Fire fighting is a risky job yet even the developed nations do not have effective programs that ensure safety of the fire-fighters and public volunteers who come to assist in the event of an emergency. And as such there are many incidences of fire-fighter deaths resulting from poor coordination during the process of fire suppression and poor compliance to standards as well as defective equipment.
Effective response has been jeopardised and response to emergency fires is met with ineffective incident command and poor coordination of ground activities. These deficiencies have seen many deaths of victims as well as public responders and professional fire-fighters. It’s in regard to these concerns that this research was set. Its purpose was to establish the causes of injuries and deaths of the public and fire-fighters in case of an incidence and make recommendations that would effectively prevent some if not totally curb injuries and deaths of volunteers and fire-fighters.
The study used descriptive qualitative model to explore abilities, knowledge and skills of the public and fire-fighters in concerning fire fighting, the job descriptions, safety measures statute (requirements), and government involvement in ensuring safety of all the people involved. The research approach used was quite unique as it involved both qualitative and quantitative methods to amass data. There was literature search of articles that covered related issues and administration of questionnaires and group focused interviews. The results indicated that there was some laxity in response because of poor equipment, lack of skills and inadequate knowledge of doing the job.
Furthermore, the government does not have adequate standards of qualification to be involved in fire fighting and anybody can get involved even though there are colleges for training fire-fighters. Finally, in the conclusion, the paper recommends that the fire department should acknowledge more the risk of fire-fighters and also the volunteers who come to assist to set out fire in an effort to prevent loss of life and property. The fire-fighters should be provided with more effective incident training, integrated incident risk management, safety laws to protect them and also alternative strategies of communication and command training.
Fire fighting is the art of putting out destructive fires and its goal is to save lives and protect destruction of property and the surrounding environment by the fire. Fire fighting has over the years developed from simple extinguishing of fires to a more complex process that involve emergency medication hence it requires proper training and relevant education for one to become proficient. Fire-fighting is one of the most dangerous ventures and it involves taking a lot of risks with looming accidents waiting to happen (Peterson 2002, p. 3).
Besides the risk of the flaring flames and suffocating smoke, fire-fighters and volunteers risk being injured by the collapsing walls or unknown flying objects. Even worse, due to the intensity of energy that the job sometimes requires, the fire-fighters can suffer heart attacks because of exhaustion from the work (Grimwood 2008a, p. 35). Numerous measures have been put in place to try alleviating the risks involved so that fire-fighters can be able to do their job without stress. Failing to adhere to the set standards puts the fire-fighters and the public at more perilous risk (Peterson 2002, p. 3).
Research has shown that fire-fighting risks have increased because of the increase in development of property and congestion of residential places and even industrial areas. In the past 30 years, fire-fighter deaths in the UK are at the highest point. Fire-fighters are now faced with the greatest risk ever because of the immense exploitation of resources and development of properties. The situation could even get worse if no decisive action is taken.
Modernization is at its peak and accidental fires that are being witnessed are very aggressive because of the more flammable materials being used for construction (Peterson 2002, p. 4). According to Paul Grimwood, the increased depletion of resources, less number of staff, more workload, and reduced aerial ladder fleet call for measures to be taken for effective management of the department (Grimwood 2008a, p. 35). Nonetheless, this sad stop of quality safety service is causing drastic blow on the fire fighting efficiency.
According to statistics, before the year 2004, the United Kingdom fire service suffered disturbing operational casualties at a moderately steady rate of one death of a fire-fighter every year in a number of 100,000 cases of structural fires (LRD 2008, P. 21). However, that rate drastically increased after 2004 to a death rate of about 2.7 deaths of fire-fighter per 100,000 cases of structural fires every year.
This means that at least one fire-fighter out of 37,000 cases of structural fires gets to die and this rate is about triple what it used to be ten years ago (LRD 2008, P. 21). UK used to be very proud of the safety record it was holding compared to other developed countries like the United States, but today, it has almost the same number of deaths as the US. The death rates in the US are 3.0 deaths from fighting structural fires per 100,000 fires per year (Grimwood 2008b, para. 2).
A number of strategic and command failures are intimately associated with a triangle of complacency that is currently widespread among British Fire Service departments; there is inadequate fire-fighting experience, lack of fire-fighting skills and training and indiscipline (complacency) (Grimwood 2008a, p. 38).
As part of the battle towards achieving effective fire-fighter safety, the Fire Brigade Union is advocating to the labour department to investigate the cases of fire-fighter deaths in modern world. This also paper assessed the lessons that were learnt from the past accidents so that the institutions involved would take necessary steps to prevent future tragedies (Grimwood 2008a, p. 39). For many years, fire-fighters have had an unwritten accord with the community, an unspoken covenant to demonstrate courage all the time and hope that this would be appreciated and their safety protected.
Fire-fighters accept putting their lives and safety at risk and in return they expect that the employers, the government and the general public would appreciate and value their inimitable and courageous role to the community (Grimwood 2008b, para. 2). This report addresses justice and fairness and makes recommendations so that the health and safety of fire-fighters is not compromised and that injuries and deaths are significantly minimised or totally eliminated.
