Comment: May 2018

Measuring risk
April 19, 2018
Written by
As first responders, the fire service has its lion’s share of stories. Emergencies are unique life events, and some of the stories I’ve heard thus far are quite humourous post-fact and in absence of significant injury — such as ones involving people found in compromising positions after a car crash.
But others, like the three incidents Ed Brouwer shares in this edition’s Trainer’s Corner, resulted in significant loss of life and can’t invoke anything but sadness and anger.

I often marvel at the volume of stories embodied in each of us. Everybody has a unique story of life Everyone has a perspective and consciousness that only exists within them. Each is valued, and we all hope, that each is loved. When I read Brouwer’s article, my heart broke for the families of these valued lives lost. Each was irreplaceable in this world and left by force of nature rather than in nature’s due course. It is not just the life of the deceased whose future has been stolen, but those they were loved by whose lives and hearts will never be the same.

Brouwer has asked the tough question “why?” in the three cases he shares. Why is always a hard question — just sit with a three-year-old for a while and try to piloting through 50 different questions that all start with why. It’s pretty easy to start defaulting to “because.” As adults, “why” can become something we have to remind ourselves to ask, but it’s the question that might prevent a death down the line, making it worth every moment of reflection.

At the crux of Brouwer’s inquiry into the events that led to the LODDs of 24 firefighters, lies the concept of measured risk and the question he poses: Firefighters endanger themselves beyond when emergency warrants it (to save a life). Is there something, such an inherent need for action, that prompts heedless risk?

Risk measurement and assessment is often associated with mathematics, such as when weighing the odds of investing in one stock or another. In a life or death situation, or large-scale emergency, the mental and instinctual functions for measuring risk are beyond the scope of what many in the public full appreciate. Mos measure risks in increments throughout the day as they battle traffic or cross a slippery surface. For most, real emergencies are few and far between rather than a common occurrence. But I imagine you know the adrenaline fuelled emergency risk response intimately, because you have felt it on on a call many a time before. In considering the firefighters who lost their lives in the large incidents highlighted by Brouwer, one will never know exactly what decision-making process in the advent of that fight or flight response happened to lead to such tragedy. It is only reflecting upon the “why” in the aftermath that can hopefully lead to preventing such loss in the future.

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