Overseas, rescue teams such as the Brigade des sapeurs-pompiers de Paris (BSPP) and Tokyo Fire Brigade, sacrifice a large degree of safety for speed; at least according to a North American (even Western European and Australian) perspective. So I ask, do they have it correct and we have it wrong? Are we too risk adverse in North America? Should we be dumping a line or an anchor? Is our gear “too safe”?
In the fire service we are taught we will risk very little for little gain and we will risk more for greater gain. Has this perspective caused the fire service to become too risk averse in the past 20 years? “Hit it from the yard” was not even in the fire service jargon 10 years ago. Now it is a tactic. In reality, the fire service is not the Military. The fire service is made up of dedicated, brave, reliable and well trained public employees. Is it fair to ask them too risk it all? In the military I signed that blank cheque that said payable to Canada with up to and including my life. The fire service never asked me for that cheque. That makes this a personal decision. Does the motto “So others may live” take a back seat to litigation, insurance payments and OHS regulations?
I have a unique view on the support required to maintain a properly equipped and trained technical rescue team. I have spent 15 years as an instructor on a fire departments rescue team as well as co-own a private rescue company. I understand many of the financial, technical and personnel challenges that exist.
When a department decides to stand up a technical rescue team it needs to be a decision that includes the firefighters on the floor. They are the ones who will make or break the team. Just deciding to “try and do rescue” will inevitably lead to disaster. The staff that will make up the team have to be committed to put the time in it takes to create a high performance team. While special operations teams in the military still have a hierarchy, each member does have more autonomy, responsibility and the ability to influence the outcome of the task. If fire departments want truly special operation capable teams, then the members of that team require the same latitude.
Last week Mark introduced us to some of the issues involved in maintaining supposed “Special Ops” teams in the fire service. Today he continues the discussion with part 2 of this discussion focused on the training required for a fire service tech rescue team to maintain competency.
Firefighters train daily. Medical, auto-extrication, fire attack, driving, public education, hazardous materials, rescue, building construction, breathing apparatus and the list continues. Sometimes it appears to be the “jack of all trades, master of none” scenario. However, every training topic in the fire service links with another. Should training for technical rescue not be simple to complete? There would appear to be an obvious answer to this statement, but after many years evaluating rescue teams, training is the number one reason for the success or failure of a team.
In the fire service specialty disciplines such as Technical Rescue and Hazardous Materials Teams are often lumped under the “Special Operations” category (in this article we will focus specifically on technical rescue).
For anyone that watches the news the term “Special Operations” immediately has them thinking about Military Special Forces (SF) or at the very least highly trained, specialized teams. The questions posed here are; is “Special Operations” the correct word for these teams in the fire service? Is the term too militarized? Are the teams trained well enough to be considered a “highly trained, specialized team”?