|Every department should make a resolution to create a standard operating guideline to prepare for deaths within the department. Funerals for firefighters require a lot of preparation and the mustering of many resources at times when most departments are often not prepared. (Fire Apparatus Photo by Allen Baldwin)|
Welcome to 2007, a new year and new beginnings. This time of year brings renewed hope and the feeling and vision of a fresh start for many.
Let’s carry that vision and feeling into our world of fire, rescue and emergency medical service. How many of you made New Year’s resolutions? Any that might be work related?
If not, let’s start with a few basic ones to keep and prepare us for the New Year.
First, let’s make sure we try to keep ourselves in good shape – maybe eat a little better and exercise a little more and be a little healthier in general.
You are what you eat, and remember that the number one cause of firefighter fatalities is heart attacks.
How about making some resolutions to prepare our departments by being better trained? Many of us at this time of year do not get too involved with a lot of training because of schedules, other activities and weather.
One-night Training Session
With trying to better prepare ourselves, why not look at a couple of easy, one-night training sessions. One good vehicle rescue-based exercise would be to head out to your local new car dealership with the digital camera and take photos of the new vehicles and such items as hybrid systems, restraint systems, power systems, battery locations and other features we might have to interact with on a call.
Spend a night looking over the photos to learn about the new models and what challenges we might face with vehicle fires and extrication.
If digital cameras aren’t your thing, then load the gang up and head out to the dealership to meet with the staff after hours to show you these new vehicles and features that might be concerning. Perhaps there is a way to bring some vehicles to the station, pull them into the bays and spend some time going over them, looking at how to handle responses involving these new models with their new features.
Another good drill is spending an evening on practicing size-ups and brief initial reports. Let’s face it; a good size/brief initial report sets the tone for the rest of the incident. The initial scene report needs to be clear, concise and to the point.
Let’s get the digital camera out again and take some photos of buildings and hazards in our response area. Put some accident photos in the mix also.
Don’t just get the projector out and throw the images up on the wall. Why not display them on a screen in the apparatus bay in front of one of the department’s apparatus, and have the officer sit in the officer’s seat. With the lights off, throw a slide up and have the apparatus occupants give a “windshield size-up” from the seats using the radio. The other members can view from a second projector, or monitor, to see and hear the responses.
A good product to use in this application is Fire Studio 4.0 from Digital Combustion, Huntington Beach, Calif. This product allows you to take a photo and add various fire ground and hazardous material scene animations and graphics, which will produce a quite realistic effect.
Fire and smoke can grow and travel throughout the building through an animated sequence. If you are looking for something a little less complex, then why not set up a little fire department Jeopardy. You can make your own questions or go on the web and download several versions of this game with questions and instructions already done.
An additional point of preparation was brought to my attention, which should be a New Year’s resolution for all departments. While working on this column a good friend, firefighter and instructor, died.
Don Gantz was my fire department’s vice president and a past chief of a neighboring department. With his passing, it became quite apparent to our officers and members that we have never prepared ourselves, officially, for a severe injury or sudden death of a department member, let alone a line of duty death, God forbid.
Making sure the family was cared for at the hospital, meeting the family’s request for a firefighter’s funeral, arranging everything that needs to be done and getting the needed resources such as a bugler or piper, and making sure that everything is kept in perspective and appropriate is a huge task. Please make a resolution this year to develop a standard operating guideline to address severe injury or deaths within your department.
If you haven’t planned for this situation or a potential line of duty death, you need to. The National Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation has some excellent information available. The organization has programs on preparing death within the fire department.
Remember, we don’t get a second chance to make this right. We must take care of our own and our families.
The following is something I came across the other day and wanted to pass on to help you prepare for the coming year and maybe make a few resolutions based on it or operate by it. These passages are from Robert Fulghum’s book “Everything I Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.”
In his book, Fulghum explains all the most important, basic rules of life, such as share everything, play fair, don’t hit people, put things back where you found them and clean up your own mess.
“Think of what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about 3 o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap,” Fulghum wrote in his book. “Or we had a basic policy in our nation, and other nations, to always put things back where we found them and clean up our own messes. And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”
I guess we can equate all of the above to be nice, never forget brotherhood and always strive to be prepared.
As always, be safe and return to quarters.
Editor’s Note: Allen Baldwin is the manager of operations and incident response for the Pennsylvania Turnpike commission and a volunteer captain with the Gettysburg (Pa.) Fire Department. He has been a firefighter and an EMT for over 25 years, once serving as a career fire chief, and is an instructor with the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy and several community colleges.