By Lucian Mirra
Complacency in Fire and EMS
If you were to ask at my station, or any fire or EMS station around the country for that matter, how many people cut corners, took the easy way out or were generally complacent with their jobs, if 80% of people didnâ€™t raise their hands, you could suspect that many were lying.
Now Iâ€™m not trying to call all Firefighters, EMTs and Paramedics lazy by any means. Perhaps the word â€œlazyâ€ is the improper term. Merriam-Websterâ€™s dictionary defines â€œcomplacencyâ€ as â€œself-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficienciesâ€. That is to say we are satisfied with the way we do our jobs despite the inherent risks and dangers associated with it. As of August 1st, according to firefighterclosecalls.com, 59 of our brothers and sisters have been killed in the line of duty. The reality of our job as firefighters and EMS workers is that we must daily put our lives in unsafe conditions. While safety and techniques have cut down on firefighter deaths since my grandfatherâ€™s generation, the reality of the job is that what we do is simply dangerous.
So what does danger have to do with complacency? The answer is plenty. While we may not mean to be, we cut corners in our job on a daily basis. Why? Because 99% of the time, if we take a shortcut in doing something, it will turn out ok. The reality of our job is that while it is inherently dangerous, it is also inherently monotonous. How many Automatic Fire Alarm Activations does your engine company run in week? How many of those actually turn out to be anything more than an accidental/malicious activation or a mechanical malfunction. While despite the statistics being heavily in favor of an AFA being a false call, most departments still require firefighters to dress out in full turnout and SCBA. Even so, how many times are you actually thinking about what you would do if it turned out to be a real fire when responding to these? While we would all like to think that we take every option into consideration while en route to such a call, the majority of us are also thinking, at least in the back of our minds, that we will either get placed in service prior to arrival or arrive on scene to find a malfunction or accidental activation. Maybe every once in awhile someone has burned something or there has been a minor electrical short causing an appropriate activation of a smoke detector, but what percentage of these calls actually turn out to be a working structure fire? Even our respective departments play this number game. My system responds one engine and either a ladder, tanker or engine, depending on the location of the fire and the location of the second due piece to fire alarms. Often times, the second due company is sent non-emergency. Imagine the surprise of the company officer who arrives on scene with only a single engine to what was supposed to be a simple paperwork response to find fire through the roof. The same situation has happened in my department, and quite recently.
How about on the EMS side? How many â€œsick personâ€ calls does your medic run per shift? Have you ever been dispatched for â€œchest painsâ€ on a 24-year-old patient? If youâ€™re like me you automatically raise the B.S. flag on this. While its never happened to me personally, Iâ€™ve heard other medics tell stories of the 24 year old who is having a STEMI. Does it happen often? No, not at all. Does it happen at all? Of course it does. Just like in the fire service, the dispatcher can only go on a limited amount of information. How do we know that the laceration call that weâ€™re responding to is actually a domestic violence situation, but because the dispatcher wasnâ€™t told what the laceration was from, no police was dispatched. Imagine how surprised youâ€™d be when you walk up to the residence and see a gun in your face. Now to modify the old adage, youâ€™ve brought and oxygen bottle (a great self defense weapon) and a pair of trauma sheers to a gun fight. Iâ€™ll be leaving now, thanks.
No matter if its fire or EMS, we tend to get complacent with our jobs. And why wouldnâ€™t we? If youâ€™ve already worked a structure fire and run 8 other assorted calls and youâ€™re near the end of your 24 hour shift on an engine, how much are you really thinking that the â€œFire Alarm Activationâ€ call youâ€™re responding to is going to turn out to be a worker? If youâ€™ve run 10 EMS calls on a 12 shift on the medic, how much are you actually thinking that the â€œsick personâ€ call will turn out to be a working arrest, or the laceration will be a domestic dispute?
There is no solution to this problem. Complacency is human nature, especially when youâ€™ve been doing â€œthe jobâ€ long enough or youâ€™ve been awake for long enough. The best thing we can do is be thinking about every possibility when responding to every call (but pay attention to the road if youâ€™re driving or riding officer!). What is my plan of action if this AFA turns out to be a working fire? What am I going to do if this laceration turns violent? Am I prepared for all possibilities? What is my plan of action, what is my mindset? I realize that we will all still be complacent to some extent when weâ€™re working, whether volunteer or paid or both. But if we keep an open mind to every situation, we will be better off in the long run.
Comment using Facebook here or comment the old fashioned way below
Powered by Facebook Comments