A good list: What police can and can't do at a fire

It is critical for everybody's safety that we get police on board with how to act when first on scene

This past weekend Chief Billy Goldfeder sent out a list of do's and don'ts for police officers who are first-arriving on a structure fire. It is something all police departments need to adopt.

New York City and now Cincinnati have operating procedures for what police can and cannot do when they arrive before firefighters at a structure fire. As you recall, the New York procedure review came in the wake of one of their officers dying trying to rescue residents in an apartment fire.

This is long overdue and a shame that it takes a tragedy to bring about needed change. But, what's passed is past, and we can only control what we do from here on out.

The list is in no way a knock on police officers' courage. There have been many times police have made civilian saves at great risk to themselves. There are many other instances where police involvement has made the situation worse — worse for firefighters, police and civilians.

As Chief Goldfeder wrote: "This issue isn't them 'getting in the way' — the issue is, in so many cases, the lack of understanding of the conditions they are placing themselves in. While the intent is admirable, the goal is to help people with a problem — while not becoming part of the problem."

Many of us have hazmat awareness-level certification. The aim of that training is to teach those firefighters who are first on scene at a hazmat incident to keep out of harm's way and relay critical information to those who have the equipment, training and experience to deal with the situation.

The do's and don'ts do a very good job of laying out what police should do when they arrive on scene, especially when they choose to attempt a rescue. The list essentially does the work for fire and police departments everywhere.

The heavy lifting will come from acceptance and implementation. Yet, this must happen. Keeping egos and turf battles in check will go a long way to getting safer procedures put in play.

As with hazmat awareness-level training, having police understand how to keep themselves out of harm's way is not only good for them, but for the firefighters about to arrive on scene.

About the author

Rick Markley is editor-in-chief of FireRescue1 and Fire Chief, a volunteer firefighter and fire investigator. He serves on the board of directors of and is actively involved with the International Fire Relief Mission, a humanitarian aid organization that delivers unused fire and EMS equipment to firefighters in developing countries. He holds a bachelor's degree in communications and a master's of fine arts. He has logged more than 10 years as an editor-in-chief and written numerous articles on firefighting. He can be reached at Rick.Markley@FireRescue1.com.

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  3. New York
  4. Police

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