188 Days of Opportunity to make a Difference: Surviving the Fire Ground

During this week, there were on average, over 8,600 structure fires in the United States. According to NFPA statistics the following occur on average in the U.S;

  • A fire department responded to a fire every 23 seconds.
  • One structure fire was reported every 66 seconds.
  • One home structure fire was reported every 87 seconds
  • One civilian fire injury was reported every 31 minutes.
  • One civilian fire death occurred every 2 hours and 55 minutes.
  • One outside fire was reported every 49 seconds.
  • One vehicle fire was reported every 146 seconds.

There are on average of Eight to Ten Firefighter Line-of-duty Deaths each month.

Thus far in 2011 there have been Forty-seven (47) LODD events in the United States. During the same period in 2010, there were thirty-seven (37) LODD events.

During the month of June, there have been nine (9) Fire Fighter Line-of-Duty Deaths, four (4) occurring during Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week.

The following from the USFA LODD notification page;

Firefighter’s Name City, State Date of Death
Pham, Chris Dallas, Texas 06/23/2011
Burch, Josh Lake City, Florida 06/20/2011
Fulton, Brett Lake City, Florida 06/20/2011
West, Robin Erlic Wellford, South Carolina 06/19/2011
Shaw, Corey Du Quoin, Illinois 06/17/2011
Davis, Scott Muncie, Indiana 06/15/2011
Rasmussen, Garet Wenatchee, Washington 06/12/2011
Valerio, Anthony M. San Francisco, California 06/04/2011
Perez, Vincent A. San Francisco, California 06/02/2011


From the NFPA

Firefighter fatalities (NFPA 2010)

  • There were 72 firefighter deaths in 2010 (NFPA)
  • There were 87 firefighter deaths in 2010 (USFA)
  • Stress, exertion, and other medical-related issues, which usually result in heart attacks or other sudden cardiac events, almost always account for the largest share of deaths in any given year. Of the 39 exertion- or medical-related fatalities in 2010, 34 were classified as sudden cardiac deaths and five were due to strokes or brain aneurysm.
  • Fireground operations accounted for 21 deaths.
  • Residential structure fires accounted for the largest share of fireground deaths (eight deaths).
  • Eleven firefighters died in nine vehicle crashes. In addition to those deaths, four other firefighters were struck and killed by vehicles.

Firefighter injuries (NFPA 2009)

  • There were 78,150 firefighter injuries in 2009.
  • 32,205 of all firefighter injuries in 2009 occurred during fireground operations. Other firefighter injuries by type of duty include: responding to, or returning from an incident (4,965); training (7,935); non-fire emergency (15,455); and other on-duty activities (17,590).
  • The major types of injuries received during fireground operations were: strain, sprain; muscular pain; wound, cut, bleeding, bruise; and smoke or gas inhalation.
  • The leading causes of fireground injuries were overexertion, strain (25.2%) and fall, slip, jump (22.7%).
  • Regionally, the Northeast had the highest fireground injury rate.

This past week, the Fire Service set aside and dedicated a week to allow departments and organizations to focus and concentrate efforts and attention on Fire and EMS safety, health and survival.

The theme and focus in 2011 was Surviving the Fire Ground – Fire Fighter, Fire Officer and Command Preparedness. Primary to the theme was a focus on the mayday event and its various workings and components. Seven days were designated for Safety, however what did you or your organization devoted towards the goals and objectives of Safety Week?

Recognizing there are unique and diverse circumstances and demands within all of our organizations, operations and jurisdictions, and not everyone may have scheduled time or had enough time to allow for the planning and execution of applicable training programs, drills and activities attentive and objective to Safety week. Regardless, it is not too late to plan, develop, schedule, implement and execute. Opportunities are there, you just need to make it happen or advocate for such.

  • There are 188 days of opportunity remaining in 2011.
  • There are approximately 358 days of opportunity until the 2012 Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week.
  • Enhance upon what you are doing well, improve on what may need advancement or what isn’t up to standards and identify and develop that which is needed but has yet to be implemented.
  • Don’t miss these opportunities to make a difference or to influence and change destiny; You have that ability.
  • You have choices and decisions to be made, they all have ramifications; Like choosing the red or blue pill…..


There are choices to be made; more than just red or blue...

The Consciences Observer or Activist

So, at the conclusion of Safety week and as you begin a new week and soon a new month the operative question today is this:

  • What did you do on your last alarm response related to operational safety and enhanced situational awareness?
  • How about your last training evolution or training drill?
  • How about Safety week, hopefully you engaged and participated…
  • Do you: participate in, contribute, join in, share, lead, promote, instruct, present, facilitate, help, assist, aid, or
  • neglect, disregard, undermine, abuse, challenge, demoralize, undercut, damage, torpedo, circumvent, or avoid?

Take a minute to look over the following list that I first published on December 31, 2010 in advance of the new year, think about what each of these line items can do for you, your organization and the fire service in 2011. It’s mid year and coming on the closing days of this year’s Safety Week activities, it seemed appropriate to list them again. Don’t sacrifice or forego on these mission critical areas when so much is at stake in the domain of combat structural fire suppression, fire ground survival and the integrated operational and safety needs shared by firefighters, company officers and commanders.

Understand the predictability of performance in the buildings and occupancies not only in your jurisdiction, first or second-due areas, but also in those areas that you may be called upon to respond to for greater alarms or mutual aid. Remember Building Knowledge = Firefighter Safety. Understand and improve upon your skill set levels and those of your company, battalion, division, department or region.

