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Order to police officers: Don't enter burning buildings

The bulletin was introduced after the death of NYPD officer Dennis Guerra

By FireRescue1 Staff

CINCINNATI — Police officers were issued a new training bulletin Friday, ordering them not to enter a building that’s on fire to rescue people inside.

WCPO reported that the bulletin was introduced after the death of NYPD officer Dennis Guerra, who died from inhaling carbon monoxide in April while saving others from a fire in an apartment building.

Officers who are first to respond to a fire are now ordered to stay out of burning buildings and ignore their instinct to rescue others, according to the report.

"It’s understandable that officers have an extraordinary desire to rush in and save lives," the memo states. "However, there are many dangerous consequences associated with this desire, which can lead to serious injury or death."

The department gave the following steps if an officer is first to respond to a fire:

  1. Confirm the correct incident address and whether there are obvious indicators the structure is on fire, such as the presence of smoke and/or flames.
  2. Gather additional information indicating the volume and color of the smoke. This informs the responding firefighters what they are facing.
  3. Try to determine exactly where the structure fire is located without entering the structure.
  4. Are there people trapped in the building and if so, where? Accurate assessment of where the fire is located can simplify the respond and aid in a speedy rescue effort.

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Larry Zipper Larry Zipper Monday, June 02, 2014 8:53:46 AM This is actually a very prudent approach. One of the first things first responders, from good samaritan first aiders, to highly trained EMS personnel are taught is to not become an additional victim. Entering a dangerous scene without the proper gear is putting a high probability on the chances of becoming a victim, which requires resources to be dedicated to rescuing you. The guidelines essentially are scene assessment which can save fire fighters much needed time upon their arrival if they can be accurately briefed. Coordinated properly this could very well lead to even more efficient rescue response. Cross training with the FD on doing scene assessment can result in a much smoother deployment of fire personnel.
Jason Campbell Jason Campbell Monday, June 02, 2014 2:32:29 PM Running into a burning building to save people naked is admirable but not safe or smart. Neither is running into a burning building without proper PPE.
Tony Prince Tony Prince Monday, June 02, 2014 4:10:33 PM This needs to go out to ALL law enforcement officers. You don't see us running into bank robberies, so stay the F*ck out of my structure fires. (Besides, WE always end up rescuing you, but you always get the medals for it)
Monday, June 02, 2014 4:44:53 PM Here's another one……don't park directly in front of the building; your car is in our way. Actually saw that once…..
Spencer Rice Spencer Rice Monday, June 02, 2014 5:21:29 PM These are obviously good suggestions however, another one they didn't even mention is the chance of creating flow paths. All the info from NIST and UL would suggest this might be an even bigger reason for not entering. It will be interesting to see if other FD's and PD's work on this.
Jamie Fraser-Paige Jamie Fraser-Paige Monday, June 02, 2014 5:31:17 PM I was intersted in being a firefighter until I found out that they rushed into burning buildings. Mom told me not to. ;-) So I became a cop, instead. Yes, it makes sense. Firefighters enter buldings with proper safety equipment which pollice officers don't have. Nor do they have the training.
Tony Emge Tony Emge Tuesday, June 03, 2014 10:22:01 AM Had that happen in my town. Sgt park in front of FD connection and thought he was out of the way. So we ran 2 3" lines around the car and blocked him in!!
Tony Emge Tony Emge Tuesday, June 03, 2014 10:24:12 AM Goes to show that cops really do want to be firefighters! Stay out of our way please, And we will stay out of yours!!
Kevin Casey Kevin Casey Saturday, June 07, 2014 5:30:58 PM This is great till they have a fire where folks who COULD have gotten out die then the massive lawsuits by traumatized people saying the cops did nothing and allowed their loved ones to die.
Kevin Casey Kevin Casey Saturday, June 07, 2014 5:45:10 PM Sometimes waiting costs lives. One day Cincinnati is going to have a fire that costs many lives all because the cops stood around & did nothing. when that happens you think the Families of those killed & those civilian onlookers who heard those people screaming as they burned are NOT going to be filing lawsuits? A small town in Missouri had this happen. The cops arrested the father for trying to rescue his kids& they watched the house burn to the ground. the kids died. The parents sued the town, the Sheriff's department & VFD AND WON... What needs to be done is first responders need training & equipment to enter a structure & start evacuations till the fire Department can arrive.
Kevin Casey Kevin Casey Saturday, June 07, 2014 5:46:55 PM Can your department handle a Multi million dollar hit by a grieving family? All because the cops stood around waiting for you to arrive? If you need your ego stroked go flip burgers.
Kevin Casey Kevin Casey Saturday, June 07, 2014 5:51:25 PM Ok you arrive to a burning Mobile home you have seconds to react as there are kids trapped in a bedroom. you telling me your going to tell the family I refused to save your kids because that's not my job? Think you can handle the lawsuit this family will file against you & your department for the trauma of watching their kid die because you REFUSED to act? There have been cases VFD REFUSED to respond to a call because it was a block over their response area. This has resulted in the deaths of the trapped victims. Your ok with this?
Kevin Casey Kevin Casey Saturday, June 07, 2014 6:04:36 PM I wonder how many lives were needlessly lost in O'Fallon because a cop had to stand around watching someone die before you got there. If your ego can't handle a cop doing a rescue I'd strongly urge you find another Job. Maybe you can dress up as superman & visit sick kids?
Tony Prince Tony Prince Saturday, June 07, 2014 6:27:49 PM Kevin Casey, 23 years in a major city and nobody has ever had to wait for us to get on the scene of a fire. It's about discipline, not egos. Police are about as prepared to enter a burning structure as firemen are prepared to enter a bank robbery. The only thing that the police can do, effectively, is to direct people to the nearest exit FROM THE OUTSIDE. The few times a police officer made entry, before we arrived, they have been overcome by smoke or cut off by the advancing fire; thus becoming victims and making our job that much harder and increasing the odds that other citizens, who were also trapped, might not survive. Nothing like stepping all over a police officer, who is sucking dirt off the floor trying to get some air, while we are advancing a charged hose line down a smoke filled hallway. If you think it's about egos, well, I got something you can stroke.
Larry Zipper Larry Zipper Saturday, June 07, 2014 7:10:16 PM Kevin Casey I won't argue it's tough to stand around when people are in danger. But it is also at least as bad if you do so and become a victim yourself. Not only for the person becoming the victim but the rescuers who now have additional victims. Knowing if it is the right call to go into a smoke and possibly flame filled building without Personal Protective Equipment isn't something you know until after the fact. Many, many police, and civilians have saved a lot of people without PPE. But probably at least as many, probably more, have died or had to be rescued too. These people also don't have the training to 'read' a fire and know what kind of chance they have of being successful without PPE. I believe it is appropriate to make a policy for police to not go into a building. I don't believe a civilian who tries it should necessarily be arrested. They should advise them against it but not arrest them. Where I waiver is if an officer chooses to violate the policy what should be the consequences. It seems dumb to fire someone who is that brave, in spite of the fact it may not be smart. It's like the situations in the military where you get a commendation right before you get busted in rank.

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