Thursday, February 21, 2013

Safety First

The first thing I learned about wildland firefighting is the number one rule.
I learned this as a camp crew member when there were crazy winds blowing over our supply unit tent in the fire camp.

Throughout the week, the Supply Unit Leader had reminded us Safety First, telling us to be careful and to always make sure we allowed for safety before anything else.

During the wind storm, a lot of the crew members were worried about holding down the tent and they latched onto the poles to keep the tent in place. No one in our crew was hurt that I know of, but afterwards the Supply Unit Leader held a sort of debriefing meant to chide us for worrying about the tent fly rather than our own safety.

He started out the debriefing with the question: "What is the first rule for a firefighter on the line?"
Everyone stood there with blank faces wondering why he asked that question. We weren't firefighters--how would we know?!

I remembered the phrase he'd said to us during the week so I spoke up and said, "Safety First."
He pulled out a twenty dollar bill and handed it to me as a reward for listening and remembering the most important rule. Everyone kind of hated me after that--because they thought I was kiss-ass and because they were jealous of the extra cash I managed to score. But I doubt anybody from that circle ever forgot the number one rule for firefighters on the line.

Firefighting is a dangerous job--but you already knew that. The way we protect ourselves on the job is by following the rule of safety first. Before we hike up a mountain, before we step into the black, and even before we get into the fire engine we have to make sure we've accounted for our safety. There are a number of ways to account for safety and I'll address each of them in future posts. For now, here's a general list:

-Preventative Maintenance (PM)
-Physical Training (PT)
-Personal Protective Equipement (PPE)
-After Action Review (AAR)
-6 Minutes for Safety

Overall, the important thing to remember before doing any job is to ask yourself and your co-workers, "Is this safe?" If it's not then re-evaluate, refuse the job, or do whatever needs to be done in order to make the job safe.

What do you think about wildfire safety?

Fire Away!

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