National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Unexpected Occurrences on the Fireground

“Expect the unexpected.” This phrase is repeated countless times in a variety of different environments to remind people to keep their situational awareness (SA) high. Despite the warning, firefighters continue to fall victim to situations where one of the SA loss factors catches us off guard. As a result, a seemingly innocent event collects extra respirations and heartbeats as we find ourselves struggling to avoid injury.
“I was removing a burned up mattress and box spring from the second story window of a townhome fire. The mattress and box spring had burned completely through and all that was left was the metal framework of them. When I went to throw them out of the window, part of the metal frame hooked the loop of my air hose between the regulator on my face piece and the connection on the harness. When it caught the hose it pulled my face piece forward, breaking the seal on my face piece and pulling me out the window with the mattress and box spring. I leaned back and…”

Firefighters often enter a chaotic environment in the performance of their firefighting duties with the expectation that order will be restored. The actions they take on the scene are usually well planned and the outcome of the incident can be predicted, ending without consequence. For example, firefighters respond to a grass fire use a hoseline to extinguish the fire–end of story.

However, sometimes things don’t always work out as expected because the once chaotic environment could still have factors occurring that could impact your outcome. If our simple grass fire was ignited by an unseen downed power line, the incident quickly transforms from a mundane into life-threatening incident. This report describes an occurrence where a similar predictable incident takes an unanticipated turn. Once you have read the entire account (CLICK HERE), consider the following:

  1. What role do situational awareness and training play when “unexpected” events occur?
  2. How can we use Crew Resource Management to reduce the number and mitigate unexpected situations?
  3. How does equipment familiarization increase the odds of surviving an unexpected event?
  4. Can you recall any unexpected events that you have been involved with during your career? How did you handle the situation?
  5. Is it possible to anticipate and plan for the unexpected?

Submit a 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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