Monday, November 30, 2009

A Culture of Safety, Suppression, or Stupidity?

At the last FDIC Lt. Ray McCormick of the FDNY gave an absolutely wonderful presentation on the current ‘Culture of Safety’. His presentation was so thought provoking and ‘out of the box’ that it caused a bit of an uproar and Fire Engineering pulled the video off the FDIC site within a day and the FDNY had a lot to say about how the good Lt. does not represent the views of the FDNY. Therefore I can not offer you a link to the video, although I wish every Chief Officer would be forced to watch it 3 times. I watched it 3 times before it was pulled. I should have grabbed a copy. Great stuff.
So I will give you the Cliff Notes version. The Lt. brought up the point that we have swung so far in the direction of being safe that perhaps we have forgotten why we are here in the first place. That is ‘TO PUT OUT THE FIRE’. He suggested that perhaps, we might consider taking a little more risk, early in a fire event, to actually extinguish the fire, and we just might in effect, make the scene safer for everyone. In other words, he was challenging our current effort to make the scene as safe as possible, and interjecting the thought that we just MIGHT have gone a little too far.
I am all with the good Lt. and having an open mind. I am also fully in favor of keeping our people alive and put a LOT of effort into getting NFPA 1584 widely used in our area. Rehab is where we SHOULD find problems before they become a fatality. Some day I’ll do a thoughtful and well footnoted post on rehab. Right now I’m pissed off and don’t have time for all the good teaching moment stuff.
Each year in the United States Fire Service we loose around 100 people in the line of duty. About half are due to stress induced by the demands of the job which lead to cardiac arrest. Check the sidebar for the USAF Fallen Firefighters in 2009 on the right of this page and read the causes of death for the fine men and women we have lost this year. Among the names you will find two of my friends.
So it is with no small interest that I do my best every week to carry the message and reduce the number of wakes and funerals I attend each year.
By now you are wondering where I am going with this rambling line of thought.
We are running a recruit class in our volley department this fall. It is being taught by a State Fire Instructor with help from other State Fire Instructors for the evolutions and classroom sessions. Lately they have been getting a lot of work done on the actual evolutions. The lead Instructor is a Deputy Chief in a career department in the adjacent small city. In addition, he spends a lot of time working at the Stat Fire Academy. He believes in the persona of the firefighter of the 60’s. He thinks most volunteers are sissies and he needs to ‘break them down so he can build them back up’. I call him the ‘Drill Sargent’. The last live burn they did with the class, our Department supplied an Engine with a Pump Operator and a Rehab Crew. When the Rehab crew showed up and asked where to set up, the Sargent said, “out there in the woods, I don’t want any of these guys to even see you. They’ll keep running over for water and bullshit every 5 minutes.” Now I ask you, the reader, is this what we expect from a Nationally Certified Fire Service Instructor? I am trying to keep these people alive, not make it easy to die. This particular class had two individuals pulled before completing all the evolutions because their pulses never dropped below 125 and their B/P’s remained elevated after about 10 minutes in the burn building. The Sargent got ticked off. I spoke with one of the other instructors who let it be known that he clearly did not agree with the lead instructor and had grave concerns about putting people in the building that had medical issues.
Now we finally get to why I am pissed of, and spent the evening typing this instead of (just for once) being able to watch ‘TRAUMA” on TV instead of the little web screen.
This coming weekend is another live burn for the class and the lead instructor asked our Department liaison to the class for an Engine and an Operator, but he told him to “keep the damn EMS people away, all my instructors are EMTs and one is a medic”. Now besides the obvious point that Instructors who are involved in the evolution are NOT doing any medical oversight, and having EMTs on the ground does not mean that you are MONITORING the condition of the students. In addition, they will not have the tools with them anyway, no rig, no toys, no tools.
As an Instructor myself, I can tell you that the Instructors themselves usually take the brunt of the physical abuse. They are in gear ALL day long while the student crews rotate through and get some breaks. The instructors only stop when they need a bottle change. I have stood at my post during a recruit class on a hot August day for over four hours at a clip, pushing students through, pulling those out who had issues, watching every one of them, and at the end of the evolution just pouring water out of my mask. No way could I start tending to a patient at that point.
There are reasons most States have very strict checklists for running live burns. This guy is one of them.
The only question is, do I put the guy out of business, or defer to those who say ‘hey, we need the classes, and this guy puts on the classes..’?

No comments:

Post a Comment