There have been a lot of unwarranted deaths of fire-fighters in the UK and US from structure fires due to negligence. Many of the deaths have been found to have occurred while the victims were inside the structures under fire. Basically, the UK fire-fighting strategy has been aggressive and this has necessitated the fire-fighters to go into the burning building to put out fire even when the structures are severely damaged. This aggressive approach meant that fire-fighters could be trapped in buildings and deaths were most likely to be a result of the smoke impairing vision then suffocating them or fire burning them while trapped (Ide 1998, p. 382).
With this strategy still being used, it’s proper that the breathing apparatus are maintained good condition with communication code in place so that the fire fighter can communicate with others or be located whenever trapped. Risk assessment should be done to determine the risk and take preventative measures against. Whereas deaths still happen, they are becoming prevalent and, and they may come from odd or unanticipated fire development rather than inadequacies of the fire-fighter’s application of their knowledge and skills (Ide 1998, p. 382). This means that initially, the UK’s approach was very effective in reducing incidences of fire-fighter deaths, but some problem emerged. This paper explored the possible improvements for safety of both the general public and the expert fire-fighters.
The previous histories of fire-fighters deaths and injuries have necessitated change in fire-fighting and emergency operations because more lives and property could be lost by operations that are meant to protect these things. This paper was hence set to investigate practises of emergency operations, investigate and develop the best processes of work and operation commands, create safe and efficient methods or doing the fire-fighting jobs.
From these studies, it’s evident that fire-fighter fatalities are consistently experienced as a result of organisational failure especially irrational risk assessment method. However these issues of management like correct policies processes and resources can be corrected easily both at national and local levels. Sometimes fire-fighters have committed to circumstances based on these inadequate risk evaluations thus causing these deaths and injuries. There are also considerable concerns of the equipment especially the issue of communication and adequate training (Fire Brigade Union 2005, p. 13). It’s on this premise that this study investigated effective response of fire-fighting as regarding health and safety of the public and fire-fighters.
Purpose of Study
The purpose of carrying out this investigation was to evaluate the causes of injuries or deaths to the volunteers and professional fire-fighters and develop progressive safety processes that will prepare the public and fighter for these grave emergency incidences. This assessment of the causes of injuries and deaths presented useful information that could be used for designing new processes and policies for safe operations.
The sharp increase in deaths is an indication that there has been a problem of implementation and perhaps that trend will continue to increase in future. This paper gives insights on the trends of the rising death tolls, causes of these death, the reasons for increasing death rates and the possible remedy. Fire-fighting is a very dangerous job and there needs to be a solution to the life threatening job, this paper helps to unveil why and how these deaths happen and what could be done about this continuing disaster.
In order for the research to categorically meet the objectives on which it was designed, the paper sought to investigate causes of injuries and deaths during fire-fighting, causes of these structural fires, effective fire-fighting strategies, safety measures currently in place for the public and for the fire-fighter and the potential improvements that can improve safety and service delivery of the fire-fighter. The researcher set out to answer the following broad questions;
- What are the currently available skills, knowledge and abilities being used in fire-fighting activities and how are their efficiencies and safety?
- How do the actual current knowledge, skills and abilities developed by the national fire department fire-fighting correspond to the expected expertise of fire profession in 21st century?
- On what basis, standards or regulations do fire-fighters develop their skills and knowledge of fire-fighting?
- What are the major causes of injuries and deaths of fire fighters? And what measures are available to prevent these? Does the government have standards and/or recommendation for safe fire-fighting practice and training?
- What are the death trends of fire fighters and public volunteers over the past three decades? What are the lessons learnt from these tragedies? And has anybody, the government or regulating organisation reacted to these?
- Is there a government policy addressing the health and safety of public and fire-fighters? How is it implemented? What is the compliance rate? What are consequences? What are its strengths, challenges, loopholes, failures and other shortcomings?
The previous research papers on similar topic reveal that most of the death cases were associated with risks that were anticipated before the deaths. This means that there is a problem of risk assessment and the consequent safety measures. From this argument, the first hypothesis was developed.
- H1. The deaths of public volunteers and fire-fighters in structural fires are consistent with inadequate risk assessment procedures
The first responders are very crucial for any fire incidences and play a big role in determining the safety of the whole fire fighting process. However, there are many cases when first responders come to the scene but get stranded about their next cause of action or some get aggressive and risky fire fighting that ends up increasing the fire and causing structures to collapse (Ide 1998, p. 383). It’s from such ‘aggravated’ fires that most deaths occur. This premise made the next hypothesis.
- H2. Fire-fighters and the general public are not adequately prepared for emergencies of structural fires because of lack of relevant knowledge and skills of fire-fighting
Objectives of Study
The study sought to answer questions regarding possible causes of deaths and injuries as well as address the best intervention strategies to improve safety. These objectives included
- To assess the current risk analysis procedures in fire-fighting department
- To investigate the preventative and protection measure targeting both the public and fire-fighters and their efficiency
- To assess the fire-fighter and public preparedness for incident fires
- To assess the whole emergency response coordination process including communication and incident support processes
Significance of Study
This research was founded on the fact that there needs to be a solution to the increased cases of deaths connected to the process of putting out of structural fires. Many fire brigades, as they are otherwise known and volunteering public get injured and some even die while trying to save lives or property. The main problems as it was noted have been that emergency incident practises, safety measures, communication systems and effective methods of fire-fighting are often breached (Ide 1998, p. 384).
