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Identifying and addressing
red flags to prevent
the perfect storm
By David Mellen
In the fire service, a perfect storm can refer to that one fire that gets away from us, the vehicle accident
that requires more equipment than we have, or the few
small things people seemingly always gripe about that
ultimately cause a catastrophic event. But what if we saw
the perfect storm forming? What if we had the ability
to stop one or more events in the chain leading up to it?
All too often, after an incident goes poorly, we look at
ourselves to answer the “what-ifs.” Unfortunately, sometimes we find faults within our organization or ourselves
that, if addressed, could have prevented the perfect
storm from ever happening in the first place—had the
red flags only been recognized or heeded.
CHANGING FIRE SERVICE
If we look back historically, most fire department
operations have been dictated by local influences,
equipment, and geography. In today’s fire service,
however, social media and a wider range of training
platforms allow firefighters from all over the world to
learn and incorporate tactics that decades ago would
have been considered taboo had they been attempted.
Along with this has come a revolution. There, I
said it, it’s a revolution of firefighters who question,
critique, and analyze every situation and every tactic,
not for the enjoyment of pointing out failure but to
seek the betterment of themselves, their crews, their
department, and the fire service as a whole.
Along with these revolutionaries who seek to better the fire service, there is also the reality that our
profession is more visible now than ever before, both
publicly and professionally. No longer is it the days
of hearing about the massive fire or large incident
through print media or word of mouth sometime
later. Today, those situations are broadcast for all to
see and to be repeated on different media platforms at
lightning speed. Whether the outcome is positive or
negative, it is there for the whole world to witness.
With the combination of higher visibility and
those who seek perpetual betterment, we find ourselves at a tipping point—one that, at best, allows us
to perform in a highly skilled way and that, at worst,
gives a very public view of our failures. Often, the
Make sure that every
call you go on serves
as a forecast for
the perfect storm.
(Photo from Pixabay.)