Fire Fighter Safety
Whenever fire fighters get to talking about safety, the conversation seems to start and stop with protective equipment—masks, helmets and so on. But a look at the records (some departments do keep injury statistics) will show that there are many fire fighter injuries that have nothing to do with a lack of, or misuse of, protective equipment.
Accidents are always related to environment. And if we look carefully at the environment that fire fighters operate in, we discover a strange thing. The fire fighter actually works in three environments:
Number 1 is the fire station, where he is subject to all the accident ills of the homeowner, or perhaps we should say the barracks dweller.
Number 2 is the apparatus on which he rides, where he is subject to the accident ills of the racing car driver or a motorcycle rider.
And number 3 is the fire building or scene, where the possibility of accident can increase almost geometrically compared to the other two.
Accident prevention, then, should start in the fire station. Falls, of course, are one of the leading causes of injuries that occur in fire stations. Practically all of them can be eliminated by taking simple precautions. Seeing that halls and stairways are well illuminated is one. That they are free of carelessly placed objects is another. The list of ordinary hazards is too long to dwell on in this small space. But any accident prevention program should take these hazards into consideration.
Safety on fire apparatus naturally starts with driver training. No one should ever be permitted to drive until he has completed a recognized course in driver training that is designed for the fire fighter. Let’s not forget that this driver will often have a co-pilot sitting beside him—officer or fire fighter. The co-pilot helps the driver stay alert and cautions him in a calm and helpful manner. Repeat, calm. Other fire fighters in this second environment should be enclosed and seat-belted. The day of the fire fighter hanging on in the breeze is, or should be, long past.
Finally, we come to the fire fighters’ third environment, the fireground. Accident prevention here starts with tight control and supervision by officers. The fire fighter who wanders off on his own, willy-nilly, is just looking for injury, and maybe death. So is the helmet-less and tee-shirted fire fighter.
Good judgment and fire fighting skill by superior officers plays a great part in any accident prevention program. Often men who operate in a particular position at a fire are not aware of danger on their flank, or rear. Somebody has to look out for them.
Accident prevention should be the goal of everyone in the fire service. A good safety record reduces pain, inconvenience and expense. It increases speed and efficiency on the fireground and in quarters. And lastly, it produces stability in the group and improves morale.