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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 an incident. The topics we'll be covering today will be scene safety consideration, special operations, the role prior to the incident, the role during the incident, the challenges 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 incidences. Safety responsibilities are broad, is delegated from, from the Incident Commander down. NAPA1521 defines the Safety Officer role. [INAUDIBLE] safety officer and health and safety officers are, are out there to protect the firefighters and make sure everybody's safe during a large scale or all type of operations. More firefighters are injured and killed on scene and we have to stop that, prevent that from happening. Having a safety officer will reduce the injuries. And that's for firefighters. During an incident, the incident commander set up their command staff, safety officers were on the first prime, primary positions that need to be appointed right away. This this position, and these, and these duties, of the position, make our job a lot safer and easier. What are some of the duties of the safety officer? Scene rehabilitation and has initiated and sustained. What that means is when you get to the scene of a large scale incident, the rehabilitation officer's off getting set up; they're getting water, they're getting the firefighter's blood pressure to make sure everybody's face during the operation. The Safety Officer also monitors conditions and the hazards associated with the building or the vehicle with the hazardous materials. Those Safety Officer's constantly monitoring the whole scene to see what the safety the, safety of the incidents going on. Personnel accountability. That's where he makes sure that all the firefighters are handing in over their tags and he has accountability of what firefighters are inside the complex or what firefighters are doing what, to make sure they're all accounted for. Ensuring an understanding for the incident and 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 can be a long process when we're looking for a lost hiker. You're going to be needing a safety officer to make sure that everybody's safe for that period of time when you're out in the woods looking for that lost person. Risk assessment, that, that saves, oh this is going to be doing this assessment over the building, make sure that building condition is safe. You need to 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 the 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, police department to make sure that their traffic patterns are set up to go bypass us and we're not getting hit by autos. Monitor radio communications. You need to be making sure that there's no maydays being thrown down, that the incident commander can hear stuff. Safety [INAUDIBLE] makes sure that he's listening to all the operation or the people who monitor the ham lines to 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 them what's going on each one of the floors. And, obviously, the big one is evaluate aircraft operations. If we're gonna be working on an airfield. to make sure that the firefighter's there to be watching the planes land and take off. And we'll make sure everybody's safe. One of things we're going to talk about right now is the scene safety consideration. What are those considerations that are going through a safety officer's mind during the operation? Special knowledge a safety officer should possess would be firefighter strategy and tactics. It would be useful for our safety officer to understand the department's SOPs and SOGs. To understand the standard operational procedure of that local fire department and in the new [UNKNOWN] departments coming in. To understand how we're gonna pull lines, what, what, what hoses are gonna be pulled, and things of that nature. Good thing for safety officer to understand is building construction. He's gonna have to know with a wood frame construction, how fires affect wood frame, compared to a heavy timber, compared to, a masonary building. That Safety Officer's 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 a part of what a Safety Officer should be studying and learning about. How to forceful entry: how does a firefighter enter a forceful entry into a building safely. You're gonna have to earn that. And actually go to, maybe go to academies and take other lectures and understand 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 and the PPU usage, especially during a hazmat incident. One of the safety officers should have a great understanding of, of personal protective equipment during a hazmat incident. What equipment, what level of equipment should be donned and should be worn. Climate, climatic conditions. Weather conditions. Right now we're dealing with hot and humid weather. If you're outside and it's subzero weather, safety officers gonna have to understand that that affects the weather condition on a firefighter safety during the operation. Where we're putting ladders. How we're setting ladders up at the fire scene to make sure that we know where we're putting ladders in, and the proper location for egress, if we have to bailout on the second floor or third floor. And the big issue with establishing controlling zones. A hot zone, cold zones, during hazmat incidents. And collapse zones during structural fires to make sure we're set up in good locations. So no one gets hurt and no one gets injured. As I