Tuesday, February 19, 2013

No firefighters should do fire inspections, town says

A town in New York has decided that firefighters should no longer make company inspections of commercial properties for reasons that illustrate their ignorance. See article here.  

Even though fire union representatives and firefighters explained how greater familiarization with commercial properties and their contents could save both lives and the properties involved, the town elected officials thought otherwise. 

I write in my book about an incident where several of us find ourselves trapped in a flooded basement area beneath a burning theatre. The stairway had collapsed and we found ourselves in a bizarre situation right out of a Hollywood movie. The water level was rising and there seemed to be no way out. Then, a couple of us remembered being there months before during a company fire inspection, and recalled that the western "wall" was in fact an old sliding metal fire door. We pushed it to the right and were able to escape from the now chest high water via another unaffected stairwell.

Without that earlier inspection months before, the outcome could have been much different.

Firefighters benefit from such inspections by learning about interior obstacles, potential collapse areas, where to access utility controls, you name it.  They can visualize potential paths of escape and identify materials that may react to heat, flames or water.  Company officers can ask questions, and point out possible hazards or obstacles to property owners or managers on the spot, thereby avoiding the dreaded Fire Code Violation citation.

The municipality benefits by having an annually updated listing of property owners, managers, emergency numbers to call when needed, and other contact information that can help the town evaluate and plan future development. The inspections yield a valuable demographic snapshot of the business population as well - perhaps even supported through business registration fees. 

Reducing the information and knowledge of any firefighting force is just plain dumb.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Barricade Kids During Fire Drill? Dumb idea.

A Fargo, ND school has established a post-Newtown knee-jerk hysteria policy of instructing staff that in case of a fire alarm, keep the kids inside. (Story Here) The theory offered is that a potential intruder bent on another massacre could simply pull a fire alarm to lure kids out into the open. Yeah, tin-foil helmets help protect against Martians reading your mind too.

I know it sounds callous, but apparently the short sighted academics have failed to compare the number of dead at the Newtown massacre with the 93 dead at the Chicago Our Lady of Angels fire. The reaction after that fire resulted in carefully established and evolving national standards offering the best ways to alert and evacuate students.

Sometimes school officials -- as demonstrated in Fargo -- react unilaterally without regard to historical precedents or the reality of the world around them. The urge to apply a zero tolerance philosophy to every potential danger is a cop out for those unwilling or unable to properly train or incentivize staff to apply that training or common sense. Instead, a blanket policy or procedure is instituted without regard to other extended consequences.

One can apply this kind of reactionary policy further. What about the fact that school buses are vulnerable as they travel down the street full of kids. What if an intruder targeted them? The knee-jerk reaction would be to paint the buses green. Or make sure the driver changes the route each day to avoid a predictable patten. Or eliminate school buses altogether. Same philosophy, but just as dumb.

Student safety shouldn't be the result of knee-jerks.

NOTE: Link provided above now requires paid subscription. Here's another link on the same school action: http://bit.ly/14OjoRU