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dwcfireman

What the Fire Service can Learn from the Aviation Industry

13 posts in this topic

http://www.firehouse.com/article/12249720/the-fire-service-and-the-aviation-industry-firefighter-safety-crew-resource-management

 

I found this article while perusing around the interwebs.  It's not long or drawn out, but it kind of drives home a few points amongst the conversations of crew management, safety checklists, and how we act on the fire scene.  But there is one excerpt that I thought was particular that can be applied to firefighter safety:

 

I am trained to be intolerant of anything less than the highest standards of my profession. I believe air travel is as safe as it is because tens of thousands of my fellow airline and aviation workers feel a shared sense of duty to make safety a reality every day. I call it a daily devotion to duty. It’s serving a cause greater than ourselves.” Captain Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger.

 

I like this quote because we can assimilate it to the fire service.  The fire service is safer than it has ever been, thanks to the advancements in technology within our PPE, health and safety standards, our equipment, and our own well being.  We make it safer by adding the extra hours of training, going to seminars, and by learning from the best of the best before us.  But, still, we accept the inevitable that some of us are going to pay the ultimate sacrifice; a sacrifice that many of us will accept.  My question is, can we make the fire service safer for us?  Can we take the extra steps and add in the extra redundancy, to make our job safer?  Can we apply what has been learned from a completely different industry to do what we do safer and more reliable?

 

If anything, I think it's an interesting read.

Westfield12 likes this

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As part of the Fire Officer 1 class I took at Stamford regional fire school, Glen Dube did a one day session on CRM. It was very interesting. 

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19 hours ago, dwcfireman said:

My question is, can we make the fire service safer for us?  Can we take the extra steps and add in the extra redundancy, to make our job safer?  Can we apply what has been learned from a completely different industry to do what we do safer and more reliable?

The short answer to these questions is yes, yes we can.

 

The more important question is will we do it?  Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure the answer to that is at best, maybe.  I think there are probably some departments out there that are already applying at least some of it, but I know the vast majority of departments in my area (volunteer & primarily volunteer combination) won't even consider it.  It's hard enough getting them to follow the best practices of our industry, let alone another.

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2 hours ago, FireMedic049 said:

The more important question is will we do it?  Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure the answer to that is at best, maybe.  I think there are probably some departments out there that are already applying at least some of it, but I know the vast majority of departments in my area (volunteer & primarily volunteer combination) won't even consider it.  It's hard enough getting them to follow the best practices of our industry, let alone another.

 

You are 100% correct on that 'maybe' response.  I know, at least, in my department we are doing everything we can to train everyone to higher standards, take accountability for everything that happens, and continue to grow in a strong direction.

 

I posted this because I am a member of both industries. I am a firefighter as both a volunteer and as a member of an airport fire brigade.  The aviation industry, which has a much shorter history than the fire service, has made leaps and bounds when it comes to personal accountability and safety.  Every day at work I see pilots doing their A checks (aircraft walk-arounds) before they fly.  This is just one simple step in making sure the aircraft is ready and able to fly.  On the fire service side, we should be doing a similar walk around to make sure the rig is in a condition to respond to and operate at a fire (yes, we do our truck checks at the beginning of the shift, but are we actually taking the checks to the full ten yards?).  It's actually quite amazing how far a simple check our double-check of a tiny item can go.  Pilots have to see if the cotter pins are in place on the ailerons; Are we making sure the pins are in place on the steering rods of the rig (maybe a little over dramatic here, but the point is whether we are truly checking our equipment or not).

 

But our safety is what is paramount.  We tend to take a lot of things for granted.  Seatbelts?  We tend to not wear them.  PPE?  We tend to break the rules about wearing it properly.  Visually inspecting a building on fire?  We tend to look around and get an "idea" of what is going on.  To tell the truth, we are our own worst enemy.

 

" Captain Sullenberger had a fortune from a fortune cookie taped neatly in his Jeppesen Airway manual for years. It read: “Better a delay than a disaster.” In trying to meet the response guidelines of NFPA 1710 and 1720, some firefighters do not wear seatbelts or complete PPE and figure they don’t have time to do a 360. Would it make you feel secure if the captain of your flight skipped checklists in order to maintain an on-time schedule?"

 

 

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On 9/8/2016 at 0:27 AM, dwcfireman said:

" Captain Sullenberger had a fortune from a fortune cookie taped neatly in his Jeppesen Airway manual for years. It read: “Better a delay than a disaster.” In trying to meet the response guidelines of NFPA 1710 and 1720, some firefighters do not wear seatbelts or complete PPE and figure they don’t have time to do a 360. Would it make you feel secure if the captain of your flight skipped checklists in order to maintain an on-time schedule?"