This study exposes the causes of injuries and deaths of the emergency fire responders, describes the amount of risk involved, it also exposes accountability breaches, poor operating procedures and lack of effective communication systems. From these, the research has made recommendations that will be used by the government, public, private organisation and fire-fighters themselves to ensure safety (Ide 1998, p. 384).
The safety culture in fire-fighting must be built based on informed reasons and it should be more than just involvement if the administrative processes and the attitude of individuals towards safety. The whole community and government should aspire to put in place and implement the correct lessons from unrestrained occurrences and accidents.
The deaths from structure fires have been increasing gradually and now these deaths seem to be at the maximum compared to the past three decades. For instance, the period before 2004, the UK, death rates from structure fires were 1 fire-fighter per 100,000 fires. However, between 2004 and 2007, the rate was 2.7 fire-fighters per 100,000 structure fires every year (Grimwood 2008b, para. 2). This rate is increasing dramatically, meaning that fire fighting has become a very risky job more than ever today.
Fire-fighting is a profession just like policing, teaching or practicing law and it requires that the fire-fighters act professionally according to their training and that they adequately and sufficiently apply their knowledge, skills and abilities and show expertise is the use of their equipment (Fire Brigade Union 2005, p. 13). The expectations of this profession are so bold because, as people flee from fire, a fire-fighter is expected to rush towards it with a sole objective of saving, protecting and coordinating activities during that incidence. Most fire-fighters do this job with all the effort and courage that is needed to for that.
Fire fighting poses great risk to life more than many other daring professions and as result, it’s associated with a number of deaths as the fire-fighters serve the public. There are numerous examples that will be addressed in this study some of which were practically inescapable but some were uncalled for (Ide 1998, p. 386). However, when a very big number of fire-fighters die every year in line of duty or because of injuries and diseases they acquired while working, there is surely a big problem.
The main question is to ask whether the altruistic fire-fighting tactic has stretched to the extreme. Are people’s lives being risked too much with less or no gain at all? Basically it would be absurd to risk human life for the sake of being called heroes when actually there was no gain but loss of life (Ide 1998, p. 386). In order to ensure that the risk of human life will be profitable and that no deaths may occur, the United Kingdom has a set profile for fire-fighters. Most of the fire-fighters are professional employees who work fulltime and some few work part-time and can be retained when they do a good job (Ide 1998, p. 387). There are also volunteers but they form a very small percentage of the fire-fighter profile.
Categories Of Fire-fighter Deaths
In trying to understand the trends of fire-fighter deaths, it’s proper also to have a clear definition of what entails a ‘fire-fighter death’ as it is accepted universally and is used for studies (Labour Research Department 8).
In most cases, the widely recognized deaths are those that are referred to as ‘on-duty’ (or in-line-of-duty) death. This specifically means that the deaths occur when the fire-brigades are actually putting out fire and or as they are rescuing people and get trapped in burning structures. Still, this presents a problem because there is an incidence where a fire-fighter died while trying to save his brother at their home in East Sussex but he was off-duty on the fateful day though rightly killed by fire trying to put it out and save a life (LRD 2008, P. 8).
On duty deaths are now defined as the deaths of a fire-fighter in uniform and doing his/her daily shift. Fire-fighters who die in accidents in service vehicles are also included in this definition. The definition in fact entails those responding to an emergency or even returning from service performance. If fire-fighters suffer hearts attacks or suffocate when fighting fire or during training session, they are included in this definition (Fire Brigade Union 2005, p. 12).
There are other cases that are not recorded in the ‘on duty’ deaths but are identified as fire fighter deaths from work related causes. There is a record of fire-fighter committing suicide while on work shift. The cases of Derbyshire and Hampshire have been controversial in this regard (LRD 2008, P. 9). Numerous fire-fighters die from illnesses acquired while on job like cancers and lung disease because of exposure to carcinogens like asbestos and other radiations in the course of doing their job (Hodous 222). These types of deaths are not counted as fire-fighter deaths in the category of on duty fatalities.
Causes of Fire-fighter Fatalities
The fundamental causes of deaths are in most cases organizational and they include aspects that can be corrected by management especially change of policies and use of right resources (Ide 1998, p. 387).
Investigation reports show that the deaths of fire-fighters are directly related to the poor assessment of the underlying risk of the incidents (LRD 2008, P. 22). Fire-fighters have been released to work in situations that were inadequately assessed and that has greatly contributed to the injuries and fatalities (Hodous 222). There are also some concerns with the type of equipment used for fire fighting. Some ladders, vehicle and fire fighting tools have malfunctioned and resulted in accidents and deaths (Hodous 222).
Problem with communication is so serious and poor execution of commands or a hitch in communication could be fatal as it has been before (Hodous 222). Previous reports have evidence that there are several cases of failure to execute work effectively especially integrated risk evaluation and management because of poor skills (Ide 1998, p. 387). Such insufficiencies have woefully compromised the safety of fire-fighters. Several fire and rescue service policies and processes are derisory as compared to the standards that are set for protecting fire brigades (LRD 2008, P. 22).
