The IAFC and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) have announced the theme for the June 19-25 Safety, Health and Survival Week: Surviving the Fire Ground – Fire Fighter, Fire Officer & Command Preparedness.
Safety, Health and Survival Week (Safety Week) is a collaborative program sponsored by the IAFC and the IAFF, coordinated by the IAFC's Safety, Health and Survival Section and the IAFF's Division of Occupational Health, Safety and Medicine, in partnership with more than 20 national fire and emergency service organizations.
Fire departments are encouraged to suspend all nonemergency activity during Safety Week and instead focus entirely on survival training and education until all shifts and personnel have taken part. An entire week is provided to ensure each shift and duty crew can spend one day focusing on these critical issues.
Mayday: Not If—When
With so many changes—budget cuts, staffing reductions, reduced training and so on—in so many fire departments, it's critical for fire fighters to focus on their own survival on the fire ground. There's no other call more challenging to fire ground operations than a mayday call—the unthinkable moment when a fire fighter's personal safety is in imminent danger.
Fire fighter fatality data compiled by the U.S. Fire Administration have shown that fire fighters "becoming trapped and disoriented represent the largest portion of structural fire ground fatalities." The incidents in which fire fighters have lost their lives or lived to tell about it, have a consistent theme—inadequate situational awareness put them at risk.
Fire fighters don't plan to be lost, disoriented, injured or trapped during a structure fire or emergency incident. But fires are unpredictable and volatile, and they won't always go according to plan. What a fire fighter knows about a fire before entering a blazing building may radically change within minutes once inside the structure. Smoke, low visibility, lack of oxygen, structural instability and an unpredictable fire ground can cause even the most seasoned fire fighter to be overwhelmed in an instant.
The IAFF Fire Ground Survival Program (FGS) is the most comprehensive survival-skills and mayday-prevention program currently available and is open to all members of the fire service. Incorporating federal regulations, proven incident-management best practices and survival techniques from leaders in the field, and real case studies from experienced fire fighters, FGS aims to educate all fire fighters to be prepared if the unfortunate happens.
The program will provide participating fire departments with the skills they need to improve situational awareness and prevent a mayday. Topics covered include:
- Preventing the Mayday: situational awareness, planning, size up, air management, fitness for survival, defensive operations.
- Being Ready for the Mayday: personal safety equipment, communications, accountability systems.
- Self-Survival Procedures: avoiding panic, mnemonic learning aid "GRAB LIVES"— actions a fire fighter must take to improve survivability, emergency breathing.
- Self-Survival Skills: SCBA familiarization, emergency procedures, disentanglement, upper floor escape techniques.
- Fire Fighter Expectations of Command: command-level mayday training, pre-mayday, mayday and rescue, post-rescue, expanding the incident-command system, communications.
This year's Safety Week will focus on delivering the online FGS awareness training course to all fire departments. Other planning tools and resources will be available on the Safety Week website.
Keep watching the website and the IAFC's Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages for continuing updates to this year's program and planning resources. Remember to visit the SHS Section's website for more information on health and safety issues and the IAFF's Health, Safety and Medicine's website for more information on health, wellness and safety programs. You may also contact the IAFF by email at email@example.com for additional resources.