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Home>Topics>>The Fire Safety Officer: Roles and Responsibilities

The Fire Safety Officer: Roles and Responsibilities

Tue, 6 Mar 2012|

This free training program from the Firefighters Support Foundation deals with challenges and considerations for safety officers on the fireground.



[BLANK_AUDIO] [BLANK_AUDIO] Good morning, today's lecture will be on the roles of the safety officer. During during an incident. Well the topics we'll be covering today will scene safety consideration, special operations, the role prior to the incident, the role during the incident, the challenges that the safety officer will be facing, and more importantly what are the roles following for the safety officer after the incident. During all large incidents, the incident commander is ultimately responsible for the whole operation. Especially during large complex incidents. Safety responsibility's broad, it's delegated from, from the incident commander down. NFPA1521 defines the safety officer role. It's a safety officer and health and safety officers, are, are out there to protect the firefighters. And make sure everybody is safe doing a large scale or all type of operations. More firefighters are injured and killed on scene and we have to stop that and prevent that from happening. Having a safety officer will reduce the injuries. And that's for firefighters. During an incident, the incident commanders setup their command staff. The safety officer's one of the first prim-, primary positions that need to be appointed right away. This, this position and these, and these duties of the position make all our jobs a lot safer and easier. What are some of the duties of the safety officer? Scene rehabilitation and it is initiated and sustained. What that means is, when you get the scene of a large scale incident. Rehabilitation officers starts getting set up. We get water, we're getting the firefighter's blood pressures to make sure everyone's safe during the operation. The Safety Officer also monitors conditions and the hazards associated with the building or the vehicle with the hazardous materials. The Safety Officer's constantly monitoring the whole scene and see what the safe the, the safety of the incidents going on. Personnel accountability. That's where me, he makes sure that all the firefighters are handing in over their tags. And he has accountability of what firefighters are inside the complex and what firefighters are doing what, to make sure they're all accounted for. Ensuring an understanding for the Incident Action Plan. The IAP will be your, is your game plan, is your, your strategy for the next period. That Safety Officer is gonna make sure that that operation is safe for that period. It could be a long process where we're looking for a lost hiker. You're gonna be needing a Safety Officer to make sure that everybody's safe for that period of time when they're out in the woods looking for that lost person. Risk assessment, that I'll, that safety officer going to do an assessment of the building. Make sure that building conditions are safe. He'll be doing complete risk assessments. Identify safety collapse and hot zones. If he's looking at a structure, he's going to be setting up area where the fire apparatus should be placed so nothing happens if there is a collapse. We're safe. That's the role of the safety officer. Monitoring vehicle traffic. More firefighters are hurt, injured on scenes of motor vehicle accidents because we're not setting up traffic cones. We're not setting up traffic patterns to protect ourselves. The safety officer will monitor that to make sure we're working in conjunction with the local PD. The police department to make sure that their traffic patterns are set up to go bypass us so we're not getting hit by autos. Monitor radio communications. They're gonna be making sure that there's no maydays being thrown out, that the incident commander can hear stuff. The Safety Officer will make sure that he's listening to all the operation of the people who monitor the hand lines and make sure that they're all safe. And if he has to, he has to identify maybe needing an additional safety officer. If you're working on a 15 story high rise you might need three, four different safety officers. To work in conjunction with the main safety officer, to tell him what's going on in each one of the floors. And obviously the big one is evaluate aircraft operations. If we were working on the airfield, to make sure to [UNKNOWN] safety, to be watching the planes land and take off and we'll make sure everybody's safe. One of the things I want to talk about right now, is the scene safety communications. One of those considerations that are going through a safety officers mind during, during the operation. A special knowledge that safety officers should possess, would be firefighter strategy, and tactics. Would be, would be useful for our safety under, safety understand the departments SOP's and SOG's. Then understand that Standard Operational procedure of that local fire department and in the mutual aid departments coming in. To understand how we're going to pull lines, what hoses are going to be pulled, and things of that nature. Good thing for Safety Officer to understand is building construction. He's going to have to know what a wood framed construction, how fires affect wood frame compared to heavy timber compared to, a masonry building. That safety officer is gonna have to understand and know the knowledge of construction so when he's at the scene, he can protect us a lot better. Fire behavior and fire load is all part of what a safety officer should be studying and learning about. How to forceful entry, how does a firefighter enter the, a forceful entry into a building safely? You're gonna have to learn that and actually go to, maybe go to academies and take other lectures and understand what, how to do forceful entry. Ventilation. When do you ventilate, how do you ventilate? This will all make the safety officer's job a lot easier, if he has a good understanding of that. >> Self-contained breathing apparatus in a PPE usage, especially during a HAZMAT incident, one of the safety officers should have a great understanding of personal protective equipment during a