Right Seat Responsibilities

Assistant Chief Mike Cardwell, Urbandale (IA) Fire Department, handled the “Right Seat Responsibilities” Hands-On Training (H.O.T.) workshop titled “Right Seat Responsibilities. According to Cardwell, the workshop was intended to address a gap that has developed in the preparation of young officers and firefighters who are assigned to function as company officers.

“Traditionally, young officers in both career and volunteer departments have been able rely on responding command officers to make initial fireground decisions,” said Cardwell. “Their own experiences provided a solid background which they could pull from. With today’s staffing, it is much more likely that company officers will be making those initial decisions.

The workshop looked at the process of information gathering, or size-up, from the time of the initial call through the setting of initial strategy. Divided into five segments, the first segment reviewed matching resource needs to resource responding. The second segment provided students with a size-up process that focused on the three critical pieces of information: wht the rscue prolem is, how the building is likely to perform, and what the fire conditions are. Segment three instructed the students on applying size-up and resource information itno a simple risk-benefit model, which helps answer the question of whether or not an interior attach should commence with a reasonable chance of success. Finally, the fourth segment reviewed basic fire attack strategy and introduced new strategy options when resources don’t’ match initial incident needs. The final segment spent some time discussing response to routine emergencies, pointing out small points the company officer should consider to avoid getting caught unprepared should the call end up being no so routine. “Don’t make routine calls non-routine calls,” he stated as he ended the class.
“I hope firefighters and officers who attended this class came away with a better understanding of how to conduct an effective size-up and use that information to make the go or no-go call,” said Cardwell. “Too often, firefighters are seriously injured or killed because either the size-up was not completed, critical information was missed, or the information was mis-applied. The fire service needs to do a better job of educating its personnel of understanding how using risk benefit analysis makes taking risk worthwhile. Even in this day we are still needlessly killing and injuring firefighters simply because we don’t understand risk.”

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