National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Evacuation Means Evacuation

Often times the brevity of a near-miss report captures a range of emotions that could expand to hundreds of words. This week’s featured report relates to an incident where a crew arrives at a mutual aid fire and the officer separates from the crew; then the conditions change abruptly and the crew can’t reach the officer. The crew, anxious to locate their officer is placed in a precarious situation.

“We responded to a request for mutual aid to block fire in a small rural community. The company officer separated from the crew to “check things out.” An evacuation signal was heard due to side “A” wall shift. The crew withdrew, but did not see the officer. The crew called by radio repeatedly to the officer with no response. The crew spontaneously acted to re-enter to find the officer. Just before entry, side “C” reported the officer was safe. As we pulled back, the side “A” brick, 3 story wall came down. Had we continued our entry, we would have become statistics.”

The actions of the crew clearly indicate a justifiable concern for their leader. Given the amount of noise on even the most common firegrounds, radio traffic can go unheard. One critical element for crew safety is continuity. If an officer is going to “check things out” at the scene of a large fire or anyplace where the crew can no longer see the officer, anxiety builds when situations deteriorate. The alert “Side C” officer in this week’s event narrative averts disaster with a timely radio response. Once you have re-read the account, consider the following:

1. Under what circumstances would an officer leave the crew to “check things out”?
2. Is there a way/method to prevent the crew from “spontaneously acting to re-enter to find the officer”? Discuss your answer.
3. Is your accountability system comparable with neighboring departments?
4. List as many possibilities as you can for why the officer didn’t answer the radio. How many of your observations are behavior related? How many are technology related?
5. Once the crew reunited, what actions should be taken to prevent the near miss from occurring again?

Have you had a near miss where you almost didn’t make it out of a situation? Submit your report to today so everyone goes home tomorrow.

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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