Let's Talk Fire: Are You Ready?
Getting prepared means more than assuming.
Are You Ready?
As always greetings you nozzle heads and hose monkeys. This time around in Let's Talk Fire we are going to address a truly deceiving question. No, not why does the probie smell like cheese and shame, lol. Are you ready? Seems simple enough does it not? Most people would address this with a quick yes or an unassured no but the reality is this is such a deep question we need to really look at it much differently.
Are you ready? Right now the sports fans are thinking of that God awful song aren't you? It is OK I forgive you. We are going to tackle this question from two separate fronts. One being as a question addressed to you directly as an individual. The second will be addressing this question to a fire department as a whole. I want to really explore this question and as always make it very clear that this article is not a direct or indirect attack at any one person or any group of people. As you will see the only firefighter I attack in this text is myself.
To really answer the question completely we must first do the one thing that most firefighters just don't feel comfortable with. We have to swallow our pride and set aside our egos and be honest with ourselves. Let's explain.
Round Table Discussion
Study as much as you can!
Let's say you serve on a small department consisting of about 12 members. It is the height of flu season so some of those cats are under the weather. Tones drop and you are headed to a structure fire. Reports indicate that two family members remain missing. Usually Bob and Sally handle search and rescue operations and you usually handle ventilation and working the truck. Sally is ill and will not be there so Bob needs a new partner to go in and search the residency. Your incident commander assigns you the task. You are really not that trained in these types of operations so you are a bit nervous. ARE YOU READY?
Now an issue arises and it is one that is faced on fire grounds daily I am afraid. What if the person assigned to perform a specific fire ground task is just not that well versed in the way to do it. here are the options that may be available to you.Let pride guide you.
A. Let pride guide you. You can do anything, right? Go on in you got this.
B. Admit your concern in your lack of training on this subject and ask that someone else be assigned to the task.
C. Go in full of fear and doubt and pray for the best.
D. Try and pawn it off on someone else under the IC's nose.
Now let's return to that all powerful question. Are you ready? If this was you presented with this situation what would you consider the best option? Obviously option B is the only logical choice. Sadly however, many firefighters are afraid to go that route and often carelessly choose one of the other options.
There are firefighters killed all the time from their lack of being ready and even more importantly their lack of admitting they are not ready. Some do so because they are afraid of being ridiculed for not performing the task like a manly man or macho woman would others just want to be looked at as competent. A true competent firefighter will admit their lack of knowledge in a certain topic and remedy the issue.
How Do You Get Ready?
The key to being prepared is exactly that, be prepared. Get all the training you can get over every topic you can find. It sounds tough but in the end you will be a much better firefighter for having done so. Training at your station is great but ask about other stations that will allow you to train with them. My crew usually attend a minimum of 6 classes a month but in the long run it makes us better qualified to handle the task we are approached with.
Some trainers may be uncomfortable in teaching certain subjects. This is often mistaken as their being difficult. It could be they are not versed in that topic, or it could be they realize that task is a little out of league right now.
I am guilty of being not ready. I was never really good with ropes and knots and at a structure fire early on in my career I was asked to tie off a ladder to a wall to keep it stable. I of course refused to admit my lack of knowledge and tied the awfullest mess of rope that may have ever been. The end result was my chief at the time had to cut the rope.
I often ask myself what if that ladder was needed elsewhere and in a hurry. It could have never been moved that way. I admitted my flaw and now I am actually rather accomplished with the ropes and knots portions of my training but it took me being a knucklehead to get there.
Can you handle this?
Is Your Department Ready?
Again let me set the scene. Your department has only the required amount of hazardous materials training needed to keep every one certified. You are at the station discussing administration when the tones drop. A truck carrying chemicals has tipped over at the local gas station. You now have a haz mat scene.
ARE YOU READY?
Ask yourself can your department handle this situation. Do you have the resources you will need? Do you even know what those resources are? is anyone on your department operations certified for hazardous materials?
Just because you fail to train and prepare for an event does not mean that event may not happen. It is the duty of the fire department to protect their community and we need to take responsibility to learn all we can learn. I say learn something new every day.
Firefighting Training Video
FEMA Online Courses
- Emergency Management Institute - FEMA Independent Study Program
The Emergency Management Institute (EMI) offers self-paced, Independent Study, courses designed for people who have emergency management responsibilities and the general public. All are offered free-of-charge to those who qualify for enrollment.
How Can They Get Ready?
Inform your trainer anytime you find training you want. If they can not handle it than maybe you can find the training at another department. Remember the life of a trainer is not just one that includes the department. They, much like yourself, have lives outside that department.
One thing I have done is to take it on myself to train. I had several of my firefighting buddies express an interest in endurance and search and rescue training. I borrowed a couple of sections of hose and set up hose mazes for them to run. This was great training and we followed a strict guideline so we would stay safe.
We also had several tabletop discussions and ran scenarios to discuss how we felt we would handle the scene and what resources we would need as well as to where we could get them. This training did not put training hours on our records but it gave us knowledge and the ability to determine where our weaknesses were at and how we can make them work for us.
Let your trainer know what you are curious about. Online training is also available from FEMA. I highly recommend this and am often on the site myself.
Train to Gain
Our actions as firefighters are usually a direct result of the training we have received. I have been fortunate enough to take classes under some amazing instructors and am very thankful for that. Never assume you can't learn on your own time. Countless videos are online for you to view as well as tons and tons of online drills and articles.
I am an advocate for training as much as you can and learning all you can. I hope you stay safe and learn from the past for survival in the future.