Grim weekend reminds us to prepare for the worst

It is critical that we train and know our limitations, but it is also important to have our affairs in order in the event that that worst-case scenario comes to pass

Editor’s Note:

Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel reflects on the tragic weekend the fire service experienced and urges us have our affairs in order and a plan in place for when the worst-case scenario strikes.

It was another tragic weekend for the U.S. fire and emergency services, with two multiple-LODD incidents (in Bryan, Texas and Indianapolis) and several firefighters seriously injured.

From reading the website and numerous comments on social media channels, I know that you will join me in sending thoughts and prayers to all those affected by these terrible events.

Unfortunately, last weekend was a grim reminder that every call, even the seemingly "routine" ones, can result in a tragic outcome — even when we do everything "by the book."

So what's the point?

In my experience, we don't like to think about the potentially negative consequences of what we do 24/7/365, career or volunteer, in communities large and small. Honestly, that's probably OK since I'm not sure we could be effective (or safe) if we constantly thought about the worst-case scenario for ourselves, our families and our colleagues.

At the same time, we owe it to those same people to be prepared for the worst.

Being prepared starts, of course, with being properly and thoroughly trained; fully aware of our capabilities and limitations; and constantly aware of the risks vs. benefits of the dynamic situations we face every day.

But it goes beyond that.

It's important for us, as departments and individuals, to have plans in-place to deal with a serious injury or LODD.

Do you have a will? How about a durable power of attorney authorizing someone to make medical and other critical decisions on your behalf? Can your department identify, and locate, your next of kin without delay? Are your end-of-life decisions made, and documented where they can be found quickly?

None of us like to dwell on these things, but they're essential for protecting those we love if, despite our best efforts, we can't make it home.

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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