By Bill Carey
16 August 2022
It is well known that fear can be debilitating. Fear, by definition, can also be a deterrent and a distraction. When talking with others about the line of duty deaths and numbers the subject of firefighters not being allowed to do something because a chief is afraid usually comes up. The two common somethings are roof ventilation and vent-enter-isolate-search (VEIS).
I have found that prohibiting firefighters from doing those tasks is usually founded on two reasons. First, departments have had little training and experience doing one or both of them. Second, the leaders of the departments usually cite some article or quote some instructor or training program, or a lump sum of fatality data related to ventilation and search as the reason why these tasks are dangerous and should not be done.
Education can help alleviate the problems these reasons present. It may not be able to make each one into a normal fireground operation when needed but it can certainly remove the debilitation.
Not talking about the risks and dangers of firefighting does not make them go away. That seems odd since we do see many conversations and writings about each, but not talking about doing a specific task because the fear of death does not lessen the risk. The same also applies in the opposite way.
When a certain fireground task or activity type has a zero or very low number of firefighter fatalities over the years, that does not mean that the risk of being killed doing that activity has lessened. It is only a hypothesis that we are getting smarter about how we do these tasks. Maybe.
Once when talking about a certain low number of fatalities over a period of time a reader admonished me not to do so saying I would “jinx” us. I did not know that sorcery was one of the may life saving initiatives for the fire service to follow but there it was, the belief that we could be victim to bad luck.
We are a smart lot, more so than probably ever before. The amount of research, information, education, training and discussion in the fire service today is growing beyond imagination. With this comes an obligation to use the information smartly no matter what our views may be on a certain subject. We owe it to those who did the heavy lifting to leave behind both fear and bravado based on ignorance and luck.
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Photograph courtesy of Pixabay.