Sunday, July 24, 2011

Unintended Consequences

As firefighters, we must always consider the unintended consequences of our actions or in many cases, our inactions. Unfortunately, we often do not think that far ahead and live in the now instead of the proactive future. That is why that puddle of water or, worse yet, oil that you saw but stepped around on the apparatus floor caused one of your fellow firefighters to split his or her head open when they slipped on it. No one intends for that to happen, but it often does. That is unacceptable in a business where risk analysis is such a critical; part of the job. This attitude often has larger consequences when they are transferred to the emergency situation.

Consider this situation which took place not so long ago and was related to me. On a Saturday, an engine company we will call Engine 1 responded on a spill that required them to utilize all of their speedy-dry. There was none in storage at their firehouse as it was stored in a central location in the department. It was late so the Company Officer decided to wait to pass the need for more speedy-dry to the next shift on the following morning. He passed the information on, but since it was a Sunday, the Company Officer on that day did not take the ride to one of the other firehouses to secure more speedy-dry for the company. The day passed without incident, but at about 0600 the next morning, they were dispatched to a single engine squad run to the scene of an MVA where a spill of vehicle fluids required speedy-dry. Since they didn’t get it the day before, they had to request an additional engine company, Engine 2, to bring some down from their supply. Engine 2 responded from outside that the Engine 1 district. While this “special-called” Engine 2 was operating at the MVA, a report of a structure fire was transmitted in their first-due area. As Engine 2 was at the scene of the MVA, basically doing the duties that Engine 1 had been called to do and it was rush hour, there was a delay in the arrival of another engine into Engine 2’s first-due area.

The officers did not take into consideration the unintended consequences of failing to secure more speedy-dry in a timely manner, a relatively non-essential item in their view, but the consequences of that failure could have been severe. They did not do their job. The job of a Company Officer (and of all firefighters regardless of rank) is to always do your job and always take into consideration the unintended consequences of your actions, your inactions, and those of others.

1 comment:

  1. "Not my job","It can wait till later", "it's not that important". Over the past 32 years in the fire servic I have seen a lot. I have been on a volenteer department and worked with full time fire fighters. I motivated employee will go out of their way to insure it is done. The company officer has the obligation and duty to ensure their engine/truck/squad or whatever, has everything it needs before it goes into service. We as fire fighters have to ensure we have the tools, equipment and supplies we should have to do the job we are paid to do.