I ask myself this question on a daily basis when I strap my boots on and walk out to my truck. I do this because I have a personal commitment to never forgetting the sacrifices of those who have come before me and to do my best to not allow history to repeat itself for my organization or myself.
So just how can we apply this to training? The first thing we can do is to train like our lives, and the lives of the people we are sworn to protect, depend on it. Because they do! Train hard! Train realistically! Having a progressive, competency-based training program will help you out every day of the week. But what else can we do? How can we learn from those that have come before us?
Here is one way we have adopted “Never Forgetting” into our training program. This program came from being at a conference somewhere several years ago and discussing how we can learn from our past. I took an idea that someone else came up with, and tweaked it to better suit and implement in my organization.
Do you know what the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is? Do you know that NIOSH has a Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program (FFFIPP)? If not, visit their website at www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/ to learn more about what they offer.
The program has three objectives:
- Better identify and define the characteristics of line-of-duty deaths among firefighters.
- Develop recommendations for the prevention of deaths and injuries.
- Disseminate prevention strategies.
And according to their website, the FFFIPP has investigated approximately 40 percent of firefighter deaths since the program’s start in 1998. This provides an invaluable amount of research and information that can be passed on in the fire service through training. And the best part about it? It’s FREE!
Here in my organization, we use the FFFIPP reports as a regularly scheduled monthly training opportunity titled “Line of Duty Death/Close Call Report.” At the beginning of each calendar year, the Training Division publishes a list of 12 FFFIPP reports, one for each month, that are assigned out to a member of each respective shift by their battalion chief. During the last full week of the month, that member delivers a report to their shift on the assigned FFFIPP report.
The purpose of using the FFFIPP reporting system in our organization has two main objectives:
- To learn about and apply lessons learned from LODD/Close Calls to our organization, and
- Expose our firefighters to the wealth of information the FFFIPP and other resources can provide
Here is the layout of the LODD/Close Call Report program we use: (borrow it!!)
The purpose of the (insert your department name here) Line of Duty Death/Close Call Report is to visit, on a regular basis, line of duty deaths and close calls. By doing so, we can research, study, evaluate and discuss those unfortunate situations that our Brothers have experienced with the hopes of learning from the events leading up to the line of duty death or close call.
The Training Division will publish a monthly schedule for the line of duty death reports so that each member will have plenty of notice to prepare for their presentation. Each month, one firefighter will deliver a LODD report on the last Monday, Wednesday and Friday (full week) of the training calendar. The training officer will present the LODD report for the month of December.
Each firefighter will be expected to develop and deliver a 25-30 minute presentation on the LODD/ Close Call with the expectations that this will generate one to one and a half hours of discussion afterwards.
You may use any method of presentation for your report, however each report should include the following:
-- At least one LODD or fire service close call.
-- A 25-30 minute presentation delivered to your shift on the assigned day (lecture, power point, etc.)
-- An overview of the incident to include:
- Intro of case study
- Short bio of LODD/Close Call
- Description of event
- Cause/event leading to LODD / Close Call
- NIOSH Recommendations
- Lessons learned
- How can we apply this to us at (insert your dept. name here)?
- Have a discussion/question and answer time.
- Conclude with the battalion chief summary/comments.
I ask the senior members to get involved in this project and that the company officers make some final comments. This is too important and we need to learn from our experience.
Every effort will be made to allow time for these presentations as scheduled. You are doing the work; I will do whatever I can to see that other activities do not conflict with your schedule time. If we get busy and cannot conduct training because of emergency calls, we will schedule a make-up date ASAP.
Please be fair to the firefighters involved in these events. Try to place yourself in their positions and try to understand what happened with the intent of preventing the same chain-of-events that contributed to their particular situation. View this as a valuable learning opportunity, not as a judge and jury.
This program has proved to be a great asset to our training program and it can be to yours. From applying lessons learned from real life incidents, young firefighters exploring the wealth of information available to them in regards to training, networking between organizations and fellow firefighters and the opportunity for your firefighters to use their imagination and creativity in making a presentation — this program has value. A few examples of this creativity have been through the use of dioramas, powerpoint, simulations and role playing. Every month I look forward to something new.
I didn’t create NIOSH, the FFFIPP, nor was I the first person to utilize these programs for training in the fire service. But I would of failed to live up to the true meaning of “Never Forget,” and relegated it to a slogan on a bumper sticker if I didn’t take what I learned about those programs and share it with others.
I hope you do the same.