mentioned before, the Incident Commander needs to select a Safety Officer. But what are the characteristics that a Safety Officer should be? It's a person that the Safety, the Incident Commander has the utmost respect for. And has the utmost. Knowledge of the fire service, understand what, needs to be done, and how to done it, be done safely. Not everybody can fit into that role of the safety officer. That's why it's imper-, important that there's, the incident command select someone prior, to all incidents, knowing who is gonna be the safety officer. Education, con-, constantly reading, and updating 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. [BLANK_AUDIO] Safety Officers roll on [UNKNOWN] consideration. First it's fire loads. How much is the maximum heat produced inside that building, inside that fire? All the things he's gonna know about fire low to the target hazards and the fire low potentials. And last but not least knowledgeable aid operations. How we're gonna handle a heavy fire load. Forcible entry, part of the safety officers responsiblity is understand the techniques. How to forcible entry a 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 the safety officer is going to be considering is on ventilation. He has to understand the ventilation principles. He has to understand the effects of improper ventilation, how it will affect the firefighters inside on the hand line. And thirdly, understand the negative and positive pressure ventilation. What, what or the effects of that? Negative positive pressure ventilation would, if done improperly, could effect, actually hurt, and kill firefighters inside that building. Evacuation procedures. Essentially all, all types of incidents we need to understand how to evacuate the firefighters. Understanding the policy that your community has. There's an ordering an evacuation. How does that evacuation gets ordered from the instant command? Is it two blasts of the horn? Three blasts of the horn? Whatever. That safety officer's going to have to understand that policy and know that policy. Notifying and using personnel effectively. This is where we're starting to use rapid [UNKNOWN] teams and your rig teams. We have to start evacuating firefighters and establishing a relocation area, have an area out/b nearby, so we do evacuate, the safety officers can do an accountability on those firefighters who were taken out. Other things the safety officer gonna do during an evacuation is make sure the building is laddered properly, make sure there is second, ladder for a second means of egress. For the firefighters on the 2nd floor. Self Contained Breathing Apparatus and Personal Protective Equipment. SCBA and PPE. That's safety officer for this community has to understand the policy for the community on all their SCBA rules. We have federal guidelines, we have state guidelines. The safety officer should be, a good understanding of what each policy is. Should be wearing your mask at all times. But make sure that he enforces that. I've had a lot of incidents to make sure all firefighters are wearing their, their, their masks and their personal effective equipment. Climatic conditions. Weather has an adverse effect on us, as firefighters. Maintain constant awareness of the change in temperatures. Extreme temperatures and humidity, it's a, a very difficult thing to do, make sure the firefighters are hydrated, properly, during the hot and humid weather. Freezing rain and snow, obviously you're going to get, you get hypothermia during the cold weather. You make sure that they're all warm, have a warm area when they come out, there's a place where they can stand by and stay warm until they get in rehab. And high winds, make sure that there's no high winds because things get blown off roofs, tree branches can come down and hit firefighters. So during all types of weather conditions, the safety officer has to have a good understanding of what negative effects could that weather condition be on us fire fighters. During the incident, the incident command will tell the area operations the set up ground lines and set up the area. The safety officers understand where the placement of these areas is gonna be. Up against the building, is it in the collapse zone. These are things that a safety officer has to walk around and monitor, make sure they're in a safe area for operation. Ensuring the safety, as I said before, ensuring the safety of ground ladders to the second floor, so a fire fighter has immediate egress to get out on the second floor. Establishing control zones is a big issue for the fire safety officer. The last personnel accountability. Glab zones are based on building, height, and construction type. And control zones aid in the seeing management. Safety officer can actually help the seeing management with these control zones. Make sure nobody's working in dangerous situations, incase there's potential collapse. Today's fire services are like our grandparents, we have totally different new operations that we're responding to. Hazardous material incidents, emergency medical and mass casualty, tech rescue, confined space. Structural collapse, high angle, extraction, these are all new things that we're facing today in the fire service. Hazardous material incidents, what are the fire safety officer's role in a Hazmat incident. He's there making sure 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 equipment that we're using, and to protect us. Emergency medical and