactic.

The fact is that we train for ideal conditions and we want to always have a 2 in 2 out situation.  But, we know the real world is not always so kind.  Statements like, "Safety of your crew and yourself always come first, no matter what the situation" are troublesome to me.  Where does this leave the people in the burning building or under the debris?

Text books are great and operating in this manner is great. But, what if you are the one checking the windows in the rear and you see a hand on the glass? Your by yourself and your equipped to make a quick grab from the window.  Do you wait for three more people? Or, do you take a calculated risk and perform VES that you have trained for?  I for one am going to do what I can to give that person every opportunity to live.  This falls in the same category of an officer that told his guys to "never" search without a hose line.  Is that really the case?  We know that it's not.

Out of the norm tactics are dangerous, but not necessarily reckless.  There is not nor should there be a "cookie cutter" way of doing things in a figurative sense.  Our job and environments are dynamic. Should we have standards and guidelines based on best practices and methods that have worked for decades? Absolutely!  But, we should not be so entrenched in our own ways as not to perform to what situation we are faced with at the time.  The only way to be able to do that is to train for those situations and in order to train for them you must believe that those situations can happen.

All fire ground activities are best performed in teams.  Is it possible that one firefighter may need to make a save utilizing VES? Yes.  Is it dangerous? Yes.  So, it lends itself that if is is possible, dangerous, and we could be placed in that situation, that we should train for it.

I just don't see our profession and our tactics in a "black and white" world. I see the need to adapt and overcome.  But to do that we must expect these situations and train for them.

Stay safe,

Jason

 

12 Comments

  • Dan says:

    Jason,
    You're absolutely right that the fire services operate in a world that is anything but "black and white". Unfortunately, there is a lower form of life that does, and they're called lawyers. One of the first things that anyone knows about the fire service is that "they're willing to put their lives on the line to protect people in danger". But, lawyers know that they can expect courts to treat firefighting like any other job, and they know that the courts are very good at awarding large judgements when people die on the job, especially if the lawyer can bring textbooks that instruct firefighters to risk their own lives. So, to protect themselves, textbook publishers and fire department policy writers tend to have the written policy be that firefighters are expected to never risk their own lives so that when the issue comes up in court, they can say the firefighter didn't follow procedure and they're safe. 

  • Chris says:

    Spot on Jason! When I teach I like to say “best practices”. The fire service is not a one size fits all business. We have good ways of doing our job, we have bad ways of doing our job most commonly we just get plain lucky. That is where we need to educate our people, best practices. You will always have students that will say, that’s not how I’ve done it. More often because they don’t understand why they are doing it.

    For our profession to be where it needs to be:
    1. Put down the donut and get in the gym.
    2. Get off the recliner or the smartphone and pick up a book.
    3.Understand this job is not about “you” and you sign up for a job that has many bosses called TAXPAYERS. They expect you to arrive in one piece, ready to work and solver THEIR problem while not making things worse for you or them.

    By the way…Firefighters Enemy is one of the best columns on the web.

    Chris Huston
    EGH Advocate
    Engineco22.net

  • dc802 says:

    Chris and Dan,

     Thanks for the responses. Dan, thanks for adding another perspective on this issue.

    Chris, thanks for the comments. I have no doubt your students are better served after being in your classes and receiving your message.  You hit the  nail on the head and I appreciate all that you do. If I can ever help you with anythihg, let me know.  Thanks for the supportive comments. If you every want to contribute, let me know. I am always open for guest contributors to get the message out there.

     

    That goes for all readers.

    Take care and stay safe,

    Jason

  • John Shafer says:

    Amen brother I totally agree with this post. Job well done again as all your writings are.  My biggest heartache with the ME syndrome is with the lack of training or you might say some firefighters viewpoint on training in general.  To me training is not an option it is a must that we OWE to the citizens that we swore to protect. The ME attitude kicks in when people think of that we shouldn’t train on something we never respond too. Or another ME attitude is when they ask why are you making me get out of the comfort of recliner and go do something physical cant we just watch a DVD on it? and sleep through 90 percent of it!! Or another time the same ME attitude kicks in is when you get the smirks and smart comments from firefighters that have been around a few years, when you say let’s go throw ladders or drag hose.  Just to get on the drill ground and see that the same ones that complain they done it a 100 times struggle with a simple lead out drill.  Ok now off my soap box LOL
    I teach a lot of search around my area and I do teach that firefighters are number 1 and the reason I do is to establish a mindset from the beginning that we don’t risk firefighters life’s for buildings or as Chief Naum says we don’t risk our life’s for tactical entertainment  when the building will be torn down tomorrow. However almost as soon as I establish this mindset in my class I go into risk management profile and the fact that we as firefighters HAVE to take risk because we are the only thing that stands between these people and Eternity and if we are not able to risk a little bit then they have NO Chance at life.
    The model I like to teach is VTS

