Need First Aid Calls Interfere with the Work of the Fire Department?

Need First Aid Calls Interfere with the Work of the Fire Department?

Some Suggestions to Avoid This Growing Danger to Fire-Fighting Efficiency—How to Avoid Crippling the Companies Through Such Calls


The following paper presents in an interesting and breezy way a growing problem that confronts many Fire Departments, especially those of restricted personnel:

FIRE PROTECTION is the thing! Upon this are the Underwriters’ standards based and upon this you are judged when your City is graded. And isn’t it upon this that you judge yourselves and your departments, build up nice budgets for new equipment and as valiantly fight while those budgets are being cut down?

The small community may disagree with the Standards—but the reason generally is lack of finances, lack of facilities or lack of experience and vision; and the larger city may feel that requiring 3″ hose is not highly necessary. But, the fact remains that the 750-gallon pumper and full paid crew for the small town, and the 3″ hose for the large town are going to be darned useful when it comes to considering that Big Fire and the means of stopping it with the smallest possible loss. These things are somewhat of the ideal upon which you are gaged in comparison and it means purely and simply that protection is the factor.

All right! Then if we know our protection, all we have to do is to get together, figure a bit and answer the problem of this article or any other of our problems.

Now that we have a start, and know that protection is the measuring stick, let’s get down to business and figure this out together.

What Is First Aid?

First—What is First Aid? I’d say that First Aid is that portion of the Fireman’s training that fits him to help his fellow Fireman so that the ambulance or hospital will receive a live body instead of a corpse; or that does the doctor’s job while the doctor is on the way— if such is necessary. First Aid is intended to offset hazards and serious damage to our firemen.

“What are we to do with our increasing number of First Aid Calls? When your first aid work gets to the point of seriously weakening your first alarm response, when it leaves your company strength weak enough that hose can’t be properly laid, engines hooked up and the normal efficiency of your department maintained—look out!”

This fire game is a hazardous business and we can’t stop a fire while we call an ambulance, and we can’t have the hospital respond to alarms, so, with the characteristic intelligence of our Fire Service we have looked around, seen what could best be done and we started studying first aid. As a result, when a man was overcome with smoke, we did as well for him as we could and that soon came to be “as well as any ambulance crew.” When a man was burned, we had first aid to comfort and tide him over until the doctor could be reached. Cuts, wounds, strains, broken bones; our firemen are subject to any of these at any time and our first aid has grown until for ordinary accidents our men have a good chance of seeing a fire out; and for more serious accidents they have first class care until the hospital and tiie doctors can be reached. Many times a life is preserved and when you save even one of these, the effort has been worth while.

Call the Fire Department!

But, with the growth of these facilities and training, our firemen, in the guise of public benefactors, have not felt like being selfish—and, anyway, our public has grown to feel that whenever something’s wrong, the fire boys can probably make it right. Result—when a life’s in danger, when an accident has occurred, when Tabby climbs a tree—Call the Fire Department!

It’s darned fine stuff! And it has sold more fire departments to the people than almost any other activity but—What about Fires? Gentlemen, fires are our meat, and each year they probably cost enough not only to erect hospitals for our injured and pay doctors’ bills but enough to give an order for an inhalator from each hospital and maternity ward and to buy water wings for all of our hardy swimmers.

Now—I’m not saying that we shouldn’t help our fellow man! We should, whenever and wherever we can, but, gentlemen, our primary service is fire service. It’s human nature to get the habit of letting George do it—and our average fellow man is no exception. He wouldn’t even feed himself if he could get someone else to do it for him and he won’t provide first aid for himself if George will do it.

Where Are We Going to Stop?

It rather puts the fireman in an awkward position and we are all beginning to say, “Where are we going to stop?” Our larger departments can afford the men from their offshift crews or even from the present shift without leaving their city badly underprotected; but our larger cities generally put the first aid calls where they belong—ambulance crews, first aid and emergency hospitals, and general hospitals. Our small community, with one to a dozen paid men, sends out two or three men and they’re out for anywhere from 15 minutes to 15 hours. What happens if we have a fire in that time?

Most of us hate to think of it. I know Underwriters do and they’ve hated it so much that, except in exaggerated cases they’ve closed their eyes to the condition. They, like the Chiefs, have taken a chance on not having that fire and they’ve ignored the chance to attach a sweet little penalty on the City Fire Defense System.

