An Atmosphere of Growth

One of my best friends (who happens to be my "B" Shift counterpart) came back from his NFPA Committee meeting (mine was in Baltimore and his was in St. Louis. I'm thinking we need to start doing these in Hawaii). He was telling me that during his travels, he happened to be having a discussion with an airline pilot.  I guess the conversation came to the subject of safety and near-miss procedures.  

According to this pilot, Chief H said, when there is a landing that isn't perfect, there is a culture of not pointing fingers that encourages the flight crew to report the event, discuss the factors, and to come up with methods to improve their performance.  Sounds a lot like a near-miss policy to me, but the difference is that apparently, there is absolutely no resistance to reporting these issues because there is no threat of repercussion.

Now we have the Secret List and the Firefighter Near Miss Reporting System, and in our organization at least, we discuss standard operating guidelines in post-event critiques, but I don't know that those concepts even go as far as what Chief H was suggesting they do in this airline program.  To me, it sounds a lot like common sense: instead of focusing on the situation that has already occurred, focus on the events we can fix or those we can grow to recognize and solve, and move forward.

But there is no way this kind of concept can evolve on many of these blogs.  Hell, if anything is seen, like a glove missing or God forbid, someone isn't wearing their SCBA, it becomes a litany of what a dumbass the individuals are and how is it that these people are even still fighting fire.

Now while our department is very strict about the use of safety equipment and insuring best practices are followed, it is hardly a slamfest out there.  If we see you don't have something, we suggest (pretty strongly) for you to go get it and wear it.  This happens pretty rarely because we have squared away people who have been doing this stuff fairly often (with the exception of some of the rookies, of course).  But really, we do make mistakes and there's a lot of times we laugh about it because once pointed out, everyone is pretty good about doing the right thing.

I'd hate, however, for someone to take a photograph of us when we rolled up on a scene, however, and someone just so happened to have missed putting a glove on.  In the case of a recent fire we had, there was significantly enough fire on the outside to cause the arriving officer to order a transitional attack.  His company deployed two lines to the exterior to knock down the rapidly extending fire, which they did without donning masks.  

The next due engine stretched an attack line to the front door and using proper PPE, made the knock on the inside.  Confined to the two rooms we found burning when we got there, nobody hurt.  Nobody was coughing or hacking and honestly, the most difficult part of the evolution was dealing with the mosquitoes.  But just on the chance there was a picture taken of those first few seconds, we'd have heard cries of "sissy" and "outdoor firefighter" from half the crowd and angry accustations of unsafe activity and amateurism from the other half.

Instead of showing the world you are the resident expert on firefighting (which I suspect half of the trolls would run crying at the sight of a real fire), why not use what you see on the blogs and posts to learn something from it and instead of sharing your incredible insight with us all, perhaps make some intelligent observations that could help others remember not to make those mistakes.  I doubt any of the haters are reading this, so I doubt it will have much impact, but perhaps, maybe it will.


  • Bill Carey

    Well said Mick, well said.
    – Bill Carey

  • Svend

    That's a common practice in Naval Aviation as well.  The point is to learn from another's mistakes/experience and continue to get better so you can accomplish the mission at hand. 

  • Dan

    Great comments. I've been guilty of doing this.
    Your post reminds me of a video which was posted over a year ago of a firefighter climbing up a ladder to the second floor of a house, doing a quick search of the room, and climbing back down. The comments section was filled with people pointing out what they thought he did wrong, along with the usual name calling, etc..
    Someone told this firefighter about the video because he popped up in the comments, identified himself (name and fire company), then proceeded to tell everyone why he did why he did – and the reasons why were due to things which weren't captured/seen on the video. (For example, they criticized the way he entered through the window off the ladder – turns out there was a bed underneath that window.)
    Great learning experience that there can be things one really doesn't know about even though they think they do.

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Michael "Mick" Mayers

Deputy Fire Chief - Operations Division for Hilton Head Island (SC) Fire Rescue and an Emergency Response Coordinator with the United States Department of Health and Human Services  National Disaster Medical System Incident Response Coordination Team.

FE Talk: Humpday Hangout

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Thanks! I will add that!
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Mick, well said and I would add the Firefighters Behavioral Alliance run by Jeff Dill who has done extensive work in the area with firefighters and Rosecrance Florian program and Dan DeGryse of CFD who can also provide assistance and help.
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Although I am affiliated or employed by certain entities, I in no way speak in this forum or others on behalf of those entities unless I have specifically stated such. Any implication otherwise is doing so contrary to my agreements with those entities. The result is that the observations and opinions by myself or on behalf of Firehouse Zen are not sanctioned by any other entity other than Graffiti Train Sherpa Publications and are protected by the copyright laws of the United States of America.

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