HAZMAT incident: what equipment, what level of equipment should be done and should be worn. Climatic conditions, weather conditions. Right now in, we're dealing with hot and humid weather. If you're outside, it's sub zero weather. Safety officers gonna have to understand that that affects the weather conditions on the Firefighter safety, during the operation. We are putting ladders... How we're setting ladders up at the fire scene, to make sure that we know we're putting ladders in the proper location for egress, if we have to bail out on the second floor or third floor. And the big issue is establishing controlling zones. Hot zones, cold zones during hazmat incidents, and collapse zones during structural fires. To make sure that we're all set up in good locations. So no one gets hurt, and nobody gets injured. I mentioned before, the incident commander, needs to select a safety officer, but what are the characteristics that a safety officer should be? This is a person that the incident commander has the utmost respect for, and has an the utmost. Knowledge of the fire service. Understand what, needs to be done and how to done it, be done safely. Not everybody can be fit into that role of the Safety Officer. So that's why impar, important that the, sa, the Incident Commander selects someone prior to all incidents, knowing who's gonna be the Safety Officer. Education, consta, constantly reading and updating your, your manuals. On safety operations, on building construction, and things of that matter will make it easier for the incident commander to select who's gonna be the safety officer. Safety officer's role on scene consideration first is fire loads. How much is the maximum heat being produced inside that building, inside that fire? All the things he's gonna know about. [UNKNOWN], the target hazards, and the [UNKNOWN] potentials. And now last but not least, knowledgable aid operations. How are we gonna handle our, our heavy file load? Forceful entry, part of the safety office's responsibility is understanding techniques. How to forcibly enter your door properly, so you don't get hurt and there's no backdraft on a firefighter. And understand the hazards of opening up doors and opening up windows during an operation. As I was mentioning earlier, one of the roles of safety officer is gonna be considering is on ventilation. He has to understand the ventilation principles. He has to understand the effects of improper ventilation. How it will effect the firefighters inside on the hand line. And thirdly, understand the negative and positive pressure, ventilation, what are the effects of that? Negative, positive pressure ventilation, if done improperly, could affect, actually hurt and kill firefighters inside that building. Evacuation procedures. Essentially, on all types of instances we need to understand how to evacuate the firefighters. Understanding the policy that your community has. Ordering an evacuation. How does that evacuation gets ordered from the incident command? There's a two blast [UNKNOWN] whatever. That state the officer's gonna have to understand that policy and know that policy. Notify using personnel effect, effectively. This is where we start to use rapid intervention teams and your [UNKNOWN] teams. We have to start evacuating firefighters and establishing a relocation area. We'll have an area out nearby so if we do evacuate, the safety officer can do accountability of those firefighters who were taken out. Other things a safety officer's going to do during evacuation, make sure the building is laddered properly. Make sure there is a second ladder for the second area egress. For the firefighters on the second floor. Self-contained breathing apparatus and person protective equipment, SCBA AND PPE. That [UNKNOWN] has to understand the policy for the community on, on their SCBA rules. We have Federal guidelines, we have state guidelines, the state should be a good understanding of what each policy is. You should be wearing a mask at all times, make sure that you enforce that. Make sure that all firefighters are wearing their their masks, and personal equipment. Climatic conditions. Weathers has adverse effect on us as firefighters. Maintain constant awareness of the changing temperatures. Extreme temperatures and humidity. It's a very difficult thing to do. Make sure the firefighters are hydrated properly during the hot, humid weather. Freezing rain, snow obviously you can get, get hyperthermia during a cold weather. You make sure they are warm, have a warm matter when they come out; there's a place for, they can stand by and stay warm when they rehab. And high winds, make sure that there's, there's no high winds; because things get blown off roof, tree branches can come down and hit fire fighters. So during all types of weather conditions, the safety officer must have a good understanding of what negative effects could that be on weather conditions be on firefighters. During, during the incident, the incident commander will tell the aerial operations to set up ground ladders, or set up aerial, the safety officer has to understand where the placement of his aerial's is going to be. Up against the building. Is it in the collapse zone? These are things that the safety officer has to walk around and monitor, make sure that they're, they're in a safe area for operation. Ensuring a safe, I said before, ensuring safety ground ladders to the second floor so it, our firefighter has a [INAUDIBLE] to get out on the second floor. Establish and control zones. This is a big issue for the fire safety officer. It allows for personnel accountability. Collapse zone, based on building height and construction type, and control zones aid in the scene management. Safety officer can actually help the scene management with these control zones. Make sure nobody's working in dangerous situations in case there's a potential collapse. Today's fire services are like our grandparents. We have totally new operations that we're, we're responding to. Hazardous material incidents, emergency medical and mass casualty. Tech rescue, confined space. Structural collapse, high angle, extrication. These are all new things we're facing now in a fire service. Hazardous materials instances. What is the safety officer's role in the HazMat