Judge Not….

I’ve done it and you’ve done it. It is going to happen again and it’s going to happen soon. With every line of duty death the Monday morning quarterbacks come out and tell us all what they should have or should not have done. We preach and teach to learn from these tragedies by understanding the circumstances surrounding the incident. But, what are we doing to make sure that this doesn’t happen?

Our job is dangerous. Worcester Fire Department is a highly trained department and according to some reports I have gotten, fight these types of fires every year. There are some additional factors like high winds and possibly illegal renovations that compromised the structural integrity of the building. Neither of these two factors can be anticipated or controlled. We have a job to do and when we are told that someone is in a building, we do what we can to get to them. As I write this I have not heard confirmation that there was or was not a victim found.

I have no doubt that we could dissect and scrutinize what happened and we would have done this or that differently. We will hear how simplistic it should have been and others pounding the table that we don’t enter buildings that are compromised. Guess what? As soon as that building catches fire it is compromised!

What frustrates me more is that in the fire service many are real good at solving problems after the fact and few try to identify and solve them before they are actualized. It’s not just judging the YouTube video or a line of duty death, no, it’s many things. “That guy doesn’t know what he’s doing.” “That guideline is outdated and inefficient.” “That small time volunteer fire department doesn’t know what they’re doing.” Of course, most of these “kitchen table experts” have no desire to be proactive or to put themselves out there to take the lead on a project to make a positive change.

Sometimes, and I’m not saying this is the case yet, things are not preventable. Sometimes we are going to lose. We hope not, but we are running into burning, compromised buildings to save lives and property. When someone comes to us and is telling us someone is in the building, if we can make a push, we will and we should. This is what we do and why we are here. There is no time to run down a check list to determine if a certain profile is met. We don’t have time to switch our size up decision making. We have to consider the situation presented to us at the time and use our training and experience to do our best to attempt a rescue.

But, if we do want to be Monday morning quarterbacks I suggest a different approach. Take your expertise and knowledge to some less fortunate departments in regards to resources for training and teach. Share your experience and knowledge with these departments and individuals to keep bad decisions being made on the fire ground. I believe that this is the best way to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for others. Whether there were mistakes or not, we can help to prevent those who don’t have resources to perform appropriately on the fire ground.

We recently did a class in a remote part of our state and had two firefighters arrive with some hand-me down gear and SCBA. Neither had worn the gear before and neither had ever had on an SCBA. They stated they had been fighting fire with self purchased boots, gloves and helmets. That’s it. Nothing more. This is still happening. We had to pull these two firefighters aside and walk them through some basics about gear and SCBA operations. We took extra time with them just to teach them basic firefighter skills. They were more than willing to learn and were eager.

The point is this: let’s put our efforts into training and teaching firefighters to operate safely instead of beating up departments, officers and firefighters after the fact. Can we learn from these tragic events? Absolutely! We should learn lessons in a constructive manner from not just tragic events, but from every call we run. There is always something to learn whether things went well or not so well.

Train, be tolerant and make a difference in a positive way. Stay safe and thanks for reading.
Jason

3 Comments

  • Bill Carey says:

    Nicely written, with good advice.
    Bill Carey

  • Jason says:

    Thanks  Bill, I appreciate it.
    Jason

  • DaveH says:

    "The point is this: let’s put our efforts into training and teaching firefighters to operate safely instead of beating up departments, officers and firefighters after the fact. Can we learn from these tragic events? Absolutely! We should learn lessons in a constructive manner from not just tragic events, but from every call we run. There is always something to learn whether things went well or not so well."
    This. 
    There is such a fine line between discussing/learning about an event and MMQB that event.  Especially online.   What was, or was not, done is in the past and cannot be corrected.  Phrases like "they should't have" or "I would have" end up getting thrown around when really they serve no purpose.  More importantly the same situatuation, with the exact same circumstances will never occur again.  The discussions should instead focus on recognizing the conditions, understanding the decision making and eventual outcome and then applying that to current and future situations.
    This is what they had, this is what they did, and this was the outcome.  Could that happen here?  What do we need to watch out for?  What do we need to make sure we do, or do not do?

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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.

AFFOWE Calandar

December 2011
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