Hazard of Fire with Men on First Aid Work

This can’t go on forever! What are we to do with our increasing number of First Aid Calls? I’m here to tell you what penalty the tough Underwriters are going to sock you with! When your First Aid work gets to the point of seriously weakening your first alarm response, when it leaves your company strength weak enough that hose can’t be properly laid, engines hooked up and the normal efficiency of your department maintained —look out! Not only will you get a few deficiency points added to your grading but you’ll get a fire some day that’ll knock the pie out of an otherwise good loss record.

The latter is of greatest importance. The former condition can’t hoist your rates by itself. We can’t charge very heavily in your gradings for similar deficiencies any more than we can raise your rates for permitting men on duty to go out to lunch occasionally and come back any old time or for having paid men on duty but not considering them important enough to require that they roll out with that rig to a fire. These are bad conditions, true; but not important enough in themselves to permit us to raise rates. The probable result, not the practice, is the thing, so I would advise that you fear the hazard of a fire and forget rates.

The City with a Few Paid Men

Now—your fully manned companies in the larger cities can afford a man from this company, one from that and another from that one, but where you normally have two or three men on duty in a one or two company town and you take one man from here and another from there, you’ve weakened your fire defense and if you have a call during a first aid case, you are not only putting a doctor out of a job—you are risking a taxpayer’s property and valuables.

I can’t solve this problem for you but I do think that we can all get together and do something about it, so I’m going to make some suggestions to start us off with.

Our large city has emergency hospitals, ambulance crews, squad and salvage companies and even men that can be spared from company duty for a service of this importance. I can’t feel that the problem is great, here.

Moderate sized cities—25,000, 50,000, 100.000—when they don’t have regular hospitals and ambulance crews, many times have squads from which men can lie spared, or offshift men who can be called to the station to fill in, and so on. And even many of these cities have seen the wisdom of using doctors and other public-spirited citizens who will train and respond on call to relieve the stress of an emergency, without weakening the Fire Department.

Our small cities present a different problem. In fact, we have two problems—first, the town with a few paid men supplemented by call men—and second, the town with no paid men.

In the first of these cases, if offshift or call men cannot be called to stand duty until the first aid crew returns, it seems to me that something had better be done—and quickly. It would seem reasonable to ask that the call men organize into a standing squad of 2, 3, or 4 men and that the city provide some kind of a first aid truck or car. These men can be assigned and rotated so that each member of the department stands his share of shifts each year. Assigned men—probably those near the station can respond to a call from headquarters and, in the name of the Fire Department— continue the department’s First Aid Service to the city and continue to show the city how valuable and how capable the Fire Department is.

(Continued on page 249)

(Continued from page 236)

The Department with No Paid Men

The department with no paid men on duty is another problem. Most of these departments do not respond to first aid calls; in fact, many of them don’t even know their First Aid Work for their own use and benefit although on the other hand, we have some Call and Volunteer Departments that take prizes at First Aid tournaments in competition with paid departments. At any rate, the problem is not so large here. There are generally enough men in a call department that a regular crew can be organized to give first aid; and here, as before, the crew should have its definite assignment, members should probably be rotated and I don’t see much of a reason why any and all small towns shouldn t have a first aid car—purchased either by the city or by public subscription.

How It Can Be Worked Out

And there you have it. First Aid is important both as a service to a community and as publicity for the department. So is Fire Service-—and there is small reason why the two cannot assist each other instead of weakening. In many cases, it may be best for the city to support a separate paid Emergency or Ambulance Crew. In other cases, the Fire Department with its organized efficiency and with the sympathetic support and understanding of the City Dads, can handle the work without having to endanger the Fire Defense System.

It is readily seen that the problem hits hardest at the moderate sized city that has few or no call men and none too many paid men. Chiefs of these departments had better be careful! It isn’t that the Underwriters will get you; it’s that—some day you’re going to hit that combination of circumstances that we all fear and try to guard against. When we do hit it, someone is going to suffer a nice fire loss just because the people’s money for fire service was being spent some other way. I say it can be worked out!

(Excerpts from a paper read before the annual convention of the Southern California Fire Chiefs’ Association.)

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