The types of incidents firefighters can find themselves handling are beyond comprehension. Just when you think you have learned everything there is to know about the hazards in your area, something unexpected comes along. If we are fatigued, our situational awareness can be affected, leading to poor decision making and near misses. This week’s report describes just such an event that is unique in several ways.
“…We were dispatched to an outdoor fire. It was a building approximately 50 feet wide by 100 feet long and 30 feet high. It was plastic/cloth covered with an aluminum frame. Inside the building were pallets of drilling mud in plastic bags packed similarly to sandbags and stacked three pallets high (approximately 12 feet). Drilling mud is basically pulverized wood so it creates a somewhat flammable atmosphere when spread through the air. We achieved some knockdown and began trying overhaul. We tried to use pike poles to pull down the burned material from the taller pallets but were unsuccessful because the bags would simply tear. I got up on a pallet approximately three feet high and began pulling down taller stacks by hand. This created a lot of dust that ignited around me. I tried to get off the pallet and away from the flammable atmosphere and slipped, twisting my right knee. I fell between a few pallets on the ground and got wedged in. The air current I created while falling made the flammable dust follow me down and it continued burning around me…”
The full report cites several factors that contribute to this near miss. Situational awareness is one factor, fatigue a second, and individual action is the third. Fatigue and situational awareness are inextricably connected. When we are tired, our senses are dulled. The more tired we are, the more inattentive we are and therefore, the lower our situational awareness is. Recognizing fatigue is a factor in our performance is a crucial step to avoiding serious injury. Once you have read the entire account (CLICK HERE), consider the following:
Rest is more than just an excuse for avoiding work. The restorative qualities of adequate rest are well documented. The long term effects of inadequate sleep manifest themselves in higher heart attacks, diagnoses of cancer, and other diseases. Some of these diseases are latent in their development and are the result of the culmination of decades of inadequate rest and recovery. Get your rest. You’ll be more alert, make better decisions and lengthen your life.
For more information, click here to access: The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Fire Fighters and EMS Responders.
Submit your report to www.firefighternearmiss.com 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.