I can't remember if I blogged this before, but if so, it bears repeating. When my brother and I were very young, my father, who was also a fire chief, brought home from work some pencils with the phrase, "Do it right the first time" inscribed on them. This message was brought up by my father many times throughout my life, although I'll admit, there are days even today when something goes wrong and I think back to that message.
It may take extra time that you don't think you have. That time may seem very valuable. The shortcut you take may seem like it saves those precious seconds. But I have seen in my life, many times when those shortcuts have proven catastrophic, and in most of those situations, I look at them and wonder, had someone taken a few extra moments to do it right, what the outcome might have been.
While the historical issue between response to rescues in New York City is frustrating and sad, since it seems to me to be the confluence of a power struggle and turf battle, instead of celebrating a terrific save the other day, instead we have this tragedy to contend with, as shared with us by Dave Statter on his blog.
I have always learned and always taught that when lifting, we "crib to the lift". And while the spreaders are not the desired lifting tool, I have used them before and they have worked just fine. I preface that, however by explaining that I am also passionate about physics and when I have used spreaders, I also understood that the force applied must go somewhere, and if the load isn't stabilized, the force is going to create motion we don't want. In this case, the force displaced the object alright: lateral to the support (the spreader) and with nothing to support the load (cribbing) the load went to ground (and victim).
I don't care if you are FDNY, ESU, or anyone else. I have seen this very same shortcut taken before in departments that have had identically catastrophic results. I also recall other times when the load has shifted on the column, in one case, three stacked air bags. In this case, the firefighter, who happened to also be the salesman of the lift bags and should have a little expertise in their use, himself was killed.
There's a lesson to be learned in every tragedy. Aside from the physical principles that apply to all of us here on this planet, there's another very important one. Driving recklessly, failing to wear your seatbelt, not wearing proper PPE, not paying attention to overhead power lines, and in this case, not providing an alternate column to support the load via cribbing, all might seem like they are saving precious seconds, but failing to do the right thing the first time, ended instead in tragedy.
Take a moment to ditch the emotion and be the professionals you are. Do the right thing the first time.