    Risk / Benefit Analysis    V / T / S
    VALUE  – yes or no

    Value to put FF’s inside?
    Determined by involvement of structure

    TIME  – to operate safely inside a structure

    Non-combustible: steel trusses = 2 – 5 minutes
    Ordinary:  dimensional lumber = up to 20 minutes

    Lightweight truss = less than 5 minutes

    SIZE – of structure involved in fire

    L x W / 3 (x percent involved) = gpm (per NFA)

    Now about VES this is such a great tactic that has saved many lives in the past but sad to say rather it the ME environment or just that departments don’t train on it and are afraid to do this risky tactic. It a sad shame!! We have to get out of our comfort zone and train on these high risk situations or we fail the ones we swore to protect.
    One man VES is easy accomplished and can be done safely IF WE TRAIN ON IT!
    Note: I also agree with brother Chris comments although easy on those Smartphone I read this article on my Smartphone LOL
     
    Sorry this was so long but I was on my soap box for a few.
    Stay Safe
    Lt. John Shafer
    http://greenmaltese.com/

  • dc802 says:

    John, simply put, great stuff. Thanks and keep fighting the good fight!  
    Jason

  • It would be a shame if a firefighter came upon a victim and failed to attempt a rescue. We can get lost in worry or we can act. We may not succeed but we must try. Firefighters should operate safely but they must also operate effectively. Not every rescue attempt ends in a firefighter injury. No attempt ends in loss.
    VES is a rapid arrival method that provides for a safer search of a target area because for one thing you don't have to find the room from the interior.

  • Chris Huston says:

    To John, I read and commented from my blackberry, so I too am one of those guys lol!!! You say it with the "we owe it to our customers to train". We get paid TO BE READY! not just respond. So yes we owe them, we owe them an honest days work every shift or tour. Firefighting is 95% being preapred for the 5% of times we are called to action.
    I agree with Ray, love Urban FF Mag by the way, VES is actually safer. Get in, Get out. You search one room or area. You know you came in a window so if it goes bad you know you can get back to that window.
     
    great disscussion on VES but the post was on the ME guys and girls. It all comes down to PRIDE. How much pride do some have for the job or themsleves for that matter? Im younger but Im a 3rd gen FF. I know what being proud of your work feels like. That is one tradition I feel we have lost in the fire service. Younger FFs dont know what it is and the senior guys just want to retire or dont want to be proud of the "new" fire service.
    I dont know…just thinking out loud, from my point of view.

  • Jason says:

    Thanks for all of the comments. The post was about ME, but it was spawned from responses to VES.  You all make great points and Ray, your dead on, we have to make an attempt based on our training, experience and situation presented to us.  If we don't train for such events, we are minimalizing what we are and what is expected of us. Just my thoughts.  Thanks again everyone.
    Jason

  • Jason says:

    Just for clarification, the post wasn't about be Me as in myself, but about an attitude that puts US before THEM.  I called it the "ME" environment.
     
    Jason

  • Marques Bush says:

    Jason,
    Sorry I have been a slacker, but I see your still telling it like it is.

  • dc802 says:

    Brother Marques,

     No worries, I know that no matter what, you are always here in spirit.  Thanks for checking in and have a great weekend.

    Jason

  • Lance C. Peeples says:

    This has been an issue that has concerned me for some time.  I believe that when one puts up their right hand and "swears" his or her oath of office that he has accepted a duty to subordinate his own interests to the public he serves.  One voluntarily accepts the duty to place himself in harms way to protect the citizens he has sworn to protect.  This is not to advocate that a member should enter an environment where there is little "probability "of return, i.e. I don't support the idea of suicidal actions.  Unfortunately, it is this matter of defining "probability"  that is so troublesome.  The ability to define the "probability" that a victim can be recovered vs. the "probability" that a firefighter will be severely injured or killed while undertaking the search is a function of training and experience…both of which are often in short supply in many departments.  In summary, short of conditions that approach suicidal, members have a duty to undertake a primary search.  It is unethical to "swear" that you will perform the duties of a firefighter and then abandon the office at the first sign of trouble.

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Jason Hoevelmann

Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal with the Sullivan Fire Protection District, a combination department, and a career firefighter/paramedic with the Florissant Valley Fire Protection District in North St. Louis County.

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