“The fire service’s weekly safety column”
By: Ray McCormack
Tactical Safety examines the process of firefighting to see if there is a better and safer way to operate.
Equal Opportunity for Life
Do we question life on the fireground? Yes; we question if it is present; we question where it may be present; and we question if we can get to it in time. Do we question if life still exists upon arrival? Yes, we do that too. If we believe that there is no savable life contained within, then a search should be considered dead too, should it not? All buildings need to be searched at some point so that we can collectively close the case with the assurance that we did our best. Active searches must always err on the side of life.
For as long as you play this game, no firefighter has seen everything. Firefighters are not always correct, just like they are not always wrong. Firefighters must always be the most dedicated advocates for the trapped and incapacitated. When the bedroom fire is knocked down, do we not bother to look around and see if someone is laying on the floor or the bed? We search because we are in the pursuance of life; we search everywhere and every time because life, even damaged life, is precious. We do not just throw up our collective hands in defeat. We must make sure that we are never predefined for defeat by inaction or dismissal.
We do not always save people in dramatic fashion; some are just discovered while we conduct our operations. However, all firefighters must provide equal opportunity for life by being determined to assist that victim. The first step in assisting them is to recognize that they may actually exist. We must base our tactical actions on sound principles to best ensure our personal effectiveness and safety while creating opportunity for the saving of lives.
There is a fallacy in wanting to help others when we act negatively and lack diligence towards creating alternatives that could bring about positive results. For every horror story there is one of hope that defines and balances us toward why we truly do this job. When you are refused entry or would be denied exit, your actions will be placed on hold, and you must know it when you see it. Denying recognition is a training flaw; the denial of victims from giving your all once you are: able, have access, and an escape, is a character flaw.
The truest appraisals are best acquired from those that do not have a stake in the value of the purchase. Firefighters, however, must always be their own appraiser for every action or decision you make on the fireground. You must be skilled in appraising safe entry and exit by yourself first, even while being encumbered with your charge. The idea behind working together and in groups, ranks and experiences allows for additional appraisals of the same plan.
People can survive and have survived- to our collective surprise- through events we might think were impossible. We should not be so quick to judge because it puts us in the wrong frame of mind. We must be positive. We must answer the victim’s unheard cry for help. We must find them, remove them, and pass them forward to those that make life calls. We must allow ourselves to excel at returning life to those that would not have any chance without our efforts. We make judgments all the time at fires, that’s part of firefighting!
Another part of firefighting is to remember why we signed up in the first place: to help people. Within the boundaries of safe and reasonable firefighting, we will come upon the trapped and incapacitated whose last hope is to be discovered by us and saved. By internalizing equal opportunity for life, we are fulfilling our personal mission collectively to save lives especially ones that are hidden from view.
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