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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Chicago LODD report requires critical, honest look at ourselves

To honor the fallen we must learn from the incident, and that requires effort and honesty

I know you all will join me in extending, once again, our thoughts and prayers to the Chicago Fire Department and the family of Capt. Johnson.

As I've written before, I believe that NIOSH reports should be required reading for every firefighter in the United States, and beyond. That said, reading these reports is never an easy thing to do.

It's important, as we attempt to learn from the tragic losses of our brother and sister firefighters, that we read these reports with a critical eye. And I don't mean "critical" in the sense of criticizing other firefighters, the decisions they made, the resources they had (or didn't have), and other contributing factors.

It's far too easy to fall prey to the "it won't happen here" syndrome.

It's simple to sit back and criticize others; it's much more difficult, and instructive, to read these reports with a self-critical point of view. Faced with the same conditions, constraints and challenges, what would you do in the same situation? No, really — what would you do? Be honest.

On any given day, at any given time, any of our departments could experience an incident where all of the contributing factors align to result in a tragic outcome. Knowing this, however, is not a reason to give up and accept the potential for a line-of-duty death.

Instead, we must critically analyze our individual, companies' and departments' risks, vulnerabilities and areas of improvement.

By honestly and continuously doing those things, we reduce the likelihood of experiencing similar events in our own departments. And it's the best way to truly honor our colleagues who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their communities.

Stay safe! 

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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