mass catastrophe, make sure that there's no disease being presented. No HIV, no blood borne pathogens are being exposed to us. Mass casualties, we have potentials now for terrorist events where mass casualty operations. Safety officer has to 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 into 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, is all new things that the safety officer is gonna have to have a good understanding about, to where where were doing this operation safely. Where does it require us to have safety officers? Well each municipality has state laws we have to follow and we're mandated by. Check your state, make sure you're mandated to have one and to set one up. OSHA requires it if you're doing a certain operation. I know doing hazardous materials operations you've got to have a safety officer. And the National Fire Protection Association also requires you to have a safety officer. These are requirements that, that dictate to us that we need to have it. And with overall, overall safety to firefighters, it's a great practice to continue having one. If you're assigned as a safety officer by an incident commander or chief of the department, what are some of your roles that you're going to be doing? You're going to identify high hazard and 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 where there would be a high risk to firefighters. Ensure adoption and implementation of [UNKNOWN] management system and make sure everybody understands ICS systems and where your role is in that ICS system. Conduct research and development related to firefighter strategy and tactics. When your community has [UNKNOWN] potentials you as a safety officer are going to have to go out and actually study that community to make sure that you can get better strategy ad tactics for the incident commander, and make sure its done safely. Safety best managing practices, what are the best practices? are there so many different trains of thought in the fire service. But you have to take that specific managing theory and make it to your community to make sure that you're operationally save. And all the technologies are out there. All the use of cameras. All the use of thermal imaging cameras. The use of computers. How's this gonna make your job as a safety officer easier and make it safer for the fire fighters on the scene. We discussed all different aspects of the safety officer, who's required, how you gonna have it, how's it all set up. But 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 operation. So constant communication between the incident commander and the safety officer is essential to make sure you have a good operation going on. You have to understand the incident 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 the incident safety size up, to make sure the building's safe, whether there's gonna be any collapses in it. When you get there, if you're assigned the safety officer, you might have to do a 360 around that building, to look at, look at all the structural, look at the windows, look at the roof. Look at the walls and make sure everything is safe to have face them. We put that size of information to the incident commander, cuz now he could strike to a better strategy and tactics with your safety information that you are giving to him. No harm. Establish controls are that we measure before during a hazard material incidents, setting up controls on the hot water and cold. Setting up that collateral to make sure that we are safe. Setting up the rehab center to make sure that we come out, we'll have a place that we could rehab. And hydrate properly. Establish rapid intervention teams do we need a red team when's that gonna be setup, where's that gonna be setup. That's all part of the safety officers responsibility. Provide advanced and challenging conditions. If you as a safety officer realize things are getting worse as they're progressively going on during the operation you gotta notify the [INAUDIBLE] commander and tell him the challenges you're gonna be facing. Monitor communications, as I mentioned before. You're going to be listening to all the operations. People on the head of the line. People up on our roof. People inside the building. You're going to make sure that everything going on in that operation is safe. Monitor, monitor vehicle traffic. Make sure we're not being hit by cars. And traffic flow patterns around us so we're all protected and can clearly **** the risk of the operation. Make sure that we continually go on and on throughout the operation that we're all safe and a risk, risk to a control. One of the challenges that we as safety officers will be facing. One of them is recognizing how conditions will be changing. You got to monitor, make sure the primary search is completed, that you hear that on the radio. Understand and hear if the fire's been knocked down, you know, if the fire's been got greater or intense inside the building. Patient extrication is completed, that the patients have been removed from the vehicles, and they're on ambulances 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 your risk, that's the important thing that the fire safety officer has to understand. One of the things you can do is use effective interpersonal skills, to talk to the people at the scene, to understand what's going on. Either talk to them or the commander. Force Accountability. Make sure everyone has their Accountability 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 