Apparatus & Equipment, Firefighting

National Firefighter Near Miss Featured Report: In us they trust…

By Amanda McHenry
National Firefighter Near Miss Reporting System

This week’s featured report deals with staffing and communications, issues which affect all fire departments no matter what size. In this week’s report, several rural departments are mentioned because of motor vehicle collisions. However, the near miss occurs before any units arrive on the scene. The uncoordinated response makes it difficult to understand who is coming or what equipment is on the way. Additional departments are dispatched, but communications interoperability is not available. As the reporter explains, personnel and units finally arrive on scene however, the best service was not provided to the people in need.

“…This morning, the day before Thanksgiving, the alarm sounded for an MVA with entrapment. My department and another for mutual aid were dispatched. I, the safety officer of the first response station, was the first to radio in route from my home and responded. While responding, I noted that I have heard no other units respond in route either to their respective station or to the scene. I radioed for a second tone and requested a third station outside of the county to respond for mutual aid. Finally I heard one fire fighter from the first mutual aid station radio in route to his station. At this point, two firefighters were responding to an MVA with (now) confirmed entrapment. The second mutual aid station from outside the county was responding but I had no radio contact with them so I was just hoping they had heard the alarm and were responding. In the end five members responded from the primary station, first mutual aid station was cancelled and the second mutual aid station arrived with an engine and rescue and six men. The primary station never got an engine on scene (only five firefighters in their POV)…”

Public trust is the nucleus for fire department funding and support. Ensuring that trust involves coordination, diligence and guaranteed response with equipment and trained personnel. After you have reviewed the entire account (CLICK HERE), consider the following:

1. Has your department ever considered a “response coordination officer” to ensure members know who goes to the station to get the apparatus out and who goes to the scene?

2. What program(s) does your department have in place to ensure coverage during holidays, low response hours or times of fiscal limitations?

3. How does your mutual aid plan address communications interoperability?

4. When did you last meet with your counterparts from neighboring departments to address concerns of mutual interest (SOPs, command functions, uniform equipment, etc.)?

5. Given this week’s incident occurred in your department, what steps would you take to improve performance?

Had a near miss where staffing was a factor? Submit your report to today to help another department pursue improved staffing.

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.