National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Fit Enough for the Unexpected

A fit firefighter is a fireground necessity. The tasks a firefighter performs are labor intensive, can have long duration, and often have a ballistic quality. The time and place a fitness level may be challenged is an unknown. Maximum effort may be required with no notice. The following example affirms the benefits of adequate fitness.

“I was working as the second due battalion chief on a structure fire in a middle row townhouse Operations went defensive early due to the bulk of fire and involved electrical house service. Once the fire was knocked down and utilities controlled, we still had hot spots on the 3rd floor that were beyond the reach of external streams.

I was part of a 3 member team that entered the structure to assess stability. I checked two rooms on the second floor and was making my way to the 3rd floor stairs when my right foot went through the floor, causing me to fall forward. I went through all the way up to my groin I was not injured, but embarrassed.

We were breathing air and wearing full PPE. I’m certain the properly worn, full PPE prevented me from getting injured. My fitness level also contributed to avoiding injury. When my right foot went through the floor, I threw my arms out in case both legs went through. The position was awkward; one leg through the hole, the other bent in an uncomfortable position. I was able to mostly push myself out of the hole. Good flexibility and upper body strength were a big help in getting out of the hole.”

One of the strategies for avoiding/reducing injury is having redundant systems in place to offset the links of the error chain. From the account of this week’s featured firefighter near msis report, the fitness level of the reporter is cited as a contributing factor in preventing an injury. While discussion can branch off with the topic of the wisdom of being in the structure, the secondary message here is the value of being fit for duty. Consider the following:

  1. How would you rate your current fitness level?
  2. Would you have adequate flexibility and upper body strength to extract yourself from a similar situation as the one described?
  3. What is your total weight when dressed in your full PPE and SCBA? What is the difference between your body weight and your PPE/SCBA weight?
  4. How much time do you spend on flexibility training, strength training and aerobic training each week?
  5. When was your last fitness assessment?   

Career or volunteer, firefighter or EMS provider, a comprehensive fitness program is an essential element to emergency worker longevity. If you haven’t paid the appropriate amount of attention to your fitness level, you may not be as operationally ready as needed when the time comes. Make the time to keep yourself in shape for the rigors of the job. The life you save may be your own.

Did your fitness level get you out of a jam? Submit your report to www.firefighternearmiss.com today so everyone goes home tomorrow. For more on the value of firefighter near-miss reporting, CLICK HERE.

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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