Safety considerations to reduce training deaths

It seems to me that we should be able to make training both realistic and safe


Unfortunately, firefighter line-of-duty deaths and injuries are not uncommon during fire and emergency services training activities.

Maybe we get complacent on the drill field, or perhaps we deliberately test firefighters' limits in what is often (and sometimes wrongly) considered a controlled environment.

I will readily acknowledge that it can be difficult to strike a balance between making training realistic enough to help prevent deaths and injuries in the real world, while making sure practical evolutions and physical fitness training are conducted with safety as the primary consideration.

Still, it seems to me that we should be able to make training both realistic and safe, by following established procedures, providing appropriate instructor training and staffing, and most of all, by remembering that the laws of biology, chemistry, and physics don't change because it's a training day.

A NIOSH report released last week into the death of Houston Firefighter Cadet Cohnway M. Johnson, 26, who suffered exertional heatstroke during physical fitness training, stated the LODD could have been prevented.

This is especially important with our newest members, career and volunteer, as recruit firefighters lack the experience to know their limits, and are unlikely to either recognize, or step forward to correct, unsafe acts.

Several years ago the United States Fire Administration published a special report, Trends and Hazards in Firefighter Training, that is still worth reading: www.usfa.dhs.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/tr-100.pdf.

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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