Recently, two deceased firefighters have made their way back into the fire service.
For the last few months my department has been doing enhanced video training from our new studio and one of the topics has been firefighter safety. We have been featuring video packages from commercial vendors as well as creating our own segments, and two line of duty deaths in Florida were highlighted in one program.
In 2002 Lt. John Mickel and FF Dallas Begg were fatally injured in a training burn in Osceola County, FL. The story of their incident is the basis for teaching safety for my department, and we use a variety of resources to help get the message out. One of the best resources we have found is a website that pushes safety at every turn.
If you are not a fan of www.firefighterclosecalls.com then you should be. I am compelled to remind everyone that the Safety Officer is the role of every person on the scene, not just someone assigned by the Incident Commander. Everything from wildland to structural safety is addressed, including safety in training evolutions. There is even information on meth labs and unseen apparatus damage, a few things that I had never considered.
What concerns me as I continue to read and study different safety aspects is that we fail to learn from our own shortcomings. We continue to see reports of firefighter deaths that are completely preventable, even now.
It is not the “big one” that kills firefighters. It is the little things that catch us off guard. We are safest when the fire is at its worst. Big fire means people are usually paying attention. But it is the little fires that do the greatest harm. Truss failure during an attic fire, or wall collapse during overhaul. We get so wrapped up in the big things we overlook the little things – and we end up paying for them in the end.
I encourage you to take a moment to read through the Firefighter Close Calls website. I am not promoting the site; there is no gain for me – but there is very good information that every firefighter should read and be aware of. Every firefighter is a safety officer. Every firefighter is responsible for their own safety and the safety of everyone on the scene. Be observant, be prepared ... be safe!