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Risk, Possibility, and Probability - Continued

In the last article I defined risk as a factor, thing, element, or course involving uncertain danger; going one step further we can classify risk as voluntary and involuntary. In our daily life we accept risk in order to get through the day. Driving a car, walking in traffic, climbing a ladder, smoking, swimming, sky diving and a myriad of other events and activities and daily ordinary chores involve voluntary risk. Some we can avoid if we so decide, especially the recreational risks, even though many enjoy the challenge that goes with the risk. We can’t avoid all risk, even if we stay home, as the ceiling may fall in or the house may explode. Risk we encounter everywhere and on a daily basis we weigh the probability against the possibility and go about our business. Insurance companies base their premiums on the amount of risk that is involved in providing coverage for a specific individual, function, item, or event. The greater the risk, the higher the premium, for example, life insurance for smokers is more expensive than non smokers. Sometimes that risk is so great that one is unable to procure insurance.

How does the firefighter measure risk? Some firefighters view risk as a challenge and are determined to succeed at all costs, unfortunately determination does not necessarily mean success. There are many dangers involved in firefighting and proper size up by officers and firefighters is required prior to placing the lives of firefighters in jeopardy. The old axiom still rings true in the fire service “you risk a lot to save a lot (a life) and you risk little to save little (property)”. Firefighters are known for their courage and valor and on occasion, some may push those limits to excess, placing them in imminent danger. Clearly there are times when certain actions taken on the fire ground or scene of an emergency by some individual firefighter could have been avoided. Firefighters should be trained and disciplined so as to not perform their activities in a careless or reckless manner with disregard for their own personal safety and the safety of other firefighters and civilians. Their decision to act may be voluntary or involuntary, either way the risk is being carried out in the performance of duty.

Upon initial arrival at a fire scene all risks may not be visible, or may not even be present until the fire escalates and is burning out of control. The risk has changed, increasing the premium, the potential for injury or loss of firefighter lives. To lower the premium, or threat to firefighter safety, may require changing from an offensive to a defensive attack while ordering all interior personnel to withdraw. There must be recognition of danger (risk) by the firefighter and incident commander and they must be able to determine if it is a justifiable risk that needs to be taken in order to affect a rescue or eliminate a hazard threatening the surrounding area. If it is justifiable, what are the dangers involved and the chance of the mission being successful? Review the risks involved and make a sound decision based on your training and experience and that of the other firefighters who will be taking the risk.

Firefighting will continue to present situations that will be beyond the control of first arriving firefighters and limit or delay attempts to affect a rescue or start an interior attack due to lack of on scene personnel. It is what it is, and firefighter’s lives should not be jeopardized unnecessarily to cover for inadequacies in the overall fire protection system.

Till Next Time, Stay Safe and God Bless!

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HENRY CAMPBELLSenior Correspondent

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