 

Yet how many threads right here in EMTBravo are about response times and who gets to the fire faster? Would we really be willing to accept a delay instead of a disaster, and then what are we going to consider a disaster? Is a lost life due to a slow response any more or less of a lost life due to a seat belt free collision? I do not pretend to know the answers to these questions but we need to discuss them before we can discuss adapting the high standards of the aviation industry.

 

I should also point out that while the aviation industry does have high standards, there is a TV show called Air Disasters and no similar show called Firefighting Disasters.

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38 minutes ago, AFS1970 said:

 

Yet how many threads right here in EMTBravo are about response times and who gets to the fire faster? Would we really be willing to accept a delay instead of a disaster, and then what are we going to consider a disaster? Is a lost life due to a slow response any more or less of a lost life due to a seat belt free collision? I do not pretend to know the answers to these questions but we need to discuss them before we can discuss adapting the high standards of the aviation industry.

 

I should also point out that while the aviation industry does have high standards, there is a TV show called Air Disasters and no similar show called Firefighting Disasters.


The aviation industry has made great strides in improving safety since the advent of crew resource management.  We don't need a show called firefighting disasters, we have the news for that.  We see our failures live and in person right on the evening news.  I hope your comments are tongue in cheek but they smack of the arrogance in the fire service that is above being criticized.  Right now we desperately need some constructive criticism. 

Delays due to not meeting any kind of standards or because we don't have a plan or procedure for response are inexcusable.  Delays due to a safe response are not delays at all.  If you think it is correct to drive fast through intersections and not wear a seatbelt, first of all please be an organ donor but second of all, the seconds saved are negligible.  That's simple fact and is borne out by studies every year.

 

Response times because it takes 10-15 minutes to staff the apparatus is a topic for response time thread.  Not it took them 4.5 minutes to drive from the house to the scene. 
Responses with less than a full crew are a topic for response thread. 


I'm probably more pissy than usual today because nowadays the only time I wear my old class A's is for funerals and memorial services but the airline industry admitted they had a problem!

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11 hours ago, AFS1970 said:

 

Yet how many threads right here in EMTBravo are about response times and who gets to the fire faster? Would we really be willing to accept a delay instead of a disaster, and then what are we going to consider a disaster? Is a lost life due to a slow response any more or less of a lost life due to a seat belt free collision? I do not pretend to know the answers to these questions but we need to discuss them before we can discuss adapting the high standards of the aviation industry.

 

I should also point out that while the aviation industry does have high standards, there is a TV show called Air Disasters and no similar show called Firefighting Disasters.

The reason for the show is two fold. Air Disasters are very rare and as such they peak the curiosity of viewers. Unfortunately fires are too common and often limited to a brief story on the evening news and forgotten the next day. 

The second reason is the the government will spare no expense to recover the plane, reconstruct it, examine every detail of the incident and prepare a detailed report. Like a good detective novel, the investigators always find the cause(s). 

 Incidents almost always take a year or more to investigate and issue a report. The report is extremely detailed. A TV producer can often take the NTSB report and write a screen play directly from the report. 

 

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The Airline industry, as a whole, and the NTSB, together actually know they have a problem when an incident occurs, and ACTUALLY TRY AND FIX THE PROBLEM.

 

The fire service kind of does this, half assed and department by department. Or not. I can't tell you how many times I have heard people say "firemen die, it's what happens".  This is unacceptable.  We sweep disasters under the rug. 

 

If if the CEO of (insert your favorite airline carrier here) went on TV and said "planes crash, it happens", would you fly with them again?!

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11 hours ago, AFS1970 said:

 

Yet how many threads right here in EMTBravo are about response times and who gets to the fire faster? Would we really be willing to accept a delay instead of a disaster, and then what are we going to consider a disaster? Is a lost life due to a slow response any more or less of a lost life due to a seat belt free collision? I do not pretend to know the answers to these questions but we need to discuss them before we can discuss adapting the high standards of the aviation industry.

 

Part of the reason that the aviation industry has high standards is linked to the survival of their industry.  Anytime a commercial jet crashes, there's typically significant casualties and likely causes at least some people to think twice about traveling by air.  If a particular airline has a series of crashes over a short period of time, I'm sure it'll have an impact on airline choice by consumers as they'd likely choose an airline with a better safety record.  Additionally, for the most part, there's alternative modes of transportation available if a person doesn't want to fly.

 

As a result, they have a vested interest in making things as safe as possible because ultimately it affects their bottom line.  The fire service on the other hand has a captive customer base, a service monopoly and therefore little external motivation to improve. 

