We continually research, evaluate, refine and train on standard operating procedures and guidelines (SOPs/SOGs). We can improve protocol retention and subsequent performance on the scene by training not only on particular tactics, but also on related activities and their associated SOPs/SOGs. After all, a successful “chain of events” includes multiple links. Practicing specific scenarios and their related activities reinforces the desired behaviors and underscores the integrated nature of fireground decision-making.
Near Miss Report #10-277 Summary
Fire department units responded to a residential fire after midnight. Size-up indicated heavy smoke showing as well as residents clear of the structure. Residents indicated that the fire was in the basement laundry area. The incident progressed as expected through the first 20-minute personnel accountability report (PAR): Water supply was established, utilities were ordered for disconnect, the rapid-intervention crew (RIC) was established and ventilation was well under way. During the second PAR, a PASS device was heard, and dispatch reported the activation of a radio emergency alarm. The incident commander (IC) noticed a blinking PASS device through the structure’s front door. At the time, the IC was extremely unhappy, thinking that somebody had just let their PASS device activate and didn’t bother to stop it. A RIC member was assigned to “get that person out of the building.” The RIC member followed the hoseline toward the strobe and found and dragged a downed firefighter out of the structure. The downed firefighter was immediately assessed and relocated to the ambulance for further evaluation as a precaution.
Discussing the “Chain of Events”
A review of this incident’s “chain of events” provides an opportunity to reinforce desired behaviors, improve less-than-desirable actions and prevent potentially fatal mistakes.
Air Management: While many discuss (some vehemently) the capacity of their SCBA, others focus on how we “manage” the air. Applied appropriately, the Rule of Air Management will prevent injuries and save lives. Be aware of your air!
Accountability: PARs serve as personnel roll calls, but many departments have also used them to prompt firefighters to conduct additional checks (i.e., their air supply, assignment and time to exit) and to evaluate their progress in the hazard zone. In addition, some use this time-stamped prompt for ICs to evaluate the progress of their strategies, fireground tactics and their impact on firefighter safety.
Mayday: The National Fire Academy’s course Calling the Mayday: Hands-On Training for Firefighters (H134) requires firefighters to orient themselves with the “emergency incident button,” or EIB as some vendors refer to it. Consider enhancing firefighter safety even more with an additional hardware feature, the MDC code, which identifies the programmed radio to communications and other compatible radios. By including the MDC code on an accountability worksheet, the location and the individual or team can be determined by the “radio ID” when the EIB is activated and no voice message is transmitted.
RIC: The establishment of an initial RIC followed promptly by the establishment of a dedicated, equipped and adequately staffed RIC is absolutely essential to a successful mayday response.
Medical Surveillance: It’s imperative that a medic unit accompany fire units on any response that involves or may involve an immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) environment.
When discussing incidents like Report #10-277, it’s important to evaluate how each link affects the overall chain of events. This dialogue will go a long way toward obtaining feedback about current SOPs/SOGs. Issues that may not be crystal clear can be corrected and, ultimately, safer performances become habitual. Further, I believe that this evaluation of the relationships among the tactical aspects of the event will ultimately equate to strong team relationships as well. Remember: The goal of every firefighter is to accomplish the mission and retire healthy.