Morris: We Are Obligated to Practice Risk Management

Walter Morris, training program manager of the Maine Fire Service Institute, is a staunch believer in the statement, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Consequently, he is committed to making sure that firefighters, and especially instructors, see the connection between past tragedies and today’s firefighter training. That was the focus of his Friday FDIC 2014 class “Fire Training Injuries: Case Studies for Instructors.” In this interactive session, students identified the factors that contributed to firefighter training injuries and the lessons these incidents teach us.

In his Friday class Morris established some of the injury-death and training revision connections for students. “Many instructors do not understand how the tragedies of the past have impacted firefighter training today.” Morris says. They do not know that the training deaths of two Boulder, Colorado, firefighters directly led to the development of National Fire Protection Association 1403, Standard for Live Fire Training,” he explains. Morris called this standard “an excellent risk management tool.”

Morris finds it hard to believe that many instructors are not aware of the significance of the following fires:

  • A Milford, Michigan, training event in which several training fires were burning simultaneously in an old house led to the deaths of three firefighters.
  • The use of diesel fuel in an attic of an acquired structure in Delaware on April 30, 2000, killed a 27-year-old Assistant fire chief.  
  • On September 25, 2001, 19-year-old Bradley Golden of the Lairdsville (NY) Fire Department died in a live fire training incident when he was caught in a flashover. As a result, Lairsdville Fire Department’s Assistant Chief Alan Baird III was convicted of criminally negligent homicide and sent to jail.
  • On August 27, 2002, less than a year after Golden’s death, a house being used for live fire training in Cranesville, New York, exploded when flammable liquids were used to propagate the fire. Ten firefighters and two civilians were injured. “Cranesville is only 80 miles from Lairdsville,” Morris comments incredulously!

Morris stressed National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Initiative No. 3, “Focus greater attention on the integration of risk management with incident management at all levels, including strategic, tactical, and planning responsibilities.”  

“As fire service instructors, we are obligated to practice risk management,” Morris stressed. “It is our obligation to become familiar with the requirements of NFPA 1403 and to use this tool. Knowing that the requirements of NFPA 1403 were developed as a result of firefighter injuries and deaths will help instructors to  understand the intent of the requirements.”

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