The reports by OASD revealed that many fire-fighters are inadequately trained for emergency response based on a wide continuum of services that are necessary for the rescue mission (Fire Brigade Union 2005, p. 17) These aspects included incident command skill, inadequate training and no enough specialization in safety of critical elements like use of breathing equipment or experts in structure (as in building and construction). Some crucial training programs have been eliminated from the fire and rescue services (LRD 2008, P. 22).
The failures of leadership to offer proper direction despite modernization greatly impacted on the safety of fire brigades. The management has been linked to the increased risk and death of the fire-fighters (Ide 1998, p. 388). The aspects of risk analysis, incident command, emergency training and use of the equipment are very crucial for fire fighting and hence need thorough reassessment and training.
- Deaths from operational activities are those deaths that occur when fire-fighters are on their way to an incident responding to a call, or when returning from a fire fighting job (LRD 2008, P. 22). Fire-fighter vehicles sometimes involve in grisly accidents leading to deaths
- Fire deaths are the deaths that are a direct consequence of burning from the flares and asphyxiation. Some deaths under this category include those that happen following collapse of walls (Ide 1998, p. 388).
- Natural cause category includes deaths that occur by natural process like a heart attack during operational events or after the activities while still on duty (Ide 1998, p. 388).
UK’s Fire fighting Approach
United Kingdom utilizes ventilation and use of breathing equipment as the main activities of in managing incidences and fighting fires. All fire fighters that were breathing apparatus have tallies that contain certain information and it’s these tallies that are the basis of the regulatory system that monitors the way fire-fighter move in and out of the structures of fire (Young 2002, p. 47). The external controllers are hence able to watch the fire brigade safety and can quickly kick off a rescue operation to safe fire-fighters at risk when needed.
Besides controlling the entry and exist activities, there are specific operating systems that guide UK fire brigades in managing the way in which they would deal with intricate smoke-filled structures (Young 2002, p. 47). Certainly, no system is faultless and while accidents are comparatively uncommon, they still happen occasionally. The UK has adopted the “safe person” model and this is about development to good attitude towards fire-fighter’s safety. The old fashioned type of fire fighting which was aggressive, uninhibited and personal approach to fire-fighting is likely to cause more accidents according to fire and rescue studies.
The UK applies different model to fire-fighting safety and health from other countries and work departments. The normal approach in other places is to identify the safety hazards and then eliminate these hazards so that they job can be done safely (Young 2001, p. 43). For instance, if fire-fighters are working in areas that are filled with fumes, the fire-fighters should ventilate the place so that they can improve visibility and also let the fumes out as fresh air comes in (Thomson 2004, p. 123).
It’s been recognized that this type of approach is very hard to achieve because the fire-fighter places of work are not usually the same each time. The workplace for fire-fighters is hazardous in nature and it’s the role of the fire-fighters themselves to make their workplace safe for working so that they can save lives and salvage property without hurting themselves or succumbing to death in the process (Young 2002, p. 48). Basically, the smoking and the flaring fire cannot be removed easily and therefore it’s appropriate that safety of the fire-fighter is achieved through some special means (Thomson 2004, p. 126). The best approach hence includes selecting the most qualified individuals or crew. The qualifications include proper training skills, use of equipment and gear, good communication and incident control.
The Art of Extinguishment
The science of extinguishment is to ensure that fires are put out by removing the four components making up the fire. Water is the basic putting out method used for fires. The first is component is heat – the removal of heat from the fire is the cooling process and universally, water is used as it has the ability to absorb a lot of heat from the fire converting it to steam (Bernard 2007, p. 56). Without the heat, the fuel cannot effectively combine with oxygen to keep on burning.
The second process by which fires are extinguished is by smothering where the water is heated to boiling point by the heat in the fires and when this happens, water is converted to steam or vapour (Thomson 2004, p. 123). Vapour dilutes oxygen in the air and the reduced oxygen cannot support fires. Form can also achieve this effectively and it’s usually added to water during fire extinguishing process.
A third way to put out fires is the removal of fuel from the fires. This is basically achieved by curbing the flow of the fuel responsible for fires like gases of liquids. Otherwise the fire can be allowed to deplete the fuel by itself then it is put off by itself (Bernard 2007, p. 56). The fourth way to achieve extinguishment is by inhibiting the chemical changes that take place. This can be achieved by use of halogenated chemicals and other dry chemicals which inhibit the process of combustion and stop flaming.
Strategic ventilation is very important in the process of fire fighting and this may need to be carried out at any time in the strategic fire-fighting. In many occasions, fire fighters have overlooked the significance of ventilation. Generally this disregard is common among the fire fighting companies that do not have ladders. Smoke is a major hazard in the event of a fire (Bernard 2007, p. 59). It contains poisonous gases that cause suffocation and obstructs vision as well.
Ventilation is a strategy used to put out the fires and reduce smoke. Paul Grimwood was the man behind the introduction of tactical ventilation in management of fires to put a well organized and smart way to fight fires. Strategic ventilation has since then been adopted by the United Kingdom fire fighters (Bernard 2007, p. 66). Strategic ventilation is actually the process of venting or containing fires in one place so that the fire fighters have control over it and interior fire fighting operations can be done (Grimwood 2008a, p. 35).
