National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Pole Sliding and Water Hazards in Station

A search of the National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System database found several reports relating to sliding down poles in wet PPE, as well as other reports dealing with water hazards in stations, such as this week’s featured report:

“Our area had experienced a Micro/Macro Burst which resulted in the town being deluged with 9-1-1 calls for downed wires and numerous trees into homes… While in quarters, we were called out for arcing wires. Without thinking about it, I went to the 28′ pole and slid to the apparatus floor. I did not take my bunker pants off when we went upstairs for dinner, and once I started to slide the pole, I had no control of the speed I was descending due to the pants being saturated with water from the rain… Once on the main floor, I bounced off of the floor and…”

“Sliding down the pole” is a fixture in many fire stations and has been successfully used for generations. In fact, the likeness of a firefighter sliding down a pole is an image that many people in our communities equate with a fire department’s swiftness of response. The pole has not been without its share of near misses, injury producing events, and detractors. Either way, sliding down a pole deserves its share of attention in the response scenario. An injury during a pole slide can take a company out of service when it is needed most. Once you have read the full account (CLICK HERE), consider the following:

1. When new members arrive in the station, are they trained to slide down the pole before being permitted to use it?
2. If yes to question 1, how much training are they given in elements such as hand and leg placement, alternative slide techniques (e.g., towel around the arm, feet wrapped versus insteps on the pole, etc.)?
3. Is the padding at the bottom of the pole shock absorbing and water resistant?
4. Does your station have a scheduled maintenance program for its slide pole(s)?
5. Does that program include frequent polishing or varnishing of the pole?

Did you experience a near miss due to sliding down a pole? Have you ever avoided an injury because you “looked before your leapt?” Visit and report your near-miss at 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.

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