Unit staffing and task assignments are interrelated components that can occur in disjointed fashion on the incident scene. When units are understaffed, many times untrained civilians attempt to aid emergency responders with the best of intentions but with minimal knowledge on how to assist safely and correctly. The combination of a working fire and the challenges that go along with it can present a sense of urgency that drives emergency responders to take action intended to expedite task accomplishment without the proper support. As we see in this week’s featured report, the best of intentions can go awry in ways not anticipated.
“My local fire company was dispatched to a working house fire. We went to observe the call and ended up assisting (as a bystander), pulling a 3 1/2″ supply line up a hill away from the fireground. There were only about six of us, including two bystanders that offered to help drag the hoseline…After about 500 – 600′ we could no longer drag the hoseline up the hill. Another engine was at the top of the street and met us. Someone hooked the line to the front bumper and started backing up the hill. The line became taut, as we could not keep up. The hose snapped and a coupling hit one of the firefighters…”
Water supply operations involve some of the deceptively heaviest pieces of equipment on the fireground. A single 50′ section of 3 ½” hose weighs approximately 48 lbs. It is relatively easily handled by one firefighter. 10-12 sections (500-600′) of 3 ½” hose weighs over 575 lbs. Add the drag created when the line has to be stretched uphill with insufficient staffing and there is not enough power to complete the task. Despite understaffing the fire does not wait; nor does the need to complete the water supply hook up. Once you have read the entire account (CLICK HERE), consider the following:
1. How much does one section of your department’s supply line weigh?
2. How many members are needed to hand stretch 500-600′ of your department’s supply line? 800-1000′?
3. How long would it take to assemble the members needed to stretch 500-600′ of your department’s supply line?
4. What other options would you be able to employ to complete the operation?
5. What is your department policy on using civilians to assist with fireground operations?
Had a near miss during water supply operations? Have you followed a best practice and averted injury when a water supply operation went awry? Tell your story on www.firefighternearmiss.com today so everyone goes home tomorrow.
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.