6 firefighting mistakes and what makes them so bad

Here are six mistakes firefighter commonly make and the faulty reasoning behind them


By Ben Waller
May 25, 2009
Updated June 13, 2014

We're in the All Hazards business. As discussed at All Hazards Contemplations, it never ceases to amaze me how many times I hear or see really bad ideas espoused as the way to do things. Examples abound.

Here are five very bad ideas and the correct rebuttal.

Refusing to wear seat belts in the rig "so we can go right to work at the scene."
If your rig only makes it halfway to the scene and you are ejected from the rig, how did the few seconds you "saved" on this call make it worth the end of your career and maybe your life? Those few seconds pale in comparison.

Putting a vent crew on the roof of a structure that is an obvious defensive fire and has already vented itself.
If the fire is through the roof, the fire has already been vertically ventilated. It's the fire's way of telling you to put the truckies to work somewhere else.

Putting engine crews in the collapse zone on a defensive fire.
If your hose stream can't reach the interior of a defensive fire from a safe location, either get a bigger stream in play or just protect exposures with the one you have.

You don't need to see how close you can get to the fire when it can drop a wall or an overhang on your head.

Forcing crews to wear structural firefighting PPE in situations where it actually creates hazards from heat stress, lack of mobility or negative buoyancy — such as remote wildland fires, USAR, and water rescues.
If you fight wildland fires, do USAR work, or do water rescue, dress for the sport you're playing. Wearing structural PPE to wildland fires can kill you from heat stress and will greatly reduce your mobility.

Mobility is a big deal when you're hiking 100 yards — or 5 miles — in a wildland firefight. Mobility is a big deal in confined spaces, trenches, or structural collapse.

Structural PPE doesn't help you float, so don't wear it to water rescues.

Advocating rescue procedures based on how easy they are to perform even if they create excessive risk to the patient.
We need to follow best practices because they're the best thing to do, not because they're the easiest thing to do. Rescue procedures need to be evaluated on what we might do to the patient as well as what we can do for the patient.

The best practice is to place a barrier board between rescue tools and the patients. That provides fragment and impact protection for the patients just in case something goes wrong.

Relying on luck
If you do something dangerous or stupid and get away with it once, you're lucky. If you get away with it twice, you're very lucky.

If you get away with it three times, it's now your SOG.

If you count on good luck as an SOG, sooner or later you'll be attending a LODD funeral for someone who was killed by, "We've always done it that way."

Be smart, and don't count on good luck as a SOG. Eventually, your good luck will run out.

I don't want "Unlucky" on my tombstone. How about you?

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