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Take It Home and Train Others

On February 25th, 2015 the Training, Safety and Officer’s section wrapped up another successful annual conference held in Yakima, WA.  The event was a great success solely because of the hard work put in by the Board members and their spouses from around the state who volunteered their time to make it happen.  And another round of ‘Thank You’ is necessary for all the staff at the Washington Fire Chief’s office.  There were 5 full days of classes covering topics of leadership, instructions, driver safety, Train-the-Trainers and more!  It was great to see so many departments represented and the networking that took place is always an added benefit. 

Chief Rick Lasky (Ret.) was our keynote speaker and did a fantastic job.  If you have ever heard Chief Lasky speak or if you have read his book Pride and Ownership then you can imagine the lasting impression he left with all of us.  In his general session presentation he delivered a powerful historical overview of the fire service and touched on why we as a fire service have come to do things the way we do.  From code enforcement changes to safety practices developed Chief Lasky relayed real life examples, which have killed civilians and firefighters, and the resulting changes that emerged following these tragic events.  As the class was entitled, it truly was something that They Should Be Teaching This on the First Day of the Academy!

One such example that Chief Lasky presented was the tragic line of duty death of a firefighter due to the Incident Commander not hearing his call for help because the portable radio was in the back pocket of his pants.  How many of our departments have members who automatically remove the lapel mic from their radios as soon as they get on shift because they say gets in their way on medical calls?  Or the members who say they are old school and prefer to just have the radio and not all that extra stuff?

The question that needs to be asked is why is this even an option?  Is not every NIOSH LODD report touching on communication issues in some size, shape or form?  If the employer spends thousands of dollars on communication equipment and we know that the lapel mics enhance communications on the fire ground, then why do we as officers allow our members to remove them?  Are our members prepared and ready for the next fire (where they would prefer the lapel mic) or are they playing with numbers and hoping that the next call is a medical or service call where the lapel mic might not be needed?  If we know the lapel mic performs better on the fire ground, then why give them the option to remove it at all?  Gordon Graham’s statement about predictable being preventable rings out so very true on this topic.

The New London, TX school explosion on March 18th, 1937 killed 237 students and teachers.  As some of you will recall the explosion happened because of a natural gas leak in the building and when the shop teacher turned on a belt sander it created the spark that the gas was looking for.  At the time of the incident natural gas wasn’t odorized and thus the leak went undetected.  As a result of this tragic loss of life, regulations were passed that required an odorant, commonly known as mercaptan, to be added to the gas so that the rotten egg and/or sulfur smell could be easily detected and alert those nearby of the leak.  This odor is injected into the distribution lines from a substation in and around most communities.  But what about rail cars and high pressure transportation lines? 

The answer is that these two transportation mediums for natural gas are not required to have mercaptan in the product until it reaches the distribution point.  And as to why it isn’t required is unknown at this point.  Sooner or later an accident is going to happen and after the massive fireball is controlled there will be sweeping regulations coming down with the requirement that all natural gas from the point of production contain the noxious odorant.   It has been claimed that with 400-600 psi escaping from the underground pipe you will definitely know that you have a leak.  Although this cannot be disputed, what happens when that gas is blown away by a gentle wind or held close to the ground because of the presence of an inversion?  Will the businesses 4 blocks away have any indication that there is a problem?  Or will they fire up the grill in preparation for the incoming lunch crowds?

These and so many other valuable lessons were learned and passed along at this year’s conference.  No matter if it was you who attended or work with someone who was there, please share this new knowledge with your department.  Conduct a table top review or create a training ground scenario to practice the newest techniques.  Review your operating protocols and provide suggestions for improvement where necessary.  This is our fire service.  We are all in it together.  We need to train as a team in order to win as a team.  And most of all, let’s get every one home safely!  Train them until they can’t get it wrong!

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Posted: Mar 26, 2015,
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