August Roundtable: Risk Management

At what level in your organization does risk management come from the most?   Please post your responses in the comments section below.

Risk management is identifying risk and then prioritizing how that “risk” or task fits into the big scheme of things. In my opinion, there are several levels of risk management. The administration of the fire department is responsible for setting guidelines associated with risk management. As operations deputy in my old department, I established a policy called “Code Red” (similar to a traffic light). The city building maintained a list of buildings that were inspected and found to be structually unsound. We entered all of those properties into our Comupter Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. When one of these addresses came up as a reported structure fire, all responding crews knew this building was “Code Red” and no interior firefighting operations were to be conducted for any reason except for “seen or heard” rescues. Administratively, we set the tone for risk management for the department with that policy.
We also had a safety department with a captain and four 24-hour safety lieuntnants. This department looked at all risks at all incidents and helped establish policy and guidelines for the department. They also aided in investigating accidents, which lead to future policy and guidelines to avoid reoccurance.

A lot of risk assessment and management is passed down from generation to generation of firefighters and officers. Previous incidents are discussed and patterns of acceptable risk are noted and remembered for future similar incidents.

On a more basic scale, every company officer should develop his or her own parameters regarding acceptance of risk. How far do you go to assure that what your firefighters are currently doing is actually worth the risk they are taking doing it?

Risk management is an attitude that starts from the top of the organization and filters down to the newest recruit. It must be followed by examples from the top as well.

Login and share your thoughts below. John “Skip” Coleman retired as assistant chief from the Toledo (OH) Department of Fire and Rescue. He is a technical editor of Fire Engineering; a member of the FDIC Educational Advisory Board; and author of Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer (Fire Engineering, 1997), Managing Major Fires (Fire Engineering, 2000), and Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer, Second Edition (Fire Engineering, 2008).

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