Ventilation helps to create a safe working environment for fighting fire and greatly assists in fire extinguishment (Grimwood 2008a, p. 39). The first thing that ventilation does is to pull the fire away from areas that cannot be accessed or where people could be trapped. It can also reduce the spread of fire by directing it to open areas where fire fighters can effectively attack it and reduce smoke and other hazards like chocking, heat and wasting water (Thomson 2004, p. 129).
Tactical Ventilation: UK vs. US
The fire fighters in the UK have always carried out the Positive pressure ventilation techniques when faced with fires (Grimwood 2008a, p. 39). PPV is a ventilating strategy where a fan is used to divert fires to certain parts of the structure under fire so that the areas of increased pressure can pull smoke away and creating safe zone where fire fighters can then secure and rescue people (Bernard 2007, p. 69). The exit direction for the smoke is very essential in this process. The disadvantage of this is that in some cases, fire may be initiated.
Hydraulic ventilation is done by deviating fire and smoke towards openings like the doors or windows. By this means, smoke is effectively pulled out of the structure (Grimwood 2008a, p. 39). It helps to confine the fires, save lives, extinguish flames and also reduce the exposure rates.
Rescue ventilation involves directing fire away from potential victims and helping to clear ways like the staircases, corridors and verandas so that fire fighting rescue operations are safely conducted. Confinement ventilation helps to stop the heat from flashing over (Grimwood 2008a, p. 45). Ventilation helps to make fires visible to the fire fighters so that the inside of the buildings can be more accessible and safer. The key point is to know when, where and how to apply it. In full flamed structure with poisonous gases, ventilation can be a very important tool.
The fire and rescue missions in United Kingdom are managed based on the county or the metropolitan area where the fire occurs and they often use fire brigade to refer to the fire-fighters. The term brigade was largely used in early 19th century before it was replaced by use of fire and rescue team following changes in the legislation. In the rural areas of the UK, fire fighter stations are operated by retained fire fighters who man the station on part time basis. The stations not only respond to incidences of fires but also to other emergencies that threaten people lives, property and the environment as well.
This was a descriptive study that sought to provide information of the disaster that is killing the most courageous people in the society who risk their health and lives to save lives and property in the event of fires (Malterud 2004, p. 487). The research was designed to assess the trends of fire-fighter deaths, the causes and safety measures. This research methodology was designed in a manner that it was able to answer the research questions and accomplish the proposed objectives of the study.
Method and Design
The study was a descriptive utilizing both qualitative and quantitative research methods of research. A number of articles were selected, which covered the fire-fighter deaths incidences in the UK (Hodous 224). The research included a literature search, targeted interviews and semi-structured questionnaires (Malterud 2004, p. 487). The Literature review started from the Learning Resource Centre of the University.
Internet articles were searched by use of key words punched in the search engines to find sources that talked about incidences of fire-fighter injuries, deaths or deaths of volunteering public (Malterud 2004, p. 487). The literature search was also carried for the articles that had information on the following; knowledge and skills that are required for fire-fighting; the standard process of fire fighting that are set for the fire brigade profession to achieve; the way the industry has used the available knowledge and technology for their job (Malterud 2004, p. 487); the safety of fire fighting job, recommended qualifications and process for the job and government involvement in regulation of fire fighter safety.
There were five visits to places that previously suffered fire incidences and deaths occurred. Interviews were also conducted in these areas; South Yorkshire, West Midlands, Warwickshire, South Wales and Cornwall fire department. These are just some of the areas that were selected for this study but literature search provided more details because most of it covered the entire country. These fire department provided information that was crucial for describing and understanding the conditions of the fire department on the ground hence assisted in the research attempt to answer the research questions.
The researcher also developed two questionnaires that assisted in answering the five major research questions. The objective and depth of the information to be collected determined the structure of the questions, however, the general questions were written first and followed by deep questions that narrowed down to specific aspects that were being investigated (Patton 2002, p. 134). The reason for the two questionnaires was because one targeted the administrators and the other was for the workers who go to the incidences of fire and do the actual fire fighting.
The sample consisted of 500 fire-fighters, but only 401 responded to the interview and questionnaires. Out of these individuals 136 were working in the administrative positions while the rest (265) were actual fire-fighters who have experience in fire-fighting and some had witnessed the actual deaths of their colleagues. The researcher also ensured gender balance where the sample was doctored to have almost same number of men and women. There were 195 female participants and 206 were men.
The participants were interviewed and recorded for later analysis of their responses. They were also asked to complete the semi-structured questionnaires the needed time to recollect some incidences hence make comprehensive accounts. The questionnaires were sent through email to the participants and they were requested to fill and send them back (Patton 2002, p. 138). They were assured that their information would be treated as confidential since confidentiality was an essential factor of consent (Malterud 2004, p. 487).
The questionnaire will be classified into different sections to help integrate the responses given and allow easy analyses. The first section is to assess the ability of participants to use apply their skills, knowledge in the event of incident.
