Quite a few firefighters are aggravated and downright disgusted about overzealous “Safety Sissies” out there softening the fire service.
I get it. When is enough, enough? It’s hard enough to do our job these days on the fireground with faster burning fuels and lightweight construction. How much more do they want to weigh us down with these overbearing safety restrictions? We’ve been doing the job for 10, 15, 20, 25 years and guess what, we’re still here!
We train regularly and learn from surviving each fire – so just leave us alone and let us do our $#@& jobs without coddling us. We know, “EVERYONE GOES HOME.”
So with that said, what is the risk to you and what is your personal acceptable level of risk?
I’m sure most of you have no intention of getting harmed or killed on the fireground, which I interpret as some level of risk aversion. What I and others are trying to figure out; and share with the fire service is how far are you willing to go to not be harmed or killed? “Let’s have this discussion so once and for all we can get the safety-nuts off our backs and let us do our job as god intended it to be done.”
So, is it wearing your PPE to prevent against thermal burns? Is it wearing SCBA to protect you from smoke inhalation? And do you wear these protective tools all the time or only in certain situations? Only wear your mask during interior suppression activities, but not on overhaul and roof ops?
How do you come to making the decisions of what is, and isn’t, acceptable risk?
1. Based on your opinion
2. Based on your experience?
3. Because one of the older salty guys told you so?
4. Because that’s the way we train?
5. None of the above.
Do the NIST, UL and similar studies impact your determination of acceptable level of risk – or do you consider them a hindrance to the art of firefighting?
When you consider acceptable level of risk, do you consider long terms effects like cancer, respiratory illnesses and heart disease? How about washing your hood, gear & helmet? Or are these acceptable levels of risk?
When, within your acceptable level of risk, you get injured or develop work related disease – does it matter how much it cost your organization for workmen’s compensation and/or paying to cover your time off? Is it an acceptable level of risk that the folks who pay for it are willing to take?
What information do you use to determine acceptable level of risk? What makes your information valid? Who has input on your level of risk: your fellow firefighters; your leadership; the community you serve; your family? Why, or why not do they deserve to have a say in your well being?
Regardless of your answers to any of the previously presented questions, the most important question is: what is the acceptable level of risk you are willing to take for your family, your firefighting family, your parents, your spouse, your children? What is the acceptable level of risk you are willing to take for them?
Before you answer that, do you really understand the impact on them if they have to deal with you as an invalid or, God forbid, if you die based on your definition of an “acceptable level of risk”? How far are you willing to go?
The core of this discussion is when you answer the question of what is acceptable risk for you, that you have taken into consideration the impact your decision making process has on all who are affected, and how. So, while you have the final say on what you will and will not do, you don’t have the final say on who and what will be impacted.
When you answer these questions, I ask you to take pause and careful consideration to how you reply. So for the sake of getting the these “Keyboard Commanders” with no sense of what it’s like on the fireground off our backs – tell us what is acceptable risk for you so we can end this harassment of real firefighters doing the job the right way.
I just hope you’re 100% sure of what “the right way” is.
Let the discussion begin.
Thanks Tiger Schmittendorf for the edit.