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On-scene rehab for firefighters

It’s important to consider both the physical and mental well-being of personnel when deciding whether to begin a rehab operation

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for fire service personnel. Today I am going to talk about rehab for firefighters operating on an emergency scene.

Rehab is a place for firefighters to get a break from the action, replenish fluids, and maybe have a snack. It’s also where medical personnel can take vitals and evaluate firefighters for signs or symptoms requiring additional rest or treatment.

When most personnel think of rehab, they’re thinking about structure fires. This is reasonable since rehab of personnel is a critical component of the structure fire scene. But I want to challenge you to think about rehab during non-structure fire operations too.

The structure fire rehab model can be adapted to nearly any type of emergency scene. Fire officers should consider rehab for any extended operation. Now I’m not saying you need a full-blown rehab for a motor vehicle accident. But where the extrication is complicated and time consuming, you should make sure personnel have access to drinking water to hydrate and stay at the top of their game.

Other scenes that may benefit from some form of rehab include operations involving hazmat, heavy rescue, wildland firefighting, and search operations. Even a lengthy medical response involving a lot of physical exertion like CPR may call for rehab.

Also, consider that not all rehab is physical. Sometimes, personnel benefit from mental rehab too. This can be as simple as a little bit of quiet time to decompress. Or it might mean activating the critical incident stress management plan for the department. Either way, it is important to consider both the physical and mental well-being of personnel when deciding whether to begin a rehab operation.

The bottom line is that rehab shouldn’t be limited to structure fires. Officers need to consider the well-being of their personnel and the possible need for rehab on all scenes.

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.

Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.