National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Crew Resource Management

This week's featured firefighter near-miss report focuses on the importance of crew resource management (CRM) at all operational levels, including hands-on training scenarios. There are five components of CRM: communication, decision making, teamwork, task allocation and situational awareness.

Event Narrative:

"This incident occurred during a training activity, it was the first time using new trench rescue equipment. The evolution was a trench rescue with two victims. Three teams were setup using air powered equipment. During the operation, the teams were communicating with each other loudly. The first hardback board was set correctly. Two rescuers were sent into the trench to establish patient contact. The second and third hardback operations started at the same time. After the hardbacks were in place and secured, patient removal was started. This is when team two noticed their hardback shifting. The operation was halted to secure the second hardback. Wedges were placed between the board and the earth. The rescuer in the trench was asked to unlock the struts before releasing air from them. With the strut unlocked, and while pounding the wedges, the hardback shifted toward the rescuer in a hard and fast movement hitting the rescuer on the left shoulder and clavicle area. The first hardback stopped the second hardback from falling on the patients and the rescuer."

Lessons Learned:

"In order to prevent this, teams should get to know new equipment prior to using it in either a scenario or actual rescue. Communication was good within the teams, but not between the teams. Lack of experience was a factor. This was the first time using the equipment and doing trench rescue training for the department."

Although the report does not clearly state the words "crew resource management" its principles were cited by the reporter as contributing factors. In 2003, the International Association of Fire Chiefs published a CRM Manual which offers detailed information regarding CRM as it applies to the fire and emergency service.

Once you have read the entire account (http://bit.ly/yW4nTx), address the following:

  1. Does the culture of your department allow an open communication system between the supervisors and their subordinates?
  2. What is the process of information gathering for the incident commander to make the Incident Action Plan?
  3. Is teamwork encouraged and freelancing discouraged at all operations?
  4. Are experience, knowledge, education and training considered in the allocation and assignment of tasks?
  5. Can CRM be adopted into your department or has it already been in place and you just didn't realize it?  

If you have experienced or witnessed a near-miss event where the components of Crew Resource Management were used to avoid a serious injury, submit your report today at www.firefighternearmiss.com. For more on the value of firefighter near-miss reporting, CLICK HERE. For more training articles on trench rescue, consider Vacuum Trucks Key to Successful Trench Rescue , TRENCH RESCUE : MANAGING THE LOGISTICS FUNCTION, TRENCH RESCUE :THE BASICS, and Mother's Day Trench Rescue at the Beach.

Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.

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