The Dangers Of Survivability Profiling

A very dangerous trend is happening in the fire service, profiling a structure to decide if we “think” there is someone alive inside. We all have our opinions on the topic but if you ask me its not our job to stand outside for several minutes and debate on whether or not we think someone could survive. Most will never be in the situation to “make a grab” but to me, that is why we need to talk and train about it more often than we do. We find ourselves picking our training based on the frequency of the call nature but we often get it backward. The calls we seldom make should make up more of our training so we can keep our skills sharp.

The phrase ” Fully Involved” is a very misused phrased these days and it is hurting those we swore to protect. Many pull up to a scene and see fire coming from 2-3 windows or more and jump the gun and call it fully involved which leads to defensive measures and a death wish to the ones inside. The importance of a 360 cannot be preached enough in training if you ask me. I am not one to hold back on punches most of the time but I’ll say this mildly, A majority of the Fire service has lost its backbone.

The culture of “safety” is ripping our service apart. There is a time and place for extreme safety measures and when lives are hanging on the line, in my opinion, is not that time. We show up on scene wearing protective equipment with several hundred hours of training for a reason. That reason is to get in there and pull the victims out, find the fire and extinguish. The great LT Andy Fredericks said if you put the fire out you won’t have to jump out the window. That saying covers civilians just as much as it covers Firefighters. If we get in and put the fire out or in the case of VES operations isolate the victim from the dangers and remove them completely from the dangerous atmosphere. This can not be accomplished standing outside. The scenario I started this paragraph with is a prime example. While doing the 360 on arrival you may come across windows or doors that show a viable space for victims, even if its a small area of the house we have to get in there and search. Muscle memory can fail us at times and we have to stop expecting to go straight to the front door with the easiest path to the victims. When we train we pull hose right through the front door and forget that will not always be an option. When training on search we very rarely look at the statistics of just where victims are normally located. We have to keep in mind how the time of day will influence the number and location of victims.

Now I hate working with numbers more than anyone but here are a few statistics that we all should keep in mind on fire calls and next time we are training.

  • 3:40 average time until flash-over
  • 70% of civilian deaths are in the bedroom
  • 9/10 front doors swing towards the bedrooms
  • From 12 am to 7 am we make 17% of our fire calls with 46% of deaths at those times, from 3-9pm we make 37% of our fire calls with only 17% of deaths.
  • Cooking equipment leads to 43% of fires
  • Heating equipment leads to 16%
  • Fatal victims outside area of origin are:
  • Kitchen 59%, bedroom 30%, living room 52%
  • Cause of death for children:
  • Burns+smoke= 46% for ages 5 and under, 36% for 5-9 and 29% for 10-14
  • Smoke only= 47% under 5 years old, 56% 5-9 and 58% 10-14
  • And every 60 seconds that goes by that a cardiac arrest victim is without CPR their survivability rate drops 10%

After looking at those numbers we should realize just how important it is to get in there and find these victims immediately. In my opinion, we should stop the debate on if a victim can survive in that space and take advantage of our gear and training, get in any place we can get and conduct a search. We took an oath to serve THEM, personally, I take that oath very seriously. Now of course none of us want to get hurt or make the ultimate sacrifice but we all have to be ready to take it if it comes our way, its what we signed up for. Let’s stop this obsession with safety, remember we have a dangerous job and start putting the citizen first again! Brothers in Battle LLC. have the order right in my book.

The Mission, Them, Me