 

11 hours ago, AFS1970 said:

I should also point out that while the aviation industry does have high standards, there is a TV show called Air Disasters and no similar show called Firefighting Disasters.

 

There may not be a formal show titled "Firefighting Disasters", but there's certainly not a shortage of firefighting disaster videos out there.

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23 hours ago, Dinosaur said:


The aviation industry has made great strides in improving safety since the advent of crew resource management.

The aviation industry has made great success in their crew resource management programs due to the ever increasing shortage of crew members.  However, crew resource management practices have evolved tremendously to make sure that every crew is ready to complete a safe flight; this includes proper rest time, crew essentials, and maximum hours allowed on the clock (which varies per airline).  Applying this to our jobs can further make our tasks safer by allowing extra rest, extra personnel, or just making sure we have what we need to fight a fire.

 

10 hours ago, mstrang1 said:

The Airline industry, as a whole, and the NTSB, together actually know they have a problem when an incident occurs, and ACTUALLY TRY AND FIX THE PROBLEM.

This is something the fire service can definitely learn from.  I've seen the investigations first hand of accidents that have happened at HPN over the last nine years.  The FAA and NTSB pick at every little detail to find out what went wrong, and then they take to the lab to try and fix the problem.  This should absolutely be the same for the fire service!  We can save a few more firefighters every year by better understanding the conditions that cost them their lives, whether it be fire conditions, construction failure, or equipment failure.

 

9 hours ago, FireMedic049 said:

There may not be a formal show titled "Firefighting Disasters", but there's certainly not a shortage of firefighting disaster videos out there.

Another 100% true statement.  If we were looked at with the same oversight as aviation, I bet the number of firefighter "close calls," injuries, and fatalities would drop drastically.

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I believe the fire service can learn a lot from the airline industry. With that being said, I don't really think we're comparing apples to apples here. The airline industry goes out of it's way to prevent accidents before they happen. If a wing flap is showing the slightest problem during pre-flight checks they won't take off. If the weather is not good, they won't take off. If the co-pilot feels ill and can't make the flight, they wait for another co-pilot and just don't allow the pilot to fly solo. The airline industry does have emergency procedures for when something goes wrong, be it engine failure, smoke in the aircraft, or deploying the emergency chutes after landing. But their response to emergencies is about 1% of what they do. The majority of flights go off without a hitch, as airline travel is the safest means of transport in the country.

 

Now compare the fire service. We have our fire prevention personnel and our public education programs, but when we get called it's because an emergency has already happened. Now I'm not saying we shouldn't use safe and effective procedures, nor am I implying we should go "all out" to get to the fire and the rest of the world be damned. What I am saying is that (just like in the military) there has to be a certain acceptable levels of casualties. If the military wanted to eliminate all casualties, they would never attack. But they plan for, practice for, and then implement a plan that will hopefully obtain a positive outcome with the least amount of casualties. The fire service should be looked at in the same light. Plan, practice, train, educate and then respond and implement a reasonable action that will hopefully mitigate the situation without casualties, but they are going to happen.

 

THE AIRLINE INDUSTRY DOES EVERYTHING POSSIBLE TO STAY OUT OF HARMS WAY, THE FIRE SERVICE IS EXPECTED TO GO INTO HARMS WAY.

 

The police are much in the same situation as the fire department. Prior to Columbine, police responded to the scene of a shooting and secured the scene and waited for SWAT. Now they are trained for and expected to confront the shooter/s. If two police officers arrive at a school shooting and shots are being fired, they are trained to enter the school and try to at least "pin down" the shooter so he/she can't continue to move and inflict harm. The officers are to hold their position until help arrives and the shooter/s can be neutralized. Not for me!

 

I believe that being safe is of utmost importance, but if you dot every "I" and cross every "T" before you begin operating, you will suffer "paralysis by analysis." At some point educated and calculated risks must be taken. Here is an example: I agree with doing a 360, but it's not always possible or practical. You're the Captain on a 3-man engine. Let's say you pull up on a 4 story multiple dwelling contained in a block long length of multiple dwellings. You see fire in a first floor room and it's just starting to extend to the public hallway. To complete a 360 you'd have go through exposure B, perhaps by breaking in the public door, go out the back door and into the rear yard. You then encounter a chain-link fence blocking you from the rear of the fire building's yard. You decide to pull a garbage can over and jump the fence. You look at the back of the fire building and can see the glow of fire in the public hallway. You then come across a wooden stockade fence blocking you to the backyard of exposure D. You take your tool and break through. Now you have to break into the rear of exposure D and go through and out the front. By this time, the driver has hooked up to the hydrant and your firefighter is finishing up stretching a 1 3/4" line to the front door. You look up and see that the fire has grown in size and now has control of the public stairway and is almost to the 2nd floor landing. By now you're thinking you better go back to the engine for the 2 1/2".

