Has the pendulum swung too far?

There has been quite a bit of talk about firefighter bail out techniques recently.  Many of you may have seen the video Firegeezer posted recently involving a firefighter rescue.  And if you haven’t seen it yet, VentEnterSearch has an excellent video on how to build an extremely versatile ladder bailout training prop (kudos to them for their ingenuity).

Several people on my department were eager to test out the VES training prop.  All in all, it seems like a pretty easy decision: fun training, cheap & reusable prop, safer firefighters.  My only hesitation with the prop is its deeper potential for firefighters to overestimate their ability retreat from a bad situation.  Before we build the prop, we must assess whether we are comfortable with training our firefighters on these tactics? By doing so, are we inadvertently giving our firefighters a false sense of security which may allow them to extend themselves too far into a fire?

I’ve been pondering these questions and more for the last several weeks without any clear answers.  It was refreshing then today to pick up the newest copy of FireRescue magazine and read Timothy Sendelbach’s thoughts on the topic.  He’s conveyed eloquently what I’ve tried unsuccessfully to pen these last few weeks.

I’ve tried to relate this dilemma to similar situations faced in other professions, the most applicable of which seems to be military pilots. Obviously, they must be trained on the use of their ejection seats before taking flight. If you think of ladder bailouts as an ejection seat, then it is totally appropriate to include this training in our firefighters’ repretouire.

Though the metaphor may seem appropriate, I don’t think it is complete.  We must also look at what pilots are taught regarding emergency situations and risk avoidance. How are they trained in situational awareness and risk management? What are their decision cues (or algorithm) that aids in their decision to eject?

Once we’ve gotten some of these answers (stay tuned as I continue research), we’ll be ready to ask the most important question of all – Are we providing our firefighters with a similar level of contextual training before giving them the tools to bailout?


About Josh

I am the Recruitment & Retention Coordinator for the Boone County Fire Protection District.
This entry was posted in Training Officer and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Has the pendulum swung too far?

  1. Patrick says:

    It’s interesting that you bring up the ejection seat analogy. In my own department, we have taken a page from the military in their ejection parameters. They are drilled on a series of decision points that indicate the need to eject; they meet one, they punch out. We have done the same thing for maydays, going so far as to issue laminated pocket cards with the decision points.

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