National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Sliding the Pole

Fire stations are the focal point of many communities and they can serve as landmarks, points of refuge and community meeting places. This week’s ROTW, 10-912, takes place during a seemingly harmless event. The outcome is anything but harmless and serves as a reminder that fire stations and the equipment related to operations should be left in the hands of the professionals.

“While attending a public meeting for the county library system in one of our classrooms at our main station, someone invited a group of individuals from the public to go upstairs into the living quarters on a mini tour of the station facilities. While upstairs, individuals were encouraged to slide down the pole. One individual did, in fact, slide down the pole without any advance “training” and subsequently broke an ankle upon landing…”

The first slide pole appeared in Chicago’s Engine 21 in 1878. Once derided, the pole became a mainstay in multi-story firehouses throughout the 20th Century. Since that first 3″ varnished pine beam was installed in Engine 21, the pole has become one of the most recognized symbols of a fire station. Many fire station visitors ask, “Do you have a pole?” followed by, “Can I slide down?”

Sliding the pole is a learned skill and should not be treated lightly. Most firefighters become adept at sliding the pole through a vernacular training program of tips and demonstrations from the senior members of the house. Then, a few trips under the eye of the senior member are thrown in to ensure the skill is mastered. Allowing visitors to slide the pole is a risk better left to the pros. Once you have read the entire account of 10-912 and the related reports, consider the following:

1. Does your department’s station orientation program include instruction on how to slide the pole?
2. Is the pole area in your station compliant with NFPA 1500?
3. Does your department allow/permit non-firefighters to slide the pole?
4. If your station does not have a pole, what other hazardous activities exist around the station that civilians should not be allowed to participate in.
5. Has your department experienced any injuries or near misses related to sliding the pole?

Related Reports – Topical Relation: (Station Tour, Slide Pole)

Submit your report to today so everyone goes home tomorrow. is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program. Founding dollars were also provided by Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. The project is managed by the International Association of Fire Chiefs and supported by in mutual dedication to firefighter safety and survival.

National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System: Shots Fired!


The sound of gunfire at the scene of a structure fire is not an uncommon occurrence. No matter how often it may have been encountered, the unnerving part of the equation is determining what direction the projectiles are heading. In this week’s featured report, the crews on scene find more than one near miss.

“First arriving units to a fully-involved structure fire (a double-wide with add-ons), were met with the unmistakable sounds of ammunition being cooked off in the structure about fifty feet from their engine. Based on these conditions, the crews decided upon a defensive operation. They used the truck mounted deck gun to quickly cool the corner of the structure where the ammunition was located. Incident command was established and a safety perimeter was declared. After just a few minutes on scene, one of the pump operators felt that he had been struck on the back by a projectile. A quick check, noted no visible injury and he quickly returned to pump operations. However, damage was noted to the outer shell of his bunker coat.

A postincident review and an inspection of the pump operator’s gear revealed a projectile had penetrated…A couple of days after this incident (as another member of the first arriving engine was inspecting his gear), he also noticed that his coat had been penetrated with an entrance and exit hole under the arm area…”

Once you have read the entire account (CLICK HERE), consider the following:

1. Has anyone in your crew experienced the sound of ammunition “cooking off” at a structure fire? If yes, what can they tell the rest of the crew about the experience (e.g., when the sound was recognized, what the cooking off sounded like, etc.)?
2. Does your department have an SOP addressing tactics for fighting fires involving firearms and ammunition?
3. Do you have ammunition on your list of concerns when you arrive at a structure or vehicle fire?
4. Can ammunition that is “cooking off” develop enough velocity to penetrate tissue and bone?
5. What are some precautions that should be taken when ammunition or weapons are known to be involved in a structure or vehicle fire? 

Have you been fired at by either ammunition cooking off at a fire or a deranged individual? Tell your story on 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. is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant program and dedicated to to firefighter safety and survival.