It is customary in many fire departments to conduct some sort of post-incident (fire) critique to discuss how things went. This ranges from a backstep talk in front of a fire building to a formal, organized meeting with an agenda, coffee, and donuts. As we round out another phenomenal year at FireRescue, I wanted to reflect on the great features and columns our authors and readers submitted in 2016. We always strive to bring you the very latest regarding the interests of firefighters-worldwide. We’ve expanded our international coverage and do our very best to discuss those interests that (should) matter to everyone. The fire service is a very eclectic occupation in terms of disciplines, challenges, and solutions, and I think we’re getting better at helping put it all into perspective, every year.
This year saw its share of wins, losses, and tragedies. We lost some fire buildings and acreage to fire; we saw dramatic rescues before our very eyes; we suffered line-of-duty deaths and significant injuries; and we discovered new threats to our health and safety, as well as ways to reduce these risks (some of them being very simple solutions). Regardless, we could say this about every year as a matter of fact; however, it’s when we take steps to reduce the incidence of fire through real community risk reduction and injury and death to firefighters by understanding why we see tragedy during normal operations that we start looking for other things to critique the following year. So, let’s start the upcoming year off right by closing out 2016 in this month’s issue with some tools to help us end it as a year in critique.
Although not everyone operates in the wildland urban interface (WUI), we must all take the lessons learned at those incidents into account at many other operations as they directly parallel lessons learned the hard way. Todd McNeal takes us into the after-action review (AAR) process on a fire season level in the WUI environment. Conducting this type of incident review on such a grand level is no easy task, but having the foundation to look at how incidents in the collective sense can be applied to every fire department’s operations, namely the parts that make up the sum of these operations and deployment strategies, is imperative for success.
We often look at the outcome of mistakes that were made as the meat of many AARs when we should be conducting some introspection as an organization as to why those mistakes were made in the first place. Some are common and some unexpected. Dr. Nicola Davies brings this topic to the surface by reviewing recent British research with the West Midland Fire Service in Birmingham, United Kingdom, to see how decision making on the fireground functions and examining a tool that was developed to assess and enhance decision making.
Biases also come into play when we consider the tools we need for our jobs and the quantum leaps in technology and equipment we have been fortunate to witness over the past 20 years. As we make the often-challenging equipment decisions, we rarely conduct an AAR on whether the tools and equipment we purchase fit our fire department’s operations or if our biases end up having us looking for opportunities to use our new purchases, rather than our operations becoming better served by them. Dave Donohue describes how this is a more common case than you may think and how to ensure that every purchase you make is based on what your fire department needs. How can we also help to find out what equipment we need or what common decisions may have to be made in our organizations? Easy. How about simply coming back to our standard operating guidelines (SOPs)?
Perhaps the best way to update decision making and equipment needs is to conduct a periodic review of our SOPs. Calen Maningas of the Rapid City (SD) Fire Department tells us about the need to keep these documents living and ever changing. Much like an AAR, a similar process should be conducted on a routine basis with SOPs that considers an appropriate timeframe and current best practices. Furthermore, Maningas describes the need to formally develop a distribution process that is acknowledged and trained on so that every member of the organization is held accountable for safe and efficient services while adding community value.
The entire staff at FireRescue wish you all a happy and safe end to 2016 and thank you all very much for your unbelievable support. As we close out the year, take a moment to reflect on what went right in 2016 and what may have gone wrong in our organizations. Develop and conduct an AAR process that will truly look inside your organizations and how your decisions have been and are made. Once we discover the process that works for us, we can always close out another great year with a Year in Critique.