After reading the article, I would have to say that I agree with what is being said. How can you do a job safely when there are so many other variables that can’t always be accounted for?
Ever since I started this job back in 2010, I have accepted that it is a high-risk profession. I don’t recall ever being flat out told that death is a very real possibility in this line of work, but I knew that it was and I accepted it. I haven’t been around this profession for too long, but I have seen some changes in the way leaders address this topic.
When I went through guard school, there wasn’t a whole lot mentioned about how dangerous this job can be. As a group, we didn’t ask questions about it either. I had the chance to sit through guard school this past year and there has been more emphasis on the topic. There was an hour and a half block of time when a deployment survivor came in to talk with the rookies. He told his story and talked about everything that was unsafe about their assignment that night. However, none of the crew members said anything about it. They just accepted their job. There seems to be more emphasis on the safety card, but when one crew turns down an assignment the DIVS just keeps going down the line until a crew accepts the assignment.
It was mentioned that leaders don’t always see things the same as everyone else. What seems unsafe to a rookie or second-year firefighter may be perfectly acceptable to a tenth-year firefighter. When I am the IC of an incident, I tell my crew to keep their eyes open and call out anything that could potentially cause harm or come back to bite us. I want all my crew members to be able to tell me they don’t feel safe if it needs to be said.
You have to look at it as a cultural problem. I have met older firefighters who have accepted a lot of unnecessary risk. When asked why, they just replied “That’s how we’ve always done it”. I understand that no crew boss or foreman wants to be known for turning down assignments, but at what point do you say “maybe this isn’t worth it”? It’s a hard question to answer. Especially when machismo or macho attitudes seem to be abundant.
All in all, this topic is important. The Big Lie is real and we need to work on passing that on to our crew members. Sure, we have a lot of safety measures in place, but are they working? This is a dangerous profession and the only way we can stop fatalities is to stop engaging fires. There are just too many factors that we can’t predict to make the fire line 100% safe. It is our job as leaders to keep our crews safe.