This article wasn’t created to bash any one, as every department has their weaknesses and faults. I know this doesn’t just happen in western Pennsylvania. I also know that there are many areas in western Pennsylvania that don’t really have a lot of these issues below. The goal of this article is to bring awareness and get people to evaluate how they perform in certain instances, both as a department and as an individual.
As most people know, people are very resistant to change. For whatever reason, it seems people in the emergency services fields are even more resistant to change than others. “If its not broke, why fix it?” gets said a lot when discussing improving things. The problem it, usually it is broken, so lets work on getting it fixed. Not only for safety and better efficiency on emergency scenes, but to work on improving as a region, county, department, and as individuals.
So lets get to the list, feel free to add any I missed in the comments below the article.
1. Squads and non-critical units tying up air waves during large incidents.
We’ve heard it and been part of it well too many times. The beginning of a working incident with tons of radio traffic, between units being dispatched, acknowledging, calling en route, and getting updates from dispatch. It gets even more hectic once units start getting on scene and the incident commander is trying to give orders. With the exception of a squad performing as a RIT, there is nothing worse than hearing a squad or auxiliary unit tying up the air by calling in en route with 1 or 2 people while the beginning fire attack and water supply operations are in effect. Go to the scene, park out of the way, and go to staging.
2. Units told to respond at a reduced rate, yet when they acknowledge that message you still hear the sirens and air horns blowing away.
Not much to say about this one, this one falls into the unnecessary category, which it seems like a lot of things on the list fall into.
3. Wearing structural turn out gear in flood waters.
Every time a big storm hits and flooding breaks out we see Facebook and Twitter light up with messages like “Be safe in the floods” and “Don’t wear your turnout gear”. However, as soon as you see media coverage, the first thing you usually see are guys in turnout gear. Some pictures are deceiving, and guys may just be standing by near flooded roadways and not really near the water. However, you have to cringe when you see pictures and video of firefighters knee to thigh deep in water. The most common argument we hear, is that “We don’t have river rescue gear and turnout gear is the only thing our department has”. There is a real easy solution for that, street clothes, boots, and a life jacket. Yeah, you may get wet, but at least you aren’t wearing an anchor.
4. Lack of using operations channels.
I believe this is more of an issue in Allegheny county than other areas, but I could be wrong. I’m not sure why people have such a hard time switching over to their assigned operation channels around here. Accidents do happen at times where your radio is on the wrong channel, but some departments just continuously need to be told to use the proper operations channel.