National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Every Breath You Take Counts

Recently, there is more emerging information and research on the contents of smoke, which has been redefined from today’s combustibles. If given the right conditions the products of fuel combustions are at a different level, as well as the toxicity of today’s smoke far surpasses the smoke of previous generations. Here’s a portion of this week’s featured report:

* Brackets [] denote reviewer de-identification

Crews from my [number deleted] battalion responded after midnight to a reported shed fire. Upon arrival they found a motor home with a large adjacent shed heavily involved. A defensive stance was the only option. They overcame the common obstacles found in a relatively remote setting with a long single driveway and no hydrants. Once the fire was knocked down, they began the mop-up and overhaul-without SCBA masks in place. As the structures were a total loss, they were out in the open air. They adjusted their positions as the winds shifted and generally stayed out of the smoke that remained. However, the wind direction was unpredictable and occasionally they found themselves in the smoke for a few seconds before they got clear again. Sound familiar?

At one point, one of the firefighters took a breath at just the wrong moment and sucked in a lung full of nasty tasting smoke. Within moments he felt light headed and somewhat disoriented. His crew members report that he was not responding normally to verbal commands and seemed lethargic, but alert…”

A single inhalation of smoke takes a firefighter from actively engaged to completely incapacitated. Once you have read the entire account (CLICK HERE) and the related reports, consider the following:

1. What are three key factors that firefighters cite for not wearing SCBA?
2. What are three key counterpoints to the arguments for not wearing SCBA?
3. What are the cumulative effects of smoke inhalation?
4. What are the thresholds for “safe” smoke filled atmospheres?
5. What monitoring activities does your department conduct to ensure the atmosphere is returned to a safe condition prior to allowing personnel to remove their SCBA?

Have you suffered from smoke inhalation? You have essentially experienced a near- miss. Tell the fire service about your experience through today.

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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