Saturday, April 4, 2009

Rolling the Window Down on Safety

From my newborn All Hazards Contemplations blog:

Skip Kirkwood's Jems Connect blog had an excellent post about the recent multiple shootings at the nursing home in Carthage, NC, Binghamton, NY, and todays triple police officer murder in Pittsburgh, PA. Skip made some excellent points about how to approach dangerous scenes.Skip's post triggered reminders of some old street safety habits that were daily occurrances in two high-volume cities where I previously worked. I have gotten a little slack on using these basic survival behaviors, due to the relatively peaceful nature of the town where I work now.Skip's reminder that two of the three above multiple shootings occurred in similar "peaceful" towns to mine reminded me that there's no such thing as a really safe place to work fire-rescue or EMS.

My old habits - ones I dusted off today - are the following:

1) Roll the Window Down on Safety. If you roll the window down at least a block out from the scene, you can hear screams or gunfire that would otherwise not be heard over the death metal your new EMS partner or engine driver plays while responding. Rolling down the window also lets you smell the natural gas leak started by the car that creamed the meter when it hit the house or the unusual smoke smells from the landscaping company fire that was reported next door to the actual fire location. With the window up, you have disengaged four of your five senses - vision is the only one working. With the window down, you add the senses of hearing and smell, and triple the number of senses working to keep you alive and unhurt.

2) Stage on every call where a known violent event has occurred. Domestic violence, reported shootings/stabbings/assaults, robberies, hostage situations, or even unknown suspicious scenes or high-crime locations are good places to stay away from until law enforcement secures the scene. Stage a block away, out of line of sight, and it could save the lives of everyone riding your rig.

3) Don't run the lights and siren right up to the front door. Unless you work on crowded city streets where you can't get to the scene any other way, it won't make a real difference if you cut the lights and siren a block out. Being the center of attention is great...unless you're a shooter's bullseye. Reducing your "Bullseye Profile" might also save your life.

Roll the window down, stage, lower your Bullseye Profile, and remember that bad things happen in otherwise peaceful towns as well as in the big city.
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