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Monday, June 26, 2017

Live Burn

Fire comes through the door
on the front of the house,
referred  to as the A-Side.
The radio crackled with the message, “The fire has been knocked down.” The crew inside radioed they were starting to ventilate. In a few more minutes they made their way down the stairs and were outside. The bedroom fire that had been set for training had been put out.

The Savage Fire Department invited me to observe a live burn training at an old house that was scheduled for demolition. The amount of planning, preparation, and attention to safety was exemplary as Deputy Fire Chief John Babin delivered his briefing. He made sure to include that if a Mayday message was heard on the radio it would be a real emergency and not part of the training that night. Some areas of the house were not going to be used and were designated “out of bounds.” The training followed the National Fire Protection Agency standard #1403 for live burn training.

Multiple water sources were in place.

The preparation for the water supply included a main engine, a backup engine, a collapsible tank filled with water, and two tanker trucks standing by. Backup hose lines were in place, and each crew member entering the building was tracked and observed. Room temperatures were monitored for safety and to allow the instructors to stay ahead of a problem. This building was old, and they did not want any surprises.

Each crew that rotated in and out was quiet as they approached the building. They got down on their knees as they connected to their air supplies and double-checked their protective equipment. It was all business. It reminded me of the “Sterile Cockpit” concept used in aviation, where only mission-critical conversation takes place during takeoffs and landings.

A crew prepares to enter the house.
The training was carefully controlled with new firefighters getting a less intense fire before advancing to a higher level. Most crews would get to a window after they had knocked down the fire and would radio they were about to begin hydraulic ventilation. They sprayed a fog stream of water through the window, and the resulting “Venturi effect” created suction in the room and pulled smoke and heat out. Once the firefighters were back outside, the critique that followed included both the firefighters’ actions and the resulting behavior of the fire.

A crew member monitors the water supplies and hose lines.
As the last crew came out of the house the building was inspected for signs of residual heat or fire, as the house would be used again for training the following day. As the crews started their clean-up, the homeowners who had been watching the training brought them a tray of cheese and crackers. It was a nice touch.

A big thank you to Savage Fire Chief Joel McColl and Deputy Chief John Babin for allowing me to watch.

Up next: Q&A on the LMCIT Police Liability Survey

Stay safe,

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Common Themes at the Minnesota Safety and Health Conference

I was struck by the common themes I heard during the presentations at the recent 2017 Minnesota Safety and Health Conference. This annual conference is presented by the Minnesota Safety Council and is attended by risk management and safety professionals from both the private and public sector. The attendees reflect a good mix of experience and training. This year’s conference slogan was “Drive Safe, Work Safe, and Live Safe.”

Like many large conferences, there were large general sessions and then a mix of concurrent sessions which tend to have a smaller focus and feature both successful safety programs and upcoming challenges. The session titles of “Fit for Duty,” “Human Error—What a Lame Excuse,” “Journey to Zero,” “Modernization of Security Operations and Awareness,” and “I Own Safety” were reflective of session messages. And I noted some frequent themes in these sessions.

Whether it was called employee-driven, employee involvement, or ownership, the theme of employee engagement was common. Successful safety programs involve front-line staff from the beginning. They are everyone’s program. These organizations continually look to their employees to identify safety problems, predict upcoming issues, and brainstorm safety solutions.

Benefits Beyond Injury Reduction 
Presenters would point to a chart with a declining line and explain how injuries have been reduced and the cost of injuries has declined. Many spoke about the additional positive consequences resulting from their safety programs, including increases in: productivity, worker satisfaction, and job retention—and even the cleanliness of their operations. In one session, they noted the company’s sales team features their safety record when working with potential clients. They stress the company’s commitment to safety, and the resulting lack of injuries translates to quality, on-time performance, and increased customer satisfaction

Many presentations mentioned the use of metrics to monitor their injuries and to spot trends. There was cautionary advice about carefully examining the metrics, as they may not always be measuring what the risk manager thinks is being measured. And there was quite a bit of discussion about vehicle telemetric programs where fleet vehicles with sensors document the vehicles’ speed, sudden stops, swerves, and seat belt use. The discussions and questions indicated this may be commonplace soon.

