Improving the Health & Safety of all Emergency Responders

Incident Safety Officer – in Your FD

By Tom Kiurski

As I think back of how the role of the Incident Safety Officer has expanded over the years, I am truly amazed at how far we have come.  From our early predecessors who may have been called the “Safety Officer” due to an injury and being on light duty with no outlined guidelines on how to do the job, to the requirements of today’s Incident Safety Officer (ISO).  One thought I have is how well are we preparing the next generation of ISO’s, and how well we might be explaining the duties of that role to our members?

First, consider using videos from previous fires and go over safety concerns.  Not tactics and strategy necessarily, but concerns about safety.   Make sure all present know that this is not to point out the mistakes of a few of the members of your FD, but to show things that need to be improved upon.  We all make mistakes, and today, many of those will end up on video, and  the Internet.  Just try to make improvements so we don’t see the same mistakes repeated by the same individuals.

You can also go outside of your FD to find videos if you think that might be a sore subject.  There are plenty of them out there, so spend a few minutes and you can usually find what you are looking for to add to your program.

Another idea is to use an SCBA mask and demonstrate to members some very basics of how to assure it is clean, how to clean it, and review the names of the parts, and their functions.  it seems very basic, but often the new SCBA is put on trucks with minimum training to “get them in service.”  Now might be a good time to go over some finer points of cleaning, inspection, maintenance and service.

The RIT/RIC bags are also an item that should be often trained upon and reviewed. Our department has lightened our bags by eliminating the need for the “octopus” device that gives connectivity to the many different types of SCBA that you may encounter, but there is still equipment that affords that opportunity. Therefore, as an emergency function, it should be practice regularly.  This may be a good time to go over your MAYDAY SOP/SOG with members to see how well they remember it.

There are also many videos out there that concern putting on a SCBA while seated and belted in an apparatus on the way to an incident.  This can also be the subject of a training session.  Show the video, explain how aligns with your SCBA/apparatus/SOP’s, and then practice it.

While this may get a few groans from members, a training session about home fire safety is an overlooked item.  Smoke alarms, the difference between ionization and photoelectric, where to install them, combination units, carbon monoxide, are areas to build upon your members’ knowledge of these lifesaving devices.  I haven’t run across a chief yet that says he isn’t on board with smoke alarms, but have you taken the time to train your staff so they are truly “experts” on the subject?

Often times, we introduce a concept and expect that it is understood and followed completely from that point on.  Some reminders/refreshers are always a good thing for upcoming training sessions.  The concepts of the clean cab and what that entails, what the best practices to take when finishing up a fire call (personal and apparatus), can all be good items to discuss.

Near misses and close calls are also good ways to drive home safety messages while keeping the focus on fires and our responses to them.  There are many resources on this that can be easily accessed from anywhere.

The “Everyone Goes Home” program offers a lot of information available that can be the subject of training classes, reminder emails, short videos, etc., that members can research, review, and learn from.

Please remember the “16 Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives” that have been out for since 2004. How many can you name off the top of your head? How many of your new members have even heard of them?  You can create training sessions on the initiatives, all of which are ISO relevant.  Depending on how much material you want to cover, it can be made into more than just one training session, including some practical skills in the mix.

Incident Safety is such a huge subject.  Try breaking it down into some smaller segments and tackle it from there.

Tom started in the fire service in 1981 and has been active in teaching for his career.  He retired from the Livonia (MI) Fire & Rescue department in late 2012 and began working for the Brighton Area Fire Authority in early 2013.  He currently runs the high school fire academy for Livingston County students.  Tom has an A.S. in Fire Science from Henry Ford Community College, a B. S. in Fire and Safety Engineering Technology from the University of Cincinnati and an M.P.A. from Eastern Michigan University.