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Survivability Profiling

Tonites episode of Firefighter Net Cast is sure to be a great one! Captain Stephen Marsar from FDNY Engine 8 will be a guest of Chris Naum on his show “Taking it to the Streets”.

Captain Marsar had become world-famous for his “Survivability Profiling” technique based on his Executive Fire Officer (EFO) paper that he has submitted to the National Fire Academy (NFA) during his EFO candidate process. Never heard of it? Check out both of the published articles http://www.fireengineering.com/index/articles/display/5854199752/articles/fire-engineering/volume-163/Issue_7/Features/Survivability_Profiling_How_Long_Can_Victims_Survive_in_a_Fire.html and http://www.fireengineering.com/index/articles/display/1153940879/articles/fire-engineering/survival-zone/2009/12/survivability-profiling.html

I will wait here while you read them……You back? Good!

Now Captain Marsar brings about some pretty good points, especially his facts on how the human body reacts to fire and its by products. I can say that in my personal experiences with pulling people out of fires that smoke kills long before fire ever gets to them. All of the victims I have ever located or seen located in a fire all died from smoke, and had ZERO burns to their skin, they were also all in remote areas away from the fire room.

Another good points is about the amount of firefighters who died in the line of duty, where no citizens died. Now some might argue that this is because firefighters went in aggressively and rescued those victims, which is probably for the most part true. However any trip down YouTube lane or even in your own department will produce results of people getting hurt or killed for structures that were already gone, with no life hazard.

Now I have read both articles and have even seen the live version at FDIC 2010, and I have to say that I think this is something we are already doing, however for some reason the phrase “Survivability Profiling” has people up in arms. We have been doing “Risk vs Benefit” analysis in my department since before I was hired on, I was first exposed to it in an ICS class in the late 90’s. When I sat through Dave Dodson’s “Art of Reading Smoke” in 2006 he even spoke about “Rescue Profile” and gave several examples of “No Go” scenarios with the smoke and subsequent fire being so great that a rescue would not be warranted in that room or structure.

What I think people have to understand is that there are “No Go” scenarios and while somethings will be the same for everyone (amount of fire, or derelict building conditions) that keep us out, some things will be different. In my full-time department we have 3 man staffing on every suppression apparatus, and 2 man staffing on every ambulance, we have 20 stations, dedicated truck and squad companies etc. Our ability to make a rescue is better than my part-time gig where they have 4 people (2 per station) a shift, and that’s if one of the stations is not out on an EMS run or previous call. The City of Richmond FD that has 4 person staffing on the Quint companies, and 5-6 person staffing on the three Rescue companies is in an even better position to make a rescue. So each of these departments all within 30 mins of each other all have different times when we have to say “this is a No Go”.

Bottom line for me is that occupancy type means a lot. Single and Multi family dwellings, should be searched if conditions (building, and fire) allow it. commercial buildings such as warehouses big box stores and the like should be dealt with EXTREME caution. Keep your searches to the egress, and exit points and do not penetrate the building very far, especially in after hour situations, and abandoned/vacant buildings. If it is an occupied store (still in business) chances are no one is there after hours and if they are they are doing stock unload which would typically place them in egress and exit points (loading dock) and they are probably awake, so they can evacuate in an emergency. Also a little known fact is that all of the big box chains (Wal-Mart, Target etc.) budget for stores to be destroyed, no matter how much of it you save they are going to knock it down and build another one. Typically in these fires with occupants in them if they can evacuate they do, if they don’t then they are already gone, and initiating a large area search through rack storage, in hostile smoke conditions is going to be about as succesful as that needle in the haystack you are always hearing about.

That brings me to one final point, the “luck” factor. Face it no matter how well-trained you are luck still plays a HUGE role in the difference between succesful outcomes, and the less succesful ones. We train,read, and workout in order to increase our success factor but at the end of the day sometimes we get lucky. I was lucky that I did not get hit by that tractor-trailer the other day, it had very little to do with skill. Most firefighter who make succesful rescues are seconds away from success, or failure. Firefighter Peter Demontreux from FDNY who received the 2011 Ray Downey Courage and Valor award at FDIC this year made one of the bravest, and heroic rescues in the history of the FDNY. Because he was succesful he was rewarded, but lets say he tripped over a chair on the way back to that window and perished in that fire, the FDNY would probably be dealing with ridicule on there over aggressive tactics. Demontreux was literally on fire trying to make that rescue, and received several burns what if one of those burns became infected? What if the gear had failed? This is no way trying to down play this rescue or this mans courage, he deserves every accolade being bestowed upon him, but as good and as brave as he is, he was equally as lucky that day. Like Patty Brown said “You can do everything right on this job, and still get killed”, not to down play that phrase but basically that’s the difference between being lucky and unlucky.

So I hope you all tune in tonite and listen to the netcast, if you never have then you are missing out. Here is the link http://www.firefighternetcast.com/2011/04/survivability-profiling-live-on-taking-it-to-the-street/ The show starts at 9 and on the blog talk radio page there is a chat room, and you will have the ability to call in and ask questions to the host (the number will be on the show page). Again tune in tonight and form your own opinions, and ask questions to the man himself.

Be sure to follow us on twitter at www.twitter.com/averagejakeff

While you’re pondering all of this take a peek at the video below and think about the “rescue/survivability” profile in it. Compare your company operations to it and see what your plan of action would be. Is this Go or No Go for you? Leave some feedback about it in the comments section.

As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!

[vodpod id=Video.6653694&w=425&h=350&fv=%26rel%3D0%26border%3D0%26]

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