Salvage: Why saving their stuff is important

Salvage isn't the work recruiting posters are made of, but it is immensely important to those having one of the worst days of their lives

This final piece in our LOVERS truck operations review is salvage. Often people like to include overhaul and salvage, but quite frankly they have little to do with one another. In fact, connecting them is often a disservice to both that can lead to at best ineffective operations and at worst dangerous situations.

I pretty sure we all signed up to "protect lives and property" or some variation there of. We might have been drawn in with visions of being steely-eyed, salty firefighters, but you need only go to a few fires to realize that if we save the structure and all the contents are destroyed, the occupants are still devastated.

So, here's the deal; save their crap. It's really that simple.

We often will go that extra mile (which is great when done safely) to keep a fire from attacking structural components or to limit or stop the impact of the fire on the structure.

However, due to low or delayed staffing, we completely forget the contents of the building. These are contents that the owner greatly valued, but got destroyed nonetheless, and at heightened risk to our own people.

If you've read my stuff before, you will know that I'm a believer in OLTL/TSOS. Basically when balancing strategic priorities it's: Our Lives then Their Lives/Their Stuff then Our Stuff. 

I'm not willing to trade our lives for theirs, which shouldn't be confused with not being willing to take calculated risk and limiting that risk through good training, equipment and operationally honest SOPs.

However I'm willing to break ever piece of equipment that our taxpayers bought to protect their stuff both in the fire building and exposures. I have seen and been guilty of watching the fire when we could have been saving things. 

And although all fire departments have slugs, most members want to be proactive and would like to feel they had a positive impact on the community. 

Often salvage is how we achieve the goal of protecting and serving. And let's be clear, it's not just on the fireground. Damage to property can come from many different agents, because when in doubt, our residents call the fire department. 

So even if yours isn't the final agency responsible, you might be the first agency on scene. Stabilizing and therefore minimizing the damage means a lot to the property owner. 

Strategy of salvage
When was the last time your department practiced throwing a tarp, or are your tarps so mold covered they look like a high school science project? As chief officers, do you ensure that salvage training occurs?

Do people understand the impact on our safety of our most common salvage problem, water? Sometimes its the water we brought to the scene, water from broken pipes or a may simply be Mother Nature paying a visit.

As we all know water and electricity combined are not really that great for us. Do your people know when and how to use GFI breakers on equipment a why they matter? Do they know how to check for holes in the floor and to make sure they aren't standing under a humungous load of water on the floor above? 

If you don't make this part of your drills and procedures, then you've established that the value of salvage to your department is zero.

Although not the work we see on the recruitment posters, salvage is not only part of the gig, but when done properly, a great community service. Practice will make operations fast and efficient as well as create the standard for your department. 

Now go out there and save some stuff.

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