National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: The Value of Always Having a Back-Up

Fire departments establish policies and procedures to set forth rules and standards personnel are expected to follow. These policies and procedures often lose their historical significance within one generation of firefighter. The question often asked is, “Why do we do this?” Many times the response is, “Because we’ve always done it that way.”

When it comes to safety policies and practices, the rules are often written reactively. A death, injury or equipment damage occurs because of due carelessness, oversight or negligence. The savvy among you are already getting the message. Safety practices are the result of someone’s suffering or destroyed equipment. Keep this in mind as you read this week’s featured report.

“We were enroute to a training exercise on a dirt access road behind the county DOT. We arrived at the area and began to look for a training site. We passed a hill and found a training area on the other side. We then realized we had just passed the road that provided access to the site. The driver of the truck told me that he would back up and pull down the road. He told me I didn’t have to worry about backing him up because we were on county property and there was no traffic or property to worry about backing into. I told him to stop and let me out anyway.”

“I walked to the back of the truck and found a small…”

Compromising simple best practices has consequences. When faced with a challenge to “skip it this time” or “Don’t worry, I don’t need a back up,” it is incumbent on the officer to lead by example and act in a manner that minimizes risk and gets the job done. Consider the following once you have reviewed the entire narrative and lessons learned (CLICK HERE):

1. What is your department’s backing policy?
2. What are the consequences/discipline set forth if the policy is not followed?
3. Should the officer in this week’s report counsel the driver for suggesting no back up person was needed?
4. Does this incident suggest that the driver deviates from other policies as well?
5. Where is your personal “line in the sand” regarding following safety policies (i,e., unbending, bend when no one is looking, give in to peer pressure, etc.)?

What is your backing near miss? Submit your report to so you can do your part to get everyone home.

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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