Fire and rescue services had phenomenal success in recent years in reducing the number of fires, injuries and deaths. The success has been achieved against a background of reducing resources including a 17% reduction in the number of firefighters at the sharp end. There is a perception that workforce itself has become safer as a result of fewer fires and the last operational death of a firefighter occurred over six years ago. While no one can argue that this is a good
thing, there is a concern that the focus on prevention of fires in the home has increased the risk faced by firefighters in their operational response.By placing an emphasis on prevention, some organisations (and consequentially
their staff) have let operational training become perceived as less important. The integrated personal development system, IPDS, while well-intentioned has generally been badly implemented and served to create a culture whereby
competence (or mediocrity), rather than excellence, in an operational environment was the benchmark. For those expecting deficiencies in training to be made up by work-based experience on the fire ground been confounded by
the reduction in the number of actual incidents, just over half of what they work in the 1990s.

Knowledge of the risk is always been a part of the firefighter’s role and this was achieved through inspections of premises using the 7[2] [d)] (or 1[1][d]) and fire safety inspection regime. Risk information has been picked up by the HMIFRS as being an area of weakness in many services and it is only now that services are starting to reintroduce comprehensive fire safety inspections by operational personnel which not only improve the regulatory regime for fire safety but improve local knowledge of risks. There have been a number of serious recent incidents which have highlighted the importance of knowledge of risk, competence of firefighters in application of operational tactics and techniques. They also show how an understanding of incident command systems is critical and that it is essential that all services train and practice their response for low incidence, high risk activities at all levels of command recognising that there is no such thing as a “bread and butter job” and that the harder you train, the easier the fight.

Tony Prosser
Director, Artemis Training and Development and Joint Author (with Mark Taylor) of: “Fire and Rescue Incident Command: A practical guide to incident ground management”
Available through Pavilion Publishing.

To find out more about our Incident Command courses, please visit here.

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