A Look at Fire Fighter Safety

A Look at Fire Fighter Safety

Advances of administrative technique and equipment in recent years have tended to overshadow other phases of fire fighting. Fortunately, a most important area, suppression technique, has not been neglected and has kept pace. However, many officials feel that personnel safety has lagged in emphasis and needs to be upgraded in importance.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs and the International Association of Fire Fighters have recognized this situation and are campaigning to place greater stress on the hazardous nature of fire fighting. In the main this effort is devoted to educating governing officials and the public to the dangers involved by means of statistical evidence. Much emphasis is placed on providing good equipment designed to reduce injuries and the proper care and benefits to those unfortunate men who have been incapacitated.

Everyone concerned must keep in mind that a successful safety campaign has to include fire fighters themselves. It is not enough to tabulate statistics and then attempt to convince the public how dangerous the profession has become. First the knowledge gained from the statistics must be interpreted to the men and plans made to correct operational shortcomings which may be contributing to accidents.

Fire fighting safety requires that a proper attitude be developed by those involved. This is a responsibility of command and should be instilled during initial training. New fire fighters must be taught not only proper use of protective equipment but also the reasons for its necessity. This training must be dynamic and not the mere mouthing of words, which for too long has hampered all safety work. It must include the cold, hard facts of why safe practices are necessary and the possible results if they are ignored.

Good safety training tends to eliminate false fears which trouble all new fire fighters and substitutes practical knowledge. This breeds respect for danger and at the same time instills confidence in equipment designed to alleviate the hazards. It can also stimulate inquiry into employment techniques leading to future improvement as well as possible design of better equipment.

At the same time fire officials must recognize that as men gain experience they may begin to deprecate certain methods or items of equipment designed for specific tasks or situations. Impatience with prescribed procedures or equipment which may slow down particular operations is a common occurrence in fire fighting. It even pervades the thinking of many fire officers and may tend to defeat good safety practices.

Senior commanders must ensure that safety requirements be met at all times during operations. If this is not done a slow disintegration of over-all safety will result. Many complaints of the past concerning apparent contempt for safety practices were more indicative of rebellion against discipline than anything else. Frequently they were brought about or encouraged by lax or indifferent officers.

The current Round Table reflects the thinking of representative chiefs in this country and Canada. It is interesting to note practically all report that accidents are investigated to determine underlying causes and action taken to correct deficiencies in operational practices or equipment. Despite what some may believe, it is evident that a lot of thought is being given to this area and that safety has not been forgotten. That much more must be done is evident from current fire fighting safety statistics. It is a must that enforcement of proper safety regulations among fire fighters be strictly carried out. However this is only part of the battle.

Fire fighters lack complete control over the hazards they face. This is a serious complication due to the nature of the work. Yet there are a number of things which can be done to improve the situation. Perhaps most important is the strengthening and proper enforcement of fire prevention and building construction codes by communities.

It is in this area that the greatest task lies ahead for the fire service. Governing officials must he convinced that modern conditions cannot he met by outmoded regulations. Here lies the reason for lack of control over many hazards. If safer fire fighting is to be obtained, then increased control is a must in this area. Without it, little can be done to further improve the safety situation.

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