This is Asheville IHC Reaction #6 – part of the Asheville Hotshots written reactions to “The Big Lie”
What was your reaction after reading “The Big Lie”?
First reaction, this is opinion-based and one-sided.
But with much thought, I realized that this is correct and written very well. There are many issues that are stated throughout this article that could be broken down even further. But by doing that it would lose focus on the core issue: Death throughout our agency.
Do you agree or disagree with the concept in this essay?
Why do you agree or disagree?
I agree with the fact the agency overlooks safety and the true definition of what it is. Seems to me that our agency redefines words to keep the agency clear of trouble in the event of something going wrong. The things that are out there to “KEEP US SAFE” are checklists and forms releasing liability from agency to employee.
The beloved 10 and 18 contradict each other. They are unrealistic guidelines and/or objectives—like they mentioned in the article. Most seasonal and young firefighters memorize them in hopes that they do not have to do pushups for forgetting one. It is one thing to memorize, it is another to know what they mean. (Sorry for the tangent).
This article brings forth the reality of the job that most people are unwilling to face. We spend millions each year prompting safety and even changing the signs and literature to create a safety journey, yet we are asked to drive to work with six inches of snow on the ground and a layer of ice under that.
What this article does for me, is it validates all the things that I have been thinking about as I have been promoted in my career. This summer during “6 Minutes for Safety” I started the conversation that we talk about safety so much that we no longer know what it means to be safe. Or we are safe because we released liability with the JHA. Maybe we should discuss it less and realize we work in a dangerous job. JHA, tailgate safety, checklists and so on, are in place to keep the agency safe—not the employee.
What are some benefits to the reactions this has generated?
Time to move forward and face the music. This needs to be said and it needs to be on a national level. This is the first that I have heard of this article. We have a culture of young kids coming up in this agency that are not going to take and accept risk. Not because the job is challenging, physically demanding, or dangerous. It will be due to the fact that they will be afraid to get sued for killing someone in the event of an accident and a box was not checked—or they could not read their signature on a JHA.
One thought on “This Needs to be Said on a National Level”
I agree 100%.
Another piece of the puzzle is unsafe situations that are pressed on us as firefighters and leaders by Agency Administrators. The two most dangerous situations I have been in during my career were created by intense public pressure and dictated by Agency Administrators. One was a division that did not have safety zones because the AA’s “would not allow that much resource damage.” Another was a burnout that was doomed to fail and everyone knew it, but we “had to try because of the values at risk.” Both situations were created because they occurred on high-profile megafires with a crush of media attention and tremendous values at risk, but decisions that affect our safety on small and large fires can end up being determined by things like Forest Plan standards or other guidelines that were designed without considering firefighter safety in an emergency situation. In those situations, we must put our brothers and sisters first at every level of decision making and demand better decisions from our leaders and ourselves. Our solidarity in rejecting these kind of assignments is the only defense against unsafe situations created by forces outside of the fire organization.