Firefighters want to protect people from fire, and that’s a noble cause. But they also like fighting fires and the battle scars that come with it, proving to their peers that they’ve done their job well. That tough, aggressive culture can put firefighters’ safety at risk, and it’s one that needs to be changed, said Chris Connealy of the Texas State Fire Marshal’s office, during this morning’s “Changing the Fire Service Culture to Ensure Everyone Goes Home”.
Connealy says that we need to “confront the elephant in the room”, and start actively working to change the culture of patting firefighters on the back when they employ aggressive tactics to fight fires and put themselves at unnecessary risk.
According to Connealy, Standard Operating Guidelines (SOGs) must be followed, implemented and updated regularly. He also says that risk vs. gain needs to be considered when determining what tactics should be employed in fighting a fire and attempting to save lives. In addition, there should be an established incident command system in place that reinforces firefighter accountability.
How can these culture changes be implemented? Leadership and training. Establish standards for what is and isn’t acceptable – company officers and chiefs set the tone of the fire department. And train firefighters well – provide them with a robust, hands-on training program that’s conducted on a regular basis, at a total of 20 hours a month.