Questions that addressed the knowledge, skills and abilities were rated on a 3-point scale (1 – don’t know, 2 – Need some help, 3 – can do it independently)
Concerning experience with fire fighting events and the safety guidelines or requirements, and application of technology, the question were rated on a 4-point scale (1- never heard nor used it, 2 – heard of it but never used it, 3 – used it once, 4 – often use it).
Concerning the perception of the participants regarding safety of the workers and the public standards set by the fire department, adherence by fire fighters, knowledge of these standards and general feelings of the effort to provide safety were on a 5-point scale (1- totally agree, 2 – agree, 3 – not sure, 4 – disagree, 5 – strongly disagree).
There are possibly several limitations that can affect research is the choice of type and study period (time) in which to conduct the research. There is likely to be a problem with generalization of the study outcomes considering that the research covered a very large area of the country but took few people from these departments (Malterud 2004, p. 488). There was risk of technical limitations and biasness because the respondents could have wanted to portray themselves as being more knowledgeable with their job they really are. They may also want to portray their programs as being very efficient hence may give false impression of the real situation on the ground.
The study adhered to the voluntary participation principle where participants were required to accept to take part willing and that they could withdraw at any moment (Malterud 2004, p. 488). The research also upheld the doctrine of informed consent where participants were fully informed about the research with mention of possible benefits and disadvantages of the research process and risks that they could face if they accepted to take part (Patton 2002, p. 134). They were only allowed to take part after their accent to informed consent form agreeing to the process guidelines.
Confidentiality principle was also assured, in that only the researcher would access participant’s information. Anonymity was also ensured by not allowing names on the research questionnaires and this was the minimal guarantee privacy (Patton 2002, p. 134).
It is not an easy job to categorise the deaths of fire-fighters based on the causes of the deaths over the past three decades because sometimes the death is as a result of a combination of causes. However, from the literature search of information on deaths in the UK, the research found that the information of deaths since 1978 had been recorded properly and hence enabling the easy study of the deaths over the past 30 years (LRD 2008, P. 21).
The numbers of deaths show a consistent trend with minimal differences but the deaths seem to have been generally increasing with time. Deaths reduced towards 1990s but then started increased again into 2000’s (LRD 2008, P. 21). There were at least 34 deaths of fire-fighters in the 1990s classified under on duty deaths and this was considerably less than the figure in the 1980s where at least 47 deaths were recorded. In the 2000’s the number of deaths is was over 33 deaths but no article gave the conclusive data.
Main Causes of fire Brigade Deaths in UK
- Fire deaths: a considerable number of deaths were caused by fire-fighters sustaining of burns or suffering asphyxiation from smoke. Some deaths were as a result of collapsing structures and a case of acetylene accident was also recorded. These deaths accounted for 36% of all the deaths recorded in the study areas (LRD 2008, P. 21). However, the numbers are said to be underestimated because some fire-fighter sustain heart attack that lead to death like a case of Warwickshire in 1999 was not considered death by fire (LRD 2008, P. 21). The number of fire-fighter deaths was highest in the 2000s in a period of three decades.
- Natural Causes: about 30% of fire-fighter deaths are as a result of natural causes of death that are related to fire fighting. Heart attacks are common and they take place during the process of fire fighting or shortly after the task. The cases studied did not include deaths of workers when off duty (LRD 2008, P. 22).
- Accidents: many fire-fighters die in line of duty in accidents which commonly happen when the fire-fighters are responding to a call or when they are coming from the incident of fire or at the incident. Sometimes accidents happen when ladders or other fire fighting equipment malfunctions and cause death. Most accidents also resulted from lack of awareness, fitness and fire-fighter mistakes.
Activity that Caused Deaths And Injury
Seventy percent of the deaths occurred when the fire-fighters were carrying out emergency operations like responding to fire incidents, working at the scene and when returning to station from an incidence. Twenty nine percent however took place during the non-emergency operations including the training operations, management activities among other fire fighting related activities.
The statistics are as follows 1. Incident operations 39%; Responding or reacting to an incident – 19%; training – 13%; Non-fire emergencies – 11% after a task – 2% and other duties are 16%.
Nature of Fatal Injury
The deaths were classified four categories as follows; heart attacks – 40% internal trauma 35% asphyxiation – 13% and burns – 6%. Age was also a factor in this study. According to the research, it was more likely that younger fire-fighters would die after suffering traumatic injuries and the deaths of older fire-fighters was due to heart attack.
Factors contributing to Deaths
The study identified four categories under this section. The first category was the factors that involved equipment malfunction, poor training, workman errors, structural malfunction and poor coordination and teamwork. The second category included lack of fire-fighter fitness, size of the team, weather or nature of environment at the moment and fatigue of the fire-brigade.
Third category included factors regarding protective equipment and dangerous substances that could be found close to the cases of fire. Category four included issues of decision making, poor communication, indecisiveness, breech of command/protocol and lack of situational understanding. Group four of the factors alone was indicated to contribute about 30% of the fire-fighter injuries and deaths.
Describing Causes of Deaths
This study identified the factors the made up a profile that lead to death as the peers responded. The research identified factors that contributed to death and defined them as listed below.
