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"One Day, That Building Will Kill Firefighters"
Be A.L.E.R.T., make sure that everyone sees what you see.


 

Exclusive FullyInvolvedFire.com Content
Written By: Capt. Ryan Christen


CLCIK HERE FOR AN EXAMPLE BUILDING PRESENTATION
"ABANDONED GROCERY STORE"

(Be Patient, File size approx. 4mb)

            Every day firefighters drive past buildings and lean over to their spouse, friends, or family and utter something like “if that building ever catches fire it is going to get somebody killed.” Chances are that you are right now thinking about a specific building that has led you to say or think just that. What have you done about it?

            I am not suggesting that you engage in a long political process to change fire codes, or attempt to have the occupancy closed. For most of us, that is beyond our control or above our pay grade. Because of this, that evil fire demon that I call complacency paralyzes us into a cycle of acceptance and inaction. This cycle can easily result in avoidable deaths of our brothers and sisters. The solution I propose is to be
A.L.E.R.T. 

A
sk questions
 Learn the building
 Educate your crew
Raise awareness
Train

Ask Questions:

            There are countless ways you can gather information about a building or complex. But the simplest and sometimes most productive is to simply ask questions. Talk to the senior members of your crew, station, or department. Find out if there has ever been an incident at that location. Ask these members if they have ever been inside and if there are any special hazards. The veterans of your department are a tremendous resource for information.
            You can also check your local property appraiser’s office. For my county we can go online and enter any address to get information on the building. This info includes year built, square footage, construction type, renovations, and even aerial photos. This search is public and the info is available to anyone. You may have something similar in your area.

            Asking questions is the first step. You have already made the statement that the building will kill fire fighters. One of those fire fighters could be you. Get off your but, and do something to prevent it. Be A.L.E.R.T              

Learn The Building:

Recently I noticed a building in my district that raised some concerns for me. The structure is attached to a ‘big box’ discount store. From the outside, most assume it is simply part of the discount store. When you walk inside of the discount store it becomes apparent that it is a separate occupancy, boarded up, and virtually abandoned. For most, this occupancy goes unnoticed because it appears to be part of the discount store. I contacted my inspections department and they were able to set up a walk-through for us. The experience was eye opening. As a result everyone in the department is aware of the hazards and knows that an interior attack may be too great of a risk. Find out if your inspections department can assist you.

You should also consult the buildings pre-fire plan. Find out when it was last updated. Pre-Fire Plans are not just for ISO ratings, or “Busy Work.” These plans are there for you. They exist to help you prepare. They can save your life without you even knowing it. Take them seriously. Use them as the powerful tool that they are.

Educate Your Crew:

So you have asked the questions and learned the building. Now what? Educate your crew! Hopefully your crew was able to perform a ‘walk-through’ and is already familiar with the building. If this is the case, your work is not done. Do a little research about fires that have occurred in similar structures and find out how they were attacked. Study the experiences of your peers. Share this info with your crew.

If a ‘walk-through’ was not possible then you need to share the info you have found. Tell them about the hazards you have observed and why you are concerned. Discuss attack options and incident tactics. Do everything in your power to ensure that your statement, “that building will kill firefighters,” is no longer true. All of the questions and learning is worthless if you don’t share it. Educate your crew!

Raise Awareness:

            You have asked the right questions. You have gathered all of the information. You and your crew are ready. One night you are at a structure fire and you hear dispatch toning out nearby units to a fire at the very occupancy you have been preparing for. The only problem is that you are committed at another fire. Do the nearby stations and/or adjacent agencies know what you know. Or, is it possible that “that building is going to kill firefighters.”
            Raise awareness! Don’t stop at educating your crew. Share your information with every agency, company, shift, station, and truck that may respond to a fire at that occupancy.  In the example I provided above I took a digital camera and put the photos into a PowerPoint presentation (Click here to view). This presentation illustrated every hazard we found in our ‘walk-through.’ I emailed this presentation to other area departments and stations. This presentation brought the ‘walk-through’ to them. Now even third and fourth alarm companies know what they are responding to.  Now your peers are aware of the hazards.

TRAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:

            We all love to talk. We love trading stories. We are great at discussing the “what ifs.” But we need to do a little more. Get up, get out, and TRAIN!!!!! If you don’t like training I will share my Chief’s favorite expression with you: “Suck It Up!”  The simple truth is that this job is all training and it could very well be the one thing that makes sure the next time you leave an incident you’re not covered in a flag! Once again, I repeat: Get up, get out, and TRAIN!!!!!

            Take the knowledge you have of that building and simulate the hazards at your drill tower. Try to set-up a drill at the facility. Do a dry run. If the occupancy is open and only available on a weekend, run  a drill there on a Saturday. Yeah, I said Saturday! “Suck It Up!” 

            “One day, if that building catches fire, it will kill firefighters.” Enough talking! Do something about it. Be A.L.E.R.T.

By implementing these ideas at your department you will hopefully encourage others to follow suit. You may check your email next month and find a PowerPoint from a neighboring jurisdiction for a structure that includes your company on the second alarm. You may find yourself saying, “I did not even know that was there!”
            The next time you spot a hazard building, or drive past one you have been eyeing for years, take the time to do something about it! Share the information. Share the concerns. Share the training. Share the Safety! Lets all go home.

            I would like to thank Captain Shannon Stone, and Firefighter DJ Stone of the FWBFD for kicking off this process in my area. I have received a couple of PowerPoints from these two, that were very educational. In fact it was the efforts they put into information sharing that motivated me to write this article and prepare the building presentation that I did. Thanks guys. Let’s spread the word. Lets all be A.L.E.R.T.

CLCIK HERE FOR AN EXAMPLE BUILDING PRESENTATION
"ABANDONED GROCERY STORE"

(Be Patient, File size approx. 4mb)

Copyright© 2008. FullyInvolvedFire.com. All rights reserved.

 


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