are located. Effectively support operations. You're, as a safety officer, you're gonna support that operation in a way that makes sure that everybody is safe. And the Incident Commander can do his strategy and tactics in a safe and quick manner. And plan for any additional resources. You, as safety officer, you might have to tell that Incident Commander that you might need a second or third strike team coming in, or additional units coming in to 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 still 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 report. Unfortunately, you might have an injury or death report you have to fill out and give to the state. Identify corrective actions for future incidents. If things weren't done safely, this is a time for you as safety officer to tell, the incident commander or the chief of the department, that things have to be changed, and this is what needs to be done. At this incident, this is what we learned. Any violations of the department's SOPs, you bring up to the chief of the department or the incident commander, this is what we saw at that operation. If it's a poorly defined procedure. Some of them are. That we, we can learn from our mistakes and make sure it was done. And we can bring it back to district commander and the chief, that this decisions were made weren't the best of time. And unforeseen conditions be they operations or where something could happen later on that we weren't ready for. Now we go back and discuss this. As a safety officer there's something we weren't ready to see happen that did occur. A lot of time in the wild lands that happens. So, we got to 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 come back from a hazmat incident. And I noticed that the safety officer and our guys werent. Prepared properly on handling a spill. But that means that we need to do better training on awareness and operations of hazardous materials. This is a time where a 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 to correct this actions so we all can work safe. Bottom line is for all safety officers that everybody goes to the fire or comes home together. That's our goal as safety officers. [BLANK_AUDIO] We just have been discussing the roles of the safety officer. Now I wanna quickly go over what are potentials. That we face as firefighters when we get injured and hurt, the [INAUDIBLE] major cause is motor vehicle accidents, I was saying before. The traffic patterns aren't being set up properly, while we're working an operation a car fires, a car accidents, and we're getting hurt and killed on the highways. Otherwise, it's cardiovascular. We have to get ourselves. 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 officers to start getting some physical fitness programs out there to the fire house, so the fire fighters can follow along. One of the things that we do face all the time is lost and disoriented. In, in the fire instructions. That's when St. Joseph's is gonna start doing more training. I'm getting training done for the firefighters in private mazes and burn buildings, so we can practice on actually stretching hose and crawling through the heat and smoke during the operation. All the things that kill us are major fires are backdrafts and flash overs and structural collapses. This is stuff that we have to keep our eyes on, eyes on at all times, safety officers, to make sure that we're at the safe operation. Trauma, falls, lacerations, and burns. We have to make sure that we're wearing our proper safety equipment. The safety officer is gonna have to make sure that we're using the proper equipment. And using the equipment properly. So that we're not getting burned, and not getting hurt with the equipment. And a big thing is infectious disease. We;re making sure we're using our gloves and wearing gloves properly, wearing masks at car accidents, and so we're going back we're not getting infectious diseases, these are things the safety officer will be doing, not only at the scene, but with the fire department after the operation or before the operation. We have these policies, this is all part of what the safety officers should be doing. [BLANK_AUDIO] Now you just listened to this complete lecture, now you're saying to yourself, you know what, I wanna make a difference. I wanna go become the safety officer. So you go to the chief of the department or your office, and say at the next structure, can I be. [UNKNOWN] Safety officer. What do I have to know? What do I have to get? Is there any certifications, there's no really certifications out there, but there's courses that you can take. The National Fire Academy has a course on incident safety officer. FEMA has a safety officer courses. That there's an organization of federal Fire Department Safety Officers Association. They the information that makes you a better safety officer. So there's op your state and local county academies. They all have courses on safety officers. And if they don't, ask them to get' em. FEMA people and the National Fire Academy instructor will come up and gladly. Offer this knowledge they have on us. So it's up to you to go get that information and it'll 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 can you actually be go to a structure fire and not have someone out there watching us, protecting us? So there's the liability is out there, so it's up to you to make sure our jobs are safe. [BLANK_AUDIO]

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