 

Now, would it be better if you pulled up and saw the situation at hand. You see there are attached exposures on Side B & D. You can't even see wants behind the fire building (Side C). You evaluate that 1 room is burning and the occupant left the door open and it's starting to spread into the public hallway. You make an educated decision based on the factors at hand. You and the firefighter stretch a 1 3/4" right away while the driver is hooking up to the hydrant. You immediately stretch the line to the front door and call for water. You flow water and extinguish the fire in the public hallway. You crawl down the hall and give a burst into the apartment to darken down the fire but not totally extinguish it. You use your tool and pull the apartment door shut. You instruct the firefighter to stay at the door with the line and keep the door closed but be ready with the hoseline to drive the fire back. You race up the stairs to do a quick primary of the public hallway. You stop at the door of the second floor apartment over the fire and bang on the door. The door opens and two people are standing there. There is no smoke or fire apparent in the apartment. You direct them to follow you and shut the door. You direct them into the neighbor's apartment across the hall and shut the door. You continue up the stairs. There is a moderate smoke condition going up to the fourth floor. You meet a couple people entering the hallway and advise them to go back into their apartments and close the door. You make it to the top floor and there are no people anywhere in the public hallway. You hear other sirens coming and you race back down the stairs. You meet up with your firefighter, still protecting the door, and advise him to back out onto the stoop. You meet up with the chief. Two more engines and a ladder arrive and go to work finishing off the fire, evacuating the building and doing a complete search.

 

To sum it up, you broke the 2 in / 2 out rule. You left your partner and two members worked by themselves in a building. You went above a fire without a hoseline. You made a conscious decision to do a quick knock down of the fire, then confine it by closing the door, doing a quick primary search of the public hallway, and decided to employ the tactic of "defending the occupants in place." You were aware that help was on the way and would arrive in 5 minutes. But instead of following the book and doing a complete 360 of the building, you put your judgment, training and experience to use by taking a reasonable risk by confining the fire and hence, saving the people in the building. This is much like Sully did when he decided to land his plane on the Hudson River. His experience, training and education told him he couldn't make it to any airport and the smoothest place to try to land the plane was in the river. He calculated and won.

 

 

Edited by LayTheLine
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No rustled feathers here, but I think you're kind of on the wrong page.

 

Given the significantly different operating conditions, you can't directly apply all of the concepts to the fire service.  You are correct, there is an inherent level of risk to the job that just can't be completely eliminated without eliminating the ability to do the job we are expected to perform.  I don't think the "lessons" to be learned from the aviation industry are about elimination of risk, but rather following sound practices that can help reduce risk where we can reasonably do so.

 

As you pointed out, if something is mechanically wrong with the plane, the plane doesn't fly until it's fixed.  In the fire service, we routinely respond with apparatus that is known to not be 100% mechanically sound.

 

Aircraft have somewhat strict maintenance requirements and many parts are serviced or replaced after a specific number of flights or hours in order to prevent "critical failures".  In the fire service, many departments lack proper preventative maintenance programs and repairs are typically reactive rather than proactive.

 

Every person on the crew of the aircraft is fully trained in their duties before stepping foot on a plane to perform those duties with real passengers, each person has a specific role and sticks to that role (under normal conditions).  As such, you don't see flight attendants flying the planes and the pilots passing out pillows and beverages.  In the fire service, we have many departments that routinely allow personnel to respond to incidents before completing initial training and allow personnel to actively perform tasks that they are not trained to perform.

 

The aviation industry has checklists for performing routine tasks, like a pre-flight check and for situations that may arise.  The checklists serve to help guide personnel thru the situation and ensure that important tasks are not overlooked.  In the fire service, checklists can help to ensure nothing is overlooked during the apparatus check and can do the same thing for the IC during an incident to ensure that essential tasks and notifications are not missed and are performed in a timely manner.  They can particularly help when dealing with a low frequency incident like a true hazmat situation, technical rescues, etc.

 

 

I see these types of things as where we can apply lessons learned rather than on scene decision making about strategy & tactics.

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I came across a series of articles in Firehouse Magazine that date back to 2001-2002. Dennis Ruben did a 7-part detailed series on Crew Resource Management and how it relates to the fire service. The articles aren't together in one place. You have to search the Internet with keywords like Firehouse Magazine, Dennis Ruben, Crew Resource Management, 2001, 2002 and you should be able to find most of them.

Edited by LayTheLine

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