- Incident commander: this is the person responsible for coordinating facilities, working equipment, the personnel, handling communication and overseeing the process in the organization and managing the assigned resources so that they can effectively accomplish their work objective concerning an incident or during training (Angle 2004, p. 167). Any hitch or blunder at this job could be fatal
- The Crew Size: this includes the people in the company particularly the fire crew. They include the trained personnel working with fire equipment like ladders, tankers, rescue operations and other assigned tasks (Young 2001, p. 43).
- Inadequate Training: This describes deficient instruction and hands on experience in the fire-fighting activities including use of equipment and adherence to protocol that are expected to be used to perform the duties assigned (Young 2001, p. 43).
- Poor communication: this describes deficient radio, phone and messenger services during emergency response as this is necessary for the incident commander to communicate with other fire-fighting officers and other emergency health responders (Angle 2004, p. 167).
- Breech of Standard Operating System: this are written organizational processes that express or lay down specified operational or administrative process to be followed stepwise in the routine performance of assigned duties (Angle 167).
- Breech of protocol: this is a command that described the common professional practice or process of action when carrying out tactical operations. The aim of having a protocol is to streamline certain processes according to the set routine. Protocol by definition is a mandatory process that has to be adhered to by the people involved in that profession and guides assessment and management decisions.
- Structural failure is when building collapse because of the impact of fire or fire fighting activities
- Dangerous substance: this included flammable and potentially explosive materials like petroleum, aerosols or gas. This also included some hazardous substances including wastes or raw materials used in industries and has the potential of causing a disaster. Examples included pesticide, chlorine, other industrial wastes, chlorobenzene etc.
Other factors include wellness and fitness problems, violence, weather, and blunders by the officers, public error, indecisiveness, equipment failure, situational awareness problem and poor teamwork corporation.
Recommendation and Conclusion
Stopping or alleviating the number of injuries and deaths recorded during fire-fighter on-duty activities requires a holistic approach that will change the fire fighting concept, the policies that regulated the job and the entire knowledge and skills needed for the practice (Angle 2004, p. 167). As such, this paper recommends that the UK fire fighting departments should seek to instigated institutional and managerial changes in the fire fighting industry.
In order to understand the changes that have to be made, the UK context of fire fighting was assessed. Basically, it was found that the fire brigade industry in the UK mainly have professionals as the main workers and very few member of the public who volunteer part-time. To ensure better service delivery, these volunteers are usually trained. All fire-fighters enjoy the same privileges as career fire-fighters.
Improving Emergency Medical Response
The risk involved in the rescue of victims in a fire disaster is the first problem that hinders effective performance of the emergency medical service. The sites of the disaster are always risky with flying objects, collapsing structure, human movement, noise and confusion (Angle 2004, p. 168). At times this may lead to loss of lives of the paramedics and the fire fighters. There needs to be some major improvements in the medical response unit to improve provision of emergency health care to the injured people at an incident (Angle 2004, p. 168).
The health hazards have to be reduced by provision of safer garments and equipment especially modified breathing equipment the fire-fighters can use without endangering their lives. The safer equipment are systematized in to engine, ladder and dangerous material units, all these enable assignment specific work that allows effective utilization of manpower and the apparatus (Angle 2004, p. 169).
The on-scene operation has been a serious problem with some individuals working independently and bringing out confusion which is risky to the victims who are in need of medical service. The fire department has to restructure the on-scene command system managing all the aspects of the operations taking place at the scene of the disaster for better coordination (Angle 2004, p. 171). Working together with other departments of fire brigade is necessary as the disaster management requires mutual collaboration by medical services, transport and fire-fighting.
Major improvements made include the use of standing orders or protocols as compared to the radio calls that unreliable, sponsoring specialized teams that include rescue operations, vehicle search and hazardous material units (Angle 2004, p. 171). In order to increase chances of survival of victims of a fire disaster either fire fighter or individuals from the public, the emergency health care providers have to be included in the whole operation.
The UK should strengthen its legislative framework to ensure that the industry attains a very strong degree of standardized legal requirements. Currently, the local government does not have any regulation role. Concerning enforcement of the laws, the UK fire and Rescue services are not given any special treatment in judicial and prosecutor matters whether it’s a case concerning civil or legal law (Jones 2005, p. 2). The employers (if the injured people) are punished thoroughly in case of deaths and injuries and the normal prosecution process is applied justly.
Even though issue of empathy comes to play when fire-fighters risk their lives to save people and property, when life is lost or permanent injuries are sustained, then the employer should face the law accordingly (Jones 2005, p. 2). Such regulation with have profound impact on the management in that they will be increased awareness and accountability for the health and safety of the fire-fighters.
The government should increase its proactive role by offering direction to the employers on matters of safety of the fire brigade (Jones 2005, p. 3). It should also encourage fire department to adopt the best good safety and health practice so that the workers are exposed to working situations that are safer to do their job in.
There is a clause that targets on the reduction of error and influencing behaviour of the workers. The message in this is very clear that consideration of the human safety was a key factor in efficient health and safety implementation (Jones 2005, p. 3). The government should through this, advice fire department to start behaviour change programs that would reduce chances of human error since that can have a grave impact on their safety and health. Human behaviour at workplaces influences working style and this should be directed and creating safety culture.