Twenty Eleven (2011)

Here are twenty-one (21) Suggested activities, actions or initiatives for you to consider completing in next six months of 2011….

Above all, be safe in all your endeavors, assignments and incident tasks.

  1. Regardless of my years of experience, I will increase my understanding of the basic principles of Building Construction, because; Building Knowledge=Firefighter Safety.
  2. Identify eleven (11) buildings within your first-due or response district and complete a pre-fire plan and present this to my company of organization.
  3. Identify an area where new residential construction is underway and follow the construction process from foundation through completion to gain an understanding of operational issues.
  4. I will complete the UL Structural stability of engineered lumber in fire conditions online course AND the new UL Fire Behavior course and implement the lessons learned in my strategic and tactical operations.
  5. I will not take any building or occupancy for granted, and shall take all precautions to ensure crew integrity and safety during my task assignments.
  6. Complete a 360 assessment of all buildings upon arrival (or delegate), whenever feasible to gain reconnaissance information on the building and incident risks and implement this info into my strategic, tactical plans or company task assignments.
  7. Research the issues affecting; Engineered Structural Systems (ESS), Fire Behavior/Fire Dynamics or Fire Suppression Management/Fire Loading and develop a training drill to share the lessons learned.
  8. Select a new or previous published fire service text book and read up on a subject area that I may have neglected or ignored to increase my skill set.
  9. Implement an objective approach towards effective risk assessment and profiling of all buildings and occupancies during incident operations and implement balanced tactical deployment with aggressive/measured assignments; recognizing that my company and I are not invincible.
  10. During demanding Combat Structural Fire Engagements, I will; Do the Right Thing at the Right Time for the Right Reasons and will not practice Tactical Entertainment.
  11. Read the Report of the Week (ROTW) on the National Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting System web site and share the operating experience (OE) lessons with my company or department, to reduce the likelihood of a similar or more serious event.
  12. I will read Eleven (11) NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program Reports and present the lessons learned in a discussion, table top, and drill or training program.
  13. I will attend a regional or national training conference to increase my perspective and awareness of other firefighting, safety or operational methodologies, process or practices to increase firefighter safety in my home organization.
  14. I will increase my understanding of the NFFF Everyone Goes Home Program initiatives, including the Sixteen Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives, Safety Thru Leadership and the Courage to Be Safe Programs and other new program initiatives and advocate and promote enhanced safety measures in my organization.
  15. I will advocate and promote safe and defensive apparatus operations during emergency responses and will always buckle-up my seat belt and ensure my crew is always belted-in, not placing my company at risk and obeying traffic signals and postings.
  16. I will implement the New Rules of Engagement during combat structural fire operations; while monitoring and reacting to on-going building performance and fire behavior.
  17. I will increase my understanding of the Predictability of Building Performance and base my operational deployments on Occupancy Risk not Occupancy Type.
  18. I will become a mentor to a new or less experienced firefighter and promote the traditions, honor and duty of our fire service profession, tempered with an emphasis on firefighter safety, survival and wellness.
  19. I will take NO emergency incident responses as being routine in nature, due to frequency , regularity or past performance, demands or outcomes, nor will I take any building for granted; Company, Team and personal safety and integrity is paramount and I will not be complacent, but remain vigilant based upon my training, skills and experience.
  20. I will be an aggressive firefighter; operating smarter, working within the parameters of my Department’s protocols, regulations and expectations while employing Tactical Patience and NOT underestimate the fireground, fire behavior or building performance
  21. I will not settle for status quo; but strive to achieve my highest potential as a firefighter, company officer or commander; and remember I am a brother/sister (firefighter) to everyone in this great profession

Ensure you’re glancing occasionally in your rear view mirror to monitor where you’ve been, while driving your initiatives, programs, processes and actions forward. Above all, maintain the courage to be safe.

Stop and reflect today, where do you stand? What are your true beliefs and convictions in regards to the developing safety culture that is being forged and institutionalized within our fire service? Are your professing one thing, but implementing or allowing another circumstance?

Keep an eye in the rear view mirror; learning from the wisdom and knowledge from where you’ve been, what you’ve done and all your past experiences and practice; but at the same time focusing on the road before you with keen attentiveness on situational awareness, anticipating error-likely conditions and balanced risk assessment and operational management in both your strategic and tactical deployments. Take those opportunities; all 188 days of opportunity remaining in 2011 AND the 358 days of opportunity until the 2012 Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week. Make a difference, however small. You can do it.

Here are the links to this week’s previous Safety Week postings and articles on CommandSafety.com

If you didn’t have a look and read, take some time to do so. If you didn’t do anything during Safety Week, there’s always next week or the week after… find the time and commit to some training, insights, dialog, discussion…Get Prepared.

Day One: Fire/EMS Safety, Health & Survival Week 2011: Day One- Are You Ready?

Day Two: Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week: Day Two- Building Knowledge = Fire Fighter Safety

Day Three: Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week: Day Three-The New Rules of Engagement

Day Four: Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week: Day Four -The New Fire Ground

Day Five: Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week 2011: Day Five: Near-Misses, Maydays and Floor Collapses

Day Six: Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week 2011, Day Six; From Waldbaum’s to Hackensack-Worcester to Charleston; Legacies for Operational Safety

Day Seven: Fire/EMS Safety, Health and Survival Week 2011, Day Seven; Fire Fighter, Fire Officer and Command Training and Preparedness

Extra from Thecompanyofficer.com: Mayday and Rapid Intervention Realities: The Phoenix Perspective

Hey, I'm talking to YOU; You can make a difference!

Filed Under: In the StreetsSafety & Survival


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