Urgency of Response

Hello All, and a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!  I had planned on posting this article prior to the holiday festivities, because as most of us know, this is one of the most active times of year for fires, and unfortunately also where the highest rate of fatal fires occur.  But… Like most of us, I got tied up in the family, shopping, wrapping, cooking… etc, etc, blah, blah, blah to have gotten around to putting this out there.

This article focuses on the need to have a sense of purpose when responding to a call.  The fire service as a whole usually does a great job of getting out the door in a reasonable fashion, but there are still those who believe that “It’s not my emergency,” or “I’ll get there when I get there.”  This attitude is not fair to the members of our communities, who are expecting a rapid response and firefighters jumping off the apparatus ready to work.  We owe them that.

Who this is also unfair to, is to our brother and sister firefighters who also are depending on us to respond in a rapid and efficient manner.  Many company officers gauge their level of commitment to tactics, and how aggressive they may chose to attack a fire based on who else is coming, and how quickly they can expect that other unit to arrive.  The bottom line is, Seconds Do Count!!!

I am not referring to driving down the street like our hair is on fire… Oh no, the problem I am talking about begins much before even pulling out of quarters.  This is the problem of people taking their time to put down what they’re doing, or getting out of bed,  stopping to relieve themselves in the bathroom prior to sliding the pole, walking towards the apparatus like they are praying to be canceled prior to hopping onto the piece, amongst other mechanisms to delay their response.  I am not accusing people of trying to avoid going to work, even though we all know a few of them as well.  I am saying, that we as an industry need to hold ourselves to the highest standard for getting out the door.  I always had a standing order with my crew, if they were not on the piece within three seconds of me closing my door, they would be considered derelict of duty, and AWOL from the run, no excuses.  There have been times we have pulled out of quarters minus a member, only to be handled upon our return.  But, this instilled a sense of urgency amongst the crew, and after that one incident of leaving short-handed, it never occurred again.

Another thing we always strove for, was to beat the other company in our house out the door.  This goes along with building that Espirit de Corps as a crew, and made them want to get quicker and quicker off the floor each time we had to respond.  Granted, this is more of a leadership challenge/ responsibility, and I want to stick to the “Basics” of what the FF Basics Crew stands for; but even the lowest man on the crew can have the right attitude to want to be better.  Especially as that junior crewmember, you should always be striving to better yourself, and challenge those above you to be better than you (or at least on the same level as you).

When we go out the door, we need to assume that people are trapped, and hanging out windows by their toenails, until we can prove it otherwise when we arrive.  Another thing to remember is, that we are not always going to get the full picture, and all the information we need from dispatch.  Most proactive call-takers and dispatchers will try to elicit as much information from the caller as possible, but we need to be responding with our heads on a swivel, prepared for the worst case scenario.  I would like nothing more to pull up in front of someone’s house, and have them meet me on the front lawn and say that their whole family is out and safe.  Now, we can make the educated decision on how to minimize the damage, and put the fire out; opposed to being met on the front lawn by the mother who had to leave her infant in the nursery, because she couldn’t get to it because of the fire conditions.  Now, the game has changed…

Below is a video from the Orlando Fire Dept (thank you OFDFyreman) from a few years ago.  It helps to illustrate how critical a few seconds are to the response to a fire or other type of emergency.  I won’t spoil what it’s about, but I think all of us can gain a new respect for what I am trying to preach here; in the ways of rapid (but safe) response to an emergency.  Seconds do make a difference on whether or not a room, or a hallway is tenable enough to make a rapid search for occupants, and successfully rescue them from the fire.  At a minimum, this may be the precious margin of time to get the hoseline into place, and knockdown or hold the fire in check, while that search or rescue is being conducted.

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I look forward to everyone’s feedback and hope for a happy and safe new year!!  -Ryan McGovern (Ladderjack)

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