24. January 2012 07:37
With all of the wildland fires going on in the U.S. right now, I decided to take a break from the “Changing Gears” column and focus on something a little different. I will be continuing with “Changing Gears” soon (with the next segment on Dry Chemicals).
Most of the Fire Service is very familiar with the acronym “L.C.E.S.”, which represents: Lookouts, Communication, Escape Routes and Safety Zones.
It has been driven in to the minds of Wildland firefighters for a number of years and is a staple of Firefighter Safety in the wildland and Urban Interface. While working on some other training post, I began to see how LCES could be applied to all aspects of our job. That’s right, it’s not just for the woods anymore!
We are constantly trying to re-enforce safety to our new and seasoned firefighters. The training community is always looking for some way to get the safety message across and keep it in the forefront of the Firefighters’ mind during operations. Well, why not use what they already know and teach them how to apply it in different aspects of the job?
Let’s take a look at an example:
Lookouts- Are they needed for something that is not moving? Absolutely! Walls come down, roofs collapse, smoke/fire conditions change, etc., etc., etc……..Being a lookout is the primary job of the Incident Safety Officer, however, EVERYBODY on the fire-ground is a “lookout”. This is a crucial function that must be performed at all incidents.
Communication- Well, I shouldn’t have to even mention this one but….. yeah, I will anyway. Communication is key to safety, incident management, logistics, and interagency cooperation. The basis of the Incident Command System is proper communication flow, which is essential to the mitigation of any type of emergency. A radio in the hands of a Firefighter, is his lifeline to help when in trouble or his/her notification of impending disaster. Maintaining communication with crews operating out of the line-of-sight will provide a higher level of safety for those crews and better situational awareness for the Ops Chief or IC, in regards to what he/she cannot see. This is essential!
Escape Routes- We don’t normally see this as an issue at structural fires but it most definitely is. Interior crews are constantly on the lookout for a way out. You must be aware of where to go when things go bad. Where are windows or doors located? How about the exterior crew? Do you have a plan for where to go if a wall collapse begins? Is there an alternate route to safety? These (and others) are questions that should be considered at your next structural fire. The fire may not be leaving the building but the building can “misbehave” very badly, in a number of ways. Know what route to take to safety!
Safety Zones- This is another of those actions that we subconsciously take every time we pull up to an incident. Where are we going to position the apparatus? Where are our collapse zones? What is a safe location for the ICP? Where will EMS be placed? These should all be considered Safety Zones! Firefighters should be aware of places that are NOT a good place to retreat for safety, in the event of a catastrophic event. They should learn how to identify safe locations for getting clear of collapse zones, changing SCBA bottles, etc.
If we train our Firefighters to think this way, they will ultimately become safer workers and have a better understanding of what “full” situational awareness is.
Obviously, I only touched the surface of how LCES can be applied to something other than a wildland fire. It is up to the individual, the officer, the instructor and the Chief to find other ways to employ a safety measure that we ALL already know. LCES! Use it your way! Use it for LIFE!