For hundreds of years, the firefighting service has battled with the philosophy of risk versus gain. The biggest nightmare being injuries and deaths in the line of duty. Advancement in flame resistant fabric gear and the (SCBA) self-contained breathing apparatus has seen positive progress in the quest for aggressive firefighting. Another challenge becoming increasingly overwhelming is the method of construction following lightweight building and the growing use of plastics. Lives of the firefighters are the top priority during operations but the recent statistics on injuries and LODD suggest otherwise. The statistics collected over the years indicate that there is an urgent need for action and change of strategy to curb the LODD and injuries menace. This paper is, therefore, dedicated to cover on how the decisions made by officers affect safety in firefighting.
According to Ford (2006), there is a need for the cultural shift as shared in groups of organizations. This culture change advocates for a change in beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviors as shared within the service concerning safety. Ford also suggests that personal responsibility, accountability, supervision, management, and leadership ought to be incorporated in departmental characteristics. This move will yield higher dedication to safety. The officers can inculcate the cultural change throughout the sector.
Another way in which in which the injuries and LODD deaths can be reduced is by enhancing accountability at both organizational level down to personal level. Most of the time, lack of responsibility is evident when almost everyone perceives that a good fighter must possess bravado thus overlooking health and safety measures. The fire service can address this attitude through the implementation of strategies that see accountability to safety and health being the central component of the program. The strategies can be further implemented to make sure that each fighter recognizes that they can be held accountable for their actions (Ford, 2006).
Furthermore, there is the need for greater focusing of attention to integrating managing of risk with incident management. This integration should be done at all levels from planning, tactical and strategic responsibilities. This initiative suggests safe action while conducting emergency operations, especially in high-risk environments. The suggestion calls for an extensive repertoire of components about the ability to carry out more reliable emergency operations; because firefighting environment is inherently a high-risk ground. Although most of the specific dangers and risks are known, many lives have been lost and injuries registered in unjustifiable circumstances. Therefore, the officers need to strike a balance between desired outcomes and risks faced. For instance, in a situation where there is a real possibility to save a life taking a high risk can then be justified. The fire command should assess risks and carefully measure them to keep high-value property that can still be valuable. It is, thus, unacceptable taking risk trying to save property or life already lost.
To further protect firefighter life and safety, the system should be modified to empower the firefighters. This initiative suggests that enabling avenues and environment should be created by all organizations, allowing firefighters to contribute in their safety and that of the organization by speaking up. The avenues should be enabling such that it is in a prescribed context; meaning no negative consequences. The setting should not decentralize authority of the formal leader either.
The fifth initiative regards the decision of developing and implementing countrywide standards for firefighters. These standards should uniformly apply to all firefighters in training, qualification, and certification on the duties they are expected to perform basis. This move will strengthen professionalism if the certification complies with the national standards. Regular recertification should also be done to increase responsibility, competency, and most importantly guarantee safety. This initiative is to bind together security and the training process (Bennet, 2017).
In the same light, developing and implementing a national physical fitness and medical standards applying equally to all firefighters. As gathered by Bennet (2017), there is the need for national physical fitness and medical standards to be adhered to by all firefighters. This decision will emphasize on fitness, wellness, and health. Following recent researches, increasing physical fitness and medical surveillance will most significantly reduce LODD and injuries. The research also indicates that fire departments have no program monitoring basic health of 737,000 firefighters working under them.
Despite the growing need for the use of technology in firefighting units, there still is a lack of importance and priority. A quarter of the fire departments, for instance, requires internet access. This situation means that these fire departments are lagging regarding the actual web-based technologies and emerging technology. There is also an estimation that well over half of the fire departments lack enough SCBA equipment for use during an emergency shift. The same estimated number of fire departments are still using the SCBA equipment from at least ten years ago. A further look at the fire departments shows that half of them are short of the PASS (Personal Alert System) for equipping their firefighters. These studies show the dire need in the firefighting sector to equip technology for efficient and efficiency in service delivery.
Finally as suggested by Everyone Goes Home, a decision that could change the conventional way of going about the response to emergencies is developing national standard policies and procedures for responding to emergencies and the procedures of doing the same. Competing opinions in firefighting organizations have limited the success rate in service rendering. Although implementation of a particular formula could be hard due to the difference in geographic location, there is the need for a universal approach providing basic guidelines. This move will, in turn, add to the safety of the firefighters.
To conclude, it is crystal clear that there are certain decisions needed to be made to increase the safety of firefighters and see the reduction of LODD and injuries. Some of the decisions as discussed above include changing the firefighting culture, increasing accountability, assessing and measuring the risks versus the outcome, empowering the firefighters to speak, unifying training, certification, response policies and procedure, working on technology and equipment, and enhancing medical monitoring.
Bennet, L. T. (2017). Fire Service Law. Waveland Press.
Ford, T. (2006). Building Support for the Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives in Higher Education Executive Leadership. Retrieved from www.everyonegoeshome.com/16-initiatives/
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