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Flashpoint blog Nov. 19, 2008

A colleague brought this to my attention this morning. He was heading into the ‘reading room’ – you know what I mean, the room where you sit comfortably and read for a few minutes in peace once or twice a day – and found a recent issue of another fire magazine. In this magazine was an article on the importance of wearing breathing apparatus during overhaul. He did a double take, looked at the cover of the magazine expecting to see a date from the ’80s or ’90s but no, it was a 2008 publication.

November 19, 2008
By Peter Sells

Topics

Why
are we still talking about respiratory protection during overhaul? I was taught
as a recruit in the ’80s that the levels of carbon monoxide and other toxic
gases present during overhaul were well more than hazardous enough to demand
the use of SCBA. The nature of firefighting hasn’t changed in such a way as to
make the overhaul environment safer over the last 23 years, and we have been
teaching this constantly since that time. So why is it enough of a current
concern as to merit coverage in an industry journal?

Because
too often we slip into the habit of dealing with issues as they come to a head
and then moving on to the next. This habit does not allow us to distinguish
between one-time problems that can be fixed and forgotten; like an equipment
upgrade or safety notice; and operational practices which are dysfunctional or
ineffective and require permanent change. The use of SCBA during overhaul is an
example of the latter. We talked about it and trained on it, but it seems we
never made the cultural commitment to changing our standard practices. I’m not
talking about what’s on paper in our SOGs, I’m talking about actual behaviour
on the fire ground.

Respiratory
hazards during overhaul. Wearing seatbelts on apparatus. Strict adherence to
fire ground accountability. Doing up all the straps on SCBA. Keeping
PPE clean and in good
repair. Stopping at red lights before proceeding through.  Safely mounting and dismounting apparatus
with a 3-point stance.

The
beat goes on.

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