A shout out to Owatonna and Rochester Public Utilities and the City of Red Wing on receiving Governor’s Safety Achievement Awards. The awards are well deserved! Congratulations.

Up next: Observations from a Live Burn

Stay safe,

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Best Practices for Emergency Apparatuses in Parades—A Guest Blog by LMCIT Loss Control Field Consultant Troy Walsh

Guest Blogger/LMCIT Loss Control
Field Consultant Troy Walsh
Everyone loves fire trucks when they are in a parade. The public sees the bright shiny fire truck, polished chrome, flashing lights and sirens, and of course the candy. But what happens when someone complains about the siren being too loud, or if there is an emergency during the parade? How about the public, or even firefighters riding in or on the apparatus? These all have liability, and LMCIT has paid claims for parade-related issues. To avoid injury or liability claims, there are some best practices to follow.

Transporting to and from the parade:

  • The Fire Apparatus Operator (FAO) should be trained and approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) to drive and operate the apparatus. 
  • Pre-trip inspections should be completed to ensure the apparatus is road worthy, and all standard lights, emergency lights, warning devices, and safety features are working. 
  • Make sure that apparatuses in the parade are considered “out-of-service.” Backup equipment not in the parade should have the responsibility to respond to emergencies. Parade apparatuses should stay “out-of-service” until they are clear of the parade route.
  • Fire apparatus that is going to or coming from a parade should follow all Minnesota state laws, including the use of seatbelts by everyone on board. 
  • Riding on the tailboard, sideboard, ladders, or in any unseated or unbelted position should be prohibited. 
  • Be sure not to exceed the approved occupancy for seat belts.

Participating in the parade:
  • Prior to the beginning of the parade, hold a “safety briefing” for all participants involved to be sure they understand the safety rules and parade route. 
  • The FAO shall adhere to all parade rules and guidelines.
  • Be sure to verify the rules for using emergency sirens and air horns with the parade organizers. Their use should be limited, if used at all. These types of loud sounds can startle or scare horses, dogs, and parade watchers, and the decibel level could damage hearing. 
  • The use of any emergency lights is allowed but should be used with caution. 
  • Personnel riding in the apparatus should be seated and should use the seat belts. There should be no riding on tailboard, sideboards, ladders, or in any unseated position.
  • No candy or objects should be thrown from the apparatus by occupants.
  • Distribution of candy or objects should be done by participants walking alongside of the apparatus. The walkers should maintain a line of sight with the FAO.
  • Have designated walkers beside each tire to ensure that bystanders and children do not move towards or under the apparatus, as children will sometimes leave the curb and quickly go into the street if they see a piece of candy.
Antique fire trucks may require extra precautions.

Other guidelines:
  • Operation of any apparatus while under the influence of alcohol or any illicit drugs is strictly prohibited and against Minnesota State Law.
  • If the fire apparatus must drive in reverse or an operation that limits visibility, the FAO must ensure that there is a “spotter” located in the blind-spots of the apparatus. (Parade staging areas tend to be crowded.)
  • Fire apparatus is not limited to engines, rescues, ladders, or tankers. It also includes command vehicles, utility vehicles, ATV’s, and specialty units. If seat belts are available, they are required to be worn by Minnesota State Law. 
  • Antique fire apparatuses typically do not have seatbelts installed so are not required to be worn, but the other safety guidelines still apply.
  • Anytime the apparatus is parked, “wheel chocks” should be used to keep the apparatus from accidentally rolling. 

What if there an accident with injuries? 
  • Immediately stop, and call 911.
  • Attend to anyone injured.
  • Notify the parade organizers as soon as possible. 

What if there is a property damage accident? 
  • Notify the parade organizer/committee as soon as possible.
  • If the damage is to another vehicle or property, be sure to notify law enforcement. 
  • Follow department policy on vehicle accidents. 

Parades are a great time to showcase your fire department and equipment. Make the most of this opportunity by ensuring you have a safe event.

Up next: Common Themes—A Snapshot of the Minnesota Safety Council Safety and Health Conference

Stay safe,