Monday, August 3, 2009

Risk-Preferring and Self-Indulging Firefighting

I had the privilege to spend some time recently with a tremendous group of knowledgeable and dedicated command and company officers at the 2009 Arizona Fire Service Leadership Conference hosted by the Arizona Fire Chief’s Association in Glendale, Arizona. Chief Ron Dennis, the Executive Director of the AFCA did a wonderful job of planning and facilitating a rich and rewarding program of presentations by some of the fire service’s foremost leaders that included Chief Charlie Dickinson, Deputy Administrator, USFA, (ret), Chief Dennis Rubin, Chief Jeff Johnson, Chief Alan Brunacini (ret), Chief Rich Marinucci, Chief Greg Cade (ret), Howard Cross, Chief Kevin Brame and Chief Bill Jenaway to name a few.

I had the opportunity to present a thought provoking program addressing current trends in Building Construction, and the impact and influence on Command Risk Management and Firefighter Safety. An interesting discussion prevailed during one segment of the presentation that I’d like to share with you. While on shift today or at the station this evening or during the week, think about the following and where and how you fit into the big scheme of things. Explore and discuss the ramifications of risk-preferring and self-indulging firefighting. There’s more here than meet's the eye, IF you look hard enough.

Risk-Preferring and Self-indulging Firefighting
Don't mistake determined, effective and proactive firefighting with that of reckless, baseless and risk-preferring and self-indulging firefighting. There is a difference, a big difference! When we address relationships of Building Construction, Command Risk Management and FireFighter Safety with the occupancy and structural environment, all personnel, regardless of rank, need to equate the occupancy risk with strategic and tactical incident action plans.

These safely compliment the identified firefighting operation risk, with the projected building risk profile and interface appropriate behavioral characteristics in the task level firefighting activities. Again, equating building, occupancy risk profiles with determined, effective and proactive firefighting.

The traditional attitudes and beliefs of equating aggressive firefighting operations in all occupancy types coupled with the correlating, established and pragmatic operational strategies and tactics MUST not only be questioned, they need to be adjusted and modified; risk assessment, risk-benefit analysis, safety and survivability profiling, operational value and firefighter injury and LODD reduction must be further institutionalized to become a recognized part of modern firefighting operations.

It's no longer just brute force and sheer physical determination that define structural fire suppression operations. Aggressive firefighting must be redefined and aligned to the built environment and associated with goal oriented tactical operations that are defined by risk assessed and analyzed tasks that are executed under battle plans that promote the best in safety practices and survivability within know hostile structural fire environments. Consider the following definitions as they relate to defining structural combat fire suppression operations.

Aggressive and Measured Approach
Aggressive: Assertive, bold, and energetic, forceful, determined, confident, marked by driving forceful energy or initiative, marked by combative readiness, assured, direct, dominate…

Measured: Calculated; deliberate, careful; restrained, think, considered, confident, alternatives, reasoned actions, in control, self assured, calm…

You be the judge as to what should be appropriately defining interior fire suppression operations.

It's all about understanding the building-occupancy relationships and integrating; construction, occupancies, fire dynamics and fire behavior, risk, analysis, the art and science of firefighting, safety conscious work environment concepts and effective and well-informed incident command management. This is what it's going to take to truly provide a means for "everyone to go home". It’s Occupancy Risk not Occupancy Type. Many of today's incident commanders, company officers and firefighters lack the clarity of understanding and comprehension that correlate to the inherent characteristics of today's buildings, construction and occupancies. We assume that the routiness of our operations and incident responses equates with predictability and diminished risk to our firefighting personnel.
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  1. That's a much more insightful discussion on these behaviors and a concept I hadn't really considered. When we say that these individuals are "only thinking of themselves", that doesn't really seem to drive home the mind-set like the label "self-indulgent" does. It really defines the attitude. Great job.

  2. But...but..."I like going to fires". Isn't that the most important thing? After all, we get paid for the short attention spans and need for instant gratification...right?

    Great post Chris. Another brick in the wall between recreational firefighting and smart firefighting.


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