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Safety

Recent Active Shooter Incidents Prompt NFPA to Fast Track Standards for First Responders

nfpa shooter response

Recent shootings like the Florida school shooting earlier this month have no doubt sparked debate and controversy over effective response and prevention methods. During the last five years the United States has been inundated with at least 14 prominent, high-casualty producing active shooter incidents. This has forced police, fire, and EMS to change tactics to handle these unfortunate incidents. The locations where incidents occur have been shown to be a school, an office complex, a fast food restaurant, a warehouse, or as you are passing by a freeway overpass. It is clear that this type of situation requires all agencies to practice readiness and have a clear understanding of what actions are needed, who should take them, and when. Police organizations already have been training their personnel with Immediate Action-Rapid Deployment tactics. This training employs immediate deployment of law enforcement resources to ongoing, life-threatening situations where delayed deployment could otherwise result in death or injury to innocent persons. The introduction of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 3000, Standard for Preparedness and Response to Active Shooter and/or Hostile Events seeks to provide direction to fire personnel in the event a situation like this occurs in the future.  Let’s highlight some of the important points of the standard that might help you or your firefighters in the future.

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How Drones Are Hindering Firefighting Efforts  

drone interfere with firefighting

As we move deeper into the 21st century, one of the prevailing issues of our time is the need for common sense to keep up with burgeoning technology and how it can help or hinder our response to all sorts of emergencies. Recently, the serious issue of civilian drones has come to the forefront of emergency services as incidences of drones interfering with first responder operations are on the rise. Sometimes, this has devastating effects.

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Why Mudslides Occur After Large Wildfires Like the California Thomas Fire and How to Protect Yourself From Them

thomas fire

In January of 2018, the relief from hazardous weather and extreme conditions did not appear to be in sight for residents of the Golden State.  Devastating mudslides in California killed at least 20 people in early January in the coastal town of Montecito.  Downed trees and power lines as well as cascading boulders made the task of getting to those needing assistance difficult.  The excessive flooding and debris made air transport the only viable form of rescue.  Helicopters loaned by Ventura’s Air Squad 6 dedicated were used to pluck more than 50 people from rooftops from parts of Montecito and Santa Barbara.

As of mid-January, the relief and search effort numbered 3,000 workers from local, state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy and the American Red Cross.  Details regarding the victims’ circumstances before the mudslides emerged from rescuers.  As the saturated hillsides gave way, the torrent of mud, water, and other debris was said to have swept the casualties away while they slept.  The mudslides were triggered by a powerful storm that hit the region along with mountainous areas that were stripped of vegetation burned bare by the gigantic December 2017 Thomas fire.  Let’s take a look at how the wildfires that raged through the area late last year have made the mudslides more devastating.

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What is NFPA 1500? Understanding Fire Protection Health and Safety

nfpa 1500 health and safety for firefighters

 

What is the NFPA

Traditional firefighting tactics involved daredevil driving practices, brazen entry into fully engulfed structures, and a priority of mission accomplishment over that of firefighter safety. In hindsight, we can see that these approaches display a misunderstanding of risk management and, more times than not, result in firefighter casualties that could have been prevented given the appropriate direction.  

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a global self-funded nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property, and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.

NFPA delivers information and knowledge through codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach, and advocacy; and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering our mission.

NFPA 1500 Fire Health and Safety Standards

Organizations and individuals have recognized the need for a standard set of guidelines to govern fire service. Advocates of a safe and professional approach to firefighting decided to come together and render some assistance.  In 1977, a collaborative work by The Fire Protection Publications (FPP) and the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) released a publication such as the Essentials of Fire Fighting. This publication has served as a manual used by fire service training agencies and departments worldwide to train personnel to become firefighters.

However, as time went on, leaders started noticing that while the Essentials manual outlined a vast array of general procedures and safety guidelines, there was a gap in addressing a standard for specific injuries and diseases experienced by firefighters.

Specifications of NFPA 1500 Standards

NFPA 1500 was established to specify minimum fire service criteria in various areas, including:

  • emergency operations
  • facility safety
  • apparatus safety
  • critical incident stress management
  • medical/physical requirements
  • member fitness/wellness
  • use of PPE

The NFPA 1500 acts as a gold standard for OSHA concerns since a technical committee wrote the publication of individuals representing various interests from a wide spectrum of the fire service.  Learning from previous publications that faced limited adoption and adherence in the firehouse, the architects Brunacini and Teele were careful to involve committee members of all ranks in the fire service, including fire chiefs, company officers, firefighters, volunteer representatives, as well as representatives from various fire service equipment manufacturers.

At the publication’s core, it provides firefighting personnel with a standard set of guidelines to establish, implement, and manage a comprehensive safety and health program.  The shortlist of basic requirements that the publication mandates firefighting organizations establish are:

  • implementation of occupation safety and health policy,
  • appointment of a fire department safety officer,
  • implementation of a training program to allow all fire department members to perform their assigned duties safely,
  • proper maintenance of all vehicles and protective clothing/equipment (PPE)
  • application of an incident management system for emergency operations, and
  • issuance of a member assistance program.  

A distinction between the NFPA 1500 and previous safety manuals establishes a designated fire department health and safety officer. The publication guideline is remarkably different from previous manuals in that it sets up an accountable person to administer and adhere to the standard.  The safety officer’s tasks include:

  • ensuring that OSHA standards are met,
  • accident reporting,
  • reviewing and approving safety features of apparatus and PPE, and
  • implementation and conducting safety training for the department.  

California Pushes for New and Improved Utility Safety Rules Following Major Wildfires

california utility safety

In the aftermath of Northern California’s most recent wildfires, which torched roughly 250,000 acres of wine country and other locations, Californian utility company PG&E has come under intense scrutiny. Concerns have arisen about the company’s possible negligence, namely downed power lines and sloppy upkeep of foliage near their equipment in some areas, may have caused or contributed to the blaze and exacerbated the disaster.  

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Studies Show PTSD and Suicides are Increasing Among Firefighters

Each year, over 800,000 individuals die by suicide worldwide. 40,000 of those individuals are citizens of the United States. Among the figures compiled by the World Health Organization a subset of individuals within the group of people taking their own life is emerging: first responders.  

Over the past decade, there’s been an acknowledgement within America’s first responders community that suicide and attempted suicide has become more prevalent.  As the numbers of those at-risk individuals continue to grow, so too does the concern to quickly understand why this phenomenon is occurring.  This alarming trend of suicides among first responders has been has been attributed to several causes, mainly post-traumatic stress disorder.

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