The government should revitalize the health and safety services which encouraged partnership of the government, employers and workers in creating a self regulating industry (Jones 2005, p. 4). The regulation program would be founded on goal setting, adherence to legal regulation and also seek new knowledge and skill that enhance safety.
Competency and Safety
Competence is a very important factor in fire-fighter safety and the UK has for several years accepted that individual competency was a crucial component of safety. In many incidences, fire-fighter injuries and deaths have been indicated from assessment that there was no objective way of demonstrating that the fire-fighter were competent for the task they were doing when the fate came (Jones 2005, p. 5). Being trained and having been employed alone was not enough to show that the workers were competent at workplace in a way that could be authenticated.
This is the reason why the government should revitalize the integrated personal development strategy where a competent individual had to demonstrate that, he/she was confident enough to carry out the tasks (Young 2001, p. 43).
The reason behind this a strategy was that one could only be safe when she/he was competent. It’s very similar to the integrated risk management approach – the IRMP. Redefining this strategy would be very crucial in improving safety. The approach should first describe the nature of the risk that the fire-brigades face in their workplace. Risks vary from very tall buildings, chemical industries, electricity fires and residential houses among others (Young 2001, p. 45; Jones 2005, p. 2). The IRMP then plans how the risks will be minimized. The process guides the rescue work from organization of transportation, crew organization, training, communication and other factors that affect the health and safety of a fire-fighter.
The Safe Person Concept
By providing safety to the fire-fighters, everyone else is safeguarded because, during and incident, fire-fighters take charge and everything that happens at that place is then upon their call (Young 2001, p. 45). However the main challenge is to determine when, how or where their next working place will be and therefore very hard to make that place safe (Young 2001, p. 45). As a consequence, the UK devised a strategy that was targets to make the fire-fighter to carry their safety to the incident, a model that is identified as Safe Person Concept.
There are two elements of this approach. The first is the organizational responsibility which includes duties like training and instruction of the fire-fighters, recruitment and selection, provision of safety equipments and oversight (Jones 2005, p. 2). The second factor is personal responsibility which includes competency in skills, team player, discipline, awareness of strengths and personal weakness, adaptability and vigilant.
Before responding to an incident, the fire-fighter crew should ensure that they have all the main elements that are required for effective fire suppression. There should always be sufficient number of the fire-fighter crew who are trained, skilled, experienced and accredited for fire fighting with help from other departments like helicopters rappel squad etc (Young 2001, p. 45); the crew should use the equipment specifically designed for that type of incidence for instance equipments for structural fires are different from those of bush fires; people should be on the ground to ensure effective communication like signals and so on during an incident.; new technologies should be applied to interpret the fire situation as fire fighting progresses and modern logistics should be deployed to assist in ground orations including emergency health services to the rescued victims and fatigue issues (Jones 2005, p. 4).
Future Fire fighting
Besides integrated training and recruitment of more qualified fire-fighters, there needs to be good working equipment and coordination. The fire and rescue department of UK should invest in more effective radio and communication gadgets because effective communications consistent with safety of the fire fighters (Jones 2005, p. 5). This means commands, signal and the whole operation will be conducted effectively and therefore without much risk hence it would be very safe. The industry should always obtain the new technologies and modernized equipment for fire fighting to enhance safety. When equipment is safe to use and protect workers from harm then the risk of injury and death is minimized.
HSE Management Report Summary
Important HSE Findings
From the management of health and safety report, there are several important finding that warrant discussion and inclusion in the enforcement action. However, all the cases that had serious problems were addressed by remedial approach without legal action (Health and Safety Executive 2010, p. 2). The first crucial issue was the competence evaluation of the fire-fighters from all the positions from trainees to the management and the second was the proportionate approach to risk analysis.
Important considerations for future management of fire fighting strategies include the fact that sometimes the fire fighters and the public are mislead by thinking that the because of reduced cases of serious and fierce fires, the risk of injury is also reduced. These cases are still the most common incidences that result in deaths of fire-fighters (HSE 2010, p. 2). Also important is the degree to which fire-fighters could develop pragmatic and efficient training opportunities to compensate for comparative shortage of ‘live’ exposure. The inspection also opened up topic that are of great significance in the efficient control and risk management on the location of an incident.
The FRS service also need to consider issues like the amount of risk that fire-fighters can or cannot take in their effort to save lives and property (HSE 2010, p. 2). The national guidance provides a guide for the fire-fighters to enhance interoperability on issues that affect fire and rescue operations.
On matters of policy there are pre-emptive and meaningful effort into review and updates of the processes that are used for service delivery. These efforts could not have otherwise been implemented with such speed or urgency (HSE 2010, p. 5). The commonest of the policies is where the FRS organizes its services to safety-critical services. Competencies of the fire-fighters include the ability to plan, deliver and monitor the efficiency of training and keen discussion of core subjects. There is very high variation in the training skills that fire fighters have now (HSE 2010, p. 5).
It is against the background of training and competence that the FRS are required to demonstrate adherence to the safety system of work and proper control measures with the correct equipment, proficiency and proper training. In order to collect information on this, the evaluators look at how the FRS arrange for their training to attain competence and how they implemented these competencies (HSE 2010, p. 6).
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