incident? He's the one making sure that we're wearing the proper PPE. He's getting a good understanding of the chemicals that we're facing. And to make sure that these chemicals aren't doing damage to our, our equipment that we're using and to protect us. The emergency medical and mass casualty, to make sure that there's no disease being presented. No HIV, no blood born pathogens are being exposed to us. Mass casualty, we have potentials now for terrorist events with mass casualty mass casualty operations. The safety officer's gotta understand how to get all these casualties to, to the hospital to make sure they're all done, done safely. Tech rescue, confined space, make sure the firefighter's not going in an area that's unsafe. Make sure he has enough oxygen going down in there. Structural collapse, make sure there's not additional collapses going on while we're trying to get the victims out. High angle rope rescue and extrication. These are all new things that the safety officer's gonna have to have a good understanding about, so we're doing this operation safely. Where does it require us to have safety officers? Well, each municipality has state laws we have to follow and are mandated by. Check your state, make sure you're mandated to have one, and set one up. OSHA requires it, during certain operations, I know during hazardous material operations you have to have a safety officer. And the national fire protection association also requires you to have a safety officer. These are requirements that dictate to us that we need to have it, and of all the rules safety for fire fighters its a great practice to continue having one. If you're assigned as a safety officer by an incident commander or a chief of department, what are some of your roles that you're going to be doing? You're going to identify high hazards nad the risk locations in your community, to make sure if you have a good pre-plan of that specific facility. Review and develop a pre-incident plan for that facility. Review and develop standard operations procedures that pertain to certain locations that can be of high risk to the fire fighter. Ensure adoption and implementation of the incident management system and make sure everybody understands ICS system and where your role is in that ICS system. Conduct research and developing related to fire fighter strategy and tactics. Your community [INAUDIBLE] potentials, you as a safety officer are gonna have to go out and actually study that community to make sure that you can get better strategy and [INAUDIBLE] to the incident commander, and make sure it's done safely. Safety best manager practices. What are the best practices? There's so many different, trains of thought in the fire service. But you want to take that specific management theory and match it to your community to make sure that you're operationally safe. And all the technologies are out there, or the use the cameras, or the use of thermal imaging cameras, the use of computers. How is this gonna make your job as a safety officer easier and make it safer for the firefighters on the scene? [BLANK_AUDIO] We discuss all different aspects of the safety officer, who's required, and how you gotta have it, well how's it all set up. Well what are exactly the roles of the safety officer at the scene? The important part? Well that safety officer has to coordinate with the incident commander on the operations. A constant communication between the incident commander and his safety officer's essential to make sure you have a good operation going on. Yes, understanding it's in an action plan if there's gonna be one for the next 24 hour period. Make sure the operation is safe and that we're all protected. Conduct an incident safety size-up to make sure the building's safe or whether there's gonna be any collapses in it. When you get there, you're assigned to the safety officer, you might have to do a 360 around that building to look, look at all the structures, look at the windows, look at the roof. Look at the walls, and make sure everything is safe that we're facing. Report that size up to the incident commander, because now he can start doing better strategy and tactics with your safety information that you're giving to him, or her. Establish control zones, as we mentioned before during a hazardous materials incidents, setting up control zones with a hot wall and cold. Setting up that collapse zone to make sure that we're safe. Setting up the rehab center to make sure that when we come out there's a place we can rehab. And hydrate properly. Establish rapid intervention teams. Do we need a rit team? When is that gonna be set up? Where is it gonna be set up? It's all part of the safety officers responsibility. Provide advance and changing conditions. If you as a safety officer you realize things are getting worse as are progressively going on to any operation you gotta notify that to the incident commander and tell them that the challenges you're gonna be facing. Monitoring communications, I mentioned before. You're going to be listening to all the operations on the, people on the [INAUDIBLE] line, people on the roof, people inside the building, so you're gonna make sure everything's going on at that operation is safe. Monitor, monitor vehicle traffic, make sure we're not being hit by cars. And traffic flow patterns around us were all protected. And continue to assess the risk of the operation. Make sure that we continually go on and on and on throughout the operation that we're all safe and a risks are controlled. One of the challenges of we as safety officers will be facing. One of them is to recognize and how conditions are changing. You gotta monitor, make sure the primary search is completed. Do you hear that on the radio? Understand that here, the fires have been knocked down. How long have the fires gotten greater or intense inside the building. Patient extrication is completed. That the patients have been removed from the vehicles. And the ambulance is going to the hospital. And make sure the hazardous, and you'll find out the hazardous materials have been contained and confined to that one location. Manage the risk, that's the important thing that the fire safety officer has to understand. One of the things you could do is use effective interpersonal