NEAR MISS REPORT OF THE WEEK: 28 MARCH 2018
Staffing the position of incident safety officer (ISO) has proven to be a lifesaving decision many times over. This week’s report profoundly illustrates that when firefighters are threatened by structural collapses, ISOs are paramount.
The scene of this week’s report is one that occurs frequently. A building, in this case several, is heavily involved in fire and all hands on scene are fully involved just trying to stop the fire.
All hands were working at a four-alarm fire, involving three balloon-framed, three-story, 30″x75″ tenement houses. The center (origin) structure sustained heavy structural damage. The ISO noted the crew’s position and evaluated the safety of the operation against the risk involved. This could easily have resulted in death for our members. Instead, it was a nonevent.
As you read the entire report, you’ll no doubt notice the potential for a tragedy and that one decision, made long before this incident, made an undeniable difference in the lives of the firefighters who were there that night.
View the report: Alert Safety Officer Moves Crew from Collapse Zone at Structure Fire
When it comes to firefighter injuries and fatalities, sometimes no news is good news. We rarely hear about incidents where an ISO stepped in and stopped something terrible from happening. As is usually the case, it’s the bad news that gets reported and repeated.
Check out this comment from the Lessons Learned section of this week’s report:
Fortunately, this incident did not generate any more media attention than the report of “just another fire.” The Incident Management System worked. There were no funerals or lengthy hospitalizations associated with this one. This is the way that we like it.
- Can you think of an incident in your career where an ISO could have made a difference in the outcome of an event?
- Does your department have an effective ISO program?
- If there is no designated ISO, who performs that responsibility?
- What incidents require a safety officer?
As previously mentioned, the decision that helped keep these firefighters safe in the face of a collapsing structure was made long before the fire started, probably during a long and contentious meeting of a few strong-willed fire officers. Dedicating staffing and budget resources is always a difficult decision, but very few decisions have the potential of saving more lives on the job that a robust safety-officer program can provide.
If your department is looking for ways to improve safety, the best source of information about safety-officer training, qualification and best practices is the Fire Department Safety Officer Association
Having a qualified, empowered officer on the scene, whose only duty is to watch the backs of emergency responders, is the best way to ensure the after-action report from your department is always good news.
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