The NEW IAFF/IAFC Fire Ground Survival Program Aims to Build a “Survival System”

To create a system for survival from what is known from contemporary firefighter fatality and near-miss research completed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the National Institute for Science and Technology, the U.S. Fire Administration, the National Fire Academy, and the National Fire Protection Association is the goal of the International Association of Fire Fighters/International Association of Fire Chiefs Fire Ground Survival (FGS) program, advises Lead Instructor Capt. Derek Alkonis, Los Angeles County (CA) Fire Department.

Although the number of fires in the past 30 years has decreased by more than 40 percent, but the rate of firefighter fatalities has not decreased as much.  Why?  Research has identified common denominators in many fatal and near-miss fires even as the fire service has become more technical. These commonalities can be traced to the errors we commit as firefighters, the dangerous conditions we fail to recognize, or the critical actions incident command fails to perform. FGS takes an in-depth look at these errors and presents a system for survival.

This new eight-hour evolutions will be offered Monday and Tuesday, April 19-20, 8:00 am-5:00 pm for all attendees of all ranks. The program is a comprehensive curriculum dedicated to preventing and being prepared for the Mayday as well as knowing what to do when one occurs. It is an overview of the thee-day program offered through the IAFF as a Train the Trainer course. Students will be made aware that Fireground Survival is much more than just a set of skills to be performed to prepare for survival.

The curriculum includes a manual consisting of five chapters: “Preventing the Mayday,” “Being Ready for the Mayday,” “Self-Survival Procedures,” “Self-Survival Skills,” and “Fire Fighter Expectations of Command.”  The manual is supported with the following: an on-line program with active links to firefighter survival material; a written examination testing students’ mastery of the concepts within each chapter; a video of three Mayday simulations filmed at Warner Bros. Studios; a video of personal interviews with firefighters who survived a near-miss and visits to the incident locations where the near-misses occurred; PowerPoint® slides with instructor notes to support the classroom lecture and the reference materials used to create the curriculum; instructional material supporting the teaching and evaluation of survival skills; and safety instructions necessary to safely prepare the drill site, build the props, and perform each skill to minimize the risk for injury.

Students will learn of the actions a firefighter must perform to prevent a Mayday: the equipment and training needed to be ready for a Mayday and how to recognize a Mayday situation and to issue an effective Mayday radio call. Firefighter actions that can help in self-rescue will be presented: proper use of the radio to advise Command of a Mayday, managing air usage and maintaining clarity of thought while suppressing the physiologic effects of panic, performing the GRAB LIVES system of survival with little or no thought, performing all forms of upper-floor egress for rapid escape with and without portable ladders, escaping through walls and under obstacles to find a more tenable atmosphere, and escaping from entanglements that impede a rapid exit.

The class content also will address the actions incident command must take to effectively communicate with the distressed firefighter and to effect a successful rescue.

The FGS curriculum has been practiced and evaluated in six states with more than 40 fire departments. The curriculum was written so that fire departments can use the information easily after completing a train-the-trainer class.

If your position as a fire service professional requires you to improve the effectiveness of your firefighters while providing for firefighter safety, you should attend the eight-hour FGS experience at FDIC. Knowing how to improve survivability in a fire will improve your firefighters’ ability to do their jobs in saving life and protecting property from the damaging effects of fire.

IAFF/IAFC Fire Ground Survival Program NEW!

Lead Instructor: Captain Derek Alkonis, Los Angeles County (CA) Fire Department; Fire Ground Survival Lead Investigator

In December 2007, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) joined efforts to create a Fire Ground Survival Program for the North American fire service. Over the past two years, firefighters from the United States and Canada have worked with NIOSH and NIST in researching the most critical elements of fireground survival and looking at firefighter fatalities and near misses to identify how best to survive a Mayday situation. The comprehensive course includes sections on Preventing a Mayday, Being Ready for a Mayday, Mayday Procedures, Mayday Skills, and Firefighters’ Expectations of Command. Taught by members of the research team, the course will focus on Mayday procedures and skills firefighters must be able to perform instinctively to survive. Firefighters will learn how best to prevent the onset of panic while performing survival skills, how to perform low and reduced profile techniques and disentanglement techniques, how to rectify SCBA emergencies, how to self-rescue from upper floors, and how best to use the radio to communicate with Command to aid in your own rescue. Students will also act in the position of Command using radio communications to assist fire fighters experiencing a Mayday. Students will be required to provide structural firefighting personal protective equipment including pants, jacket, helmet, and gloves.



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