skills to talk to the people at the scene to understand what's going on, talk to the incident commander. Enforce accountability. Make sure everybody has their accountablity tags handed in so if you do have to do a count, you know how many firefighters are still inside the building and where they're located. Effecting Support Operations: You as a safety officer, you're supporting that operation in a way, make sure that everybody is is safe. And it's and it's command could do his strategy act in safe and quick manner. And plan for any additional resources. You say to your office you might have to tell that incident commander you might need a second or third strike team coming in or additional units coming into the operation. That's all part of the safety officers challenges that he has to understand and assist with. With the incident commander. Now that you're back in the firehouse and your role as a safety officer continues. What am I doing now? Well, after the incident a safety officer has to do any post-incident analysis and reports. Unfortunately you might have an injury or death report you might have to fill out and get to the state. Identify of corrective actions for future incidents. If things weren't done safely, this is a time for you as a safety officer to tell an Incident Commander, or the Chief of Department that things have to be changed and this is what needs to be done at this incident this is what we learn. Any violations of departments SOP's you bring up to the Chief of Department or the Incident Commander. That this is what we saw at that operation. If there's a poorly defined procedure. Some of them are. Then we can learn from our mistakes. And make sure it gets done. And we can bring it back to the district commander and the chief. That these decisions that were made weren't the best at the time. And unforeseen conditions. There are operations where something could happen later on that we weren't ready for. So now we could go back and discuss this as a safety officer. There's something that we weren't ready to see that happened. And that did occur. A lotta times in the wild lands that happens. So we gotta make sure that we go back and discuss that. And the big issue is training deficiencies. What do we need to train on? We just came back from a hazmat incident, and I noticed that the safety [UNKNOWN] our guys weren't. Prepared properly on handling a spill. So, that means we need to do better training on awareness and operations of hazardous material. This is a time where the safety officer makes the, makes the suggestions to the chief of department that this is what we need to be done, and this is how, or corrective actions that we can all can work safe. Bottom line is, for all safety officers, that everybody goes to the fire, or comes home together. That's why we're called safety officers. We've just been discussing the roles of the safety officer, now I quickly go, but what are potentials. That we face as firefighters, we get injured and, and, and hurt. The one of the major causes of motor vehicle accidents. As I was saying before, the traffic patterns aren't being set up properly. While were working a operation, or car fires or car accidents. And we're gettin hurt and killed on the highways. Other one's cardiovascular, we have to get ourselves. In better shape. We're doing very physical fitness positions and jobs, and we need to be at a level where our hearts can handle it. It's up to the safety officer to start getting some see, some physical fitness programs out there to the firehouses so the firefighters can follow along. One of the things that we do face all the time is lost and disoriented. In, in the fire structures. That's, that's where the Safety Officer is gonna have to start doing more training, getting training done for the firefighters, in, in fire mazes, in burn buildings, til we get practice on, on, on actually stretching hose and crawling through the heat and smoke during, during the operation. All the things that cause major fires: back drafts, flash overs, and structural collapses. This is stuff that we have to keep our eyes on at all times as safety officers to make sure that we're at a safe operation. Trauma, falls, lacerations and burns: we have to make sure that we're wearing our proper protection equipment. The safety hose is gonna have to make sure that we're using the proper equipment and using the equipment properly, so we're not getting burned and not getting hurt with the equipment. And the big thing is infectious disease. We're making sure we're using, we're using our gloves, wearing gloves properly, wearing masks at car accidents. And so we're going back, we're not getting the infectious diseases. These are things that a safety officer all will be doing not only at the scene but with the Fire Department after the operation, or before the operation, that we have these policies. This is all part of what the safety officer should be doing. [BLANK_AUDIO] Now you just listened to this complete lecture, now you're saying to yourself. You know what? I want to make a difference, I want to be go become a safety officer. So you go to the chief of the department where you [INAUDIBLE]. Safety officer. What do I have to know, what do I have to get? Is there any certification? There's no really certifications out there. But there's different courses you can take. The National Fire Academy has a course on incident safety officer. FEMA has officer safety courses. There's an organization of federation fire department safety officers association. They have information that makes you a better safety officer. So there's your state and local county academies. They will have courses on safety officers. And if they don't, ask them to get it 'em. FEMA people and the National Fire Academy instructors will come up and gladly. Offered us knowledge that they have on this, so it's up to you to go get that information, and it will make you and your department's job a lot easier. Is there a liability not to have a safety officer? I would say yes. How could you actually be, go to a structure fire, and not have someone out there watching us and protecting us? So the liability is out there, so its up to you to make sure our jobs are safe.

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